Electoral arithmetic

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The resignation of the leader of the opposition this week, followed by the announcement of the get-together of the parliamentarians from both sides symbolically sends the nottoo-subtle signal that the race to power has started. Various dates for a snap election are being whispered in the halls of power.

The race to power means just that. Running to get power. Politicians are assiduously present in their constituencies, modulating their sails to the wind of the electorate’s whims and desires. Some ministers are desperately trying to display their ‘achievements’. A few ‘social workers’ are looking for all possible means to increase their visibility in order to maximise the possibility of securing an investiture from one of the big parties – a sure way to power. Some non-government organisations (NGOs) are also putting their full weight behind their members, usually – in this non-calculating altruistic society of ours – their sons or daughters. And others are positioning themselves to be nominated to the chairmanship of some important boards where they can secure an indecently high salary, scrumptious fringe benefits and the possibility of realising their dream of discovering the world.

All sorts of speeches will assault us from all sides, insulting our intelligence, in a desperate attempt to convince us that all those who are chasing power are doing it as a sacrifice for the country. Oh how magnanimous! What we will not hear are any clear policies to address our most urgent problems.

First, the waste by parastatal bodies. No electoral programme would look serious without a consistent and coherent proposal to restructure these. A good start would be putting an end to the practice of considering these bodies as the property of the leaders of the day to be used to handsomely reward those who are close to power. Putting an end to this one single practice would contribute vastly to the elimination of the culture of roderboutism and nepotism.

Second is to have a clear programme to tackle the major scourges of our society: poverty and corruption. It is obvious by now that many of the NGOs which have been mushrooming at a breathtaking pace since the introduction of the legalised Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) have solved only the problem of improving the lives of those heading them and their progeny. The CSR has to be rethought and rechannelled to those who need it rather than being used by intermediaries on their travel and other benefits.

Having a more egalitarian society is paramount in any serious fight for nation building and to preserve social peace and security. This of course starts with a more egalitarian educational system but has to include more checks and balances in all sectors of employment, not only in government and parastatal bodies but also in private companies and – more so perhaps – in NGOs themselves which are absorbing large amounts of public money and money fl owing in from foreign aid agencies – and which have been turned into glorious family enterprises where there is no accountability at any level.

But of course, you will hear none of this. What you will hear is a regurgitation of the same old rhetoric such as eradicating poverty – the world does not know yet that we have recently discovered both poverty and the secret of eradicating it – and caring for our people. But in the scale of our general elections, realism is lighter than slick PR and freebies to chamchas.

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