By Father Oskar Wermter SJ
HOW to put in place a democratic form of government if there has been no precedent?
What is the starting point if there was no democracy to begin with?
There was a bogus democracy, a regime with all the accompaniments of a democracy. There was a Parliament (the parliamentary building of the time still exists, although a new Parliament is being built), we had a selection of candidates, we had elections (several times) and finally we had a popular vote (on a day when the ballots were cast). Every adult citizen had the right to vote. He had to prove that he was in fact a authentic citizen of Zimbabwe.
We had different political parties. It was (and still is) the custom to choose the real candidates for election from among the members of these different parties.
According to what criteria were they selected? What qualified them as candidates, and therefore as potential members of the future Parliament which would be the legislative arm of the new government?
It is not enough for a politically interested citizen to nominate himself as a candidate in the hope that he will be accepted by the majority of voters. With this hope, he presents himself as a potential candidate.
He must belong to a party, and that party must nominate him as a candidate. If there are different parties, there will be different candidates. These need to be confirmed by a court, then he can be accepted as a candidate by election for the national parliament, presidency, city council, etc.
This step of selecting candidates is critical. Voters should not manipulate the selection process at this stage.
Otherwise, just about anyone can get nominated in the next election at any level.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, who have the ambition to enter the political arena. Are they qualified? Are they well informed? What motivation do they have? Are they not just selfish and greedy?
What do we expect from a candidate for public office? What kind of person do we consider trustworthy?
A man (or a woman) who wants to get a seat in Parliament, what is the motivation? Is he just hoping to find an attractive financial reward or to access an income?
As citizens and members of the voting public, what is our idea of a great candidate?
Is a relative, friend or former colleague good enough? Maybe we know someone “well connected”, who I’m sure will do me a favor whenever I need someone who knows a lot of people, who is well equipped financially, who is knowledgeable about the industry, technical advancements or who is at home in the particular business where he would like to put down roots and make a living easily?
Would such a person help me and reward me for giving him useful information? Would I like a politician who is comfortable in the murky business world and earns money?
Would such a person benefit our country? Would it be beneficial for me, my family, or our city, town or development of our region or province?
Ideally, we should be looking for someone who is not only interested in their own progress and prosperity. Not even exclusively in its own party and its political and commercial relations.
Should we be looking for a person with a vision that would take us out of our little corner? Of course, we hope for someone with a bigger vision.
Do we have a candidate who has already shown us what he is capable of? Is our candidate a man or a woman who moves? Is he creative? Are our candidates moving us forward?
Maybe we should watch potential candidates. Are they involved in the life of the community? Do they have new ideas? What do we mean by democracy? Just strive for more of the pie for themselves and for their friends and colleagues?
Pursuing interests and riding recreational horses for their own pleasure? Or reach the highest office, become a deputy, minister, prime minister or president?
Just satisfy their own ambition? Is it democracy, always cutting off the biggest slice? We have to observe our policies: did we only share the sweetest fruit cake with them? Or do we think of all our fellow citizens?
Democracy can make some people very rich and selfish.
It’s a boring game now. We have more to do than that. We must participate and take part in all our national activities. This is real participation. That is to say, share responsibilities, take initiatives, introduce new inventions.
A leader, who truly participates in national life and does the right thing, will not be content to be shaken on a bad road and settle for potholes. These citizens who are very vigilant will be aware of these rutted roads which ruin their cars. She won’t take potholes for granted and consider her car beyond repair.
It is participating in the building of the nation, always developing new ideas. It is not enough to want to build schools and colleges. Participating in the life of the nation, engaging in its growth and seeing new ideas bear fresh fruit is something else.
Building new schools and introducing new ideas is giving leadership to a new generation. There are generations of parents and students who do not have such ambition. They are content with what they did yesterday and will do it for a long time to come, always the same and in the same rut. Participation demands more of parents, teachers and students. They participate in the construction of a new country on new bases.