What the people want

Happy Sunday everyone! My favourite day of the week! I hope you all had exciting or restful weekends and feel energised enough to take on the week ahead. I hope I can entertain you this lovely Saturday afternoon, or at least give you something to think/ talk about. On that note, I’d like to throw a special shoutout to all the people who have casually been discussing Zimbabwean politics with me. I have noticed that ever since I started this blog, politics seems to the go to topic when people see me which I am loving. All of these conversations are inspiring me even more and getting me to think about a lot of things I haven’t actually been considering.

Which brings me to the topic of the day, I have noticed, while speaking to people about politics that really, most people want the same things. It’s not exceptionally outrageous things or things that are difficult to achieve but for some unknown reason, politics and politicians make things harder than they need to be. Like most people, I am a Hegelian, I am a realist and I believe that people need a leader. Not only that they need one but I also believe that it is human nature to gravitate towards a leader, we are much more comfortable being told what to do (so long as it makes some sort of sense and does not go against our intrinsic morals). Back to the need, I am not saying that humans are incapable of being completely autonomous beings in charge of their own destinies, but let’s be honest, it would be a disaster if everyone could do whatever they wanted. Also, the need for leaders comes from the fact that we are community creatures, if there’s one thing that I am certain about, it is that human’s cannot survive alone. But see, our communities only function if there is someone looking out for them; someone who will have the best interest of the general group rather than each individual looking out for themselves. However, these are my personal philosophical beliefs so there are people who will disagree with what I am saying. Regardless, I fundamentally believe that humans need to be led. Where the issue seems to lie is who should be doing the leading? How do we choose that? And all the other questions that centre around the larger question of what makes a good leader.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently writing my final thesis on certain political ideologies within Zimbabwe. In order to give myself a true representation of how Zimbabweans view the things I am looking at, I have been conducting interviews with many people, asking them what they think about certain things. I have been shocked to my core about some of the responses I have been getting (in a good way). My Western trained mind expected very clichĂ© answers like ‘we want democracy’ and ‘we want equality.’ But these were not the insights I gained speaking to everyday Zimbabweans. As a disclaimer; this is not to mean that all Zimbabweans want the things I am about to describe but the ones I interviewed did and I tried to make my interviewees as diverse as possible in terms of race, gender, social class, geographical location and age.

Zimbabweans do not want democracy. Well, more accurately they do not want direct or deliberative democracy. I do not know if it is because Zimbabweans have become so accustomed to the style of government we have now (whatever style that might be), but they want a single, strong leader to lead the country. I was really shocked that the idea of democratic representation meant very little to many Zimbabweans. They wanted democracy in the sense of choosing the next leader; on he grounds of her/his expertise, character, background etc., but after that most people did not seem to care. They did not care about how long this person would stay in power for or what form of political organisation they would undertake. They simply wanted the option to choose what they saw as a good leader and after that, the leader is expected to lead. As one of interviewees neatly put it, Zimbabweans are longing for a ‘good dictator.’

Honestly, none of this sat well with me. But the logic does make sense, I might be a little jaded because as I have mentioned, I have very little faith in humans in general. I believe that no matter how ‘good’ our dictator starts out, they could always become prey to corruption and duplicity. However, as I went along into the questions, I began to see that Zimbabweans have such bizarre political goals because of the current system they are embroiled in. I asked people what they thought would make a good leader and again, I already had expected answers in my mind like ‘educated’ and ‘honest.’ But what seemed to make a good leader is someone who does not let their people starve, someone who educates and provides healthcare >infrastructure< etc. None of these were initially really in my mind because I thought they were a given.

“Zimbabwean doctors and nurses demonstrate in Harare on November 18, 2008. Truckloads of riot police were deployed outside Harare’s main hospital to prevent scores of doctors and nurses from marching in protest at the state of Zimbabwe’s collapsing health system. At least 50 people are believed to have died of cholera this month, according to health officials, due to the rapid break down in sanitation in many parts of the capital.” AFP PHOTO / DESMOND KWANDE

Now see, my preconceived idea of a good leader had a lot to do with corruption. I would think that a good leader is one that is not corrupt but to my surprise, most Zimbabweans didn’t care about that (well not in the way I expected). People seem to believe that as long as the country is functioning and basic necessities are made available to the people then they could not care less if excess funds were being stolen from the country. To some extent I have always believed this was the case because lets be honest, political corruption takes place in all countries but in the ones where the people are taken care of, a little corruption is swept under the rug.

In short, Zimbabwean’s political goals are modest and so easily achievable. This is not to say that once/if things get better people will not expect more but it is to highlight the fact that right now, in this moment, people are suffering to the extent that they would be happy with the bare minimum of good leadership. The things people are asking for right now from the current leadership are things that are naturally expected in other parts of the world, but yet, it seems as though Zimbabweans are asking for a lot. When yet all they are asking for is a means for survival.

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