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Can democracy ever work in Africa?

Personally I would say no…

Now before I get lynched, let me try to explain. Democracy depends on having at least 2 political parties that could run the country properly. It also depends on the majority of people being educated enough to make the right decision.

Lets take the US for example. At the end of the day, I think that despite some peoples opinions, we can see that regardless of whether the democrats or the republicans are in charge, things seem to be going OK. In this case where there is only 2 parties and they are both fairly competent, the choice of your voters actually doesn’t matter, so whether they are educated or not is actually irrelevant. They actually vote on some fairly small issues. How do you get to this point though?

If we go back to Africa now, look at the vast majority of countries that went from some kind of dictatorship to democracy. Let’s take South Africa for example. The “dictators” were the apartheid government. When we finally became a democracy in 1994, The vast majority of black people that voted, voted for the ANC because they were the liberation party and they were the hope for the future. At this point, of course any sane black person (regardless of their education) would not have voted for a white party. I see no problem with that. Sometimes change is needed, and you have to throw caution to the wind and just try something different. I say this because I don’t think anybody could predict how the ANC would turn out.

However, 15 years later, we can see that the ANC is getting it wrong. The economy is not great, but I guess we can blame that on global situations. However, infrastructure is falling apart – Roads, Electricity, Water, Sanitation… And they are all falling apart because of incompetence, laziness or corruption.

The education system is destroyed.  People go through highschool without being able to read. Now there is talk of lowering university entrance requirements because not enough “previously disadvantaged” people are getting degrees and this is unfair. Of course, if this happens, people will get into university and fail to complete their degrees, at which point the quality of tertiary education will have to be lowered. And so on until we have perfect equality – Nobody will be educated.

I can go on about the problems.. Unemployment and poverty is probably as high as it was under apartheid, but at the same time, the government is basically paying people to have more children (Through grants and subsidies).

However, lets just accept that things have not gone well for the last 15 years. When I say this, I mean things have not gone well for anybody regardless of race. The only people who profits is the guys right at the top, and that’s all they care about.

You would think that maybe a rational society would stand their ground and say that it’s time for another change. However, because the ANC liberated the people from apartheid, there is blind loyalty. Of course, the fact that the majority of people are uneducated means that the ANC leadership can just come out and say that it’s all because of apartheid still. They’re still trying to solve the issues caused by apartheid. And any attack on them or any of their leaders (Even if convicted of corruption),  is a racist attack or an attempt to discredit black people by whites that can’t stand black leaders…

Essentially, I think that democracy can’t work unless you have a choice of competent leaders and a society that is competent to make the choice. In Africa, you also have the problem of tribal loyalties and the fact that african tradition is based on a tribal system with very strong tribal loyalties and essentially dictatorial structures. The ANC might be democratically elected, but now that they are in power, they are always right and has to be supported and defended no matter what.

In an African democracy, you don’t generally get a change of regime until the country fails spectacularly. Even in Zim, I suspect uncle Bob did actually win every election up to the last 2. And even the second last one I think he might have won without cheating. It was only in the last election that people finally realised what was happening. Before that, people actually believed him when he said they were starving because the evil colonial companies weren’t supplying food, etc.

I have no idea what the alternative would be, but based on history, Can democracy ever work in Africa?

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