The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, sponsored by prominent businessman Mo Ibrahim, makes fascinating reading. The results have just been published. The BBC reports that Rwanda, in the index, has achieved the “most improved” status. One has to remember how this country was shattered during and after the genocide in 1994 to fully grasp the significance of this achievement.
What would probably surprise the West the most, though, would be Zimbabwe’s position at only 31 of 48 countries. South Africa scored a fifth place overall. What probably knocks South Africa off a higher score is the high crime rate. Number-one spot was awarded to Mauritius, second went to the Seychelles and third to Botswana.
The results came just after I had read an article on Anton Harber’s site TheHarbinger.co.za. He was writing about the election battle in 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and president John Adams in the United States. The American electoral system was fairly flawed in those days, and even now the faulty electoral college remains in place, which contributed to Al Gore being pipped at the post by Bush Jnr.
The point he was making was that South Africa was not the first young democracy to have an imperfect electoral system; the Americans also struggled just more than 200 years ago. In time the hiccups will be ironed out and an electoral system will evolve that will work more smoothly. It will also take some time for politicians to find their feet, for some kind of moral code to be established, and for journalists and bloggers to be, hopefully, more neutral in their reporting.
We tend to expect that South Africa will be an immediate fully functioning mature democracy. Possibly one expects this because the ruling party, the ANC, has achieved so much that one tends to set the sights high on all levels.
One of the things I have always admired the most was the exceptional planning that took place during the apartheid years. One component of this planning was to send promising young people across the world to study in preparation for a takeover.
It is often forgotten by the West that Bantu education was implemented by the white nationalist government to ensure that young black people lived up to the idea of second-rate citizens. How could one expect to take over a government, both national and local, with people who had been disadvantaged in the educational system? In view of this, the achievements have been nothing short of miraculous.
Allowing for a reality check, then, across the continent, or at least sub-Saharan Africa, one may realise that, after all, young African nations are entitled to struggle to implement democracy, curtail corruption and support human rights for all its citizens.
In the scheme of things, 50 or so years since booting out the colonial powers is no time at all. Many, such as South Africa with its first general and democratic election only 13 years ago, have had much less time to establish healthy democracies.
One may say that war and political turmoil in African countries is damaging the continent. But can one say that the rest of the world is any better? What America’s Bush is up to in Iraq might just make any of the nasty activities in some of the countries in Africa, such as Darfur, fade into the background.