Johannesburg - The American elections have come and gone. Thank God. I couldn’t be excited for Barack Obama. Not this time.
Other worthy Africans, especially the poor of Kenya who harbour expectations owing to his familial roots, went out into the streets to celebrate.
Others in the diaspora looked at Obama’s shades of black, if you will, to find justification for their celebrations. To them, “one of us” is in charge of the most powerful economy (for now) in the world.
While they were, like the Kenyans, disappointed with Obama’s first term, they believe that the second term will be better. Well, better not for Americans, but for us as Africans. It must be that nebulous thing called hope. For it was Obama who gave the world hope with his yes we can mantra.
It is the same thing, this hope, which paralysed Cosatu at its last conference. They decided, almost reluctantly, to support President Jacob Zuma after criticising him for almost all of his three years in office. Yes, it has been only three years. The many scandals make it seem like eternity.
So the bright sparks in Cosatu told us they did not think our great leader from Nkandla did well but, wait for it, they had hope that his second term would be much better. What informs the hope?
They looked around the world and found justification in former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who, history records, had one not-so-pro-worker term in office and did better in his second.
So they, like many Africans looking forward to Obama’s second term, have hope they will be second time lucky! Well, who can argue against hope?
Hope and celebrate all you want, but Obama remains, through and through, an American president with a responsibility to serve American interests. It was these interests he was serving when he, under the cover of Nato, turned Libya into the killing field that it became.
When the AU says it was shunted aside and bullied after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1973, it is referring to Obama, among other culprits.
When African scholars say Nato and the Security Council have blood on their hands for what they did in Libya, they are also referring to Obama’s bloodied hands. So I will not be wasting my energy celebrating this American election.
Take Iran, as another example. It is apparent that Obama wants to go to war with Iran but refuses to be seen to be at the forefront, or allow his bloodthirstiness to show. As he did with Libya, he is comfortable hiding behind other nations.
With George W Bush, you knew what you got. He is not going to kiss you before killing you. You are either with him, or you must make a plan to fight him off.
Perhaps Obama will visit our shores during his second term, as The Star reported on Thursday. If he does, well, good. If he doesn’t, well, he doesn’t owe us an explanation. His blackness doesn’t make him beholden to us.
Some might say Obama’s re-election upends the idea that black excellence is a myth and so his success ought to be celebrated. Perhaps. But if we want to celebrate black excellence in America, we must promptly follow that up with a search for excellence here at home.
We have our Mangaung conference next month. Zuma essentially has it in the bag. How excellent, right?
These 4 500 best and brightest of the ANC carry our hopes on their shoulders.
They have ensured themselves a historic responsibility to choose for us someone who, with respect to opposition parties, will eventually become president in 2014. They surely can’t want to celebrate Obama’s excellence and then burden us with Zuma until 2019, right?
Zuma has already done a lot.
He has given us much to talk about. Think of African justice that knows no prisons and the “white man’s way”. Think of the R240 million used at Nkandla to build a palace – not a compound, my foot – while schoolkids in Limpopo receive textbooks after writing their exams.
Think of his attack on single women who allegedly think it is “nice” not to be married. Think of his attack on women who, for biological reasons, can’t have children and those who choose not to have children for needing extra training gained by raising children. We’ve had clever blacks? What else is coming until 2019? How much more can we take? Or, perhaps, this is our kind of excellence. It doesn’t get better than Zuma, does it?
So, when I say I choose not to celebrate Obama’s victory, it is because I am numbed by the dearth of excellence here at home.
Call me a clever black African, or whatever. In any case, we should be happy to be clever blacks. If not, what do we become? Black buffoons?
They have a president who articulates his vision for the country with panache, whose speeches are received with characteristic alacrity. We have a president whose state of the nation addresses lack lustre, that spit and polish.
I will concede that a small part of the reason I am not in the mood to celebrate with Obama is because I am jealous.
I am jealous that Americans have a system that allows them to elect a president; a system we need desperately here. A system we should fight for.
I am jealous because Americans can engage in fierce debates – about their economy, same-sex marriages, their racial divide and weird views by Republicans on rape and abortion – in the manner they just did. If we should invest time hoping for something, this is it. You’ve got to be jealous. Many people are.
Even ordinary Chinese people must be. Watching Xi Jinping ascend to the highest position in the biggest communist party in the world this week, they too must be looking at Americans and wondering why the ordinary Chinese people can’t, in their own country, be involved in a process as open as the one that catapulted Obama into the White House.
Perhaps they too, like Obama and the Kenyans, live in hope. They hope that their communist leaders will one day become yellow communists like Blade Nzimande and his cohorts, and become increasingly irrelevant.
The Washington Post reports that in China, ordinary, I presume jealous and hopeful types, watched the US election on internet sites, and generated 6.7 million comments in 24 hours. Obama’s victory, the paper says, was the third hottest trending topic on China’s cheap version of Twitter called Sina Weibo. Hmm.
Don’t we yearn for the same things? Even if our president was a cheaper version of Obama, managing half of what Obama does, there would be cause for celebration. Just not now though. Not now.