Sir Nige is pining for a debate between (or amongst) our Presidential candidates:
I can’t be the only one who longs for an open discussion amongst the various presidential candidates. It would be interesting to finally hear what they all stand for on various national and foreign issues.
I think the idea is noble but far-fetched, and here are my reasons why.
What makes our current conflicts remarkable isn’t their severity, but our utter lack of public engagement in debating them.
Inter-party negotiations happen in secret, and are almost always followed by conflicting, partisan statements from the various spokesmen.
Any attempt at public consultation is hi-jacked by ZANU-PF thugs and disrupted, often violently, without intervention from security personnel on duty.
The reason is simple. So many Zimbabweans are so angry and frustrated these days – vulnerable to hunger and disease and violence, without a shred of economic security – they’re easy prey for demagogues offering simple answers and ready scapegoats.
Thus we only ever hear blinkered pronouncements from either end of the political spectrum, yet there is never any actual publicised, no-holds-barred debate.
But people can only learn from others who disagree with them — or at least from witnessing debates between people who respectfully and civilly disagree. Without respect and civility, it’s not a debate – it’s just back to the standard name-calling.
A democracy depends on public deliberation and debate. Without it, the members of a society have no means of understanding what they believe or why. American-style presidential debates are notable not because they solve anything but because they help citizens clarify where they agree and disagree on the major issues of the day.
Hence the danger in today’s Zimbabwe – when deliberation has stopped, and all meaningful conversations happen behind closed doors, the entire public discourse suffers.
And the public suffers.