Dec 22, 2010

You're not my father!

Every time I hear a modern president being referred to as Father of the Nation I suck my teeth and have to stop myself from bashing my head against my desk. I abhor the term and all that it represents in modern African politics.

Father of the Nation uses paternalist symbolism that I believe is quite detrimental to our way of living and thinking. This paternalism places the president in the role of the father and the citizen as the child. And as we know a parent often acts for the good of the child. I can see how this is appealing to our leaders – being a father figure in our lives makes them feel good about themselves.

This portrayal of a father figure evokes images of a kind nurturer with our best interests at heart. Someone who spends sleepless nights agonising about the future and the difficult decisions that must be made to reach certain goals.

Alas, this is not the case. Our so-called fathers use their elevated positions to mock us. Decisions that impact our daily lives are made behind closed doors, often shrouded in secrecy and when questioned a condescending smirk and pat on the head are the response – “don’t worry your pretty little head about such matters, father and his friends know what’s best for you.”

I am sure you do not need a laundry list of actions perpetrated by ‘those who know better’ that run counter to the interests of individuals. But let’s indulge for a moment.

- overturned election results that favour the opposition
- constitutional amendments to remove term limits
- unfettered political power used to quash dissention and to make everyone ‘tow the line’

I reject the notion of a benevolent father-figure sitting in state house – doling out gifts and favours to well behaved children like father Christmas at the mall.

As a matter of fact, I want that person to be an Executive – answerable to the people who put him/her in that position; a position with a defined job description and length of stay. They do not answer to donors who poured money into their constituencies but to ME, the person who walked into that booth and walked out with purple finger tips indicating I had exercised my constitutional right to vote. We have delegated authority to elected officials to make certain decisions, and if dissatisfied we reserve the right to say, “Thank you for your service, but we’ve decided to go with a different person in a different direction…”


brilliant post, miss bwalya. recently someone posted on the malawi forum, nyasanet, the average ages of world leaders, per continent. guess what, we have the oldest president age range on the continent. which raises the question of whether we are beginning to see a noticeable age divide between the leadership and the wanainchi. recent events in malawi bear testimony.

i'm of two minds here, a schizophrenia that paralyzes me. ideologically, i see nkrumahist-panafricanism as the future of africa. one feature of this is unity of the black world binding the continent and its diasporas. another feature is easing the boundaries, both physical and virtual, to allow for free movement of goods and innovative ideas between the continent and the diaspora, between cairo and capetown, between cape verde and madagascar and the horn of africa. it does not mean having one president for the continent, but a common currency, a common passport, a unified economy, and a shared school curriculum allowing for all the diversity.

this is where the schizophrenia comes in. to propel this vision, we need leaders who are versed in nkrumahist-panafrican philosophy. the older leaders are better placed to understand it, but they appear largely ignorant of it. to bring this vision to a 21st century africa, you need younger leaders who think globally, act locally, and envision an africa that knows its past, and controls its destiny.

we won't have this blended leadership overnight. we have to cultivate it, overtime. i am a teacher educator, a standpoint which gives me hope for the future. call it afro-optimism if you like; it combines global justice with pan-african epistemology.

steve sharra

The minute they are elected, politicians think they are the rulers and have been given a mandate. In fact they are our employees who we have been given a job to do. We have every right to monitor and critisise their performance and if sufficiently dissapointed, to remove them and put in a more hard working or suitable employee.
The main role of an elected President, Mp or Councillor is to check his employers requirements (ask us what we want done) and then do it as well as he can. Secrecy of any kind for any reason should be banned - just as I would not want anyone working for me doing anything without my knowledge. This means ALL government accounts, records, reports, EVERYTHING, should be public knowledge and accessible to the public. Why worry about Wikileaks if you've nothing to hide?

Achimwene a Sharra,

Thanks for your feedback. As much as the idea of a unified Africa with a unified economy, single currency, common passport sounds appealing I honestly don't think it's possible. I think it's more realistic to pursue regional unification - the work being done by SADC, ECOWAS, etc. If we focus on removing barriers to trade, travel and the like within our regions that's more palatable. The other is too lofty and I don't think it would be supportable.

Ruth, what you're suggesting is something I support. We, as citizens, need to live up to our responsibility of keeping leadership in check. We cannot continue to accept they know better and that everything is better off left in their hands.

I also understand that we can't have 100% transparency in everything. Example - I don't need to know about ALL the equipment on military bases but how much of the national budget is spent on artillery would be good to know.

Zambians, and Africans in general need to wake up and take ownership in our governments.

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