'Zim election talk is retrogressive'

HARARE - Holding periodic free and fair elections is one of the characteristics of both liberal and electoral democracies in the world.

The question that most of the so-called learned people in Africa and Zimbabwe have consistently evaded and with some becoming emotional is “What is the benefit of elections to the ordinary man?"

Some of the explanations range from safeguarding our sovereignty to voting out leaders who would have failed to deliver.

All these explanations might hold some value but has anyone counted the dividends of such a process in Zimbabwe? Those who have voted since independence will tell you that this business has just become a mere ritual because they do not have the means to ensure that what they want is accomplished.

While we live in a global world where there are global norms and practices which are not dictated by third world countries but by developed countries with modern economies that can sustain democracy.

We still find ourselves trying to operate on the same platform, we still think what is relevant in those countries suddenly becomes relevant to us as if what was developed there was developed with us in mind.

Zimbabwe finds itself in such a very sad scenario where it has to hold elections after every five years with the possibility of leaders being replaced and new programmes staring while some unfinished programmes being abandoned all in the name of political expediency.

The virtual absence of a true and legitimate middle class in Zimbabwe and many African countries has resulted in the rise of a parasitic middle class which is not rooted in real production but is tied to the state for its survival.

This middle class has failed to influence State processes by making sure that national politics are determined by profound economic base but it has mainly been concerned with fighting for political survival of incumbent governments so that it can continue to disproportionately benefit from the gains of independence.

What we see is fierce competition for political office directly or the propping up of proxies who will guarantee that these parasitic middle class will get its fair share of contracts and tenders. Once that is secured then all is well for them, but for ordinary citizens the unending struggle to eke out a living becomes a culture — an everyday reality with no respite at all.

Right now, the country is in an election mood, all economic activities are constrained by elections activities, investors both local and international are now operating in slow motion, adopting a wait and see attitude.

It seems as if the country is coming to an end of some sort with everyone just abandoning long-term plans until after election. It is this election trap that has stalled human and social development in Zimbabwe for the past decade as political parties continue to think in terms of whether a programme or policy will either chase away or lure votes rather than on whether it is right or most appropriate.

In 2005, the govermenent embarked on a clean-up exercise which was popularly known as Murambatsvina which was meant to bring about orderly development in cities and town and provide safe working environment for the informal sector.

While the exercise attracted international condemnation largely for being indifferent to human suffering, the benefits of having order and obeying town planning laws are quite noble and this reduces crime and the spreading of deadly communicable diseases.

If one is to move around the city of Harare and the surrounding informal settlements, it is clear the illegal structures are back and political parties are hesitant to have them demolished while fully aware that they are not fit for human habitation.

Once political parties are trapped in elections, everything they do will be solely populist and not sustainable and realistic. It’s a vicious cycle. - Wellington Gadzikwa

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