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The Politics of Fear: What Donald Trump has in common with some African Leaders

Forget how condescending it might sound, but truth is, Africa has had its fair share of rather curious political leaders than the rest of the world.  Consider Jacob Zuma, who thinks he can laugh and giggle his way from being held to account, to chaps like Burundi`s Pierre Nkurunziza who think they can alter the constitution to their advantage and extend presidential term limits on a whim. Then there are the types of Laurent Gbagbo, who will flat out refuse to lose an election even when the results are glaringly clear. Africa has had these queer leaders in all shapes and sizes as it were.

And if latest events are anything to go by, America will likely have a taste of what it feels like to have leaders in the same mold of what Africans have more often than not been exposed to.

Enter Donald Trump!

Coming out of the recent Republic National Convention where like always he managed in spectacular fashion to contradict himself, lie, boast about his capabilities as a leader and as if that were not enough, was engulfed in controversy – although to be fair, this was on account of his wife delivering a speech strikingly similar to one delivered by Michelle Obama previously - he is now leading his opponent Hillary Clinton in the latest polls. Several polls place Trump at least five points ahead of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, in the race for the White House. Anyone who has even the remotest of interest in politics knows that polls are often within the margin of error, and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Last month`s Brexit vote is a classic case, as polls showed the Remain camp having the majority of vote to those of the Leave camp, but we all know what happened there. The point is, Donald Trump now has a more than realistic chance of becoming president of the “land of the free and home of the brave,” God help us all!

To understand how America got to this position, there is nowhere better to turn to, than the words of the British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who said, “In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.” This is exactly what has happened to America. A land bogged down by fears of religious extremism from Muslim migrants, fears of jobs being lost to Mexicans from across the border, and even fears of a rising competitor  in the form of China, challenging it to the title of the world`s foremost economic superpower. These fears might very well be genuinely placed, but the meteoric rise of Donald Trump from virtual political outsider, to potentially being months away from occupying the White House shows  that fear has absolutely no place in politics.

 By stoking the fears of Americans through uttering reckless and unfounded comments with zero or little attachment to substance on every subject from the economy, religion to terrorism, Donald Trump has managed to ensure that America is at the brink of heaving a would-be despot at its helm. Richard Nixon with all his Watergate marred reputation has nothing on this guy. To Donald, judging women based on their looks, name-calling and hurling insults to opponents, inciting public violence and utterly disregarding facts, lying on national television are all part of a day`s work, and he could not even be bothered in the slightest bit of the consequences of such actions. That a person fitting this description even has the slightest chance of being head of state, is baffling.  Folly at its inglorious best!

This is perhaps why South Africans for instance, keep voting for corrupt officials of the liberation party ANC because they fear that voting for another party, the DA for instance, would signal a return of white supremacy rule. In fact, this might be true not just in South Africa`s case but in most African countries which still retain the liberation war movements in power when they have clearly failed to govern in some instances. The unfortunate bit in all this is that incompetency is fostered and society is the biggest loser ultimately. Politicians the world over seem to have mastered this concept, so much so their default response to political opposition is engraining fear in the minds of people.  No wonder there is a lot of folly not only in Africa`s political arena, but the world over. It is because politicians have mastered the art of manipulating people`s fears to their own advantage. Richard Nixon once said, “People react to fear, not love.” While history has proved this to be true, it need not be the case, because as history has also shown, indeed, when it comes to politics, what is motivated by fear almost always turns to folly, and whole nations suffer in the long run. Instead of choosing fear, go for reason and logic instead! They are well yet far better alternatives!


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