Whoever persuaded the first African leaders that as long as they owned the media in their country they would be on easy street, politically, for life, gave them a bum steer.
More than 50 years after 1957 there are still African leaders with amazing faith in this formula for guaranteeing their eternal stay in power.
In Zimbabwe there is much evidence that leaders believe that as long as they own the major newspapers, radio and TV stations, they will be home and dry as far as "selling" their story to the people goes.
This is in spite of massive evidence to the contrary. They lost the March 29 elections while, media-wise, they held all the aces.
Their presidential candidatereportedly went ballisticwhen told he had lost. What awaits him after June 27 could be even worse. Most people who voted against him in March have vowed to get everyone to the polls this time.
Some have vowed to get the cattle, goats, sheep and chickens to the polls. They suspect the sight of these animals queuing at polling stations will send the Zanu-PF presidential candidate into his final throes.
Seriously, African leaders should reassess their stewardship of the continent's development since 1957. Key to any such reassessment should be South Africa's leadership.
Not only should they re-examine their spineless reaction to the recent massacre of innocents, but they need to revisit the humiliation of Thabo Mbeki as ANC president at Polokwane last year.
For some reason, mostly because of the statesman-like conduct of Nelson Mandela during his brief presidency, Africa had expected South Africa to set an example of star leadership.
Mbeki proved to be an entirely different kettle of fish. Not only was he indecisive where situations called for robust decisiveness, but he proved utterly insensitive to ordinary people's cries for help, whether it was about housing or HIV and Aids .
Fortunately he failed to sell the idea of government media to everyone. The SABC's reputation is not squeaky clean and rumours of a takeover bid by the government or the ANC of privately-owned newspapers must leave a nasty taste in the mouths of libertarians who still believe the ANC had off-loaded its excess Marxist-Leninist baggage.
The clearest evidence of why no government has any business running radio and TV stations and newspapers is provided by the The Herald's June 4 lead story "Land Key to Food Security".
This was a regurgitation of an old Robert Mugabe hymn: with land ownership people can feed themselves. Not if the ownership is laced with deadly spice - politics.
For Mugabe the land reform programme of 2000 was a nakedly political gimmick that went tragically wrong. For him even the economy must be politicised, which is why it, too, is in the sick bay.
What's worse is that Mugabe believes the more the people are starved of food, medicine, water, shelter and jobs the more points he will score with his No l Enemy - the West.
Africa must revise the original raison d'etre of our struggle for independence. If it wasn't to free us from foreign subjugation, poverty and disease, then what was it for?
l Bill Saidi is deputy editor at The Standard in Zimbabwe.