President Cyril Ramaphosa with President Emmerson Munangagwa.
By Aggrey Mutambo
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia will be having new leaders this year in an unexpected turn of events where office holders have either resigned or forced from office.
They joined the Gambia and Burkina Faso, two countries that chased their leaders out of town recently.
In South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma – the scandal monger – was forced out this week, just hours before MPs could begin proceedings on his impeachment.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn handed in his resignation after conceding that a solution to continued protests in some regions could only be found with him out of power.
Should Africa celebrate these events or just consider them ordinary occurrences?
Mr Zuma’s replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, promised to fight corruption, something that identified with his predecessor’s tenure.
“This is not yet uhuru. We have never said it is uhuru. We are going to seek to improve the lives of our people on an ongoing basis, and since 1994, we have done precisely that,” Mr Ramaphosa said after he took the oath of office.
“Issues to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with ‘state capture’ are on our radar.”
Corruption is common in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Pretoria is 64th out of 176 countries.
Kenya is 145th, just a rank above the failed state of South Sudan.
Ethiopia is ranked at position 108, closely followed by Tanzania at 116.
In east and southern Africa, only Namibia, Rwanda and Botswana scored above 50 points.
Some observers feel Mr Ramaphosa could help cure corruption in South Africa and essentially affect dealings with the countries Pretoria trades with.
“Ramaphosa knows how to tap into the global community for partnerships. He is a businessman and only wants efficiency,” Prof Maurice Amutabi, a historian and Vice-Chancellor of Lukenya University, said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta met the new South African leader last month when he attended ANC celebrations where diplomats said the two urged for better business relations.
The event seemed to be the first step in ironing out differences with Mr Ramaphosa, whose closeness to National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga is an open secret.
Mr Ramaphosa was rejected by the Party of National Unity as mediator during Kenya’s 2008 chaos.
Some experts think it will not be obvious for Mr Ramaphosa to fit this expectation yet, especially given that his ascension was engineered by the ANC top brass.
“There may not be much impact in the cases of South Africa or Zimbabwe on African politics,” Mr Tom Mboya, who teaches political science at Maseno University, said.
“This is because senior leaders in the Zimbabwe military and the party started the change.
“In South Africa, ANC even rejected a motion of no confidence by the opposition, a move they had planned to pull on Zuma last week. It says something.”
Mr Mboya added that influential political happenings should normally follow the pattern of the Arab Spring or the clamour for political plurality in Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“At that time, it was a bottom-up approach. Fed up with their governments, citizens and civil society demanded change,” he said.
“We can look up to Ethiopia since the prime minister’s resignation was because of protests.
“We should not celebrate yet for it may not bring the desired democratic change on the continent.”
During the clamour for democracy, some countries got better at elections.
Ghana, Zambia and Malawi are examples. Others like Somalia, the Central Africa Republic, the DR Congo and Burundi plunged into chaos.
However, Ethiopia’s case is complicated. Diplomatic sources told the Sunday Nation that some key political players had been meeting quietly in Nairobi to try and steer restive Oromia and Amhara regions into the national fold.
The diplomats said dominant figures in the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a member of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, suggested direct talks with the Oromo Democratic Front, an organisation that is not in the ruling coalition and some of whose leaders had been jailed.
The ruling coalition controls all seats in the 547-parliament but is dominated by TPLF.
Others are the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation, the ANDM based in the Amhara region and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement.
The PM’s resignation will await a formal acceptance by his party.