On a continent full of ‘million dollar’ presidents it becomes hard to distinguish who gets the prize for being the most corrupt leader. And how have they been able to accumulate so much wealth when people in their respective countries are hungry, unemployed and hopeless? Who are their role models?

Robert Mugabe (aka a living martyr)

© Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty

Robert Mugabe has an estimated net worth of US$10 million and, at 93 years old, ‘Uncle Bob’, as he is popularly known is almost older than colonialism. His rock solid stubbornness reminds me of Hiroo Onada, a Japanese soldier who refused to surrender twenty-nine years after World War II had ended. He remained hidden in the Philippines jungle until his former commander travelled from Japan to personally announce that the war had ended. Onada is what we call a ‘living martyr’.

Mugabe is another living martyr; he fought hands-on for the freedom of Zimbabwe but 37 years later his policies have led the unemployment rate to skyrocket. Despite Zimbabwe having highest literacy rate on the continent of 90.7 per cent, educated and qualified individuals are doing just as badly as the economy. Mugabe blames the economic misfortunes on sanctions that have been imposed on the country. But the old man, just like Hiroo Onada, doesn’t believe that the war is over.

King Mswati III (aka Hugh Hefner)

King Mswati III and Hugh Hefner have insatiable appetites for money and women. Hefner is a self-proclaimed playboy living with multiple women while King Mswati is tied down to 15 wives. The king can afford several Playboy mansions for his ladies: he is said to have $100 million to his name.

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He owns 60 per cent of the land in Swaziland while the general population live on less than $1.25 per day. No wonder: it’s impossible to satisfy 15 women and still have the energy to rule the last absolute monarchy in Africa.

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Jacob Zuma (aka Birdman)

Birdman’s bald head and flamboyant personality reminds of South African president Jacob Zuma. If Zuma wasn’t president, he’d be appearing in the latest Wizkid music video because he is famous for his theatrical dancing and singing during public appearances.

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Birdman and Zuma aren’t the most handsome men in the world but they are very popular among female company. American rapper and entrepreneur Birdman has an endless list of ex-girlfriends and Toni Braxton is his latest muse. Having spent an estimated $215 million on his residence in Nkandla, Zuma can comfortably maintain his current four wives. At the ‘tender’ age of 75 he’s probably working on a fifth.

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Despite his comical exterior, Zuma has a darker side with 783 criminal charges hanging over his head which include fraud, corruption and racketeering. We have seen the South African economy suffocate while unemployment rates reach record highs and there is student and civil society unrest. Maybe it’s about time he pursued a musical career.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (aka Saddam Hussein)

The Devil’s Double is a film that depicts an Iraqi soldier who forcibly undergoes cosmetic surgery and is ordered to become the ‘body double’ of Saddam Hussein’s son. The soldier then becomes immersed in a life full of lavish living, drugs, sex and severe human rights violations. This film disturbingly reminds me of Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

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Just like Hussein, Mbasogo became president in 1979 via a military coup. His son, who is also deputy president, is currently on trial for spending and investing millions of dollars in France. He allegedly received from corruption, embezzlement and extortion in Guinea. Just like Hussein and his son, Mbasogo and son, run their country like it’s an ancient monarchy and with an estimated net worth of $600 million, Mbasogo has accumulated while the revenue from oil sales in Equatorial Guinea has declined.

Uhuru Kenyatta (aka Donald Trump)

With a net worth of over $500 million Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta is still one of the top five highest paid presidents in Africa. What does he do with his salary? His wealth is generational and this is a similar situation to US president Donald Trump. Kenyatta is probably a stranger to reality because he is detached from his country’s problems.


Poverty and unemployment are probably words he only hears about on TV, if he ever watches the news. He could learn a couple of governance tricks from former Uruguay president José Muijica who used to donate 90 per cent of his salary to charity. Muijica, who lives on a farm and drives a 1987 blue VW Beetle, is the mastermind behind rising salaries and a historically low unemployment rate in Uruguay.

José Muijica © LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty

Kenyatta and Africa’s other millionaire presidents have opted to preserve their riches at the expense of the poor even though 50 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Being a president is a heavy responsibility which is (sometimes) taken seriously in other parts of the world. In Africa, it is equivalent to walking down the red carpet during a gala event. Imagine Jacob Zuma seated next to Birdman during the next BET Awards… Would anyone be able to tell the difference?