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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

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"Democracy"
July 5, 2013, 1:28 pm

Was it or was it not a military coup? That is the question being asked about what has happened in Egypt. Certainly the military appear to have taken over but that hardly fits the definition of a coup as: “a sudden violent seizure of power” As far as we know, 16 people have been killed during clashes at the university. The thousands of people in Tahrir Square for the last five days have been vocal but not violent. Then came the news that the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi and his closest allies were being detained by the military; a judge has been appointed temporary leader of the country until fresh elections. How this situation will resolve itself remains to be seen but in the two years since the last upheaval in January 2011 very little has changed for the better in people’s lives. And it is that which is causing the unrest. Yes, Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected but in the year since his election, he failed to do the things he had promised. That is why Egyptians are out on the streets in their thousands.

    It is tempting to draw a parallel between Zimbabwe and Egypt, both countries are in Africa but Egypt has the added complication of religion to make it even more difficult for outsiders to understand exactly what’s happening - and there are many different branches of Islam to confuse the problem even further. It is the issue of democracy that concerns western commentators. To listen to some of these various commentators on the BBC one would think we are back in the days of the Empire! Their understanding of the term ‘democracy’ appears to be confined to the Westminster model but the concept of democracy has a very different meaning, depending on when and where you live in the world. The struggle for Zimbabwe’s liberation thirty three years ago was seen then as a struggle for democracy ie.‘one man one vote’ but that was against the background of a very limited franchise for African people. Now, in the twenty-first century, people have realised that democracy means much more than casting your ballot on election day.

    While he was in South Africa, the US President called for ‘free and fair elections’ in Zimbabwe and civic groups in the country have also called for credible elections. Zanu PF’s Rugare Gumbo’s rambling response hardly sounded like the response of a  democrat. On the contrary, it was more like a defence of dictatorship. “Who’s Obama?” asked Gumbo, “He’s the President of America. They can do that in America but we have a different situation in Africa. Those who are in power know exactly what their people want, like President Mugabe knows exactly what the people of Zimbabwe want.” That’s pure paternalism, I’d say. The people are just children and must listen to ‘baba’ because he knows what is best for them! Speaking of Africa’s struggle against colonialism, President Obama commented, “the promise of liberation gave way to the corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy.” That got The Herald going and they launched into a vitriolic attack on America’s first black president, calling him a hypocrite who is “mired in international barbarism, drone assassinations and spying.” Earlier in the week it was Lindiwe Zulu in the Herald’s sights because she had called for Zimbabwe’s elections to be postponed to allow for reforms to take place. In a sexist rant, the Herald called on President Zuma to “tether your terrier” describing Ms Zulu as an “outsider who is shooting her mouth off.”  Someone should tell the Herald leader writer: personal abuse is not responsible journalism; it is the gutter press at its worst. Is that what the Paymaster wants?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson



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