A lesson in nepotism - Mugabe, Sirleaf, Museveni and Dos Santos lead the way

The appointment of President Robert Mugabe's son-in-law, Simba Chikore, as COO of the country's national airline is just the most recent controversy.

Should we call it Simbabwe or Zimbabwe? And come to think of it, what’s new about nepotism?

With anger still raging in Zimbabwe over the appointment of President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore as chief operating officer at the troubled national airline, some on social media are pointing out that the 92-year-old isn’t the only president to have recently appointed a close relative to a lucrative state post in Africa.

Simba and his wife Bona Mugabe sneaked into Parliament to watch dad’s opening speech on Thursday (prompting fevered speculation that Bona herself might be heading for some juicy new post).

Commenting on Simba’s appointment, Newsday said in an editorial piece on Thursday that nepotism was “a grave disorder akin to rape” when it came to appointments in government service.

One commenter – using the alias I love SA – went as far as to say: “Why is this news? ... This is how we roll in Africa and this is why we struggle in Africa.”

It’s not only endemic to Africa
But it’s not just Africa that’s tainted with the scourge.

Politicians in parts of Europe are regularly reported to favour their relatives when it comes to matters of employment.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s spirited denial in 2009 that he had anything to do with the nomination of student son Jean to a top development agency job led Britain’s Daily Telegraph to ask whether nepotism wasn’t “a French tradition”.

And German law expert Hans Herbert von Arnim published a book in 2013 called The Self-Servers, detailing, among other things, how MPs in the state of Bavaria used a legal loophole to be able to employ their relatives – at the state’s expense.

Here are other examples of controversial family appointments in Africa this year. Whether or not the appointees have the necessary qualifications for the job is up for debate.

Liberia: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf named her son Charles Sirleaf as head of the central bank in February, provoking a lot of head shaking.

Charles Sirleaf, who studied (and lectured in) economics and has an MBA, previously served as deputy governor of the central bank. His mother had him temporarily suspended in 2012 for failing to properly declare his assets. She obviously felt that slap on the wrist would convince Liberians she was serious about corruption. It didn’t.

Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni appointed his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to the rank of major general in the army in May, according to News Week. To be fair, Sandhurst-trained Kainerugaba has been in the army since 1999. But his ascent through the ranks of Uganda’s military has been described as “rapid”. (He operates a verified Twitter account: check out @mkainerugaba).

Equatorial Guinea: Africa’s longest serving President Teodoro Obiang Nguema appointed his 47-year-old son to the vice presidency in June. Reports say that will put him directly in line for the presidency. You can’t be much more brazen than that. 

As for Equatorial Guinea’s (not-so) lucky citizens, there’ll be little difficulty learning a new name after 37 years with the same guy at the helm. The son’s name is Teodorin Nguema Obiang. (Ps: Mugabe and Obiang are good friends. Remember this.)

Angola: Jose Eduardo Dos Santos appointed his daughter Isabel as head of the state energy firm Sonangol in June. At 43 - and with a first degree from a British university - she was already widely reported to be the richest woman in Africa. She insists she’s a businessperson and not a politician. Attempts by a rights activist to get her appointment revoked haven’t succeeded. – News24

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