Peer review

2007-12-01 00:00

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was set up by the member states of the African Union as a means to advance good governance in pursuing the goals of Nepad — the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. The peer review system was mutually agreed and carefully structured to yield fair and objective reports that would encourage and assist countries to move forwards. Participation is voluntary, but engagement in the process presumably implies a commitment to carry through with it.

Nepad and the APRM are obviously central to the realisation of the African Renaissance, the vision of a democratic and resurgent Africa so eloquently delineated by Thabo Mbeki in the early years of his presidency. It is curious, therefore, and revealing, that the present Mbeki government has again postponed its acceptance of the APRM report on this country. The report was due to be presented in January; this time the postponement is indefinite. It is all but impossible to escape the implication that the report is so critical of the Mbeki administration — and rumour has it that it is indeed heavily critical of the government’s failure to deal with crime — that its publication would be intolerably embarrassing.

Whatever the reason, South Africa’s failure to accept the report is a blow to the notion of an African Renaissance, a blow to Nepad and its peer review system, and ultimately a blow to this country. Mbeki’s South Africa, it seems, pays only lip-service to the ideals of good governance. At a time when branch after branch of his own party is signalling its distrust of his leadership, Mbeki has again exposed his fatal flaw: the vision is impressive, but he simply will not confront the realities of seriously challenging issues. HIV/Aids, Zimbabwe, crime, and now the peer review report are all met with avoidance. As Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrew Layman observed in an article this week, a good leader passes on credit for what goes right and accepts responsibility for what goes wrong. Domineering when it suits him and in denial when things turn bad, Mbeki exemplifies much that is worst in political leadership.

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