Anja Merret
Anja Merret

Bob celebrates 85 years

A Times Online article on Robert Mugabe’s little 85th birthday party makes for interesting reading. A veritable feast in the land of famine is planned for this auspicious event. Lobster, Moët & Chandon, prawns and definitely no maize meal.

Just as an aside any brand that associates itself, by supplying its goods, with this event should be publicly humiliated and a world-wide consumer boycott instigated. With the power of the internet this should be possible.

But going back to this party that is being thrown for Mugabe and his co-henchmen on February 21. It brings to mind the Nero fiddles while Rome burns analogy. In a country where 7 million people are on international aid, cholera is ever present and unemployment is said to be at 94%, its leaders are treating themselves to a feast.

Speculations by the Western press as to how this is possible cover such opinions as Mugabe is oblivious to the suffering of his people to he doesn’t actually care. To most people it is incomprehensible. I suppose it’s on a par with bank executives still getting paid outrageous bonuses with taxpayers’ money one would imagine!

What the Western world doesn’t get is the fact that Africa still has many ethnic groups that are run by chiefs with their second in commands. The chief is able to determine the laws and how people should live while at the same time himself being above these laws.

It is this distinction which people living in democratic countries are unable to understand. It is too long ago that Europe had a similar feudal system for most of us to remember. But the so-called developed West operated on the same principle in the past.

Each fiefdom had its own leader, usually there by virtue of lucky birth, who determined how things were run in his country or county. It was only a very few dynamic and extraordinary leaders who managed to motivate a union and work towards common goals.

What was the change then in Europe? Probably mostly that people didn’t put up with it any more. The industrial revolution had something to do with it as well by lifting more people into middle-class status. Better education for all, greater accountability by politicians would be some of my suggestions. I’m sure there are many others.

In Africa there have been a few of these extraordinary leaders who have themselves managed to forge a union of sorts between various ethnic groups and lead their country towards a common goal. One such person was Nelson Mandela.

Regrettably he was not at the helm long enough to really make a difference. What South Africa is currently going through is a fight for power by various ethnic groups. The current political upheaval has little to do with the ANC.

Looking at Mugabe’s wonderful banquet in contrast to the starving people in his country has everything to do with tribal custom and nothing whatsoever with Western values and governance. Different world views, not on the same page.