Shiny bottle-top awards for 2009

2009-11-14 00:00

This looks like going down as the year of foolish awards. Barack Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize and Jacob Zuma has been declared the African President of the Year. And there are still seven weeks to squeeze in Julius Malema as Human Rights Protector of 2009.

Neither the American nor the South African president deserved his accolade, if for no other reason than neither has been in office long enough for anyone to judge either one’s performance realistically. Unfortunately both men were too vain to turn down the honour.

Or possibly the two are working on the principle that they had better grab what is offered because it might not come around a second time. Just think of all the dashed hopes and failed expectations that accompanied Thabo Mbeki’s period in office, or George W. Bush’s for that matter.

There is a world of difference, of course, between the Nobel Prize and the African President of the Year award. The former at least has some lineage, the latter is a publicity gimmick and this first-time award has as much credibility as one of the shiny bottle tops that Idi Amin used to wear on his chest.

The stunt was arranged by an outfit called African Consciousness Media which, when one cuts through all the pretentious waffle on its website, turns out to be a Sandton events and marketing company. Not quite the Nobel Prize Committee.

The other sponsor was the Kenneth Kaunda (KK) Foundation, headed by KK himself, who we know is the very embodiment of democratic commitment, scrupulous governance and impeccable moral character. Let us draw a discreet veil over the fact that he presided over a one-party state that reduced Zambia to economic ruin.

Aside from the fact that KK got to give out the prize, it is difficult to see how the foundation fits into the picture. To give it its full name, the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation (KKCAF) was set up in February in Nigeria to help the “vulnerable children of Africa”, especially those suffering with HIV/Aids.

It claims no special interest or expertise in matters of political governance or leadership. The KKCAF does, however, extol, in atrocious English, the virtues of KK, whose distinguishing characteristic as president of Zambia — aside from autocracy and incompetence — was the promotion of the KK personality cult.

In case you misremember KK, the KKCAF proclaims: “This great African son has also touched the lives of many through his masterpiece literary works. It is on verifiable record that [he] has led a true selfless life imbued with such doggedness, patriotism, focus and forthrightness that is still being celebrated ... At the entire African level of governance, and administration, this elderstatesman [sic] could be linked to many enduring policies and programmes that harp on the libration [sic] of Africans socially, poliically [sic] and economically.”

The patrons of the KKCAF are KK, a retired Nigerian air vice-marshal, a Nigerian former minister of aviation, the chairman of ACM Ltd, and a mysterious Jeffrey Bayman who is CEO of KKCAF but for whom there is no biography.

The governing board is a retired minor Nigerian civil servant, a Nigerian evangelist and “business mogul”, and a Nigerian pharmacist who is also founder of the DNA Foundation.

In case you assume the DNA Foundation is at the cutting edge of scientific research, let me disabuse you. The Foundation seems to be a complete fiction and there is not a single reference to it or its supposedly eminent founder on the web.

This hodgepodge of nonentities got to decide that Zuma is African President of the Year? Kinda figures.


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