FROM Cape to Cairo, corruption is the common political mantra. Real or imagined the narrative is constant, consistent and pervasive.
The deep inequality, poverty and class differentiation manifest in nearly all African states is tinderbox that is ever present for insurrection, division and mayhem.
The very liberation struggle in Zambia and elsewhere on the continent was based on the desire to address inequality, represented by the racial divide which accorded privilege based on colour, with the white at the apex and the natives at the very bottom.
After independence the search for equality has continued, this time between the political elite considered to enjoy privileges and therefore economic advantage compared to the majority poor.
The narrative has thus changed from the colour divide to the “political elite” divide. In short therefore, every African leader is corrupt.
Indeed, the late President John Magufuli of Tanzania was the rare gem who was not corrupt but was irrational, undemocratic and therefore wanting.
Not even our own darling Kenneth Kaunda was spared. By 1991 as multi-party politics were in vogue, he was accused of presiding over copper and cobalt theft in what was called “copper-gate.”
The very first issues of the former Weekly Post newspaper accused him and his colleagues of shortchanging the nation of vital revenue from the sale of copper and cobalt.
This accusation made a major dent in the image of the UNIP leadership. This strategy worked because it appealed to the spirit of envy and jealousy.
Such is the nature of our vacuous, personalised politics, founded on the thin nation statehood cobbled out of ethic, cultural and religious diversity, forced by colonialism.
Scratch a little deeper, the ugly face of tribalism/ethnicism arises.
This is now the case in South Africa where the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma has very quickly metamorphosized from an ethnic grievance to a political grudge that has erupted into a near national insurrection.
The Zulu nation felt injured and plotted reprisal.
The insurrection has a logic and life of its own which neither the government nor political system can control because the criminal element has taken root.
Once removed from the bottle, the genie is running wild, looting and pillaging and in the process, destroying the very services that the community needs.
While the narrative of poverty emancipation is compelling political rhetoric the anger and resentment it builds is deep. Indeed, for a while the people will be blinded, but very soon the character and integrity of the authors come into question.
When the hypocrisy is exposed, those with the least to lose will loot and pillage to get even and get access to the goods they could admire from a distance.
What Africa needs most today are honest, hardworking and accountable leaders who have an interest in the well being of the people from whom they seek power.
These are leaders who will not be afraid of their shadows on account of their misdeeds which political power may shield for a while.
Our politicians must learn lessons from the fast disintegrating situation in South Africa. While political rhetoric may serve a purpose, this is ephemeral, with lasting consequences as South Africans will realise, with the disruption of supply chains and infrastructure.
The worst is yet to come as Covid-19 also lurks.