Is “African democracy” just another fancy way of saying “barbaric dictatorship”?

I just could not resist writing this one!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


After having enjoyed watching, this afternoon, arguably one of my most favorite television programs – the live coverage of the UK (United Kingdom) Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons – I could not help but ask, “Why would anyone not want this type of democracy”?

What led me to ask myself such a question?

Well, it is quite simple, really.

Who would not envy a country whose system of governance enables elected representatives of the people to directly ask their head of government those tough questions, which the citizenry are always demanding for answers?

Why would anyone fault a democratic dispensation, in which the country’s leader can be readily quizzed, interrogated, and even hackled (in response to oftentimes ridiculous and unacceptable responses) – without fear of imminent brutal repercussions and victimization?

What normal civilized person would not watch in admiration, a nation where both the ruling and opposition parties can argue (even fiercely) – yet, in the spirit of friendliness and oneness, without entrenched hatred that may likely result in concerted sinister efforts in decimating the rival side – possibly, with the misuse and abuse of state institutions, which are normally expected to be professional and neutral in political affairs?

These are the questions that filled my mind, as I admiringly watched this live broadcast.

I found myself wondering whether I should be feeling guilty for enjoying and envying a foreign institution – more so, that of our former colonial masters, and to make matters worse, a country that is not in good books with our own Government of Zimbabwe?

However, can I be blamed for spotting a good thing when I see it?

What is to be expected of me – when in my own country, merely refusing to stand up and acknowledging the head of state entering our Parliament, has resulted in an all-out savage war against the offensive opposition?

Did we not witness the docking of allowances, threats of expulsion from the august house, and the subsequent capture of state institutions to practically destroy the main opposition – mostly through recalling of MDC Alliance MPs (members of parliament) by a dubiously created pseudo-opposition MDC-T?

Surely, if others can hackle their own head of government – but, still be taken in good spirit – what makes our own president be treated as some demi-god?

Are our elected officials not answerable to the electorate – as, quite clearly, their authority to govern is derived from us, the people – something our own country’s Constitution is unambiguous about, in the “Founding values and principles” in Chapter 1?

Even common sense would tell us that – anyone whom you place into an office (through elections), and pay their salaries (by means of our taxes), is answerable to us.

We are, effectively, the bosses of our elected officials – including, the head of state.

Which is why they have a PMQs in such countries as the UK – which is a democratic platform to hold their leader accountable for his every action and decision.

Is it, therefore, not embarrassing and sickening when we have those who try to convince us that Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, has its own “democracy”, which is markedly different from Western versions?

Indeed, we do not need to be copycats of anyone – most especially, our former colonizers – but, when there is something good, why not?

Besides, we have already been copying the West’s governance systems (including, their grandiose parliamentary opening ceremonies – horse cavalries, and all – ridiculous wigs worn by our judges, as well as our general lifestyles, music, movies, dressing, and basically everything else.

We even love speaking in English – with scant regard of the audience (including to our unschooled and illiterate grandparents.

So why not their democracy?

Surely, should “African democracy” mean arresting citizens for insulting and even ridiculing their own elected president, or deploying security forces to gun down unarmed civilians, or arresting voices of dissent on frivolous charges, or violently suppressing the opposition from freely campaigning, or abusing state-media for ruling party purposes?

Is “African democracy” allowing leaders to engage in nefarious corrupt activities, or awarding dubious tenders and deals to questionable business associates (who fleece our public funds, whilst displacing indigenous villagers from their ancestral lands, and desecrating  their foreparents’graves and local heritage sites)?

What could be so wrong with accepting, welcoming, and embracing being answerable to those we lead, or being held accountable when we make questionable and misconceived decisions?

I am pretty sure, only those who have something to hide – and, have no understanding of basic democratic principles, would have problems with such a concept.

@ Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

Post published in: Featured

Leave a Reply

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