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Spirit of Democracy Grips USA as Some African Leaders Refuse to Leave Office

Preparations are in top gear for the U.S presidential inauguration.
Preparations are in top gear for the U.S presidential inauguration.

Zimbabweans have commended America for respecting its old tradition of transferring political power from one party to another even after conducting highly contested presidential elections.

They say though millions of Democratic party supporters are unhappy with the defeat of their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the November poll, President Barack Obama is set Friday to hand over power to her bitter rival, Donald Trump.

FILE: President Barack Obama listens as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE: President Barack Obama listens as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Political analyst, Nkululeko Sibanda, of Huddersfied University in Britain, says, “I think it is a good tradition where you have the transfer of power from one president to the other regardless of whether or not they are from the same political party, whether or not the outgoing president had the support of the incoming president. And this is a special particular case where the outgoing president campaigned for a presidential candidate that did not succeed.

He adds that the transparent transfer of power is important in terms of making sure that “you give authority and relevance to institutions, you institutionalize democracy itself, you institutionalize all the other supporting institutions that make it work such as the congress or parliament, you also are able to institutionalize government departments in a way that they seem to be responding to society and being democratic.”


A Zimbabwean living in USA, Phithizela Ngcobo, who is a school teacher, says, “The most important thing is that democracy thrives, democracy moves on. Democratic societies free people and most of them are prosperous and that tradition has to be celebrated at whatever costs.

According to the National Constitution Center, although nothing in the original Constitution limited presidential terms, the nation’s first president, George Washington, declined to run for a third term, suggesting that two terms of four years were enough for any president.

“Washington’s voluntary two-term limit became the unwritten rule for all presidents until 1940. In that year, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had steered the nation through the Great Depression of the 1930s, won a third term and was elected in 1944 for a fourth term as well. Following President Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, just months into his fourth term, Republicans in Congress sought passage of Amendment XXII. FDR was the first and only president to serve more than two terms.”


The amendment was passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the states in 1951. “The Twenty-Second Amendment limits an elected president to two terms in office, a total of eight years. However, it is possible for an individual to serve up to ten years as president. The amendment specifies that if a vice president or other successor takes over for a president—who, for whatever reason, cannot fulfill the term—and serves two years or less of the former president’s term, the new president may serve for two full four-year terms. If more than two years remain of the term when the successor assumes office, the new president may serve only one additional term.”

Ngcobo says such constitutional provisions are critical in ensuring that power does not remain in the hands of an individual for more than the stipulated term of office.

The National Mall has been spruced up for the presidential inauguration Friday.
The National Mall has been spruced up for the presidential inauguration Friday.

On the feelings of departing presidents, Ngcobo says they know that when time comes, one should leave the White House.

Specifically referring to President Barack Obama and the incoming president, he says, “I don't think it's painful for him (Obama). He is aware that the constitution requires him to leave after eight years, he can’t serve beyond that. So, even after he became president he was aware that after eight years he will be on his way out.

“The only sad part in my view is that the person who is coming in is someone who has despised the people a lot, someone who has said bad things about immigrants, women and people of certain faiths and religion. And l think that will be the only sad part of him (Obama) whereby he will be passing on the button to someone who doesn't uphold the values that Obama so much stands for.”


He says Obama was “someone who was inclusive, someone who loved people and someone who was loved by the people. It's so unfortunate that he will handover the button to someone who so much despises people.”

An American, who identified herself only as Jessica, says Americans are deeply divided over the incoming president with people being passionate about their positions regarding business mogul Donald Trump’s election.


“It has caused a lot of debate that say the least. People feel very passionate about their positions. I think this is something that is very unique to this presidential election unlike what we have seen before. I think a lot of people are obviously still upset about the results and you have people that believe in his (Trump) message of prosperity and creating jobs and so he is getting a lot of points but there is also lash back with all the things that he says … We will see how it will go and he is the president now. We will be supporting the next president. It's going to be interesting on how he is going to unite the country.

She also says the world would be watching how America would conduct itself under the Trump administration.


In Africa, some nations have over the years witnessed a smooth transfer of power while in other nations this has been an uphill task. Zimbabwe has been ruled by President Robert Mugabe since the nation attained independence from British rule in 1980.

Ngcobo argues that this is fueled by greediness among African leaders.

“I think the main reason is greediness among our leaders. A lot of our African leaders, some of them or most of them, get into politics for wealth or acquiring riches and a lot of them are not prepared to let go because they feel that their source of wealth also diminishes the moment they leave office and that's a very, very sad circumstance.”

His views are echoed by Sibanda, who notes that there is progress in some African nations where power has always been smoothly transferred from one president to another.


“We just experienced something close to this in Tanzania last year, we are going through the same in Ghana and we have a version of this in South Africa. South Africa has the strongest and more democratic constitutions we have ever known. And so as a matter of fact we do have some few countries that recently begun to experience positive changes in terms of a peaceful transfer of power.

Will this happen in Zimbabwe anytime soon? Sibanda says, “No … because we have never had any transfer of power for years. President Mugabe has no intention of transferring power. For nearly 78 years we have had two people leading Zimbabwe.

FILE: President Robert Mugabe's inauguration
FILE: President Robert Mugabe's inauguration

“Well. Zimbabwe is totally different. There is no scenario under which I can or anybody who heard about Zimbabwe slightly can imagine a transfer of power from the current president to anybody else.”

There is an ongoing crisis in the Gambia where defeated incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, is refusing to hand over power to President-elect Adama Barrow, who won the presidential poll last month.

The Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union have urged him to step down but Jammeh is refusing to leave office. ECOWAS is expected to take military action against Jammeh after he blocked the swearing-in of the incoming president.