macroafricaintel | South Africa: A race of three

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Just days to the elective conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party on 16 December, Jacob Zuma, the South African president suffered a slight setback. That is an understatement, actually. A Pretoria High Court ruled he should implement the recommendations of the Public Protector (PP), the South African anti-corruption watchdog; who had asked him to set up an inquiry into what is now widely referred to as “State Capture.” In its simplest form, it means corruption. A wider interpretation would be to refer to it as the use of state resources by private elements for private gain with the active collaboration of public officials. Many revelations suggest President Zuma could be culpable of state capture. Naturally, Mr Zuma had wanted the court to tell him if the PP’s directives were binding on him. It was a time-wasting gimmick. And the court told him so punitively. Just before, he got some reprieve from the chief prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams – widely believed to be a Zuma loyalist – who gave him until the end of January next year to make representations as to why almost 800 previously dropped corruption charges should not now be instituted against him; after a court ruled sometime ago it was wrong to have dropped them in the first place. Incidentally, the judge who ruled the PP’s directives were binding on Mr Zuma also nullified his appointment of Mr Abrahams as chief prosecutor. Furthermore, the court ruled he could not appoint his replacement because he was clearly conflicted. That task it assigned to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, the leading candidate to replace him as ANC president. Although Mr Zuma’s tenure as South Africa’s president would not expire until 2019, he could be recalled by the ANC if someone not favourably disposed to him wins the party’s presidency. With the only shield Mr Zuma would have thereafter being that offered by his position as president of The Republic, there is no gainsaying how highly motivated he must be to ensure that the person that emerges as the ANC president this weekend is someone that would protect him from what are clearly imminent troubles. Only one candidate can do this: former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife. And even though ahead of the conference, Mr Ramaphosa is leading with nominations from the party branches, it is not definite. What matters more are the number of delegates he has in his pocket. And that is where Mr Zuma has an advantage. Oops! I meant Ms Dlamini-Zuma. Well, maybe I meant both of them. Mr Ramaphosa is nominally in battle with Ms Dlamini-Zuma but effectively at war with Mr Zuma.

Fight to finish
Despite being embattled, Mr Zuma still has the power to dish out patronage. Mr Ramaphosa is rich too. But Mr Zuma can offer much more than money. He can offer positions, contracts, and so on. It is not impossible that more cadres might decide it best to pitch their tents with the person that everyone seems to want to succeed Mr Zuma. Market participants want Mr Ramaphosa to win, at least. One actually estimated as much as US$10 billion in capital flight in the aftermath of an almost certain rating downgrade to junk status by Moody’s if Ms Dlamini-Zuma wins instead. Respected former finance minister Pravin Gordhan went as far as boasting that the economy could turn around in months if Mr Ramaphosa is elected. This is an exaggeration, of course. Mr Ramaphosa is no magician. (But it speaks to the enthusiasm around his candidacy.) The problems bedevilling South Africa would require very tough structural reforms. They tend to take time to bear fruit. And any president willing to embark on them would need to have not only strong political capital and will, but must also be willing to suffer the fate of probably not lasting long in office. Of all the candidates, Mr Ramaphosa is perhaps the only one that comes closest to being qualified to do the needed right things. Take labour reforms. It would be a very brave ANC president that takes on unions that form the bedrock of the party’s support base. COSATU, the umbrella labour union body, is a member of the tripartite alliance that ensures ANC is able to retain power. Were the ANC to lose their support because of what are germane but likely unpopular labour reforms, it may not be in power long enough to see them through. But if there is anyone with the skill and experience to do the task, it is Mr Ramaphosa. A former labour leader himself, Mr Ramaphosa is credited with helping former president and father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, with negotitations to end the apartheid regime. And it is widely known that when Mr Mandela was in a jam during what were very tasking talks, Mr Ramaphosa, when called upon, as he often was, was able to help make some headway. But Mr Ramaphosa is not without troubles of his own. He is tainted by the Marikana massacre, which resulted in the deaths of many protesting miners. And Mr Zuma has reportedly not relented in his efforts to ensure Mr Ramaphosa does not prevail. Lately, what came out was that Mr Zuma might be looking to invoke a state of emergency. Like always, his office came out vociferously with a denial. If past events are a barometer of Mr Zuma’s schemings, it is not totally out of the question that he is still contemplating this. Should Mr Ramaphosa win, Mr Zuma would need to move quickly to ensure the party is not able to recall him. Such is the risk of something unusual happening that market participants are already beginning to derisk themselves of South African exposure as a precaution. For the sake of dear South Africans, may the best candidate win.

macroafricaintel | Call me Mr President

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

On 12 December, a “president” would have been inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya. At least, that was the plan. But the president of where or what? Because just weeks before, one was sworn-in. His name is Uhuru Kenyatta. And he looks nothing like the one that could have taken another oath of “office” this week. I have been at my wits’ end trying to fathom what Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga was trying to achieve by committing what could on the face of it have been deemed a treasonable offence. Mr Odinga lost to President Kenyatta in the August elections which was annulled by the Supreme Court over irregularities. As he did not participate in the second one, which incidentally was validated by the court, it beggars belief on what legal basis his purported presidential inauguration would have stood upon. With some reflection and after reading commentaries here and there, I came around to an understanding of what he might have been trying to achieve. A man could call himself anything. If I wrote in this column that I am the “president” of this page, who is to query me? Some companies entitle their chief executive “president”, for instance. In Nigeria, the head of the Senate is what again? Mr. President. But is Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian Senate, the president of Nigeria? Surely not. So Mr Odinga might actually be on to something I thought. Since he is almost assured of the support of about half the Kenyan population, designating himself as “president” of some assemblage, a “peoples’ assembly”, say, might just do the trick of getting on the nerves of his rival in the presidential palace. In a nutshell, what Mr Odinga had planned today may actually have passed the test of legal scrutiny. At least, so I thought; until a press release by his party over the weekend postponing the swearing-in stated he would have been inaugurated as “President of the Republic of Kenya.” Say we ignore this about-face. Let us also assume he was not about to be foolhardy to the point of actually declaring himself the President of Kenya. With some creativity, he could actually get away with something close to the real deal.

Much ado about a title
Going around the country as the “president” of “something” that everyone knows represents about half of Kenya could actually be the perfect revenge from the scion of a family forever at odds (and always at the losing end it seems) with the Kenyattas. A good analogy can be found in China a long time ago. While Deng Xiaoping was the de facto leader of China in the late 1970s and for most of the 1980s, he was never officially head of state. At one point, the only title he had was that of honorary chairman of the China Bridge Association. Even then, he was able to wield tremendous power. Mr Deng proved the point that power is not so much about the title as it is about legitimacy. It seems to me Mr Odinga’s plan should be to hold on to the half of Kenya that he is now almost sure would pledge fealty to him if he asked. That way, as he and his party “resist” and ask for electoral reforms, they would be able to sustain the current momentum until the next elections. Mr Kenyatta and his men are not likely to sit idly by while he does this, though. Opposition strategist, David Ndii, was recently arrested by the authorities, likely in the hope that incriminating evidence would be found against him, Mr Odinga and the other principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA). As Mr Ndii recounts after his release on bail, they did not succeed.

Catch-22
Had the “president” been sworn-in today as planned, the president (which one now?) would have had little choice but to arrest and prosecute him for treason. Until the postponement was announced, I came to the resolution that perhaps Mr Odinga reckoned it would not be such a bad idea to be in the news in that manner. After all, he has been in prison before. In the event, attention would be drawn from whatever potential good Mr Kenyatta might be doing for the people towards the likely spectacle of a treason trial. He could still do some sort of oath-taking within the confines of the freedoms of association, expression and so on. But when the swearing-in eventually takes place, if ever, how should Mr Kenyatta respond? If he arrests and prosecutes Mr Odinga, the subsequent drama would be a tremendous distraction. If he does nothing, Mr Odinga would increasingly look presidential. Maybe it should end with the postponement.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/call-mr-president/

macroafricaintel | Closing in on Trump

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

That Donald Trump, the American president, is anti-establishment is quite writ large. It is somewhat astonishing that a man like that could become not only a billionaire while keeping his uncouth ways but also make it to the White House. Not one for conspiracy theories, but I am quite convinced now a decision has been made to remove him from that gilded office. It was always a mistake for him to have taken on the security establishment. Being at odds with business people and politicians is one thing. But to have taken on the FBI and the intelligence services, people that are also responsible for his security, was somewhat unwise. The FBI, it is believed never forgives the kind of slight meted out to its former director, James Comey, by President Trump. And he did not do much wrong. Were he not known to be largely above board, some might actually credit him with facilitating Mr Trump’s election win. And with the benefit of hindsight, it is quite clear whatever decision Mr Comey made in regard of the Clinton emails was not so much intended to benefit Mr Trump as it was to ensure the FBI would not be found culpable of complicity. Funnily, despite winning, and with one year into his first term in office, Mr Trump still harps about the Clinton affair. It is not too hard to see what might motivate his whining. With special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian links of Mr Trump’s election campaign, closing in on him, Mr Trump desperately needs to distract the public. A war tends to do that. And Mr Trump may soon have an excuse to embark on one with an increasingly belligerant North Korea. And then there is Iran. The Saudis and fellow Arab countries have been ramping up their anti-Iran rhetoric lately. Had they the means, they would probably be engaged in an armed conflict at the moment. For now, fightiing through proxies will do; in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere. And everywhere you turn, Russia seems to prop up. Whether it is Mr Trump’s troubles at home, the North Korean crisis, or the conflict in Syria, there is bizarrely always a Russian element.

Crazy works
In quite an unusual manner for a banker to talk about a sitting president, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of America’s biggest bank, JP Morgan, reckons Mr Trump would likely be a one-term president. That is almost a sure thing now if recent progress made by Mr Mueller is anything to go by. Mr Mueller recently secured the full cooperation of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to Mr Trump, who was charged lightly in exchange for incriminating testimony against Mr Trump’s campaign organisation and staff. It has been revealed he might have evidence to show complicity on the part of Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s confidante and son-in-law, for instance. It has also been revealed there could be evidence of Mr Trump’s complicity as well. Barring that, Mr Trump may have inadvertently incriminated himself by one of his numerous tweets. So the issue now is really whether Mr Trump would act a President Bill Clinton, who saw an impeachment hearing to the end and prevailed, or choose to be a President Richard Nixon, who when evidence emerged he had breached his oath of office, resigned, got a presidential pardon, and enjoyed a somewhat quiet retirement. It is probably too early to determine whether the end of Mr Trump’s stint at the White House is near. His antecedents show he is a man with a winning streak. No one thought he would win the 2016 elections, for instance. But he did. There has not been a major American tax reform for the past 3 decades. Under Mr Trump, that is about to change. And now he has done the unthinkable by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; too hot an issue for past presidents. (As a Muslim, I am offended by this. But the focus here is on American politics.) The reason he probably succeeds is that everyone believes he is crazy enough to do the crazy things he talks about. And because in his own case, all his skeletons; at least most of them (except his tax returns for instance) are in the open, there is not much that he could be blackmailed with. The only dangling sword over his head is his Russian connections. Besides, if an obnoxious and insecure American president delivers tax reform, Middle East peace and reins in North Korea, it would certainly not have been such a bad thing to have had him in the White House.

macroafricaintel | MainaGate: We must be fair

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

I have followed the “MainaGate” saga with great interest. (It refers to the furtive reinstatement into the public service of Abdul-Rasheed Maina, the former head of a presidential task force on pension reforms, who to the knowledge of the public had been declared wanted for myriad corruption allegations but was purportedly at large.) My views are mixed. After watching a 2-hour video recording of the investigative hearing by a committee of the lower house of the Nigerian legislature, what is clear to me is that Mr Maina has the sympathies of some people in the current government. He returned to a post at the interior ministry without any fear it seems. And the country’s chief spy, Lawal Daura, acknowledges action on a request on behalf of Mr Maina of a threat to his life. Mr Daura says since Mr Maina is a Nigerian and that they indeed found his fears to be credible, they had no choice but to take action. Nigerians likely find this interesting: You could not get past the gate of the premises of the spy agency if you were not “special”, talk less have the ears and heart of the agency’s chief. Besides, why would any agency help someone who everyone in the public domain thought to be a fugitive from justice? It could be that they are privy to a truth; but which would be injurious to the state if made public. Mr Daura also revealed without the slightest equivocation that Mr Maina is not on his agency’s watch list; hence why he has not been arrested. Furthermore, is it possible that Mr Maina would make incorrect claims about helping the authorities to recover assets in the knowledge that should these be found to be untrue, it would not help his already unfortunate circumstances? There are just too many questions. And many remain unanswered.

Passing the buck
My primary concern is really just about fairness. I am usually very wary when a narrative dominates the airwaves to the point that people become reluctant to espouse anything different. And in my experience, narratives with such prominence tend to contain some untruths. In time, the real state of affairs tends to unfold; but by then, it is usually not that useful for the victims of the earlier falsehood. But in this case, the lives of a man and his family are at stake. And the matter has been so publicised to the point that anything short of a proper resolution would be a great injustice. And the potential victims are not just Mr Maina and his relatives. A senior civil servant has accepted full responsibility for Mr Maina’s supposedly illegal reinstatement. I doubt very much he is as culpable as he claims. But there is a culture amongst the people from the part of the country he comes from about keeping to pacts and acting courageously. So should push come to shove, those he is likely protecting can sleep quite restfully in the knowledge that he would not change his tune later. To be clear, I am not taking sides here. But if murderers can be allowed the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, a purportedly corrupt former public servant can surely be allowed some accommodation.

Truth at all times
I think President Muhammadu Buhari was likely privy to at least some elements of the events that led to Mr Maina’s now supposed illegal reinstatement and promotion. When he became aware is the part one cannot objectively infer. To be fair, the president is procedurally apprised of only high-level details of issues. It is only when he prompts further that he is made aware of more. And even when a president does this, the details are still watered down. It is not the practice, however, for any president to probe too much; at least, not if his principal staffer, the chief of staff, Abba Kyari or any person in the position, has his full confidence. But when Mr Maina started gracing the full cover of newspapers, it would certainly have been impossible for Mr Buhari, who is well-known for his love of the papers, not to have become fully aware of the controversy and the injury it was causing his administration. Predictably, he directed that Mr Maina be immediately disengaged from the civil service and asked for a full report on the great matter. That said, Mr Maina’s issue has become so controversial that even when he receives the fairest hearing, it would be unwise to allow him back into the civil service. Besides, the matter could be left to the court which Mr Maina’s lawyers claim ordered his reinstatement in the first place; albeit he would probably be better off collecting his emoluments and retiring into a quiet life should he emerge victorious. Even so, some pragmatism could be applied to make the matter a win-win for all concerned. If his claim that he could help the authorities recover about three trillion naira in stolen public funds and assets – more than a third of planned public spending next year – is found to be credible, for instance, it should be pursued in exchange for some plea bargain deal (if applicable). But there is a broader issue about how public pension funds have been perennially misappropriated by public officials; ironically, the raison d’etre of Mr Maina’s task force. My advocacy is to Mr Buhari and not his underlings. No matter how villainous Mr Maina may have become and the potential costs to his government if he chooses to be fair, Mr Buhari must stick to the path of truth. Mr Maina should be given fair hearing, full protection by the security services whilst this lasts, and the judgements and resolutions by competent bodies on the matter should be implemented to the letter.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/mainagate-must-fair/

macroafricaintel | Europe could do more for Africa

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

It is a little annoying that this year’s African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) summit (29-30 November), the fifth now, has been overshadowed by recent revelations by CNN – an American news organisation much reviled by President Donald Trump – of black Africans being enslaved in Libya on their way to Europe illegally. Europe’s concerns about increasing illegal migration from African countries, often at great peril – for those who choose to make the journey, that is – would ordinarily have been the focal point at the summit regardless. European governments have committed to helping with evacuating the victims and prosecuting the culprits. Of course, it is not unlikely that the most secret bit of their ruminations wonders if the ugly phenomenon may not finally be the deterrent they so desperately seek to stop the rising illegal immigration rate of Africans to Europe. European governments have been at their wits’ end trying to stop the uncontrollable flow hitherto. Of course, the bad press that comes with many that die on the journey across the sea is not necessarily helpful. And it speaks to the motivation of the travellers if despite the dangers of the journey, more continue to embark on it. Even so, EU countries have become more stringent, as their citizens increasingly worry about losing jobs to migrants who do not mind lower pay; albeit their eyes are typically set on better skilled fellow Europeans. Upon arrival on the shores of Europe, often that of Italy, and after being rescued, the few that “made it” amongst the multitude at the beginning of the perilous journey back home, are sent to camps where they would sometimes stay for months or years. In the past, they could transition from these camps to what they eventually find to be a less than ideal “dream life” in Europe. Lately, sterner restrictions have increasingly made even this less likely: more are repartriated home these days. But these are the lucky ones. They are alive and have a chance to rebuild their lives. That said, the proportion of Africans that make this dangerous journeys pale in comparison to the many, youths mostly, who stay behind and try to make a meaning of their lives. Themed “Investing in the youth for a sustainable future”, it is this latter group that the 5th AU-EU Summit in Abidjan focuses on.

Faith and works
So at least, European governments know what the problem is. 60 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion population is aged below 25 years. That is 761 million people. One estimate put the number of young Africans entering the labour market annually at about 10 million. Of these, only about 30 percent secure wage employment. The other 70 percent? We know some seek greener pastures abroad, for sure; and clearly in not so salubrious ways for most. Crucially, the majority are idle, thus posing a security risk not only to their countries, the African continent, but abroad as well. Trying to resolve the problem is at the core of the joint Africa-EU strategy. The advocacy here is that what has been done thus far, laudable though they are, could be much more. The European Union is quick to tout its 7-year €30 billion official development aid to 2020, for instance. It is a drop in the ocean. Compare with this: Africa needs at least $90 billion annually over at least a decade to plug its infrastructure deficit alone. There is a consensus, at least, that aid is not the solution. Better trade, could be, though. In this regard, the EU could be more forthcoming. Its Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African countries are controversial. Some African countries have reservations about them; Nigeria for instance. And there are quite a few amongst the ones that signed them which did so grudgingly. One issue is usually about the potential loss of revenue that African governments would suffer from allowing reciprocal tariff-free European access to African markets. To be fair, there has been some accommodation by the EU to compensate for this. The problem is that it pales in comparison to the potential loss. The great matter is how the EPAs in their current form might stymie Africa’s industrialization. Of course, it could be argued that automation and the so-called fourth industrial revolution are greater and more imminent threats. Even so, Europe should back its good faith with more action.

Also published in Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/12/01/europe-could-do-more-for-africa-by-rafiq-raji/

macroafricaintel | Diversified Nigerian economy still about oil

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Last week, I was part of a brilliant panel at the 2017 Bonds, Loans and Sukuk Nigeria Briefing event in Lagos that discussed the Nigerian economic outlook for the coming year. With the economy largely looking upward, the panel was naturally upbeat about the future; no doubt helped by the release of better than expected Q3 GDP data just about 30 minutes earlier. The forecasts one had just before the data release had to be momentarily revised upwards, for instance. Above 1 percent GDP growth rate for 2017 is beginning to look feasible certainly; from earlier projections of below 1 percent. More importantly, earlier estimates of about 2 percent for 2018 seem somewhat conservative now. With planned ramped-up public spending, because of the political cycle no less, expected lower inflation and interest rates, likely appreciation of the naira on the back of likely high for longer crude oil prices, 3 percent GDP growth next year would not be farfetched at all. One veteran company board guru in attendance agreed as much in private.

What if
Amid this optimism, however, an experienced foreign portfolio manager rightly asked a so-called disconfirming question. What if oil prices go south again? Of course, recent events suggest that scenario is not likely for another year, at least. But if one were to learn from history, sometimes all it takes for things to go awry can be no more than a single event. For example, if anyone said previously that Russia would be crucial to solving the Syrian and North Korean crises and indeed be germane to whether the oil producers’ cartel OPEC (which meets on 30 November) would be able to sustain the efficacy of its production cuts, you would have been sceptical. But that is exactly the case now. No one could have envisaged the radical anti-corruption move by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia or that his power would be formalized so quickly, for instance. Incidentally, the Saudi royal’s youthful exuberance is already becoming writ large: while the Yemeni war is still ongoing and the cold shoulder towards Qatar persists, MBS virtually held hostage the head of government of a sovereign country; and with the benefit of hindsight clearly forced him to read out a resignation letter that was intended to instigate a conflict with Iran. Otherwise there is no other explanation for why Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri would, following summons from the Saudis, quit office in Riyadh on supposed intelligence of plans to assassinate him and then suddenly change his mind after what is believed to be an internationally brokered “release” from their watchful eye. (Upon returning to Beirut, Mr Hariri announced he would not be leaving office after all.) And since then, MBS has been unrelenting in his acerbic rhetoric towards the Iranian leadership. At this rate, it is beginning to seem like the bad blood between the Arabs and Persians might be a better trick for keeping the price of crude oil above $50 than any coordinated production cuts could ever do; albeit the Saudi and Iranian oil ministers have been largely speaking with one voice on an expected extension of the period for the production cuts. Besides, both countries need oil prices to remain high.

Political tune dictates
So what was my reply to the portfolio manager I referred to earlier? The problem with the Nigerian economy has never been about its structure. An economy that is 90 percent non-oil is not any sense of the word a mono-economy. It has always been the policy response. Unlike the popular perception, there is not so much a fixation on the exchange rate by foreign portfolio investors as there is on the crude oil price: they know to fly to safety the moment it seems like it would sustainably be below $50. Without saying so explicitly, what he really meant to ask about was the likelihood of capital controls if oil prices tanked again. And my view is that irrespective of the very nice commentary coming from the lips of officials at the central bank about the many lessons they have learnt during this most recent foreign exchange crisis, if another one comes about in the coming year, they would likely respond in a similar or worse fashion. Why? Electioneering ahead of the 2019 elections has begun in earnest. So, we are already in a political cycle. Within such a context, does anyone really think the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would simply hands off if crude oil prices go back to the $30-$40 area? Bear in mind that even at the current above-$50 price levels, the CBN is believed to still participate actively in the buoyant investors’ and exporters’ (I&E) FX window; albeit on both the demand and supply sides. Thus, should crude oil prices fall again, I doubt very much the CBN would behave any differently; especially under a government that is keen on a second term and is led by a president that is very sensitive to the level of the exchange rate. To be fair, it would not be because the CBN does not know the right thing to do. And its officials were definitely not dumb in the past. They simply did not have the political space to do the smart thing. In the coming year, that space would become even smaller.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/diversified-nigerian-economy-still-oil/

macroafricaintel | African politics takes a positive turn

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Not long after the news that the Zimbabwean military had put former president Robert Mugabe under house arrest, Uganda’s longtime leader, Yoweri Museveni, made changes to the leadership of his army. Coincidence? Not really. Even though there are reports of foreign support for the recent military takeover in Zimbabwe, it could not have been carried out without the support of the army chief General Constantino Chiwenga. Probably realising this, Mr Museveni decided he had better put someone “reliable” in the post. He did not stop there. Afterwards, he signalled he would be looking to raise the salaries of “soldiers, public servants, health workers and teachers…”. (See how soldiers come first.) The real question then becomes what the chances are that what happened in Zimbabwe may soon happen in Uganda, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, or Cameroon; where other longtime leaders and/or their children preside. In Togo, for instance, there are continued protests demanding President Faure Gnassingbe, who succeeded his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, resign or at least not seek another term when his current third 5-year stint expires. In Cameroon, the only major challenge to Paul Biya’s almost 35-year rule is probably something he would be able to resolve easily: Anglophones want better treatment and representation. So they are not so much challenging him as they are really just seeking a better life. And in Equatorial Guinea, where vice-president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, another sit-tight leader, only just got prosecuted for corruption in France, there is little or no sign the ruling family would give up the reins of power anytime soon. In fact, in recent legislative and municipal elections, the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) won almost 100 percent of the vote. In Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ case, however, he had the good sense to quit while he was still ahead. Of course, his successor, Joao Lourenco, has moved swiftly to consolidate power, firing Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s powerful daughter, and replacing the police and intelligence chiefs; all barely two months into his presidency.

Love potion
In determining who might be ousted amongst the remaining longtime rulers on the African continent, it would help to consider what triggered that which happened in Zimbabwe. Firstly, Mr Mugabe decided to put his wife in his place; a woman with no credentials other then she shared a bed with him. In an African context, there could not be a more infuriating development in what is still largely a patriarchal society. Incidentally, just some kilometres away, in neighbouring South Africa, embattled President Jacob Zuma desires that his ex-wife takes his place in the elective conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in December. In her case, at least, she is well-educated, has apartheid struggle credentials, and has served as minister and most recently as chair of the African Union (AU) commission; to mention a few. But for her surname, being that well-credentialled and experienced makes her fit for the job. And to have kept the name of her ex-husband suggests she is likely still fond of the wily Zulu man. Even so, Mr Zuma could probably still pull it off. But her rival for the top job, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, is leading in support at the party branches and would barring an act of God, likely become ANC president come December. Secondly, Mr Mugabe fired his major pillar of support hitherto, former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa (who is now set to become president). Thereafter, the powerful clique of army generals, war veterans and grandees in the ruling ZANU-PF party that hitherto enabled him decided they had had enough.

Sun must set
The remaining old men still lording over their people on the continent are not necessarily susceptible to Mr Mugabe’s folly. Mr Museveni perhaps shares his weakness, though. His fondness for his wife, Janet Museveni, who he appointed to the education ministry in June 2016, is well known: when a sharp-tongued female academic disparaged her, he made an example of her. Besides, he has appointed his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, whose sharp rise in the military he facilitated, as one of his special advisers. Time will tell. A potentially good thing to come out of the Mugabe debacle, though, is that these longtime and oft-insensitive African rulers might begin to be more empathetic and caring of their country men and women. Not that it would come from the bottom of their hearts. No matter. They will all soon die.