Power to the people

I had a quick chat to our office cleaning lady today while the coffee was brewing. On the big screen was Obama's face, as it has been for the past day or so on every channel. And we got talking about presidents.

Miriam is scared - the elections in South Africa are coming up next year and the majority favourite seems to be Jacob Zuma. Zuma is a Zulu - he has a strong tribal support base among the Zulu people. A support base which is vocal and threatening and intimidating to many other tribes.

Such as Miriam's. She's Xhosa. There's no love lost between Xhosa and Zulu from time immemorial. They've fought each other and killed each other - and although South Africa preaches democracy / equality for all, it's against a rivalry bred through hundreds of years into the very fibre of our people.

So Miriam is scared. If Zuma becomes the president she can see only trouble ahead. She says that Zulu people do not like it if women choose to not have a boyfriend, not marry, not have children. That they'd rather kill you - and they will for not conforming. She has chosen to be single, not marry, not have children - she lives happily alone.

She fears for her life.

If you don't live with this attitude every single day, if you aren't deeply ingrained in the cultures at war, this may seem completely ridiculous. It doesn't make sense, it's too way-out to be believed. And yet it's true - it's a small-scale genocide that carries on unnoticed across tribes across the world. Eliminate those not in your group and you have greater power, more resources, more land.

Favourite Man has commented on this way of life when it comes to trying to make democracy work in a European way for Africa - it's simply not an easy option, sometimes not an option at all. Africa is used to fighting the top guy for the job, killing him and his family, and then sitting down in his kraal with the loot. It's not used to free and fair voting, a lack of intimidation, a chance for the majority to say what they want to say, and stepping down peacefully when they say you're done.

Take Zimbabwe as a case in point. A couple of elections have come and gone - nothing's changed. Those in power ensure they stay there by rooting out, killing and getting rid of any opposition. It's the old tribal conflicts in suits. And perhaps that may never change. Africa is ancient, its traditions and ways buried in its DNA. You cannot change DNA.

But it leaves the power struggle a dangerous place to be. For Miriam and millions like her. We're in a place of political upheaval. Change. I hope we survive it - all of us.

African Bank Gold Card