How fear can rule politics

HARARE - Although I am not a specialist in the vortex that is the mind of the typical politician — having worked in that field for more than 50 years as a journalist — I can claim to know, at the very least, a thing or two on the subject.

My theory is that most politicians’ weighty decisions are steeped in fear of being found out — either to be liars, crooks, double-crossers or just plain no-good human beings masquerading as saints.

There are exceptions — as there are in any field of human endeavour. Surely, you must have heard of the prostitute with a heart of gold.

The latest example is Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

He is the Algerian president who recently won re-election for the umpteenth time, although he was a sick man, wheelchair-bound, having suffered a serious stroke.

His fear — for my money — was that if anyone else stood in his place, they would lose the presidency for their party, which would probably never again regain power — its record in power being so thread-bare, most Algerians would sing Hallelujah! and Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish.

If you conclude from this that I have no particular respect for politicians, you would be wrong. Granted, I don’t think there are many saints among them, but I have come across some whose attachment to the truth is remarkable for people in a profession hardly recognised for its cleanliness, let alone godliness.

If Bouteflika succeeds in persuading the people of Algeria not to stage a Boko Haram-like insurrection, he will surely have scored a feat worth political sainthood ….if such an abomination exists in this world.

African politics were given an example of political  ungodliness with the massacre of       800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.  We recently saw TV footage of how the people of Rwanda were coping with the atrocity, some of them confessing their roles in it and praying that it would never happen again.

There is no established record of any Zimbabweans comparing that deadly episode of Humanity’s rottenness to Gukurahundi, in which 20 000 were killed.

Yet it must surely remind, not only Zimbabweans, but all Africans that xenophobia is a deadly malady to be as frightening as the Nazi campaign against the Jews during World War 11.

The slaughter of the Tutsis and Hutus in 1994 was once said to have been caused by the seeds of hatred sown in their minds by the colonialists.  

Rwanda and  neighbouring Burundi were colonised by the Belgians.

There have been allegations that to keep them permanently alienated against each other — and thus, not against the colonialists — the Belgians deliberately fanned the hostility between the two — apparently, to prolong their domination.

Similar allegations have been made against the whites who invaded what they were later to call Southern Rhodesia.

They sowed the same seeds of dislike between the Shona and the Ndebele.  So far, however, there have been no learned treatises blaming Gukurahundi on the colonialists.

That some of the whites were not entirely sympathetic ºto the country renamed Zimbabwe seems to have been evident in the overseas reportage of the story.

What seems urgent is for the African Union to take up the cudgels against all forms of xenophobia on the continent. They must be a deliberate and widespread  campaign to guard against the emergence of this ugliness in any part of the continent.

There ought to be, during every annual meeting of the AU, a moment reserved for the delegates to commit themselves to a campaign to wipe out xenophobia on the continent.

It would probably be largely symbolic, but at least, it would be a constant reminder that Africa is One and must remain One.    

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