Free Coffee With Your Vote - Now There's An Idea!

I did not know this until a few days ago, but Starbucks, the phenomenally succesful coffee shop chain in the United States was giving away free coffee on November 4 to anyone who voted in the presidential election that saw Barak Obama walk into the Oval Office! Now, Starbucks people made no secret of their support for Obama and they reckoned that the more people voted, the better the chance of America getting its first black president. This is a fully understandable gimmick to use for such a popular chain of shops. Although they were not saying only those who voted for Obama would get the free coffee, their public support for the candidate had a big weighting. Clearly, anyone who runs such a massive enterprise would be an opinion leader and shaper. That would mean a bit of influence. Think a caffeine-merchant Oprah and you have the right idea.

But it is only because Starbucks is run by idealists that this was able to happen. Idealists are routinely dismissed by pessimists as impractical fellows and this is correct if they have no influence. But where they do have influence, it's another story completely.
Democracies and first-rate countries are built by idealists. George Washington was one. As was Thomas Jefferson. Being an idealist basically means rejecting mediocrity. This is where Zimbabwe and Africa are falling short. We are always being exhorted to accept tenth-best leaders and solutions because "This is Africa." As if we are less human somehow for being African. This trend took root during the Cold War, when dictators in Africa were mollycoddled by the superpowers who were not the least bit concerned for the people the said dictators were dictating to (even killing and torturing).

Personally, I would like to see in Zimbabwe a law like they have in Australia, where, failing to vote is a criminal offence and you can go to jail for it. To this day, Zimbabweans still seem to see the electoral process as something abstract, without any real impact on their lives. Mugabe has temporarily fixed this disease, demonstrating to people that failing to vote, allowing a small group of fanatical zealots to hi-jack election after election, can have devastating consequences for a country. But this fix will not last. People will be back to their old ways, telling us as they have always done in Zimbabwe that "politics is a dirty game, politics does not affect my life" and so on. I used to hear this a lot in the 90s, and all those who used to say so are now very very quiet or busy crying into their cholera-infested glasses of water (because beer is unaffordable these days). But the Zimbabwean memory is short.
Perhaps the one good thing we will get out of Mugabe's devastation of Zimbabwe is the political awakening of a vast majority of our people, who will appreciate the sense in voting, changing governments often and eschewing personality cults.


  1. Denford, I don't think that African Governments would ever go for this.

    To be fair there are practical considerations. If every citizen has a legal duty to vote, then the government has a legal duty to provide the means to vote within walking distance of every citizen.

    But also, no African Government likes to contemplate being pushed out of office. To force people that do not want to vote to go to the polls is surely asking for trouble. If you are apathetic, you are probably dissatisfied with the way the government is performing therefore you are more likely to vote for the opposition.

    Look at Zambia, where Frederick Chiluba dethroned KK promising openness in Government. How long did that last? Look at Kenya where Kibaki beat Kenyatta in 2002 on a platform of stamping out corruption.

    No African who gets voted in likes to make it easy for anyone else to displace him. Even Mbeki was looking at ways to change the South African constitution to allow a third term before he lost at Polokwane, something Jacob Zuma is certainly very keen to change as well.

    The MDC, however, is predicated on Democratic Change and it's mandate should be to pave the way for safeguards to be erected to ensure that Zimbabwe never again becomes a Dictatorship.

    You know, this is the stupid thing about Mugabe.

    When, in 2000 he lost the referendum and he said "I will abide by the will of the people", he should have done just that. Instead he went on to take terrible revenge on the people for their presumption.

    When, the elections followed, he should have let them take their course. Yes, he would probably have lost, but I'm damn sure that the MDC would have found things very difficult to run and that, when the next election came around Mugabe would have won without any need for vote rigging by a landslide.

    Then his legacy would have remained intact. The good things that Mugabe did in terms of the Education system, the hospitals, these would have been preserved and in ten years time we would be remembering Mugabe for the good things he did, not remembering the evil, vile, hate-filled and revenge-obsessed little twisted madman that we see now today.

  2. Quite right, Dave, Mugabe could indeed have walked away with his reputation intact after that referendum, but you forget that this country is his personal property, which he fought for.
    As for the MDC, yes they ought to facilitate a transition into a modern democratic society for Zimbabwe. Ought to, but will they? I think not. I see frightening intolerance of opposing views there (just wait until you read responses to this comment). Everyone must agree with them and say they can do no wrong, then you are are friend. The phrase constructive criticism does not appear in their lexicon at all because they themselves do not believe in such a thing when it comes to their political enemies.
    So, yes, I fear I must agree with you, no African government would ever allow such a flowering of true democracy, even if that goes against their wishes. But we all live in hope, don't we? When we stop doing that, David Koresh is not far off.
    Let's keep this up, quite enjoy it!

  3. Den,

    I remember years ago after I had first joined the MDC a friend of mine held a meeting at his house in Aberdeen in Scotland. There must've been about 8 or 9 of us, but I was the only white. We spoke at length and my friend provided good wine and a few Castles, so the time went by very pleasantly. We agreed to start doing fund raising and I registered and set up a website ( - don't bother going there... it has been down for some years).

    After the meeting my friend said: "Those guys are all out for what they can get out of it".

    And it was true. They were all talking about how they could get themselves into positions of power. Then when we did the fundraising, we raised no money because everybody there was looking for freebies.

    So yes, I understand what you are saying, Some of their statements and some of their actions (barring non-acredited journalists from press conferences) smack of ZANU-PF tactics.

    HOWEVER, they are political party with a particular mandate, which is to force change on the democratic system in Zimbabwe. They are politicians with different political backgrounds and different political outlooks, but that is the one thing that binds them together. It is the one thing that Zimbabweans expect of them and it is the one thing that they cannot afford not to achieve.

  4. You know what my fear is Dave, that these guys, once in power, instead of learning from the Mugabe regime that you either govern properly, according to the rule of law (human rights, freedoms of speech, assembly, indepedent judiciary etc)or get thrown out in a humiliating fashion, they will instead think to themselves that Mugabe provided the lesson that there is no limit to what Zimbabweans will let you get away with, as long as you keep the army and the police on side. Zimbabweans are doing themselves no favours through this cowering behind SADC's skirts. It is setting a bad precedent. Here I think leadership by example is missing from Morgan. He should, like Mandela, show that democracy is an ideal a leader should be prepared to die for. Mugabe would not dare touch him, because then an armed invasion will be swifly in the offing. Right now, by running away with his family to South Africa, he has left the internal opposition, the people, leaderless. You see, there is no depth in the leadership structure of the MDC. There is no one who can take his place in that party and bare his or chest to Mugabe's bullets if he so dares. That is our greatest tragedy. Leadership failure, as Mandela said, but this is not just within ZANU PF. I am glad you also, a supporter of MDC, noticed this. We would all dearly love for Morgan to lead and take power, but right now, he appears to want to take power but not do much internal leading.
    Sad, isn't it?

  5. Den,

    Content yourself with this one: if Tsvangirai were to try to become Robert Mugabe, who would stick with him?

    MDC has no firm policy direction apart from Democratic Change.

  6. Den, Do you have any idea if Tsvangirai is still in Botswana?

    As I understand it his ETD has expired and, if he goes back to Zim, they won't let him leave again.

    It must really irritate Bob to see him swanning about Europe, with out a valid passport, even. :+]

  7. Not sure there, Dave. Mugabe's ventriloquist doll was saying on Saturday that Morgan is NOT is Botswana but in South Africa. I am inclined to believe his word, only because those guys use intelligence. What I do know is that he when he left with his family, he wentto Botswana. I guess Khama asked him to leave for a bit, in light of the allegations against Botswana, that they are trainign MDC militias. Mugabe had intelligence and police in Bots "investigating" this, so maybe Morgan was asked to excuse himself so as not to strengthen Mugabe's "argument."
    Still, the fact of the matter is thatMorgan is still out of the country, in Botswana or South Africa. If SA tried to keep him in, he could always slip through back into Botswana (should things really hot up). He did so last week, after SA banned him from travelling to Morocco. SA borders are very porous and he should have no problems slipping back into Bots.
    And yes, Bob must be fuming, seeing Morgan go places he himself can only dream of now. But according to the Agreement, he is Prime Minister and can be invited in that role to international summit. That's another one in the eye for Bob.
    Yet this is all point-scoring, at some point, we will have to deal with substance.....


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