LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Elections are not the answer in Africa, if it is going to be manipulated

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Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials (ZEC) distribute postal votes for Bulawayo's different constituencies at ZEC offices. (File, AFP)
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials (ZEC) distribute postal votes for Bulawayo's different constituencies at ZEC offices. (File, AFP)

Kudzai Kwangwari has written a response to MDC leader Nelson Chamisa's opinion piece, saying democratic approaches cannot be used to deal with undemocratic dictators. 

The recent article by the leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDCT A), advocate Nelson Chamisa, titled "Countering reactionary, authoritarian politics in Africa" provides a very sobering reflection of our politics in Africa, highlighting and enumerating several malpractices and shameless political chicanery, which many African leaders engage in very often.

In his article, he gave examples of how the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe were manipulated and stolen - and how, in Mozambique and Uganda, the same practice is allowed to continue and is accepted by the international community through proverbial sanitisation. This is the culture in Africa and it is unfortunate.

While I can't agree more with Chamisa's submissions, I also think there is a need for us to focus on the nature of the opposition we now have in African politics.

Behaviour is allowed

My feeling is that the misgivings and political behaviour we are subjected to by African leaders subsist because we allow it. I wish to submit that we need an opposition which is premised on the understanding and conviction that these countries are ours too.

I believe that it is not natural for governments to behave ethically and, if left unchecked without any serious pressure from citizens, any government or leadership, for that matter, will abuse and manipulate systems for selfish gain, including power retention and other self-aggrandisement intentions.

While strong institutions are often accredited with sustaining democratic culture in mature democracies, I also think that the sense of citizenship is stronger in those countries. Citizens, even before they organise into political parties and other groupings are strong on governance principles and are prepared to stand up and challenge any malpractice. They have strong critical consciousness.

The example of the United States, where former president Donald Trump wanted to challenge and manipulate peoples' wills, comes to mind - and I think Chamisa could have made reference to that in some way.

Further reflection will also take us back to how colonial rule was challenged by the current leadership, but has now become so undemocratic and anti-people. I must say these people were brave and determined to stand and suffer the consequences, which the opposition of today is not prepared to suffer.

The young people that Chamisa so eloquently referred to, in terms of the need for them to be leaders, of not just the future but the present, often have no interest in such serious life-changing political engagements. They lack critical consciousness of wanting to challenge and demand political best practice and good governance and democracy. They often choose to busy themselves with other peripheral stuff, such as soccer and other trivia on social media.

Opposition needs to be strengthened 

My view is that African opposition must be strengthened, and be strategic in challenging the current dictators we have in Africa.

It cannot be business as usual when we are dealing with extraordinary situations.

To want to resort to elections, which we all agree cannot be a preferred and effective way of dealing with dictatorship, is in my view self-defeating.

We cannot choose to apply democratic approaches in dealing with undemocratic dictators, whom we know well will manipulate the electoral systems, as Chamisa rightly pointed out in his article. 

This has been happening in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda, etc - and we wait for more elections to be manipulated in 2023 in Zimbabwe.

There must surely be a way of challenging these dictators, which is to not hold elections.

- Kudzai Kwangwari, Harare, Zimbabwe.

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