Picture this for a moment: the year is 2018 and, after lots of frenzied politicking on the campaign trail, Zimbabwe’s much-awaited election day finally arrives. Vying for president (wait for this!) are Grace Mugabe, Wicknell Chivayo, Phillip Chiyangwa and Joseph Chinotimba. Gentle reader, who would you vote for?
Candid Comment,Brezhnev Malaba
Spare a thought for American voters in the just-ended presidential election. Stuck between a demagogue and an untrustworthy candidate, the voters grappled with the agonising dilemma of Hobson’s choice, which entailed either taking what was offered or nothing at all. It was, in other words, an election without a choice.
While every level-headed person acknowledges that Donald Trump is a dangerous boor, most people also concede that Hillary Clinton is no angel either. She exemplifies the worst excesses of the Democratic Party which — just like the Republican Party — is to all intents and purposes a political wing of US corporate interests.
Democracy, we must now admit, is ridiculously over-rated. It was Winston Churchill who said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. Ever the master of pithy wit, he also observed that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with an average voter.
In the aftermath of the Trump bombshell, my brother Dinizulu Mbiko Macaphulana has offered a compelling post-mortem.
“Carried out to its full insanity, democracy, like all other myths of Western modernity, has a tendency to invent and produce Donald Trumps like it has done in this epochal 11/9.” Hatred and bigotry, he argues, have become a powerful mobilising force.
The full magnitude of what has just happened in the US election is yet to sink in. In many ways, this contest was defined by Trump’s racist threats to deport millions of immigrants and build a wall on the Mexican border. In Europe, an anti-migrant sentiment has poisoned politics and promoted the creation of what Achille Mbembe describes as “societies of separation based on identity and on an exclusion of difference”.
Mbembe sees the dangers posed by unrepentant demagogues. “It could be that they [democracies] have always had slaves, a set of people who, for whatever reason, are regarded as foreigners, members of a surplus population, undesirables whom one hopes to be rid of, and who, as such, must be left ‘completely or partially without rights’.”
The Americans who voted Trump — who has plunged the world into uncertainty — will now taste life under an unpredictable leader. They will remember Christopher Hitchens: “The true essence of a dictatorship is in fact not its regularity but its unpredictability and caprice; those who live under it must never be able to relax, must never be quite sure if they have followed the rules correctly or not.”