Zenawi versus Zuma: ‘Ze burlesque follies’ of Africa

Reading time 6 min.

From Zenawi to Zuma, the follies of Africa are ably translated by the great continent’s presidents and prime ministers; those power mongers hellbent on staining the face of our beloved continent. Some are funny, most are not. But they all add up to the burlesque of governance that is still symptomatic of some parts of Africa. Personally, I prefer Jacob Zuma to Meles Zenawi, the mischievous wannabe democratic politician with an unusual penchant for ethnic politics to the detriment of some 80 million Ethiopians. But does my preference count at the end of the day?

Jacob Zuma could have been a character from an ancient Zulu folklore. In fact, it is quite obvious that many South Africans consider him harmless, and benign only when compared to his predecessor Mbeki-HIV-doesn’t-cause-AIDS. Often depicted as a caricature that serves to warm the prejudiced hearts of many, apartheid and anti-apartheid sympathizers alike, black shanty town dwellers couldn’t be more grateful to Zuma for the golden opportunity given them to vent their stressed xenophobic spleens on poor refugees from Ethiopia, Nigeria, and most of all Zimbabwe. The same Africans who fervently stood by their side in their fight against apartheid.

Staving off accusations for irresponsible behaviour after “raping” an HIV positive woman, Zuma argued that a shower he had taken after engaging in unprotected sex was meant to reduce the possibility of getting infected with the Aids virus! Talk about an Mbeki effect. And as if that wasn’t enough to kill any ordinary person’s political career, the scandal prone Zuma survived accusations of corruption, when power struggle at ANC (African National Congress) was at its height, to become South Africa’s president.

Currently sporting a love C.V. that highlights two separations (one by death and the other by divorce), three wives, and a fiancée, Zuma’s reputation as a Casanova has reached a most un-presidential peak. In less than a month, the South African President has confirmed fathering a “love child” with the daughter of a close friend, while word of two more “love children” from another relationship has surfaced; bringing the total number of his children to at least 20. Asked to answer the question: “where do children come from”, a pupil is quoted answering, “from Jacob Zuma”.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that thousands of South Africans on facebook want their government to finance a paternity test for all 48 million citizens to ascertain the exact number of Zuma’s offspring. But do they know that Idi Amin had 33 children? That the Swazi King Msawti III has 13 wives and every year takes up a bare breasted virgin as a new wife at the annual Reed Dance?

South Africans are blaming Zuma for not keeping his “Machinegun” zipped up or covered up … But “how can I shoot?” asks a very confused Zuma. Zuma is a tough 67 year old man who does not intend to shoot any blanks. A song written to that respect is titled “My Machinegun”.

But all said, I will wager my last farthing to confirm that reports of Zuma not wanting to greet children for fear of being called daddy is a fabrication by anti-Zuma forces.

As for polygamy, those sanctimonious nosy poking right wing Americans should first talk to their harem happy Middle East oil sheikhs and then to the followers of the ancestors of Mitt Romney (Mormons), who could “marry” up to a dozen wives, before throwing the first stone.

Indeed, it has been a field day for African critics, but then again Zuma is an honest and honourable man who is doing his very presidential best to fill the population vacuum caused by the ravages of AIDS. Zuma is not a wimp. He is not a Bill Clinton or a John Edwards! He admits to his peccadilloes and sings no exaggerated threnodies. His handkerchief is for the sweat of his brow and not for crocodile tears. Yes, he preaches safe sex and one partner relationships as part of a national Aids campaign. But do we really expect him to practice those holier than thou politically correct theories? Frankly! One is president only once. Or so.

But where the son of Zuma’s idiosyncrasies manage to put a smile on our faces, condescending or sincere, the son of Zenawi’s antics are insipid and depressing. Zuma is frank, Zenawi is not. To him an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was only a border crossing; “we just crossed the border,” he said.

Zenawi is full of contradictions. This is the man who blamed the West for the famine in Ethiopia: “they did not send food aid in time”. And yet he encourages laws that limit foreign funding for non-governmental organisations and place restrictions on aid intervention. This is the very man who indefatigably claims the Ethiopian economy “is growing by 10% per year” as an increasing number of people starve. 14 million needed food aid at the last count.

Yes, while the Addis Ababa sewerage polluted the capital’s drinking water, he is the same man who spent millions on monuments. And to add insult to injury, he erected a monument for a detestable “ethnic” motivated Desalegne who transported arms, ammunition and goods for guerrillas. In the meantime, countless of well deserving Ethiopian heroes await a simple recognition.

Indeed, it is the same Zenawi whose lying wife said she couldn’t afford to pay school fees for her elder daughter! As if anyone cared to believe that screaming lie.

Is it not the same Meles Zenawi who justified a massacre (200 shot dead in Addis Ababa in 2005) by claiming that his police were not well trained in riot control? Shame on the British who were supposed to train the police and intelligence services! Big crying shame! Booo…

Chinese ministers openly admit that they routinely pay bribes to win contracts for projects, and the recent collapse of the much touted Gilgel Gibe II dam tunnel in Ethiopia just ten days after its inauguration is a case in point: The Italian construction firm reportedly paid bribes both in Rome and Addis Abeba to win the bid. The white elephant projects of the seventies are alive and well.

The Ziegfeld Follies were quite a show in their time, but “Ze burlesque follies” of Africa are indeed a parody of shamefully ludicrous obscenities that make most Africans cower in shame. At the end of the day, they are everything but funny. The cost is too much, the destruction too great to fathom.

From the son of Zenawi to the son of Zuma, to Sassou and Kabila, from Mugabe to Gelleh, the “follies” of Africa are on a rampage to tarnish our already threadbare image. And they will go on if we allow them to.

The Other Afrik  The Other Afrik is an alternative and multi-faceted information source from Afrik-News' panel of experts. Contributions include : opinions, reviews, essays, satires, research, culture and entertainment news, interviews, news, information, info, opinion, africa, african-american, europe, united states, international, caribbean, america, middle east, black, France, U.K.
Hama Tuma
Hama Tuma, Ethiopian author, poet and journalist, has been active in the political and human rights struggle in Ethiopia and Africa since the sixties. His satirical essays under the general title of African Absurdities have gained support from many quarters. Some of his books (English and Amharic) have been translated to French, Italian and Hebrew.
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