By Themba Mzingwane
In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, Donald Trump continued to flirt with the idea that President Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, causing the President to actually provide his long-form birth certificate at a press conference. The “birther” controversy stroked dangerous xenophobic tendencies, and provided the first glimpse at the circus that Trump’s now real candidacy has become. But, as an African myself, this American presidential election has made me, and many others on the continent, including South African comedian Trevor Noah, wonder whether we should ask Trump for his birth certificate. After all, it seems that his leadership philosophies are straight out of Africa.
From the outside, it seems that Americans are playing with danger, completely unaware of what there are potentially getting themselves into. I think have unique knowledge to help better explain the phenomenon.
As a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, I am acutely aware of the menaces of authoritarian leaders. One would be forgiven for thinking that Americans are trying to bring the political madness that they have only read about occurring in Africa closer to home. But if they are mad enough to catapult Trump into the White House, their wishes might granted.
I recently came across an informative quote, “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government”. For a Zimbabwean forced to leave my country because of a government run by unfit and disgraceful politicians, I nodded in emphatic agreement. But I was left disappointed when I realize the quote’s originator: Donald Trump, a man I consider no less incompetent than the mob of greedy politicians that run African politics.
Examining the quote, Trump clearly views himself as a good person fit to lead the most powerful country on Earth. His behavior, however, tells a completely different story.
As the Trump juggernaut continues, I’m left wondering why Americans are letting a former reality TV host brainwash them into helping him make a serious political process turn into farcical show. A look at Donald Trump twitter feed shows a man obsessed with making derogatory remarks about everyone that he doesn’t like. He has routinely demeaned and insulted his opponents, as if the Republican race was just another reality TV show. As an African, this behavior is very familiar.
The truth is that Trump has exhibited dictatorial tendencies over and over again, just like our political leaders here. He would be a perfect African President. He’s rich through sometimes-fraudulent means. With an ego the size of Mars, he brags endlessly about how he’s better than everyone else. His level of self-regard is unmatched. And he’s gifted with the absurd belief that ‘everybody loves him,” a pathetic phrase that every African dictator utters in every campaign speech.
Having been born under the rule of Robert Mugabe, currently the oldest President, and responsible for decimating Zimbabwe’s once-promising economy under a dictatorial one-party rule, I know a terrible leader when I see one. Mugabe is as filthy rich and authoritarian as Trump himself. He believes he owns Zimbabwe, and treats it as his estate, just as Trump frequently hawks his own real-estate and products.
Trump has worryingly and consistently exhibited Mugabe’s same characteristics. From listening to Zimbabwean campaign speeches over the years, I know when a politician is selling a lie to get into a position of power. Trump has many Americans fooled- he is peddling a fantasy and Americans have bought into it. The way he speaks, behaves, and brags makes me think he won’t be better than our dictators who, on their way to office, promise heaven on earth. But once inside they reveal the true horror of their intentions. They only want to consolidate power, and ensure that they continue to profit individually.
Just like Uncle Bob, as we disparagingly call our leader, Trump lives in an insulated world. He doesn’t care about the impact his often divisive and offensive rhetoric can make on the society’s psyche. And if he makes it to the White House, Americans can expect a man who will spend most of his time alienating allies and creating enemies. Trump will undoubtedly weaken America’s standing and damage its image abroad. Do Americans really want a creepy, sexist leader who has made numerous remarks that strongly suggest that he views woman’s worth based only on their looks?
It’s baffling to see some Americans trust a man with questionable temperament to lead them, when calm heads are an extreme necessity in the office of the president. Like every dictator here, Trump can’t take criticism. He resorts to personal attacks, like calling Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, “crazy, sick, average and the most overrated person on TV.” This rhetoric is no different to the way African politicians silence their enemies with threats and intimidation.
The Donald Trump phenomenon has captured the attention of the world, and Africans are following the Republican presidential race with interest and bemusement. For the sake of world peace, I can only hope that Donald Trump never makes it to the White House. America, before you send Trump to the White House, I suggest you have a look at African leaders, and how they have ruled. And maybe, before you vote for Trump, you should ask him for his birth certificate. He seems African to me.