Friday, July 19, 2013

Zimbabwe Elections: Should Be About Dynamism and Generational Change

On my first trip home to Zimbabwe from College in N.America (early 90s) I made my way to see my grand-mother in Gweru. On seeing me she asked whether I still rode my bicycle as I did before, since she had been told that North American Winters were quite cold. I told her that, yes, I still rode but now most of my riding was indoors, in a gym, and on a stationary-bike. This I did to keep trim. We then went on a back-and-forth in our (Shona) language as I tried to explain to her exactly what a stationary-bike was and how it helped me stay fit. Now, my grand-mother knew what a bicycle was and she knew what exercise was, but she couldn't compute why someone would ride a bike and go nowhere! "Where will you be going on this bike of yours", she kept on pressing which I answered, "nowhere!'

I recalled this conversation with my late grand-mother this morning, when I was scanning the news updates on the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe. The Amadala (old geriatrics in their late 60s, 70s and 80s) who run the ruling party ZANU-PF, are clueless as to why elections are held in the first place. They know what elections are and they duly aim to win (by any means possible), but the concept behind elections, of democratic dynamism, is beyond these old geriatric folks.

Like my late grand-mother asking me "where I was going" on a stationary-bike, these old folks probably ask out aloud, "but who will replace us if we lose?". They cannot compute that losing, change, dynamism, and an infusion of fresh-blood are implicitly written into any democratic system. In fact this dynamism is really what democracy is all about: a chance to give newer faces (and a fresh, younger generation) a democratic-mandate to tackle the nation's problems. Not only that, but democracy implicitly allows the older ruling elites to depart from the stage gracefully. This quandary, of Africa's geriatric ruling elites not understanding why elections are held in the first place, is what's holding modern Africa back.

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