Revisiting the Democratic Dream - Part 2: iLIVE
A continuation of 'Revisiting the Democratic Dream'.
Across the Limpopo where I come from, many believe democracy has been on hold for the past decade.
The revolutionary mantra has been that a country that came on the back of bloodshed cannot be lost through the vote. The elections, where citizens vote, is not a good enough system for choosing their government because their choices are manipulated by racist and colonial capital. In other words, the average Zimbabwean is too narrow and stupid to understand the complicated nature of international politics and ideology -- their vote cannot count.
Some have maintained that Zimbabwe is the only truly independent country in Africa, because we have reclaimed our land, our mines, and we are on the path to empowering the black majority. Did I say “majority”? Well, I am not very sure that in the past ten years the Zimbabwean majority is anywhere near empowered. I need enlightenment. I am certainly not the majority. Of course, I am not there right now because I did not feel empowered!
There is no doubt in my opinion that Zimbabwe will prosper and thrive, but under what kind of democracy? Elections have been marred by violence, unlike in South Africa where they have been 'peaceful'. “Democracy” as it is popularly chanted has not brought Zimbabwe the respite it wants. Sanctions, whether regarded as targeted or not, have not brought about democracy in Zimbabwe. For some, they brought such for South Africa, a mutilated democracy enjoyed by a few.
Today there are calls to remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. There have been efforts to write a new constitution, but is that enough? What will bring democracy, what kind of democracy? Today, South Africa is celebrated for having one of the most progressive constitutions, to whose benefit are words enshrined in documents when they cannot feed hungry mouths, or shelter bodies freezing from the winter chill?
In Shona there are two contradicting proverbs that come to my mind when I think of democracy.
One says mwana asingacheme anofira mumbereko (a child that does not cry will die on its mothers back) and the other one mugoti unopihwa anyerere (the cooking spoon will be given to the silent one). There seems to be an assumption that we can give our power to a sovereign who will cater for the needs of the majority; that democracy means fair and equal. No. It does not.
Do we remain silent, or do we cry when our mother's back burns us? Or we are the tenderprenuers and praise singers, who will remain silent so we get the cooking spoon? Luxuriate in the midst of death?
I have always argued that there is an ideological vacuum in Africa today, that is why it is easy for us to throw around democracy and good governance as fads, without a concrete attempt at application or appreciation of contextual realities! That is why despots will claim to be “democratic” because they hold elections every few years! Possibly because of a past that has mutilated our sense of being, or our ineptitude, we seem to fail to define what will work for us, considering the lessons of the failures and successes of the models of democracy we follow. (Mostly the failures).
Democracy will never be a free lunch! It will not cater for the majority in the manner we are experiencing it today. Even in countries like Egypt where there were “revolutions”, entrenched systems of power continue rearing their ugly heads. Should we then just sit, and hope things will take their course, when history teaches us otherwise? Do we learn at all?
If democracy is near to what South Africa is today, to what Zimbabwe has seen in the past decade, then democracy thrives on violence and ignorance, on the poverty, hunger and disease of the majority, on the sacrifice of the majority on the altar of the affluence of the minority.
It is a democracy where Africa remains the world’s prostitute, where people and nations can come and go, do as they like, and still hold you in low esteem, where we are slaves to the world, and even to our own people, where respect for life, for self and basic dignity are exchanged for the meagre! If this is democracy then I do not want it!
South Africa will soon be celebrating Youth Day, and Zimbabwe Heroes day. I sit and think, what will we be celebrating?
These are two very different countries, but they are two countries I have been able to see parts of, and to sit and think about. A lot has been done, but a lot has also been done wrong. We live in South Africa in what some regard as an illusory democracy, and in Zimbabwe, in what one may regard as an aborted democracy, and in both countries, a miscarriage of social justice cannot be denied.
Do we truly want these kinds of democracy? Not me! Maybe as Edward Blake, the character of the Comedian says in the film Watchmen says: “It’s a joke, it's all a fuckin’joke”