THE xenophobic attacks in South Africa against foreign nationals have once again highlighted not only the volatility of Africaâ€™s fledgling democracies but the vacuum of leadership in Africa.
A cursory view of the situation would surmise that the attacks were an impulsive reaction by the South Africans to their declining standards of living and therefore they vented their frustration on foreigners.
These attacks however should be viewed as a manifestation of simmering discontent over, among other issues, an unchecked flood of immigrants into South Africa due to lax immigration policies and primarily the aloof and denialistic attitude of their government.
Added to this the business-friendly policies of the Mbeki regime have failed to address the legacy of apartheid which impoverished the majority black population.
These issues and many others have been allowed to fester by a leadership that is unwilling or incapable of facing up to the reality and prefers to sweep it under the carpet. Such scenarios highlight the fragile nature of Africaâ€™s democracy in the face of failure by her leaders to deliver meaningful development. It is symptomatic of African post-colonial governments which are more reactionary in nature than proactive.
We as a continent, in spite of the great strides we have made in bringing about democracy cannot claim to be out of the woods yet. It would be unfortunate for Africans to be complacent about safeguarding our hard won democracy by not entrenching those values in our society.
This requires leaders who espouse true Pan Africanism whereby they genuinely work towards furthering African interests to the hilt and not be dragged down by partisanship, camaraderie or just plain inertia.
These are leaders that do not allow themselves to be unwittingly dragged into conflicts between world powers and at the end of the day have nothing to show for it, but find avenues to exploit whatever geo-political situation to our advantage.
These are leaders who see beyond their natural and political lives in instituting admirable precedents for others to follow. Seretse Khama is such a leader in Botswana, who instituted a precedent in Botswana politics which her future leaders would find it hard to deviate from.
Mbeki had so much potential but was sucked into a false sense of accomplishment before he had done anything significant.
For Africa to be a force to reckon with, it requires that we be the solvers of our own problems in an atmosphere of soberness and with an understanding that we would be institutionalising tenets which will be followed for generations to come. Quick fix solutions to our political and social problems only provide a faÃ§ade of stability which has been rudely disturbed by the events of the past two weeks.
NM writes from Harare.