Hashtag trends: #democracyfailed

This year has been an enlightening one. First with Brexit and now Trump. The ‘popular’ view conceded to the majority view and people have been left wondering how this could happen. There are two answers: first, to the Brexiteers delight there were people who voted in their favour but did not believe their vote could count. These individuals were surprised that their vote would actually cause the disintegration of EU relations and kill free travel to Ibiza. Second, there are people who wanted to make Britain great again, reminiscent of imperial days where the EU did not meddle in it’s affairs. In both instances, views represented the values of the majority through a democratic process. Perhaps there are strong parallels in the US election result. Did democracy fail?

According the Stanford University democracy is:

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  1. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  1. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  1. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

Looking at both the US and British cases, Democracy did what it is meant to. The majority chose Trump. I believe democracy has been given a burden that is too great for it to bear. Democracy is meant to do the “right thing”. Democracy is meant to sustain what elites might view as the correct order of things and it is meant to fix the problems in other nations. Democracy is meant to confirm the populist view and keep all opposing views at bay. Democracy should serve people who are “always right” and continue to keep those on the “margin” disenfranchised. This incredibly clique-ish democracy is a tool for personal interests and not to serve citizens in a stable democracy.

Coming from an African perspective, higher up the social order, democracy is a goal and a condition for development. It is meant to influence growth and ensure the rights of the people are upheld. Democracy and modernity are bedfellows, which is the ideal. There is an inference that democracy should mean the world to all those who have yet to achieve a stable democracy. We should want it bad enough to fight for it but democracy has a different face in different places.

Trevor Noah on Trump

There have been some great presidents but democracy has delivered some duds I must say. Democracy has been disappointing. Yes there is election rigging that is no fault of democracy. However, there is vote buying, black market trading of the vote. In some parts it means very little to be able to have your voice heard through the vote. Some people do not have that romantic view of democracy. It is just another part of the system they have to adopt, another language they have to learn.

Democracy has not failed those who hold that view either. It has not delivered the optimum results because of the conditions it has to operate in.

Stanford University highlights these requirements and even still, these do not guarantee democracy can perform the job it has been asked to do.

We are asking too much of democracy.

  1. We want it work for our views and our values (only)
  2. (We want it to work for our country and make everything better
  3. We want it to work for other countries and make them more like us
  4. We want it to produce only the best candidates (according to us) for democratic elections
  5. We want it to not allow people to sell their vote for essentials or campaign promises
  6. We want it to perform miracles
  7. We want it to be perfect

There is more we ask of democracy that I don’t think alone it can deliver. Democracy is working perfectly fine, we just have to fix our view of it.


Feature Image: http://almostfearless.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/IMG_5642_sm.jpg



Hashtag Trends: #LSESAfrica #ThisFlag

The LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs and the Africa Centre organised a public lecture to explore the views of leader of the South Africa opposition on “Protecting South Africa’s Fragile Democracy”. #LSESAfrica was trending according to several sites with top tweets coming from accounts like the @AudienceNet (engaging in the Millennial Dialogue), @alechogg (prominent editor and publisher) and @AfricaInsights (progressive independent not-for-profit think tank) just to mention a few.


#LSEAfrica continued to populate timelines because the leader of the Democratic Alliance (@our_DA), Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) fortifeid the importance of strong institutions for effective democratic process. He challenged the continued protracted liberation rhetoric, and the need for Africa to be “liberated from the Liberators”. He spoke of how he aims to professionalise the public service, keeping in mind the voter is the principle in this contract.


What took the Vetkoek for me was his ideas on leadership (I hope you enjoyed the South African reference). His ideals embodied leadership, African leadership that the continent is hungry for. Mmusi spoke eloqunetly on the value of quality leadership. Leadership that welcomes and expects contraints to ensure effectiveness. This struck a chord personally because as a young African I question my idea of leadership.

As a Master of Public Administration candidate, I am on a course full of leaders. I was personally over-joyed to learn that Mmusi Maimane is himself a Master of Public Administration, it shows. LSE has plenty of opportunities to nurture leaders but the greatest opportunity must be the Programme for African Leaders (PfAL) from the LSE Africa Centre. Its rigor and collaborative nature shapes African leaders that will pave the way for a more democratic Africa.

Another surprising fact about Mmusi is his role as a pastor in South Africa and how that feeds into his political career. After the lecture I asked him about the road from the pulpit to the podium #ThisFlag (the other hashtag trending) that promted me to ask that question. This trend exemplifying voter-led protest, is still trending on all social media platforms and the story was picked up by the Guardian. A pastor’s conviction of the value of his Zimbabwean flag and his question for the government pertinent issues like the then proposed issuing of bond notes into the Zimbabwean economy.

Catch the full heated controversial interview between Evan Mawarire (@PastorEvanLive, leader of the #ThisFlag, and Tafadzwa Musarara, a Zanu-PF loyalist.

Tafadzwa’s main point was how #ThisFalg was highlighting issues and not offering solutions to the problems in Zimbabwe (supported view from Zanu-PF Youths). Evan Mawarire in his rebuttal highlighted that the government has been elected to serve the people of Zimbabwe, they are ther to provide the solutions. As a voter he is merely holding them accountable.

Then the Twitter wars ensued…


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Zanu-PF officials hurled insults and even created a counter hashtag #OurFlag to try divert the agency-led momentum but it failed to take hold. #OurFlag even used to share some Union-Jack/#Brexit love on Twitter.

Since then the dialogue has begun and the electorate had a opportunity to address the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on his plans to issue bond notes to the ease liquidity crisis.

From the interview, it seemed Evan Mawarire being a pastor was used to discredit him and I was curious to know Mmusi’s struggles in fostering confidence as the people’s politician when his views can be seen as ‘tainted’ or ‘deminished’ by religion.”It takes personal conviction” Mmusi said to me, after admiting how much it was not easy. I see that strong personal conviction in the #thisflag creator. Both working hard for change, one using opposition-led protest and the other electorate-led protest. Either way, I hope both Evan Mawarire and Mmusi Maimane continue to pave the way for the new breed of leadership to walk the African soil.

More on #LSESAfrica – Protecting South Africa’s Fragile Democracy

Politics in Africa should not be a contestation of people

but a contestation of ideas and ideals

Mmusi touched on why nations fail from his perspective and he stressed the negative impact of public protectors, appointed through ‘cadre employment’, who serve the agenda of the incumbent. He urged the importance of the private sector in the process of nation building, whether it is supporting BEE or land reform. Business can lead the way in solving the problem of inequality. Yes, BEE came up during Q&A and after slight accusations hon DA being vague on the subject, I believe he was direct in outlining their strategies to ensure broad-based economic empowerment. His party’s idea of score-cards will distrupt the patronage practises rife in BEE efforts.

Mmusi Maimane has a firm grip on what he thinks politicians owe the voter. Dr Katie Orkin from Merton College Oxford presented how for voters need politicians to, “build the conviction that their vote matters”. It is the old faithful “mi-trust of politicians”, not just the young, the rural folk, various individuals from various demographics had a dimished trust in the opposition. How could they trust the new kid on the block, since independence results have only ever come from the incumbent party – the ANC.

Dr Orin challenged him on his strategies for targetting rural voters. I believe he was right that the complexity of entrenched patronage newtorks in rural areas makes it difficult to manoevre in the sparsely populated rural towns. He did stick up for the rural youth, saying they are just as politically engaged as any youth from town. (*dancing lady emoji for the gains of the spread of mobile tech to all places in Africa). So for now he will work with the space has been given in the rural space – schools and social media. He prides himself in using his own Twitter handle for more authentic engagement with the electorate.

He had so many wisdom nuggets for enthusiasts and critics alike.. here are some of my favourite (loosely paraphrased) quotes:

~ As a leader, Subject yourself to institutional democracy

~ Democracy should be a transformative process and not a transactive one

~ Property rights require policy posture

I still have questions on crime in South Africa and question how well the DA’s manifesto proposes to address this problem and I wonder about Xenophobia’s rating on the attention scale.

He speaks today at Chatham House: “South Africa’s Opposition: Fostering Debate, Accountability and Good Governance”, my questions will hopefully be addressed and I look forward to joining the debate.

Modern Day Slavery and Modern Day Egypt

The two top stories in the news agenda have encouraged me to write about my experience and research into those two aspects, these comments are entirely my own. I was in Cairo during the protests against Mubarak and subsequently wrote my final year dissertation on child domestic workers in Egypt.



Egyptian Arab Spring and Modern Day Slavery

In 2011, both modern day situations were foreign to me but I found myself immersed in their dialogue and urged to participate in varying ways. I barely knew Mubarak but after 3 weeks of being in the country my passion for his removal grew. I witnessed abject poverty and wondered how a growing economy could have such destitution. So much so, families would send their little girls (usually) to work as child domestic workers. I did my semester abroad at the American University of Cairo where the wealthiest send their children for tertiary education. I carried out a survey and a sizeable number of participants either had, knew someone who had a child domestic worker. Their little hands indentured in labour difficult for a person much older at the expense of their education. I visited a centre for street children and they all could not understand English but could understand the value an of an education. Their rights trampled on for the sake of survival, many children (more than anyone can count) are clandestine victims of a poor social system.

I had a dissertation to write because of Mubarak’s actions, or lack thereof. I heard many heart-wrenching stories about little girls facing exploitation and sexual abuse because it was ingrained in Egypt’s formal institution that it was lawful to allow children to work. It was the government’s fault why children found themselves in this situation so the government had to go. People were frustrated so they took to the streets, some lost their lives fighting what they believed in. Massacred for starting a movement in favour of the removal of injustice. Those were lost in vain, Egyptian Judicial system has shown that injustice remains. So for those who still have strength to unite in Tahrir Square will fight once more, in a country where dying for justice holds no weight and perpertrators can be released with blood on their hands and not be held accountable.

The UK and Modern Day Slavery

I used “I am Slave” for my dissertation because it portrayed what modern day slavery in societies such as Britain would look like. It was reported today by the home office that it is more common than expected. I have heard stories of Zimbabweans who have had their passports seized and forced to work in terrible constraining conditions. This problem is not unique to the African context but is widespread. This revelation has been met with backlash at David Cameron’s plans to being stringent to European immigrants. Anti-slavery charities have warned that such measures will result in an increase of slavery.

Like the Egyptian context, will there be a revolt of the Government and its stringent measures causing the common man to struggle to such lengths? Food banks are on the increase, child services have failed to protect their beneficiaries and poverty has become rife in modern day Britain. Charities that predominantly focussed on Third world development have reverted back to grass roots programmes to improve the quality of life of British children. The system has failed to protect the most vulnerable.

Many have called for #CameronMustGo which is slogan that was trending on Twitter. 575 683 tweets in the last 30 days stated many reasons and expressed various frustrations, frankly people have had enough of the current government’s aloof attitude to those who are finding it difficult to make ends meet on a day to day.

So should people just sit back while children with mental health issues fail to receive appropriate assistance? Is it acceptable to watch more & more programmes about child carers and children who live in poverty? I say a protests in Trafalgar Square are in order. For the nation’s children, for the Nation’s poor, for the failing system, for justice.