Revisiting the Democratic Dream: iLIVE
Today I sat and thought. Not that I do not sit and think often, but I could not do much else, but sit and think.
(Maybe the genetic traits of the stereotypical lazy African are beginning to kick in). I have suffered disappointments often, and I would like to believe it is not my preserve to suffer such.
Yet our hopes and dreams, those we (ironically) hope are deferred, are crushed by the hammers of various misdeeds, on the anvils of complications that elude me. That is (partly) why I was sitting and thinking. What will it take for us to not just embrace, but enjoy the fruits of the dream of democracy? To me it remains a dream.
I have often argued with friends about the possibilities of democracy functioning for the majority in Africa. For a development enthusiast, to enable reduction in poverty and suffering, and for an entrepreneur, to offer opportunities for a young black man hungry for success to employ others. This a very simplistic expectation of what democracy can do for a South African, a Zimbabwean, an African.
And me? Well, it’s a democracy, I am free to sit and think, and starve, aren’t I? Through my conversations, I glean the hopes and dreams, and the disappointments that result, from what we call democracy today!
The ushering of independence in many African countries brought with it the euphoria of "majority rule" an illusory dream which was soon broken by the nightmares of coups, civil wars and other forms of violence and mal-governance. But today I sat and I thought about my country, Zimbabwe, about where I am, South Africa, and if democracy can mean anything to Africa at large from what we see today.
South Africa today is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The gap between the rich and the poor has not been made any better by the financial crisis that has bedevilled the world in the past four or so years. There certainly can be no doubt that the African National Congress can do better for the country.
There are many who enthusiastically point out how under apartheid they had better services. It is a weeping shame that such statements can be uttered in a “democracy” if it indeed works, for the majority! How can people be nostalgic about a dehumanising era for the majority of black Africans? How can we forget the Hector Pietersons we will soon commemorate, who died in the fight for this that we call democracy today?
The same has been said in Zimbabwe, where statements about Ian Smith being better have been thrown around. To demean the struggle that brought us the so-called independence and democracy is just a travesty. It is like praising any period of history for its atrocities. Was Hitler better because of autobahns and Volkswagen? Harsh example, but think about the banality of evil.
18 years on in South Africa, 32 years on in Zimbabwe, has democracy worked? South Africa has held peaceful elections, which the ANC has won. But what kind of democracy allows the majority of Africans to wallow in poverty sickness and death?
Which majority are we catering for when the voices that speak, that shout for freedoms, are not the grassroots? The grassroots seem to be used as a vehicle for legitimacy, be it for Hellen Zille and the DA, for Jacob Zuma and the ANC. Who cares about the majority that democracy vaunts for?
The skewed nature of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa may be the reason why for instance when there is a painting of Jacob Zuma with his penis out, then we are all supposed to be progressive citizens who berate him for his lack of moral values and corruption, and we cannot hold contrary views, otherwise we are just petty and ignorant.
Freedom follows the path set by privilege. Democracy in South Africa today may be the reason why the “majority” who vote are products of an inequitable education system beset by numerous dysfunctions, akin to the perpetuation of Bantu education.
It is a democracy where a black Zimbabwean or Mozambican, as Andile Mngxitama noted, is a kwerekwere, and a European is a tourist! It is the nature of democracy that South Africans have to be squatters in their own land, and their problems can only be a product of African foreigners and government corruption. Yet the democracy works!
- Click here for Part 2 of Revisiting the Democratic Dream.