The Banana Republic – status confirmed

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Yes, we have officially just entered the kingdom of bananas with the constitutional crisis reaching its peak. What an embarrassment!

Rewind to two weeks ago when our sister publication, l’express, came out with the news that the president had gone on a wild shopping spree, using a platinum card which she had accepted from a foreign NGO headed by one of the most controversial figures in Angola. The one who prides herself on having very modest beginnings suddenly discovered the delight of luxury shopping, paid for with shady money.

Faced with undeniable proof, the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, decided to look the part and try to live up to the image that his communication advisers have been desperately trying to build for him: that of a strong, no-nonsense prime minister. So he banged his fist on the table and announced that he did not agree with what had happened. But, instead of initiating procedures for the destitution of the president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, whose behaviour he said he did not condone, he went to negotiate with her. Alone, then with his vice-prime minister, then alone again after having sent his father in between.

Then we learnt that the prime minister – who had for the occasion turned into the State House spokesman – had allowed the president to stay on until the end of our 50th anniversary celebrations!

Every one of these moves, punctuated with vague and provocative tweets by Gurib-Fakim – was bringing the nice aroma of bananas closer and closer. Until the communiqué came out from the Presidency that Her Excellency is not resigning after all! She didn’t do anything wrong at all. She used the platinum card “inadvertently” – 20 times! Over several months! One must be really in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s! There was no explanation as to why she was in possession of a card in the first place. But she paid back, she said – forgetting to add ‘after the scandal made the first headlines’.

Then we were deep in the banana plantation! And what a slap on the cheek of the one who had looked confident as he announced her imminent resignation!

How did we find ourselves in this mess? Why does a prime minister find it so hard to assert his authority? Why is leadership at the highest level of the country so openly challenged? Why is a whole government so terrorised by a president with no executive powers?

Allow me, if you will, to share an anecdote with you in this context: A CEO of a big company was called to school to be told that his son systematically steals his friends’ stationery. The father is devastated and is in total disbelief. “Why on earth did you do that?” he asked his son. “If you wanted stationery, you just had to ask! I would have brought you dozens of boxes from the office.”

The message is clear: To be able to lead, you need to set the example through your actions. If you and your ministers are not 100% clean and are placing your near and dear in all the positions of power for life – some without even being aware of what was coming their way; if juicy contracts and state land and even the sea are being selectively offered to relatives; if too many people around are draining the state coffers as if there was no tomorrow; if you yourself acceded to the post of prime minister through a distasteful and disgraceful ruse; if you changed the law to allow a controversial character to obtain licences; if your deputy looked him in the eye and decided he is a bona fide investor; if members of your government being investigated by the Drugs Commission are still sitting pretty or are promoted to even higher positions, who are you to give lessons or try to get those you appointed to various positions to toe the line?  They can easily shine the light back on you.

In banana republics, there are no rules. And between characters involved in shady activities, there is no code of honour. So let the mucky elephants fight and may the truth come out! We are already a banana republic. How much worse can it get?

For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, Weekly magazine (Price: Rs 25) or subscribe to Weekly for Rs110 a month. (Free delivery to your doorstep). Email us on: [email protected]


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