Why Africa needs ‘Deep Throats’

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IN Africa, hardly any leader has left office after a legal challenge such as the one which toppled President Richard Nixon in 1974.
There is now no doubt, 37 years later, that the revelations published by The Washington Post of Nixon’s role in the Watergate Scandal, eventually left him with no option but to leave office.
A key provider of that evidence was a source nicknamed Deep Throat. His identity was revealed 30 years later, after his death: he was Mark Felt, an associate director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the FBI.
He provided one of the reporters, Bob Woodward, with the vital information which forced Nixon to give up the most powerful political job in the world.
There was other evidence. But the essence of what Deep Throat provided to the inquiry was the major catalyst fingering Nixon as a participant in the Watergate Scandal.
In Africa, there has never been a case of equivalent magnitude. In 1966, Kwame Nkrumah would have returned from his trip to Singapore to face an institution of his peers to answer the charges against him by the soldiers.
His defence would have done what they believed to be everything humanly possible to muster evidence in his favour.
The reality at the time was that if Nkrumah had returned to Accra, he would have been killed on sight. He knew that and immediately went into exile, never again to set foot in the land he had ruled for nine years. He died in exile.
Muammar Gadaffi fared even worse: his fatal error was to continue to believe the people he had fooled for 42 yeas with his talk of invincibility would still be cowed by this braggadocio, even after they had gathered concrete evidence that neither he nor any of his cronies were immortal.
You can imagine how many lives would have been saved if he had been brought before the equivalent of a Parliament to answer for his crimes. He, of course, would have been hard put to explain his “we shall show no mercy” declaration, which he implemented as he set out to butcher his own people.
It’s not entirely scandalous to assert that finding any “Deep Throats” in any African administration today might be as futile as looking for a needle in a haystack.
To some extent, South Africa is setting something of an example: There are still gray here and here, where the administration seems too reluctant to act decisively for what appear to be political reasons.
In general, whenever the ANC itself may appear to be culpable, inquires are conducted at a suspiciously sluggish pace. Some of the shenanigans in which such top people are alleged to get up are truly amazing: it’s as if the ANC has no moral code whatsoever: if you are in a prominent position, no act of perfidy is likely to result in your being asked to publicly account for it — unless you have rotten luck.
The words “patronage” and “cronyism” have not yet gained common usage.
But it appears it won’t be long before the opposition starts making accusations in that direction.
Still, some of the people responsible for ferreting out the misdeeds of the “untouchables” have displayed remarkable courage by going hammer and tongs at their targets, probably risking the ire — or worse — of the powerful people in the ruling party.
Amazingly, such courageous people have not faced any open hostility from the ruling elite — which is as it should be.
It’s probably too early to conclude that there are a few “Deep Throats” at work.
These are not just whistleblowers, but people on whose solid evidence the most powerful miscreants could be cornered, regardless of whose influential ear they might turn to for salvation.
Africa, it would seem, is still a long way from deciding that freedom from colonialism must translate into freedom from hunger, poverty, disease, oppression and the domination of the majority by a small clique, guarding their ill-gotten wealth with the weapons of the defence forces, whose own ways of corruption could be exposed only by the Deep Throats in their midst.

Bill Saidi is a veteran journalist based in Harare

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