Good governance is gaining ground in Africa. It’s happening at snail speed, but it’s happening nevertheless. African leaders are becoming increasingly democratic and are recording significant progress in liberalizing the political environment. They are more accountable to their citizens, and showing more respect for human rights and civil liberties.
But the bad eggs still linger – and there are quite a number of them. Late last year, we put a call through to my African followers on Twitter to nominate the worst African leaders of our times. We received over 800 responses. Based on those responses, these are the five worst African leaders of today.
5. José Eduardo dos Santos – Angola
José Eduardo dos Santos is Africa’s second longest serving president. He took the reins of power in September 1979 following the natural death of his predecessor Agostinho Neto. To his discredit, Jose Eduardo has always run his government like it’s his personal, privately-owned investment holding company. His cousin serves as the Angola’s vice president, and his daughter, Isabel Dos Santos is arguably the wealthiest woman in the country. Angola is extremely resource-rich. According to the United States Agency For International Development (USAID), the country is the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa and the seventh-largest supplier to the United States. Angola also has massive diamond deposits and occupies an enviable position as the world’s fourth largest producer of rough diamonds.
But for all its resource wealth, the vast majority of Angolans still live in the most horrid socio-economic conditions. 68% of the country’s total population lives below the poverty line of $1.7 (R25) a day, while 28% live on less than 30 cents. Education is free, but it’s practically worthless. Most of the schools are housed in dilapidated structures and there is a severe deficit of skilled and qualified teachers. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund, 30% of the country’s children are malnourished. The average life expectancy is about 41 years while child and maternal deaths are extremely high.
Unemployment levels are very high. But José Eduardo dos Santos is unaffected. Rather than transforming Angola’s economic boom into social relief for its people, he has channeled his energies towards intimidating the local media and diverting state funds into his personal and family accounts. Dos Santos’s family controls a huge chunk of Angola’s economy.
4. Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has failed to deal with the ever-present problem of employment. The country’s high literacy rate does not necessarily translate into employment opportunities for its people. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa: it’s over 60%.
Despite entering into a power-sharing agreement with the former opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe still wields almost total control over government institutions – a feat he has been able to achieve through his use of violence and subjugation. He remains reluctant to allocate substantial political powers to the MDC, and human rights abuses in the Southern African country are rife. The 92 year-old megalomaniac has vowed not to step down despite having ruled the Southern African state for over 29 years.
3. King Mswati III – Swaziland.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch presides over a country which has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates: over 35 percent of adults. Its average life expectancy is the lowest in the world at 33 years; nearly 70 percent of the country’s citizens live on less than $1 (R15) a day and 40 percent are unemployed. But for all the suffering of the Swazi people, King Mswati has barely shown concern or interest. He lives lavishly, using his kingdom’s treasury to fund his expensive tastes in German automobiles, first-class leisure trips around the world and women. But his gross mismanagement of his country’s finances is now having dire economic consequences. Swaziland is going through a severe fiscal crisis. The kingdom’s economy is collapsing and pensions have been stopped. In June last year, the King begged for a financial bailout from South Africa.
2. Omar Al-Bashir – Sudan
Sudan’s President seized power in 1989 in a bloodless military coup against the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi- a government which was democratically elected by the people of Sudan. Soon after seizing power, Al-Bashir dispersed all political parties in the country, disbanded the country’s parliament and shut down all privately-owned media outlets. His reign has been characterized by a civil war in which over one million have been killed, while several millions have been displaced. Al-Bashir is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for instigating crimes against humanity, particularly in directing and funding acts of violence against the Southern Sudan.
1.Jacob Zuma – South Africa.
South Africa which has the second largest economy in Africa is supposed to be one of the countries where the citizens enjoy a moderate standard of living if not for bad and corrupt leadership. Pres. Zuma’s government has plunged from one scandal to the nest over the years and the country’s economy is failing to grow significantly despite the never -ending changes of finance ministers.
In SA just like many other countries in Africa, the Justice system is manipulated to favour and protect those at the very top. Corruption is at its highest cadre, with the president possibly taking the lead. The education system being so fragile cannot get some of the most basic things right Take #FessMustFall for example. Industrial strikes, nepotism and tribalism are becoming the orders to the pitiable detriment of the poor masses.
Many South Africans including the opposition parties are calling for the President to step down. The recently released state capture report, the Nkandla upgrades, the mess at SABC SAA and attempts to take control of the treasury all points dirty fingers at President Zuma.