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Political scandals topple governments in democracies, not in banana republics

by Dr T
24 Mar 2023 at 10:18hrs | Views
The Gold Mafia documentary has sparked an immense public uproar in Zimbabwe, exposing shocking evidence of illegal activities involving Uebert Angel, an ambassador-at-large and presidential envoy. Furthermore, the documentary does not spare the highest echelons of power, indicating a severe level of corruption that would undoubtedly shake a government. Nevertheless, in Zimbabwe, it seems that it will be business as usual, as the ruling elites have established their control over the media, judiciary, and security forces, making it challenging to hold them accountable for their actions.

When discussing the impact of political scandals on various forms of governance, it is worth noting that Zimbabwe bears a striking resemblance to a banana republic. Although not a direct comparison, the recent revelations in the Gold Mafia documentary suggest a level of corruption that would typically destabilize a government. However, the ruling elites' firm grip on power and control over the state apparatus means that there may be no meaningful repercussions.

Political scandals have always been part of the political landscape, dating back to ancient Rome and continuing to the present day. However, the impact of these scandals can vary depending on the type of government and the country's political culture. In democratic societies, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law are highly valued. Therefore, when leaders or politicians engage in unethical or illegal behavior, the public demands justice and accountability. Failure to address the scandal properly may erode public trust in the government and democratic institutions.

The Watergate scandal in the United States serves as a prime example of how political scandals can lead to the downfall of a government. In 1972, operatives working for President Nixon's re-election campaign were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex. The ensuing investigation uncovered a vast network of illegal activities by the Nixon administration, including wiretapping and sabotage of political opponents.

The Watergate scandal resulted in President Nixon's resignation and the indictment and conviction of several members of his administration. Moreover, the scandal spurred significant reforms to campaign finance laws and bolstered the checks and balances on the executive branch of government.

In contrast, political scandals in banana republics are a way of life, and little is done to hold the ruling elites accountable for their actions. The elites in power control the media, judiciary, and security forces, making it challenging to bring them to justice. A scandal like the Gold Mafia may only trend on social media for a few days before dissipating. Furthermore, political scandals in banana republics are frequently used as a tool to consolidate power and silence opposition within the ruling party. In Zimbabwe's case, the Gold Mafia could be exploited to purge rivals within the faction-ridden ruling party under the guise of addressing the scandal.

The Petrobras scandal in Brazil is a prime example of how political scandals in banana republics have little impact on the government or the ruling elites. The scandal involved the state-owned oil company, which was utilized as a conduit for corruption by politicians and business leaders. Although several high-profile figures, including former President Lula da Silva, were arrested and convicted, the government and ruling elites remained in power. Very little was done to address the underlying issues of corruption and lack of accountability, and the scandal was even used to justify a crackdown on political opposition and civil society.

In conclusion, political scandals have varying impacts on different types of governments and political cultures. In democracies, political scandals can result in the downfall of governments and significant changes in the political landscape. Conversely, political scandals in banana republics are often the norm, and little is done to address the underlying issues of corruption and lack of accountability. While the Gold Mafia will likely leave a dent on the "new dispensation," it will take much more to topple the government. Regrettably, it has long been common knowledge that corruption is widespread in banana republics. These are just views from the other side of the river.

Author: Dr T is an academic and political analyst based in South Africa

Source - Dr T
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