An honest politician – ice in hell

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IT’S the ultimate cynicism — believing that the existence anywhere in this world of an honest politician is belief in the existence of ice in hell.

The possibility that you could pop on ice cubes into your whisky drink while you and similarly incarcerated buddies burn in hell is, as some would say, for the birds.

But in Africa, particularly, the gullibility of the ordinary people — the common person — continues to scale new heights, or plumb the depths of ignorance.

Since 1957 our politicians have displayed the same disregard for “clean” politics as others have done throughout the centuries.

Politics is not a profession, although many of the practitioners will insist that it is.

“Racket” has been coined by some to describe what politicians do.

But this is highly debatable.

In the end, it is the politicians who run the world — although others might now argue it’s the bankers who hold that hallowed position.

Certainly, the bankers are the real racketeers, if you consider the ultimate authors of the 2008 financial crisis around the world.

The Mafia may not have been involved, but the methods used by the bankers and those other people known as “fund managers” were no different from those of a sophisticated Cosa Nostra.

Instead of guns they used the gift for the gab, which can be as deadly as any submachine gun, including the AK47.

There is a theory that the bankers can only succeed in what they do as long as they have the active connivance of the politicians. So, it is often difficult to separate the two.

Others insist that the politicians pay little attention to what the bankers do because they don’t constitute a constituency large enough to be canvassed for votes and the bankers know this.

The current presidential election campaign in the US involves so much money it’s difficult not to consider the roll of the bankers or — at the very least, “the people with the money”.

What is different in Africa is the utter lack of sophistication of the voters.

In the older countries, presidents would not routinely be re-elected if their previous terms ended in disaster or if there was even a whiff of scandal in their administration.

There are few exceptions in Africa: in Zambia, Rupiah Banda’s re-election would have been amazing in view of the widespread reports of malfeasance in his administration.

But in many other instances, even when evidence of corruption is overwhelming, ruling parties have been brought back to power time and time again.

One of the disincentives for voters to change governments is the violence — by the party seeking re-election.

The violence can often be so widespread and brutal that not all the voters turn up — for fear of being killed — sometimes at the polling booths.

Many Africans today have only a very basic and quite often vague understanding of democracy.

Not too many appreciate what “government of the people, by the people and for the people” really amounts to — unless there is “African democracy”.

There are rarely percentage polls which go up to 90 percent. When they do, it is often suspected they were rigged.

What Africa needs is a continent-wide programme of education on the principle of democracy.

This is assuming that all African leaders prefer democracy to autocracy or other systems which only pay lip-service to the tenets of democracy, but are stuck in one-party and one-man rule with only a cursory recognition of free and fair elections.

I fully sympathise with Nelson Mandela’s statement that although the West sends observers to monitor the free-ness and fairness of elections in Africa, Africans don’t go to observe or monitor elections in the West.

It’s been a while since Madiba made that statement. I suspect that by now he must have a proper appreciation of how much more we, as Africans, have to learn about true democracy.

His two predecessors must have volumes and volumes of documents on how much the ANC has learnt of democracy in the last 18 years – a hell of a lot. The saga of Julius Malema, on its own, could make absorbing reading.

Then, there must be fascinating reading on Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

Bill Saidi is a veteran writer based in Harare

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