Ivory Coast, Swaziland — Zim has reason to worry

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Given the unfolding events north of Africa, and most recently in Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and other nations this side of the Sahara can no longer afford to ignore the winds of change traversing Africa.

We do not have the luxury to brush aside as “foreign news” the bloodshed associated with the regime change crusade that has engulfed Africa, especially as the bug has already seized our own backyard, little Swaziland, whose wound appears to be festering so fast it could be mortal.

Political scientists may come up with all sorts of expert reasons including trends and historic explanations but the simple reason why Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Ivory Coast burned is that people were fed up of being oppressed.

They may have gone for decades suffering in silence but as has become the case, the time of reckoning will always come for every dictator.

Who would have ever dreamt Swaziland could ever catch the regime-change bug that now threatens the monarchy?

Manzini is on fire and it appears no amount of brutal clampdown can remove protesters from the streets.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean politicians are, with their eyes open and with deliberate intent, driving the country towards violence.

Why are they unable to see that any form of violence will not just come to pass as has happened before in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008?

Africa is now a different political playground, a disaster waiting to happen for dictators. But the people have not turned any evil.

All they are demanding, which they have for years been asking and begging for, is freedom and human rights.

It is difficult to understand why our leaders choose not to respect constitutionally enshrined human rights, freedom of expression and association included.

These and other conditions are prerequisites for true democracy which are trampled upon with impunity in a dictatorship.

Disputed elections such as happened in Zimbabwe three years ago sparked the Ivory Coast turmoil.

Zanu PF is pushing for another election although it is as clear as daylight that the landscape is far from conducive for a free, fair and indisputable election.

Again, why should politicians consciously drive the country into bloodshed and ruin?

Can they not see Zimbabwe will not survive another violent election campaign which culminates in disputed election results?

Political polarisation in Zimbabwe is so thick it is tangible.

It is deliberately fuelled by hate speech and provocative comment spewed in generous measures and without restraint by the media.

Granted, in elections, generous allowances should be made for political rhetoric and all it implies, a pinch of irony, some sarcasm, and even provocative comment.

That is democracy. But then, even as proponents of absolute democracy will insist, that with democracy, all the dirt comes out, should we condone hate speech, abusing and dehumanising, inciting to discrimination and violence, all in the name of democratic freedom of speech?

Or, is bloodshed the painful price we must pay for safeguarding free expression above all other rights?

There are limits to this aspect of democracy which, if overreached, we enter the arena of incitement and violent confrontation which must lead to bloodshed and then recrimination.

While this coin of democracy may have two so distinctly different sides, a dictatorship is outright evil, no wonder even the most flagrant dictators will not stand to boast about it. Dictatorships will never leave voluntarily, even if beaten in clean elections.

But Africa is now a changed place. Even Zimbabwe deserves a change. For heaven’s sake, we have been wearing the same socks for 31 years!