Depressing Democracy

Depressing Democracy


“Peace not Progress,” one activist tweeted as planned nationwide protests in Tanzania and Zimbabwe petered out. Both countries are demonstration-free this morning. Both regimes are more powerful than ever.

The issues driving the Tanzania protests are much different from those that drive the Zimbabwean protest, but protests anywhere share the threshold of challenging the security apparatus and in Africa that means risking life and limb.

Memories of the Arab Spring fuel a lot of African youth’s actions, today. When protests are called for, little is referenced about Egypt’s aftermath, an outcome that few original Takir Square protestors expected or want. What is referenced is that people power toppled a regime. More exactly: that defying the powers that be with physical risk to yourself successfully brought about at least one moment of democracy.

That “moment of democracy” is not necessarily a fair reflection of the will of the people. Elections may not be, either. Elections reflect the will of those who know how to use them. Not just in Africa, but in Broward County interpretations that become manipulations determine outcomes.

When the people are angry – as Americans and Tanzanians and Zimbabweans are right now – mass protest may reflect more complete democracy than elections.

Admitting failure even before the protest day dawned, the newest of the Zimbabwean protest, #Tajamuka, tweeted:

“Please do not risk your safety… the police as usual will unleash violence on peace-loving Zimbabweans.. So make your statement peacefully.”

Ostensibly an unusual collective call from Tanzania’s clergy was the reason that the opposition party Chadema called off the protests.

In a more telling explanation, a businessman in an interior central town in Tanzania told a national reporter:

“I want to advise my colleagues to engage themselves in matters that can earn them revenue than participating in senseless protests.”

I think that sums it up pretty well for all of us, really.

When the fragile balance between depravity and prosperity tilts towards prosperity, then the status quo will prevail.

Tanzania is being twisted around from depravity to prosperity by the high-handed, very undemocratic dark-horse candidate for president who after surprisingly becoming president is running pell mell into Parliament, the Judiciary and any other pretense of democracy with his six-shooters blazing. But .. the country is better off.

It’s different in Zimbabwe. The autocratic regime has been in power for so long that each time the fabric tears a little it reveals such a horribly septic wound that it scares people from trying, again. Believe me, Zimbabwe will not be better off when Mugabe finally falls, no matter how awful life there is right now.

The lesser of evils, right?

It’s not just boring, it’s debilitating. Good political choices do not seem available today. Here in America, or Zimbabwe, or Tanzania.