Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
I leave today for the ancient city of Alexandria to attend the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at the world famous Bibliotheco Alexandria on Saturday evening.
(The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is awarded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their people, and who democratically transfer power to their successor. is sponsored by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese telecom billionaire. With a $5 million initial payment, plus $200,000 a year for life, the prize is believed to be the world’s largest, exceeding the $1.3m Nobel Peace Prize).
This year’s recipient, the second person to receive the award after former President Joaquin Chissano of Mozambique last year for "his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy"), is President Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana. There is little doubt that President Mogae has earned his reputation as an African icon. The accolades have been hard won.
President Mogae was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy just days before stepping down from office this year for his "exemplary leadership" in making Botswana a "model" of democracy and good governance.
At London’s City Hall last month, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who sits on the Mo Ibrahim board, stated:
"President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/Aids pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people".
According to the Prize Committee which also includes former Irish President Mary Robinson, and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mohamed El-Baradei and Martti Ahtisaari, Mogae had "ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/Aids pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people" but which is now declining thanks to "one of Africa’s most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease."
His economic management, they said, produced "remarkable growth," stymied inflation, attracted investment and allowed him to pursue diversification away from diamonds, while simultaneously using tax revenues to fund investment infrastructure, health and education. All this, while maintaining a "tough stance against corruption."
We know all too well that mineral rich African states have been marred by dictatorship, corruption and squandering of state resources. Botswana, which shares a border with Zimbabwe, has for decades been considered mainland Africa’s brightest star (only Mauritius and Cape Verde score higher on development indices). It is a country that, according to Time magazine, has gone from dustbowl poverty to middle income status in a generation, where elections are peaceful, where politicians retire voluntarily, where civil society is vibrant and where natural resources (diamonds) are not a curse or a spur to corruption and violent theft, but a blessing.
During President Mogae’s administration, Botswana was consistently ranked Africa’s least corrupt country in the world. In addition to his fight against HIV/Aids in a country which has one of the highest infections, throughout the 1990s, Botswana was listed top by the UN for improvement in education, primary healthcare, clean water and infant mortality.
In 2001, Botswana led the way when the government announced that they would provide free antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive citizens. This was in stark contrast to the government policy pursued in South Africa where the state-sponsored mass distribution of ARVs had been inexplicably delayed by almost a decade.
This last achievement of President Mogae would have been enough to deserve the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. My hope is that his example will inspire leaders in my own country, South Africa.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Jon Cayzer, 084 555 7144