Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is sporting success directly related to democratic freedoms?

We saw the success of the Ghana Under 20 very recently. In the same year, Ghana successfully changed governments through elections held last year. President Obama also chose to visit only Ghana much to the chagrin of many an African country. The Ghana senior soccer team was the first team to qualify on the continent for the 2010 soccer world cup showcase.

Take Zimbabwe. After brilliant promises in the 80s and 90s, the country has gradually been sliding the rankings scale over the last ten years. This is also the same time that inflation soared to astronomical levels. The economy tumbled into a see-saw. Take South South Africa. Immeadiately after independence and the new democratic dispensation in 1993, SA went on to win the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. They also won the Rugby Worl Cup and were very close in cricket. After the Zuma Mbeki debacle, the South African senior team management has taken it as a full time job to hire and fire coaches. Reason? Sliding perfomace and strings of poor results.

Is sporting success directly related to democracy and and good economic management? I say to a very large extent, Yes. How about Nigeria then? For some time, the only good thing that came out of Nigeria was the senior soccer team. And Cameroun? Paul Biya seems to escape international glare. No one notices that he is creeping silently and brutally to three decades in power. Yet the senior Camerounian team has been doing well under the circumstances.

In Africa, however, sporting success is directly influenced by the government of the day. It is the government of the day that puts in place administrators either on merit or on other grounds. It is the government of the day that determines whether to abuse sporting funds or not. It is the government of the day that decides to tear gas fans in a stadium when they parrot opposition slogans or not. Yes, democratic space has a lot of influence on the sporting success of a nation.

This is for you, Comrade Knox.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bits and Pieces

It has been two weeks here since Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew his party from attending cabinet meetings. He also withdrew from chairing the Council of Ministers as stipulated by the Global Political Agreement that gave birth to the unity government formed on February 9 this year. Life is now much better in Zimbabwe, at least we have climbed out of the catastrophes’ of last year. We now drive straight to a petrol station and fuel is back to normal supplies. Smoke is now billowing from our industrial sites spanning from Masasa in the East, to Graniteside and Willovale in the west of the Capital. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of air activity at our Harare International Airport. Kenya Airways now flies in and out of Harare three times a day, South African Airways four times a day, Ethiopian Airways three times a week, British Airways through Comair once everyday. There is of course our own Air Zim which continuously jets in and out of the airport to various domestic routes, South Africa, Zambia, Nairobi, Dubai, China, Singapore and London amongst other routes. Life was getting back to normal.

In the streets, Zimbabweans are very optimistic. Infact there is a very large class of people who believe that this setback to the coalition government is all but very temporary. Having been trained in negotiation skills, I should say President Mugabe is driving a very hard bargain. We must also give it to him, the man is a shrewd negotiator and you may not want to be at the other end of his table. It is now very clear that the MDC has been outmaneuvered at every turn. Yet, it is the party that holds the key to economic revival. Zimbabwe’s economy in my view remains one of the strongest in Africa. Lets face it, this nation has seen it all, yet never at any point would you drive into Harare and visibly see the distress. We are indeed a very resilient people.

And so as I write, I’m pinning my hopes on a settlement. Both the MDC and Zanu PF will be traveling to Mozambique for a summit that is gunning to settle these differences. Hope is one of the things that has guided many Zimbabweans to weather our economic, social and political storms. We still believe that we have our heads above water. We also have a lot of pride, a never say die spirit and an abundance of patience. Sometimes when I listen to my people speak, I get convinced that I was born in the right country, with the right genes. I will put my shoulders on the wheel, and God willing, we will take our place as Africa’s Paradise in the not too distant future.