A Donkey’s View of Politics

Like most donkeys around the world, DonQui does not have a vote and he does not expect emancipation anytime soon. However he takes a great interest in politics and is never short of an opinion or two.

Donqui read 1

DonQui has, of late, been thinking about two recent election results: one in Tanzania and the other in Canada.

First to Tanzania.

john-magufuliIt is of some surprise to DonQui that the Tanzanians seem to want the same stallion ruling over their herd for more than half a century. Yet despite the fact that the recent election was the closest ever, this is what they have decided on.

How to understand it?

If in doubt ask a taxi driver and this is what DonQui did on election night — 25 October. Said taxi driver had voted for the incumbent CCM party. His reason was simple — expressed with the honesty and clarity for which taxi drivers are famous for the world over:

Most of Africa is torn by civil strife and conflict. Tanzania has so far escaped this African curse. Surrounded by conflict, DonQui’s taxi driver voted for stability.

Simple, clear and understandable even to a foreigner.

DonQui sincerely hopes that his Tanzanian friends continue to enjoy the benefits of stability and that they find greater prosperity in the future and see a reduction in government corruption. He is more than a little concerned, however, that the Zanzibar result was annulled due to ‘irregularities’ or possibly because the opposition came out on top… sigh.

Canada is a very different beast. For many years a harsh, controlling, right wing government ruled over a country which usually prides itself on its open and moderate views. Canada’s traditional place is a bridge between America and Europe. Most Canadians hold liberal values in a continent dominated by an inherently conservative big bother to the south.

justintrudeauOn 19 October, Canadians elected Justin Trudeau, son of the internationally famous Pierre. Sweeping to victory he has promised a new government more in tune with typical Canadian values.

Last night DonQui spent many pleasant hours, and consumed more beer than was good for him, discussing politics with a friend — in particular the Tony Blair legacy in the UK.

His view (not entirely shared by his friend) is that if one can leave the disastrous invasion of Iraq to one side, Blair gave the UK the kind of social democratic government the country had been yearning for after two decades of Thatcherism and the seemingly harsh, uncaring politics of the greedy ‘80s. Now Canadians have elected a new government on similar hopes.
Tony-Blair-Arriving-At-10-001DonQui well remembers the euphoria of 1997 in Britain. He saw first hand how ministers in the early Blair government honestly did their best to try to make Britain a better, more egalitarian post-imperial country. He then saw how realpolitik replaced idealism in the Blairite-Brownite civil war and how the lessons of Bosnia and Kosovo were wrongly applied in Iraq.

Trudeaumania
Showing his age, Don Qui also remembers the excitement of the first wave of Trudeaumania in 1968 and, of course the more recent euphoria which greeted Obama’s election in the US.

The reality of politics inevitably results in disappointment replacing euphoria. For the moment, DonQui is happy to see the feeling of optimism engendered by the new Canadian government and he hopes it will last for just a little while longer.

Zanzibar

What is there not to like about Zanzibar? DonQui thinks to himself.travellers (1)

He is at one of his favourite spots —  the Travellers’ Café in Stone Town, tucked down a small alley and overlooking the Indian Ocean. When he looks up from writing this post, he sees a dow sailing by in the mid distance.

It is true that there are problems here — political, religious and economic. Two years ago there was the horrific acid attack on a British tourist. Fortunately this seems to have been a one-off which filled the Zanzibarans with the same feelings of revulsion as it did for Brits.

The union of Zanzibar with Tanganyika, which created modern Tanzania, was never to be a marriage of eternal bliss and happiness. The problems and differences have exploded into violence during past elections and with polling day tomorrow (Sunday 25 October) the number of tourists are lower than usual.

election

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party has won all of the previous elections but this time the expected outcome is too close to call. DonQui’s Tanzanian friends assured him that previous violence in Zanzibar is unlikely this year.

streets

As DonQui wanders around the back streets of Stone Town he does not feel any great tension. He has a good nose for such things and can usually sense trouble before it blows up . The parties have their flags flying but DonQui cannot smell any aggression.

Sultan's Palace Stone Town (1)

Stone Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a fascinating place to spend a couple of days. It’s wonderful mix of Arab and colonial architecture, the narrow winding streets, and the ever present influence of the Indian Ocean appeals to DonQui’s sense of history while also giving him the chance to relax in a beautiful setting. Zanzibar cuisine mixes Arab and Indian influences, drawing from the sea and the spices which are cultivated on the Island. He has had more than one or two excellent meals here.

boat

Many boat excursions are on offer to some of the outlying places such as Prison Island and Nakupenda Beach. Last year DonQui took a small boat to Prison Island (or Changuu). The island got its name from the fact that it was used in the 1860s to incarcerate rebellious slaves. During the British regime it was used as a quarantine station for yellow fever cases. Now it is home to a giant turtle sanctuary.prison island

It also has a coral reef just off shore where there are excellent snorkelling opportunities.

nurses

It did DonQui’s ego no harm to be the stallion in a herd of Australian nurses, even if their interest in photography outweighed their interest in his wit and charm!

Nungui

There is far more to Zanzibar that Stone Town. A few years ago DonQui and Duchess spent a few blissful days at Nungwi on the northern tip of the island. They stayed at the Z hotel which was about as close to heaven as DonQui can imagine.

Z hotel

This wonderful small boutique hotel occupies a prime spot on the beach, has amazingly comfortable rooms and superb food. DonQui even took the opportunity for a rather excellent massage at their spa.

Fire Dancer

DonQui is not usually a great fan of in-house entertainment as he usually finds  such things rather kitch. However one night’s show at the Z Hotel was more than a little bit spectacular.

spice tour

Another popular thing to do on Zanzibar is to go on a spice tour to see how the many spices which grow here are cultivated and prepared. DonQui passed up the opportunity because he wanted to simply relax. However, Duchess, who was with him at the time, went on the tour and reported back in glowing terms.