THE BLOG

Southern Africa Needs ECOWAS, Not The Dilatory SADC

National foreign policy and alliances must be rooted in democratic governance and human rights.

30/01/2017 04:56 SAST | Updated 30/01/2017 04:56 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) reacts next to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma during the opening of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015.

The world, and especially Africa, was on tenterhooks for days as Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh refused to relinquish power after losing an election to his political opponent. The regional bloc, ECOWAS, brooked none of his tyrannical greed. With ECOWAS troops on his doorstep, he was forced to quit, marking an end to 22 years in power. The stance by ECOWAS is a refreshing break from a decadent culture on the continent in which if you lose an election you must be appeased and pampered with a government of national unity and assurances against prosecution for human rights violations. As this amusing drama played out, some of us were forced to think about our zombie regional bloc, the SADC, with its moral dilatoriness and crisis of leadership.

Bar Botswana, its 25 year history shows just how SADC is little more than a totalitarian protection agency on the side of despots rather than citizens. Starting north of Limpopo, Robert Mugabe has stolen not one but several elections from Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC. Instead of censure, he was at one point appeased with a government of national unity with the winners of the elections and later rewarded with stolen elections. Mugabe is outright defiant and has no respect for his SADC peers. He seems to regard them more as his children than his colleagues. He wilfully defies rulings from the SADC tribunal and no one dare raise a word of censure against him. Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Businesses, tried once and it bombed on her face.

The Zimbabwean politicians let it be known that they were accepting no lectures from a "street woman." She capitulated and they smoked a peace pipe. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF are just pulverising Zimbabwe, killing or torturing opponents and mortgaging the future of the country for trinkets in order to stay in power for as long as possible. For this, they earn high praises from our Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who rambles about how his ruling ANC will be "seeking guidance from ZANU-PF." How scandalous!

Neighboured by Mozambique and South Africa, Swaziland is another moral stain on SADC. It is ruled by a corrupt and despotic King who manages its economy like a personal bank account. He can even bribe young girls with public money to stay virgins so he can expand his matrimonial pool every August. Democratic space is non-existent. He rules over his people without their consent because he has been divined by God and only he knows what his people want: they want to remain a static medieval order with no need to give free consent to those who want to rule over them.

ECOWAS must be commended for its fearless integrity and principled austerity against the extravagant avarice of a humiliated dictator who nearly plunged his country into a civil war.

All who dare agitate for democratic reform are arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured. Newspapers must be patriotic, respect traditions, focus on good news and the reed dance. This grubby tyrant is the SADC chairperson as we speak. No one dare say the obvious to him in the SADC because this is a club of aging despots looking out for each other. There are more instances of moral dilatoriness by this zombie bloc such as Angola, whose dictator celebrates 38 years in power this year.

The crisis in Burundi shows just how the East African Community is another zombie bloc. ECOWAS provides us with a refreshing optimism in its approach which is rooted in democratic governance and human rights. It underlines why Africa needs to graduate from its old politics of strongmen and alliances rooted in the protection of yesterday's liberators who are today's oppressors. National foreign policy and alliances must be rooted in democratic governance and human rights. South Africa has long jettisoned democratic governance and human rights as values guiding its foreign policy. It sides with yesterday's liberators: Al Bashir, Mugabe, dos Santos rather than the victims of their oppression today.

ECOWAS must be commended for its fearless integrity and principled austerity against the extravagant avarice of a humiliated dictator who nearly plunged his country into a civil war. This sends out a powerful message that Africans are capable of solving their own problems without French, British or US warplanes as we witnessed in Libya. Nigeria and Senegal are unmistakably leaders of the Africa of tomorrow while South Africa recoils, clueless and immoral.