Democracy and Destruction

Democracy and Destruction, by Africa Unauthorized.

Recently I watched a video clip of people being interviewed in what was still then Salisbury (now Harare) days after the official announcement made by then Governor Soames confirming that Robert Mugabe would head the first government of the newly independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

All the Africans interviewed were thrilled and spoke gleefully of the new dispensation that would bring them free homes, free schools, free hospitals and almost boundless prosperity. The Europeans, on the other hand, were, almost without exception, apprehensive at best and downright angry at worst. They disagreed vehemently with the majority but this view was easily dismissed as typically racist and sour grapes on the part of a once privileged elite. …

I cast my mind back to photos of the long queues that formed outside the banks in Dar es Salaam after Julius Nyerere came to power in Tanzania. The citizenry who voted him in and celebrated the end of British colonial rule believed that they could, with immediate effect, withdraw the money they needed from newly nationalised commercial banks because their understanding of the new dispensation was that all the money in the vaults had now become the property of the people.

Much the same sad scenario has played out in some shape or form throughout Africa; hiding behind a veil of democracy millions of simple people had been cruelly hoodwinked into believing the impossible and this has seen most of the wealth bequeathed these countries by the former colonial powers quickly squandered prior to the descent into poverty and very often, chaos.

I clearly recall Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith appealing to a hostile world to hear his plea to be given time to implement an electoral system and a franchise, based, not on race, but on education and status that would facilitate the steady growth of an electorate made up of an informed black majority that would, in the course of time, be free to elect the leadership of its choice. …

He reminded the few who would listen that the Europeans had stumbled on to a continent where rule was by decree, based on often brutal authoritarianism with little or no recourse to any individual or institution where what we now refer to as our ‘human rights’ were interfered with; simply put, the platform to power in Africa was based on the maxim, ‘might is right’. He argued time was needed to wean the majority off this daily diet of arbitrary misrule before the majority could ingest the utterly alien and complex political systems and institutions that the colonists had introduced.

Pop quiz: Over the next century, is it more likely that Africa will adopt the Western way of politics, or the West will adopt the African style? Is the West colonizing Africa, or is Africa colonizing the West?

hat-tip Stephen Neil