Are Presidents Zuma and Sirleaf the Symbols of Failed African Leadership?

Southern Africa—South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma and Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are from two opposite spectrums. One thing certain about both is, President Sirleaf is a woman and well educated and President Zuma, on the other hand, is a male and semi educated. Both were revolutionary figures but for different reasons and with different motives and goals.

Zuma fought against apartheid in collaboration with some of the best human beings that ever walked the continent of Africa. Sirleaf for her part, fought for Sirleaf––the desire to be great. And she did so with some of the worse human beings that ever walked the continent of Africa.

Zuma supports his ex-wife, African Union  former Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for president of South Africa

In the African National Congress (ANC), Zuma was a chair leader for people like Mandela, Mbeki and more, and that is how he ascended to where he is. For her part, Sirleaf has always wanted others to chair her up and never has she done so for anyone.

While there seems to be minimum differences between these African leaders, they seem to have a lot in common with regards to failed leadership and their time as presidents of South Africa and Liberia, respectively.

Like President Zuma, President Sirleaf is in her second term and both are soon to leave office. Like Zuma, Sirleaf is engulfed in a river of scandals––political, economic and social. Like Zuma, Sirleaf is one of the most hated leaders in her own country. Like Zuma, Sirleaf practices nepotism and self-aggrandizement. Like Zuma who most South Africans think is dishonest, greedy and out-of-touch, majority of Liberians think President Sirleaf is out of touch, mean spirited and unforgiven.

Like Zuma who has tainted the good image of the ANC left behind by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, President Sirleaf too has tainted the good image of the Unity Party left behind by the likes of Dr. Edward Beyan Kesselly and Dr. Jabaru Kallon. Like Zuma who has made the ANC to lose popularity, President Sirleaf has made the ruling Unity Party’s popularity to suffer some dent.

President Sirleaf and her old friend, Charles Taylor, are allegedly supporting Senator Weah and Taylor’s wife, Senator Jewel Taylor for President and Vice President

Although many of the comparisons provided above might be graver, the most striking factor both Zuma and Sirleaf share equally is corruption in the truest meaning of the word. These two African leaders represent what organized and institutionalized corruption is and can be.

Zuma appointed his friends, cronies and business associates in lucrative and related positions in governments. President Sirleaf appointed her immediate family members, friends, cronies and business associates in lucrative and related positions in Liberia.

Like Zuma who has eluded multiple “No Confidence Votes” in the South African parliament, President Sirleaf has faced and sailed through multiple “No Confidence Votes” from the Liberian people in general.

Zuma took government funds, about quarter million dollars, to renovate his private residence in his home town. President Sirleaf is accused of using government funds not only to construct her private home and develop farm, she has and continues use addition state resources to renovate and improve her compound.

These striking and actionable similarities have left both leaders with confusion. Zuma is confused as to whether he should follow his party’s line by supporting the party’s nominee for president, or break away from party’s tradition and support his ex-wife in anticipation for protection from corruption and other alleged crimes he may have committed in the past, both as president and as a private citizen. President Sirleaf is confused as to whether she should support her vice president of 12 years that she has worked with and know very well or to support former soccer legend Senator George Manneh Weah and Charles Taylor’s wife, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor with the assurance that she can reconcile with Taylor for betraying him, and in anticipation for protection from corruption and any other alleged crimes she may have committed both as president and as a civilian.

President Sirleaf, left, and President Zuma, right

Lastly, both leaders seem to have presided over systems of social exclusion, income inequality, vulnerability to economic, social and environmental risks in their respective countries. Put together, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia seem to perfectly represent the symbols of Failed Leaderships in Africa.

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Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere

Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere is a public affairs researcher and senior investigative correspondent.
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