Publius Pundit

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The state of the system

Filed under: Africa

Former vice-president of Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, writes a very interesting article in the Zimbabwe Independent about what he sees as what needs to be done in order to ensure the freedom of its people. It was very interesting, and at least I got the point, but I couldn't help but be sidetracked from one paragraph of the column that makes an assertion about political systems that I feel compelled to further explore. Here's what he wrote:
A one-party state, sincerely operated, may indeed be a way of encouraging an open and constructive debate. A multi-party state, badly operated, may be just another way of keeping an elite in power. The point is it is not the formal system that really matters, but the spirit in which a single or multi-party state is managed or operated. What matters is that the leadership should tolerate and encourage diverse opinions to be heard -- opinions of different social groups, differ-ent economic interests, different regions. Since geographical regions within Afri-can nations tend to be inhabited by people of different languages and cultural backgrounds, partly as a result of colonial boundaries, regional dynamics to national politics are vitally important: recognising and accommodating regional differences is the best way to prevent them turning into counter-productive tribal rivalries. Diversity must be appreciated, celebrated and tapped for collective national good.
Being largely a proponent of structural factors, I wonder: Is this even possible in most cases? Won't most leaders, in single party states, simply opt for absolute power regardless of their previous noble ambitions? Are diverse opinions and rights something that can be guaranteed by a leader, or something that has to be built into the system in a way that they cannot be breached on a whim? Mugabe himself is a prime example of this. Therefore, I think that power cannot be trusted, and must be restrained by the system itself.

Let me know what you think, as I would like to discuss these ideas and turn them into a larger article to post soon.

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