Southern Africa now needs new breed of leaders who bravely stand with the oppressed in the region

As Zambia marks yet another milestone in its commendable democratic path, with the recent election of Hakainde Hichilema - who was overwhelmingly victorious over outgoing president Edgar Lungu - it has become even more imperative for a new breed of leader to emerge, who boldly stands with the suffering and oppressed people of the region.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Southern Africa is not new to the democratic transfer of power – most especially, from one political party to another – as this has been witnessed in such countries as Zambia, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but there has always been one particularly troubling trait.

In spite of the emergence of a new generation of leaders, who had endured immense and untold brutal repression as opposition activists – at the hands of their countries’ then dictatorial ruling elite – they, as soon as assuming power after winning elections, nonetheless, swiftly morphed into photocopies of those they had replaced.

Not only that, instead of continuing the struggle for true freedom and independence – which, they themselves had fought in their own countries – and, spreading it to other equally (if not worse off) suppressed and subjugated peoples around the Southern African region, they have never wasted any moment joining hands with other repressive regimes within the region.

It is always amazing how quickly those who had endured unspeakable brutality, and unimaginable suffering under their brutal kleptomaniac leaders, suddenly became one of the ‘big boys club’ of regional tyrants, once elected into power.

I have always asked myself – does becoming a president, even having undergone immense struggles whilst still in opposition, instantly induce some inexplicable amnesia?

Why do these formerly subjugated opposition leaders forget the plight of their fellow oppressed in the region, as soon they take their oaths of office, after winning their country’s elections?

In fact, whatsoever happened to the spirit of the Kenneth Kaundas, Samora Machels, and Sir Seretse Khamas of this region – who continued supporting their neighbours’ struggles for emancipation, even after assuming the reins of power in their own states?

Let us not forget that our nationalist independence movements – in countries as Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), South Africa, and Namibia (then South West Africa) – were at that time, also opposition parties, although largely banned, and operating illegally.

Nonetheless, when countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana attained their own independence, their new leaders did not cut ranks with their fellow suffering people in the region – by embracing oppressive regimes, and becoming their new buddies – but, instead, used the opportunity to prop up liberation movements in fellow neighboring countries.

Why is today’s breed of liberation movements not continuing this trend, by using their new-found power as leaders of their countries, by assisting those in neighboring countries who are still enduring indescribable oppression and impoverishment at the hands of their ruthless and cruel leaders?

Are they to tell us that what Kaunda, Machel, and Khama did was purely based on the colour of the oppressor’s skin – and, was racially-inspired assistance, such that, now that the new oppressor is black, there is no need to support the struggle against fellow black tyrants?

I honestly do not get it.

As far as I am concerned, an oppressor is an oppressor, and the oppressed are the oppressed – regardless of the colour.

Brutality is not less painful just because it is at the hands of a fellow black leader. Neither was it worse at the hands of a white colonizer.

As Hichilema takes over the reins of power in Zambia, we implore him to walk in the big and bold footsteps of the great Pan-Africanist revolutionary Kenneth Kaunda – his country’s founding father, who only passed away a month ago – and, assume the role of a regional, if not continental, crusader for the total and true emancipation and prosperity of all oppressed and suffering peoples.

Just like Kaunda, Hichilema needs to be prepared to even sacrifice his own regional reputation, and possible friendships (with the wining and dining) with oppressive leaders – as he charts a valiant course of standing up, an speaking out, for all those who are still being subjugated and alienated by their own leaders.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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