Democracy alone wont help Zimbabwe

matambaIt is tempting to believe that if we manage to dislodge Zanu (PF) Zimbabwe will immediately turn into a land of milk and honey. It will not. This is an inconvenient truth and will likely irk the many evangelists of hope that write in support of the opposition. (Pictured: A girl gathers wild fruits f

Let us be reminded that these are the same people who just two years ago told us that billions of dollars in aid awaited Zimbabwe and would be speedily dispensed the moment Tsvangirai put his hand to paper and committed to a power sharing agreement. Following Tsvangirais participation in government, the reality has not be quite as colourful. Zimbabweans are still poor. Serious problems persist in the health sector. Not only so, all indicators point to a prolonged struggle ahead.

The greatest challenge we face when analysing the Zimbabwe situation is that of deliberate amnesia. The general consensus is that Zimbabwe should not have gone to war in the Congo. I agree.

Zimbabwe should not have taken over white owned farms in the manner that it did. Again I agree. Gideon Gono should not have kept the printing press in an endless loop. This again is true. There is a lot more that could be said of Zanu (PF)s mismanagement and errors of judgement in the past years. There is no defence, they messed up.

But this view is misleading. It assumes that people started suffering in Zimbabwe following the events just detailed. This is not so. The past decade has simply brought poverty to the formerly privileged.

Xhead) Popular vote

The majority of Zimbabweans had been living in these desperate conditions even when Zimbabwe was lauded as an economic success story. Let us imagine that all of this had not happened and we were back in the comforts of August 1998. Would Zimbabwes intelligentsia protesting so loudly. I doubt it.

But remember this dear reader. In August of 1998 millions of Zimbabweans lived in the rural areas. Millions of Zimbabweans ate bread only on special occasions and they considered basics such as jam a treat. These many millions struggled to earn a living tilling their land. Why was there no call for Mugabe to step down then? The Zimbabwean middle class seemed content to live in a country in which others lived in such desperation whilst they enjoyed the fat of the land.

What would happen if the middle class was restored to its former luxury? Would they continue to call for democracy. I doubt it. In 1998 Zimbabwe was hardly a democracy, say the wrong thing and even then you could disappear. But people really didnt care for democracy. They were comfortable.

I get distracted. I started by suggesting that democracy will not help Zimbabwe and that Mugabe is really not the problem. Those who think Mugabe is the problem view the Zimbabwean crisis as one which began only 10 years ago. This is untrue.

The rural folk have always been in crisis and it has become a way of life for them. This is what explains their continued support for Mugabe. It often goes unmentioned that although the MDC won more seats in parliament in the free and fair 2008 elections, it is Zanu (PF) that won the popular vote. More people voted for Zanu (PF) than for the MDC.

Xhead) Rural vote

Why do people in the rural areas vote for Zanu (PF)? Certainly not for economic reasons, since 1980 Zanu (PF) has done very little for the rural man as an entity. The rural vote is based on liberation nostalgia and ignorance. This, I accept, is a vulgar generalisation of the rural electorate. But that is beside the point. What I am trying to highlight is that the rural folk have not really been shaken in their support for Zanu PF. The people in urban areas have.

In the past decade it is those in urban areas who lost the most. Those in rural areas continued farming their land and living off it. They have complaints but nothing that compares to those of the city dweller.

Now let us come to the issue of democracy and Zimbabwe. I have done my best to explain how what we call the best years really where not the best years. The majority was living in squalor, out of sight is indeed out of mind. People call those days democratic. So what then did this democracy yeild for the average Zimbabwean? Very little, if we are to be objective in our analysis.

What we need in Zimbabwe are men of vision. Politicians and technocrats who have radical ideas as to how we can solve the considerable problems that we face.

I admire the Cubans, their doctor : patient ration is impressive and shames many Western democracies. Their life expectancy is 77, just a year below the Americans. This in spite of the fact that the Americans have for years tried to strangle the nation through an unjustifiable embargo, even the menacing Iranians are not subject to such.

Fidel Castro is many things unpleasant but he managed to inspire a people into an ideology. I need not say that his ideology is not entirely wholesome but there is much we can learn from the Cubans.

Apart from the impressive healthcare statistics the government has managed to create a food subsidy for ALL CITIZENS which guarantees them a basic food basket. That basket constitutes up to 70% of a Cubans daily intake, which is above 3000 calories. These are impressive numbers for a third world country.

Xhead head) The Brazilians

We can speak of Brazil. It has come up with a genius food security strategy. City councils lease lucrative market stalls but set the pricing for anyone wishing to sell in those stalls. Sellers are then given land within the city to farm. The sellers are thriving and prices are affordable. The supermarkets are complaining as they continue to lose customers to the cheaper markets. The people are celebrating. I have simplified the Brazilian model but those eager for learning can easily research these matters.

I give these examples not necessarily because they are a solution for Zimbabwe but because they are a radical approach to peculiar problems. What Zimbabwe needs is a government that cares for all citizens, not just those above the upper quartile. Zanu PF has had 30 years to prove itself competent. It has failed. Nothing in the MDC election manifesto infuses me with confidence that they will be any different.

South Africa is a democracy as is Nigeria. The poor in these countries are paupers when compared to the poor in Cuba. The poor in Cuba have easy access to healthcare. They will certainly live longer than the South Africans who perish at a youthful 50 years of age or the Nigerians who die at a pathetic 47.

The difference is not money. Nigeria [GDP $173billion] and South Africa [GDP $290bilion] both have much more money than Cuba [GDP $62billion]. The difference is not democracy either. Cuba is not in anyway democratic. So how is it that the poor in Cuba have it so good? They have a leadership that thinks outside Western textbook economics.

I am yet to hear the MDC or Zanu PF offer us anything in the way of such revolutionary policy. — First published by Kubatana

Post published in: Opinions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *