The cronyism in our politics

The cronyism in our politics

Politics tend to look for scapegoats when it comes to addressing the real concerns that affect the continent. Maybe due to the fact that the voters just vote for the sake of voting and not effecting change, that is, the average voter is similar to a football club fan whose only concern is that their team should win against the archrivals at any cost, even if it means buying the referee off.

It is the style of African politics, a landscape where the poll results are followed by howls of protest at them being a rigged affair. It is not the fault of the elected that the continent is where it is these many years after ‘independence’, but it is that of the irresponsible voter who does not follow up on what they voted for.
Merely dropping the ballot paper with a mark against the favourite party’s logo does not effect change, ensuring that the candidates are reminded (constantly) of their lobby speech promises and seeing to it that they are true to their word is what really counts.

That there is an abundance of talent on the continent but little that is done to see to it that it is explored to its full potential is not the error of the politician, it is the unconcerned manner of the voter who never bothers to follow up on what was promised by the politician in parliament in the days before the ascension to the seat of power.

Being a village boy that grew up in the relative quiet and peace of the village and the hamlet, the cacophony and the blaring nature of the city life came as a shock in the first months of one’s sojourn in the different locations within the city, the stark manner with which the extremes of life present themselves in the city used to come as a shock until the soul developed a callus that acted as a shock absorber against the extreme poverty and squalor of the city, against the extreme scenes of debauchery and depravity that are part of everyday living in the city.

Seeing the poverty is an everyday experience, for the mentally ill are the lead citizens in the city, the street urchins (street-kids) that hang in groups sharing bottles of glue and other drugs are a common sight, the sex vendors catcall one shamelessly on each evening walk on the streets of the city, the poor women and their children rummaging through trash in search of something to sell to the scrapyard dealerships is a common sight, and the drunks and the forgotten live their lives in the various bars and shebeens.

These are scenes present in pre-independence Zimbabwe’s Marechera or a Kenyan Mwangi novel, present in a pre-independence South African Sekoto portrait: these scenes are the common sight found almost everywhere on the continent.

They never go away but stay with the masses that keep on voting only to watch their ballot fade into nothingness as the previous ones did in the regime before the one they voted into power now resident in the parliament.
How we fail to address the real issues is largely due to the fact that we use the same lame excuses as we have done repeatedly and in chorus over the years. “The previous regime spent all the state funds… so and so was corrupt… this government does not give a s*** about us… this is the reason why we suffer so much! The white man was better because he at least gave us jobs and we never starved like we do in this cruel regime!”

The voter whines and does not actually bother to introspect and spot the real problem that is in the voter being the main party to incompetence seen unfolding after the ascension of a regime into parliament. The African voter would rather starve than to tell the ‘leader’ of the errors he or she is committing.
The blind ignorance of the fact lies not in the voter not seeing the error, but it lies in the voter keeping mum about blatant abuse of power to scorn and to spite the opposition.

It is better for the follower to stick to their leader despite obvious corruption and crimes against humanness than to tell him or her to get back in line. This self-righteous attitude has seen the continent plunge further into regression, to the point where foreign aid is the only means with which the African state can survive.

The aid arrives only to disappear at some point, then commissions of enquiry are formed and propositions are presented as solutions to the problems found by the commissions, and the beat goes on.
One could say that the beat goes on because nothing ever changes for the better, the landscape stays the same with the caster of the ballot’s state of being staying squalid and the politician’s rising to stratospheric heights of endless splendour and luxury.

From being a simple campaigner to driving in cavalcades, the rise to stardom may be too fast, so fast that the African politician forgets the basic reason they are in parliament; to serve the needs of the masses without prejudice or concern for political colour. One cannot say that the politician is not aware of the needs of the masses, what can be said is that the uppity nature of the political class with the many perks associated with the position are what give rise to the seeming lack of concern for the needs of the masses.

There is simply too much comfort found in being a delegate in parliament, so much of it that the individual politician soon forgets the basic reason they are in parliament.
The scene could change if the politicians walked the walk with the masses on a regular basis, for then they would understand the hardship of the pavement and having to eke for livelihoods in the blistering heat of summer and the bone-chilling cold of winter.

Ensconced in the cushy comfort of the air-conditioned SUV or luxury German motor vehicle with tinted windows, the scenes outside the confines of the comfortable car become another world.
That the same people the politician sees outside on the daily safari through the concrete jungle are the ones that actually cast the ballot that put him or her in the cushy position becomes forgotten, for then they get viewed as a pastime that shall only be remembered coaxed with empty promises into casting the ballot when the next voting session comes.

Some popular figure I recently met made me aware that no one can claim to be apolitical, we only do so because of the manner in which our politics are run, that is, it is the attitude of the political class that either attracts or repels the interest of the individual citizen. With the type of noncommittal relationship between the politician and the masses after the elections, it is quite hard for anyone to pledge their commitment to political governance, after all: what purpose would such a relationship be serving?

Of what use is it to consider someone a plan A when they consider you a plan B? Maybe said in the lobbying speeches of the politicians that the masses are in a lot of ways the plan A of government, but the levels of poverty, unemployment, and general discontent prove the contrary view that African political governance is not actually designed to serve the interests of the masses but those of the political class and their cronies.

Cronyism in African politics is a common affair, having its roots in tribalism which in itself stems from common interest, that is, people have the natural affinity to connect with those that share similar interests and from there comes the idea of the tribe.

The political party is in itself a tribe, with slogans similar to clan poems, and the party colours being the standards which the followers wear to show their allegiance to the party (tribe). There has been a trend in most African countries where the party colour carries more weight than even the clan name, with siblings denouncing each other due to the difference in party politics affiliation.

This type of behaviour shows the real roots of political governance, and they are found in the divide and rule policies of the colonial era where people were divided on the basis of presumed differences. Those that bore a certain colour or features were either integrated or segregated on the basis of how they looked or who they were affiliated to.
This meant that those who were seen to be different were normally sectioned off to the peripheries of the system, left there to languish in squalor as the lives of those considered to be of the tribe or group saw tremendous changes for the better in their lives. This behaviour has not changed but has merely changed name.

Africa does not develop due to rampant nepotism that finds real professionals losing positions in places of work due to lack in party membership card or being non-affiliates of those that have the power to hire and to fire in industry or the civil service. The large numbers of graduates without jobs in Africa is the direct result of corruption as found in nepotism.

Nepotism says, “Give the job to one that you are related to and not the one related to the job…” and this results in people being put in jobs they have no interest in, and into positions which they have no knowledge of, leading to poor service delivery because the officers do not know their task and if they do, would not actually care to deliver because their position is safeguarded by their relation to Mr or Mrs So-and-So who has the clout when it comes to the hiring and the firing in the respective sector of industry or civil service.

That there is no adequate monitoring when it comes to the execution of set tasks simply because one is a relative to the human resource manager or executive means that a high level of complacency soon takes over and the duties that are directly related to serving the people are affected.

The high levels of nepotism and cronyism lie as the basic source to the problem of corruption, for then the system meant to address the concerns of the masses ends serving only those of the cliques operating within the government or the industry.

It is a fact that the average individual finds it hard to sell their family or benefactor out, and in a continent where the basic threat is “you shall starve if you don’t follow,” it becomes harder for those that see acts of corruption being committed to speak out, largely due to the fact that they benefit indirectly from them, or, that they are complicit in some way in the crimes being committed.

Funds are funnelled to offshore accounts with the help of some accountant that is a relative, or who is skimming some pishkesh (bribe) off the top, and so the cycle of corruption begins and continues to the point where someone speaks out against it.
What one feels at such points in time is that the corruption is only exposed because someone was caught with their finger in the cookie jar, otherwise it would have gone on unchecked had someone not spoken about it.

The speakers are hardly ever given the praise due to them because we have come to a point where corruption is an accepted affair: an act that bears many sweet nicknames despite its dangerous nature.
The poor go on living in their poverty, and the rich get richer in dubious ways but even this glaring gap is ignored, only empty speeches apparently meant to address it are ever heard.

There is something wrong if one meets a single mother with her brood of emaciated children seen rummaging through trash for empty soft-drink cans to sell to the scrapyard dealer at 4am.
There is something wrong if the laws made only serve the interests of the few at the expense of the basic interests of the masses. It is a culture Africa should learn to kill before it annihilates a continent already in the clutches of a poverty brought on by perfidious (and largely uneducated) political class who understand not the needs of the people.
The showmanship that goes on in the political arena never served anyone except the speaker and those around him or her. It is perhaps time to boycott such nonsense and uselessness as is found in such practices as voting and empty debates.

Our forefathers watched politics destroy an entire continent because they were based on colonial models: it would be naïve to think that politics can save the continent from the challenges it is facing.
What shall happen is that the politician will attend conferences in successful economies and come back with nothing because the politician is in fact illiterate.

Illiteracy does not mean that one has not been to school, what it means is that one can see good being performed around one but one learns nothing from it.
What we need are political figures with teachable spirits, the type that can really learn from their experiences and not this council of proud clowns.

Tšepiso Mothibi

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