I have faith in Africa’s future
By Mutsa Murenje
From a more analytical point of view, it can be argued that Zimbabwe remains a blight on the African continent. There are a few other countries that give us a bad name as Africans, but Zimbabwe clearly tops the list especially given the damage caused by President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial regime.
Zimbabwe was once a beautiful country. Many admired and adored us. However, the current state of our country stultifies us in the eyes of every thinking man. Outside Zimbabwe, our fellow Africans believe that we aren’t doing enough to curtail dictatorship in Zimbabwe. They believe we have always opted for the easy way out, departure from the fighting zone. I don’t know how true this is.
I believe though that we have always given our best in so far as the struggle for freedom is concerned. There are certain things that are beyond us. Credible electoral commissions have a huge role in creating stable and peaceful nations not only in Africa but also in the whole wide world. Without these, our spirited fight comes to zilch.
Like all Africans and democracy devotees the world over, we have partaken in electoral processes with the hope that their outcomes would guarantee us a government we deserve. This hasn’t been the case and our faith in elections is limited. Political overslaught and skewed electoral processes are problems we are still grappling with. I am temporarily in Africa and have been observing what has been going on in various parts of the continent.
When studying in Zimbabwe, I was curious whenever I saw Africans from neighbouring countries queuing outside their embassies. With the benefit of hindsight, I discovered that they didn’t have to go back to their respective countries for them to exercise their democratic right to vote for a government of their choice.
Mozambicans became independent in 1975 and they have seen a change of leadership about four times. Although the country’s stability is under great test, democracy has been seen to be at work in Mozambique. This is one country that has been quite close to ours in terms of political ideology (in the context of the struggle for independence) but we are left behind. Mozambique is progressing and we are nowhere to be seen.
Nigeria became independent in 1960 and was ruled by military dictators for 39 years. It was only in 1999 that a return to civilian rule ushered in an era of democratic governance. The country mayn’t be a perfect example of democracy in Africa but it clearly has fundamental lessons to offer to those of us who believe in a prosperous Africa. I was in Nigeria in 2010/11 reading for a postgraduate degree following receipt of a scholarship award from the German Academic Exchange Service.
I had the opportunity to witness Nigerians voting for their leaders in 2011. They held peaceful elections. Nigerians had faith in their electoral commission. When former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan lost elections to incumbent President Muhammad Buhari in 2015, he did something that very few African leaders would do.
History has it that former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was reluctant to leave office when he lost an election to the late President Fredrick Chiluba. Robert Mugabe has shown no interest in leaving politics amid the political and economic crisis that he himself has authored. Jonathan conceded defeat and proceeded to congratulate his political adversary.
Jonathan might have lost an election but Nigeria benefitted from the electoral process that ushered in a new leadership. It is beyond the scope of this treatise to evaluate the extent to which Buhari’s government has improved the lives of its citizens, Nigerians themselves can tell if the change they got has had any positive effects on their lives. One thing for sure is that I have faith in Africa’s future. Developments in electoral politics are a clear indication that we are moving towards having credible electoral commissions.
South Africa doesn’t only dominate us economically, but also politically. I have spent the past 7 years in South Africa and the country has sound infrastructure and institutions. Respect for fundamental human rights, rule of law, transparency and accountability are the cardinal principles of democratic governance. Apart from corruption, South Africa is a country that is capable of meeting the needs of its people.
Crime would be at an all-time low if the government was responsive to the needs of its people. South Africa only became independent in 1994 but the progress made is huge. One would think the country has been independent for 50 years! It is important that African governments focus on promoting economic and social development and political stability in their countries. Zimbabwe had institutions and the infrastructure but political expediency has seen these institutions and infrastructure being destroyed.
I haven’t been to Ghana but I do have a few friends from that great country. I met some of these in Kenya, during my internship at the World Youth Alliance Regional Office in Nairobi, Nigeria and others in Australia where I am currently reading for my doctoral studies in social work. The closest I got to Ghana was when I was selected to participate in the International Training Programme in Peacebuilding and Good Governance for African Civilian Personnel in 2007 at the Legon Centre for International Affairs.
Although the offer covered half of my transportation costs, I failed to attend due to financial constraints. Zimbabwe was already in tatters and one’s dreams could be shattered easily like what happened to me. Ghana is a country that makes me a proud African. Although it has a history of military coups like most West African states, Ghana has moved quickly to distinguish itself as a country whose electoral processes can be trusted, recent electoral outcomes are a case in point. Economically, Ghana is reportedly doing well.
Thanks to their sound politics. This is something we have been deprived as Zimbabweans. We keep wondering if ever the powers that be think about the future. Their primary concern seems to be with the present to the detriment of our future. We have a lot of work to do to transform our institutions. These have been personalised and are working to please only one man, Robert Mugabe. This isn’t the way nations are built. We need to be all-inclusive and give every citizen the opportunity to be the best they possibly can be and allow them to contribute to the social, political and economic development of our country.
Gambia reminds me of our own country. I have never heard, in the history of electoral politics, that one concedes defeat and rejects the outcome of the process he has endorsed at the same time. I am not surprised. Yahya Jammeh became president via a coup and had been manipulating electoral processes for 22 years in his country.
Wanting to be like other eminent Africans who have gracefully accepted defeat, Jammeh quickly conceded and changed his position within days. I am glad I didn’t have to write immediately. I had wanted to praise him for conceding, this is a trend that Africa is being associated with. Those who have lost elections no longer feel they have personally lost.
If anything, they affirm the wisdom of the voters. This is good for our democracy in Africa. It is because of these developments that I have even more faith in the future of our continent. Jammeh must be stopped from having his way back to the presidency in an undemocratic fashion. The vote is sacred and must be protected.
In conclusion, I was in Zimbabwe last week. I observed what I could observe and held discussions with friends and relatives. It’s sad but it’s the truth. The people have lost all hope and are despondent. The government has created an unstable and insecure situation. Harare is dirty and I won’t be surprised if there will be an outbreak of cholera or typhoid.
Refuse hasn’t been collected for months and the traffic situation especially at Fourth Street (bus terminus) is deplorable. I saw people who seemed to have slept outside banking halls and I was amazed that I had to convert South African rands before I could use them. I thought we were using a multi-currency regime. It’s clear that the bond notes and the United States dollar are the favourite currencies at present in Zimbabwe. When I eventually left, I kept wondering: Is this really the Zimbabwe that many sacrificed their lives for? May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!