The democracy of impoverishment

HARARE - When finance minister Tendai Biti announced that the inclusive government had resolved to increase duty on fuel to raise funds for the referendum and harmonised elections, the groaning voices of the poor become louder than ever before.

From someone who claims to be coming from a worker’s party, he should have quickly realised the pitfalls of such a move on the battered and bruised Zimbabwean populace. In no time prices of basic goods shot up in spectacular fashion, further plunging more people into perpetual poverty and destitution.

With widespread unemployment, the county being turned into a nation of vendors and the drought-prone provinces of Matabeleland, Manicaland and Masvingo reeling from recurrent droughts, the impact of fuel-induced price increases will be severe.

What I find very strange is the fact that if the country cannot afford to pay for elections through sustainable ways then it means the country is not yet ready.  

Why should people be made to suffer when they are looking for happiness?

Up to this point in time most people have actually come to terms with the grim reality that when they vote for certain individuals into positions of power, they are soon abandoned while their “representatives” go for self aggrandisement sprees.

Gone are the days when opposition political parties canvass for votes using claims that incumbent’s government have failed to do this and that.

What has actually become clear is those who were more vociferous in campaigning against such misdemeanours are actually worse off, self-centred and champions on themselves as opposed to the people they purport to so dearly love.

All such moves which further impoverish the people who are touted as the beneficiaries expose the shortcomings of African views on democracy itself.

What is democracy in Africa and how can it be beneficial?

Can these mythical and dysfunctional ritual fictions of free and fair elections ever democratise life and make significant strides in the material well-being of our people?

It is now clear African governments continue to use models that are irrelevant to the needs of the people.
What can change the life of a poor old man who lives below both the poverty datum and food poverty line, with no access to medical insurance and any form of social safety net if he casts his vote for a particular candidate in an election?

Of course to that person it still remains a mere ritual because democracy will not give him both immaterial and material benefits since his position will not change for the better if not for the worse now because he has to pay more for life-giving commodities which are now beyond his reach.

African governments are fooling themselves with an illusionist belief that if they hold periodic elections they are joining the rest of the world in upholding democracy and are therefore becoming modern and developed.  What is needed is to guarantee life by making sure people meet basic needs.

This can only be attained through redistributive economic policies that are aimed at addressing human needs instead of wasting resources in holding election rituals which have proved to be peripheral to meeting human basic needs.

If countries have not met these basic human needs then they are not yet ready to go for such luxuries like elections.

Most of you are now wondering why elections are given such an exalted status in situations where they are not sustainable and relevant.

You want to ask, if they are not relevant and the poor do not need them why then do governments continue to hold them.

The answer is that most resources in Africa can only be accessed through the State machinery and all those who want political offices want to be strategically positioned to those resources under the guise of being popularly elected and therefore deriving their mandate from the “people”. - Wellington Gadzikwa


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