by Dan Roodt
Is it not astounding that so many people are criticising the outcome of the Zimbabwean elections, when that country went through an official poll in which Zanu (PF) won a clear majority?
In addition, Robert Mugabe’s view of democracy is entirely commensurate with that of most western leaders, especially those of Britain and the US. There exists a dichotomy between the spectacle of campaigning and voting – the soap opera of elections – and the real business of power that is normally settled outside of public scrutiny, in proverbial smoke-filled rooms.
Democracy is what follows a “state of exception” (Carl Schmitt) during which one regime is replaced by another. Both the American and French revolutions were examples of such states of exception. In the case of Zimbabwe, Britain virtually appointed Mugabe as permanent president during the state of exception known as the Lancaster House Conference of 1979. Every election since in Zimbabwe has merely confirmed Britain’s support for revolutionary change in the ex-Rhodesia, hence the hypocrisy of complaints about largely minor deficiencies in the Zimbabwean electoral process.
Writing in the UK Daily Mail two days ago, columnist Stephen Glover said:
“Instead of expressing his anxieties, the Foreign Secretary could offer the Zimbabwean people a heartfelt apology on behalf of the British Government for inflicting Robert Mugabe on them in the first place, and then standing aside as he pillaged his country, murdered his enemies and ruined the economy… What has happened in Zimbabwe is to Britain’s eternal shame.”
Mr Mugabe is a self-styled “strong leader”. In so doing, he is simply displaying the “leadership” that everyone talks about, and that they even teach in business schools.
Modern democracy is indeed a process whereby the voter surrenders his freedom of action to members of the elite who may act on his behalf, tax him and even impoverish him to their heart’s content. During the banking crisis, we have seen how Western governments did the same and have burdened future generations with mountains of debt, simply to save their sponsors and cronies among members of the corrupt banking fraternity.
In most third-world countries, including Zimbabwe, you first queue to vote and then you stand in line for bread or some or other hand-out. The one is good practice for the other.
In South Africa, of course, those who queue to vote are rewarded with poverty, joblessness and grants of R250 a month, enough to buy beer and air time. Just look at the 10 biggest companies by market capitalisation on the JSE, and you will notice that smoking and drinking beer dwarf all other forms of economic activity, followed by mobile telephony.
Democracy is all about talking, drinking, smoking and making babies, for which you get child-support grants. The notion of freedom as defined by the philosophers of the western enlightenment is, of course, slightly more complex and subtle than subsisting for the sake of a pay-as-you-go cellphone connection.
Sadly, such classical ideas of freedom and what some people refer to as “higher ideals” have been derided by so-called “liberals” and Marxists as being tantamount to fascism. Taking pride in one’s language or culture, showing patriotism or constructing a society where people are not sheep to be lorded over by professional politicians, are all very suspect notions that are regularly denounced as “right-wing extremism”.
Aspiring to be one’s own master, holding one’s leaders accountable for public expenditure and the quality of their decision-making is reminiscent of the Tea Party programme in the US.
As the New York Times has assured us, the Tea Party is a racist movement of soon-to-be-outnumbered white Americans who hanker after the halcyon days of the Ku Klux Klan.
Private property, too, is a decidedly reactionary concept, which Mr Mugabe has “democratically” dispensed with. Most white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were bought after 1990 and after ZANU (PF)’s accession to power, yet the rights of these property owners were forfeited in favour of a revolutionary “land-reform programme”.
Most university professors in the West and in SA probably applauded him for trampling upon private property. Not to mention the nongovernmental organisations for whom starvation is big business and whose customers, the voters, will queue up again for hand-outs.
The destiny of man is to be a shopper. Everything else is Nazism, even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel still attends the annual Wagner Festival in Bayreuth.
No doubt the professors and media pundits will soon have Wagner banned worldwide and then everybody will just listen to Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. Democracy entails the lowering of intellectual and aesthetic standards down to the basest level.
The verbiage of Barack Obama on “democracy” resembles the kitsch of fast food, wearing track suits and sports caps in public and the obsessive, banal voyeurism of most TV programmes. We are living through a modern version of Nero’s mob rule whereby a few powerful political and financial dictators occupy the minds of the masses with “bread and circuses”, an election being the ultimate circus, of course.
As Pat Buchanan has said somewhere, democracy cannot be foisted on people by carpet-bombing them from 40 000 feet. Zimbabwe is but one among a number of societies that have been destabilised by so-called democracy. In North Africa and the Middle East, the West has not balked at supporting Al-Qaeda and related fundamentalist movements in a kind of anti-modern fervour. The paradox is that modern democracy so often leads to fundamentalism, mayhem and even primitivism.
Systems of ethnic domination whereby one group is victimised by another are routinely approved as “democratic”. In fact, there is an element of sadism in South African democracy with its endemic violence, torture and persecution of ethnic minorities about which international silence is maintained. Far from making people free, democracy often leads to greater coercion and oppression than more traditional forms of rule. It seems that democracy may only be established through terror, coercion and war, while the most democratic countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., are also the most aggressive when it comes to foreign military adventures and attacking other countries.
Not for nothing did the Russian leader Mr. Vladimir Putin state that he was revolted by the “pro-democracy rebels” of Syria who devoured the organs of their enemies. Under democracy, more and more such cannibalistic incidents are also occurring in South Africa.
Not only does Mr Mugabe understand democracy and its empty theatrics well, but his wife Grace has mastered the art of shopping better than any New York socialite.
Surely the elected leader of Zimbabwe deserves a better press?
This is an extended version of a letter published today in Business Day.