Ramaphosa: A Wind of Change or a Puff of Smoke?

Ramaphosa: A Wind of Change or a Puff of Smoke?

Sunday, February 18, 2018 6:18 am


Tunde Asaju

By Tunde Asaju

What on earth is going on in our Africa? An ominous wind is blowing across the continent. Once where there was a vast desert of despondency, an oasis of hope has sprung up. Two resignations of two heads of states in one week! Even when one is contrived and the other is ominously altruistic, this is not characteristic for a continent typified by sit-tight runiners and bad news.

When was the last time you heard any cheering news from our continent since the release of Nelson Mandela and his sacrificial decision not to stay in power indefinitely? Suddenly within a week, South Africa has deleted Jacob Zuma and sworn in a new president in Cyril Ramaphosa; Ethiopia is searching for a replacement for Hailemariam Desalegn. In Kenya, the judiciary has declared illegal, the deportation of lawyer/politician Miguna Miguna.

Someone please wake me up if these things are not true. For the first few days of last week, it looked like Zuma would talk himself into beating the cat with nine lives and get some injury time. His friends were in the media doing damage control while his party was engaged in horsetrading. His supporters interpreted the ultimatum to mean time for the spring cleaning of any remaining rotten skeletons in the cupboard. But the ANC had a different agenda and on Wednesday, it concluded the coup it started in December 2017 when, against the run of play, it elected Ramaphosa and not Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as head of the party.

Cyril Ramaphosa

In Ethiopia, a country not known for conscientious politics, Hailemariam Desalegn, the architect of detentions, disappearances and some would even say deaths has resigned. In Kenya where a court annulment of elections resulted in the winner threatening a tsunami in the judiciary, the courts refused to be cowed as it declared the deportation of a opposition politician, Miguna Miguna, illegal. Miguna was practicing law in Canada before returning home to contest for the governor of Nairobi late last year. Miguna lost the elections, but continued his alliance with his political mentor, opposition leader Raila Odinga. He was perhaps the most prominent politician when Odinga swore himself in as president a month ago. For that and other swings and jabs at the Uhuru/Ruito presidency, he was later arrested, detained for five days before being dumped on a plane to Amsterdam en-route Canada. He claimed to have been physically and mentally tortured. He has won his case. It’s early days yet to know whether the Uhuru government would make good on its threat to shake the judiciary for nullifying its first mandate and forcing a re-run.

Only last week, we were here lamenting that resignations were unAfrican. If this breeze continues, even Europe and America that acts as the supervisors of global politics and the definers of proper democratic conduct may be shocked beyond words. Where politics is right, progress comes easy. In the new world of order of national individuality, even Donald ‘the Dumb’ Trump who called other continents shithole may see that the joke is on him.

Former South African President, Jacob Zuma

Maybe we are hallucinating. Zuma is out and Ramaphosa is in. But its not yet Uhuru even in Kenya. The honeymoon would depend on how Ramaphosa plays the cards. Would he sweep as a new broom or a relic simply redecorated? Events of the next few weeks would provide the answer. In politics honeymoons don’t last as they do in Catholic marriages. With time those who are privy to the horsetrading would spill the beans and Cyril Matamela might find the corridors of power stiffer than the boardroom.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia: Resigns


It is difficult to know how the pendulum swings in Ethiopia. Desalegn has battled street protests and secession, the new virus of discontent in the Oromia and Amhara region since 2015. This year, he dropped charges and freed several detainees, later closing the infamous Maekelawi prison. Desalegn’s resignation came as a surprise to many but has now opened the way for his country to rebrand.

The din of ululation somehow muted the deserved dirge for Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s 65-year old opposition leader who succumbed to colon cancer last week. He once shared government with Robert Mugabe but has not been seen in public until recently when Emerson Mnangagwa paid him a courtesy visit. His alternative view on Zimbabwe’s new brand of democracy would be missed.

A trending cartoon on social media in Nigeria


Meanwhile, events have provided home-based humourists fuel for their wit. One opined that any nation hoping to remove its leader should give the job to Imo’s statue-governor Rochas Okorocha. Thus far, every leader whose statue has featured in his park has either been removed or deleted. Our own former vice president Alex Ekwueme died, Zuma is now removed, Ellen Jonson-Sirleaf has retired. Humorists hope Okorocha would build effigies for Paul Biya, Yoweri Museveni, Faure Gnassingbe, Joseph Kabila to mention a few. The question we all need to answer is whether this is a wind of change or an ephemeral puff of smoke.

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