Beacon of African hope

2017-01-29 06:09
PREZ RELEASE Nana Akufo-Addo is sworn in as Ghana’s new president at Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, on January 7. Inserts: President Jacob Zuma (top) and US President Donald Trump. Picture: Getty Images

PREZ RELEASE Nana Akufo-Addo is sworn in as Ghana’s new president at Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, on January 7. Inserts: President Jacob Zuma (top) and US President Donald Trump. Picture: Getty Images

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Let me start in the middle of the beginning of this inspirational African story, for it is a continuing story.

It all started with a popular election in Ghana on December 7 when Nana Akufo-Addo ran against incumbent President John Dramani Mahama. Akufo-Addo would win by an overwhelming majority.

Ghanaians are so lucky. They get to elect their president, they’re not just given one by a political party.

Mahama’s concession speech would be conciliatory, statesmanlike and inspirational:

“For those of us who choose to be contenders and go into electoral contests, we go about it as a win-lose proposition … We believe only one person can emerge as the winner.”

He continued: “I respect the will of the Ghanaian people.”

He further said:

“I would like to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country’s democracy and would like to work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to the incoming administration.”

I began to wonder if, in the now likely event of the ANC losing a general election, such a concession could be expected of them.

A week after the election, I got an invitation to attend president-elect Akufo-Addo’s inauguration.

The visit to Ghana would for me become a welcome escape from the toxicity of South African politics.

On the day of the inauguration I waded my way through the exuberant crowds.

The respect, love and adulation for the president elect displayed by the masses of people at Independence Square was palpable.

I was elated to be a witness to the inauguration of a proper president.

The oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Georgina Wood. The oath would uniquely conclude as follows:

“I further solemnly affirm that should I at any time breach this oath of office I shall submit myself to the laws of the Republic of Ghana and suffer the penalty for it. So help me God.”

I began to wonder why our so-called best Constitution in the world did not demand such an undertaking, at least explicitly.

Dressed in flowing traditional garb, President Akufo-Addo then gave his inaugural address. Notwithstanding the unattributed quotes, his was a most inspirational speech:

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

He continued:

“Departing President Mahama’s eloquent and dignified acceptance of the verdict of the people on December 7 2016 will, without doubt, receive the approval of history, for it contributed significantly to the process of the democratic consolidation in Ghana.”

His was a simple, but for me profound, promise: “I will not let you, the people of Ghana, down.”

If only South Africans could have heard this: “Fidelity to principles, courage, patience, resilience and collective action do yield results.”

Quoting Kofi Busia, the new president said:

“We regard politics as an avenue of service to our fellow men. We hold that political power is to be exercised to make life nobler and happier.

"Our success or failure should be judged by the quality of the individual, by his knowledge, his skills, his behaviour as a member of society, the standard of living he is able to enjoy and by the degree of harmony and brotherliness in our community life as a nation.”

As if addressing South Africans, Akufo-Addo further said:

“We must restore integrity in public life. State coffers are not spoils for the party that wins an election. Public service is just that – service and not an avenue for making money. Money is to be made in the private sector, not the public.”

And then he promised meaningful transformation, not distracting radicalism.

“We believe that the business of government is to govern. Ours is to set the rules. We will provide vision and direction and shine the light down the path of our entrepreneurs and farmers.”

As if speaking to each and every Ghanaian, he said:

“We will stimulate the creative juices of innovators, we will bring back to life the adventurer in you. It is time to imagine and dream again, time to try that business idea again...

“We will reduce taxes to recover the momentum of our economy. The doors of Ghana are open again. The shutters are up again. Ghana is open for business again.”

Then I was reminded of our own lost vocation when he said: “We will reassert vigorously the pan-African vocation to which our nation has been dedicated.”

Then came the call to action:

“Fellow citizens, you must be at the centre of the change. The change we have voted for will have to start with each of us as individuals.

"We can start with little changes in our own individual attitudes and practices. The change can and should start now and with us as individuals.”

My mind unhelpfully switched to our own incumbent president’s inaugural speeches. The first one, well, I can’t remember what he said. Or whether he sang.

However, I vividly remember Zwelinzima Vavi, Julius Malema and Blade Nzimande singing that silly song, Umshini Wam’, in the rain.

Neither can I remember the second inauguration address, except perhaps the hackneyed and hollow “triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality...”

Listening to our president is as inspirational as watching paint dry. I take cold comfort from the recent inaugural address by that transatlantic moron, Donald Trump.

Interestingly, he became president after losing the popular vote. He spoke more like a candidate on the campaign trail than a president. He had no sense of moment.

His speech was parochial, protectionist and downright jingoistic.

His inauguration would a day later be followed by hundreds of thousands of women marching on four continents and in 600 towns and cities around the world, including Diepsloot.

Already some bookies are waging he will not complete his four-year term. A mainly old and pale Trump Cabinet is awaiting congressional confirmation.

But back to Ghana.

The new president has started to assemble his Cabinet. Awaiting confirmation are the best and the brightest. All of his Cabinet have been to school (I mean tertiary education) and consist of eight economists, eight lawyers, specialists in medicine, IT, development and finance, management and marketing, administration and governance.

All of them are employed, none deployed; public servants, not party apparatchiks.

Vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia is himself an economist and banker, and is a real deputy. The president is an Oxford-educated lawyer.

As often happens, I sadly reflected on my own country’s low-grade political leadership. As the ANC succession battle intensifies, Zuma has set the bar so low (or has he buried the bar, to borrow a phrase) that every mother’s child wants to be president.

Throughout the three-day inaugural celebrations, South African representation was conspicuously absent. However, I did spy one representative at the luncheon.

I heard her call me and my two travelling companions the South African delegation. South African delegation, my foot!

It was good to return to South Africa, especially after the many foolish, fleeting moments of borrowed pride when I wished I was Ghanaian.

The rational me said, nah, you are South African.

I will not let the current regime make an alien of me after seven years of wanton alienation.

Vundla is a businessman who describes himself as an independent thinker

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Read more on:    anc  |  john dramani mahama  |  nana akufo-addo  |  ghana

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