Following David Cameron’s resignation last Friday, after Britain’s decision to quit her 43-year-long marriage with the EU, South Africa and Zimbabwe are asking their leaders to emulate the character of Cameron and equally step down from the position of president.
Cameron was anti-Brexit; he campaigned hard against the divisive referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU, but since Britain wanted, and voted out, he wouldn’t be the one to steer the ship. A right-minded thing to do. So why wouldn’t the likes of Zuma and Mugabe step down when it’s been obvious for a while, or in the case of Mugabe, decades that their countrymen were sick and tired of them?
Under the leadership of Zuma, South Africa has witnessed a lot of ‘change.’ Since he assumed office in 2009, the South African economy has taken a nose dive and the rate of unemployment has increased rapidly. In 2012, the number of unemployed South Africans grew by about 1.4 million. Now, the country’s educational infrastructure is in a sorry state, hence the #FeesMustFall protest of late 2015. Not to mention the increased crime and social unrest wreaking havoc through the country.
Zuma also faces several allegations of corruption and nepotism. But worse still, the 74-year-old has gradually become the final authority on everything, earning him the status of a dictator, though indistinct, but one nonetheless. These issues fuelled the #ZumaMustFall protest, where South Africans are calling for his resignation.
So far, things are not looking good for Zuma. In April, he escaped impeachment after the Constitutional Court ruled against him for violating the country’s Constitution by refusing to refund some of the $16 million public money he used in renovating his private home. And last Friday, amidst the Brexit brouhaha, he failed in his appeal against the court’s ruling in March.
Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe has claimed the seat of the presidency as his birth-right and is running the country like an absolute monarch, the people clamour for his descent. Reacting to Cameron’s resignation last Friday, Zimbabweans ask why Mugabe never conceded to election defeats back in 2000 and in 2008.
About 16 years ago, Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum when the opposition’s “no” campaign won 697,754 votes against 578,210 for the “yes” vote. Though it seemed only a constitutional draft, his opponents argued then that it would have further established Mugabe in power. During the presidential elections in 2008, for the first time in its 28 year rule, the ZANU-PF lost control of the lower house when results showed Mugabe lost in the first round of voting. Still he proceeded to a run off with Morgan Tsvangirai, opposition challenger, swearing that “only God” could remove him from office. And in 2013, he extended his 33-year rule for five more years.
Mugabe has always been a highly debatable political figure and he is a strong contender for the title of Africa’s longest serving leader. The 92-year-old has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980; first as Prime Minister, then as President. Like Jacob Zuma, Zimbabwe’s economy has gone from bad to disastrous under the dictatorship of the nonagenarian. Currently, the country is plagued by famine and hunger. Over a quarter of the population face a shortage of food as they suffer from a severe drought that has left thousands of cattle dead, crops destroyed and reservoirs depleted.
Still, an insensitive Mugabe threw a lavish 92nd birthday bash last February, amidst the country’s political and economic crises. There has been a growing opposition to his stay in power, frustrated citizens clamour for his descent, yet Mugabe shows no sign of backing down. For someone who has sworn that only the Almighty will strip him of his title of the President of Zimbabwe, David Cameron’s decision to resign after Brexit is nothing, if not absurd. Zimbabweans should know better.