AU must become an agent of development in Africa

The alarm sounded by a tweet ascribed to Rwandan president Paul Kagame calling for SA to be expelled from the AU, although denied by his spokesperson, broaches the question of what regime of leadership code and compliance has to guide the AU to be an agent for the development of Africa, the writer says.
The alarm sounded by a tweet ascribed to Rwandan president Paul Kagame calling for SA to be expelled from the AU, although denied by his spokesperson, broaches the question of what regime of leadership code and compliance has to guide the AU to be an agent for the development of Africa, the writer says.
Image: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

On December 7 1982, the apartheid death squad entered my country of birth Lesotho in search of anti-apartheid cadres; 30 ANC cadres and 12 Lesotho nationals were killed.

One of those was a man I worked with at Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation before I fled Lesotho on September 30 1982, and ended up in Mmabatho, North West.

My fate of being South African was sealed then and I came to rise to be SA's statistician-general, a position I held for 17 years.

In many ways this was a tribute to the democratic dispensation. However, the struggle is far from over as relations with fellow African countries began souring with the attacks on shops and individuals from outside SA.

SA has sent envoys out to mend souring relations because we cannot stand without Africa.

A tweet ascribed to Rwandan president Paul Kagame calling for SA to be expelled from the AU was denied by his spokesperson.

It was obviously doubtful that Kagame, a measured statesman, who does not often mince his words, would have insinuated such a pronouncement. Even with the rather lukewarm relations SA shares with Rwanda, it was inconceivable that Kagame would call for such an action.

In the mix of diplomatic footwork by President Cyril Ramaphosa, fake news about Kagame's statement and general discontent with xenophobia, the general secretary of the SACP and minister of higher education and science and technology Blade Nzimande threw in his salvo.

He argued that questions must be directed at those countries whose citizens find themselves in SA and what it is they are doing to lead their citizens and countries.

He said SA is facing serious internal problems of poverty and unemployment.

Nzimande's arguments were important in the light of Agenda 2063 and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The AU's African peer review mechanism encourages discipline, along with punitive measures for African countries that rise to power through a coup. But ascension to be a member of the AU is automatic based on being African, unless suspended or thrown out for violations of ascension to power through a coup.

The EU has stringent conditions for membership and, in part, this was driven by the breaking up of the Soviet Union. Given that most of the economies of Eastern Europe were not market economies, but in order to be, they needed to comply with EU standards. One such standard is statistics.

The alarm - false and fake as it was attributed to Kagame - the speedy diplomatic footwork by Ramaphosa, the statement by Nzimande and the practice of the AU of expelling or suspending African countries that ascend to power through a coup are broaching the question of what regime of leadership code and compliance has to guide the AU to be an agent for the development of Africa.

Lives have been lost, properties destroyed and relations strained in two weeks of turmoil that visited us.

And emerging out of all these is the question of how do we structure a leadership code, participation practice and a moral obligation to be agents of Africa's development.

The week of turmoil and subsequent actions suggest that these can be in the making.

*Dr Lehohla is the former statistician-general of SA and the former head of Statistics South Africa

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