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Seewell Mashizha: Waiting for a new day

The day will come when African leaders assert Africa’s interests

07/12/2016 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
 
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AHMED Sekou Toure, the first President of Guinea Conakry once made the following observation:

An African statesman is not a naked boy begging from rich capitalists.

These instructive words from Sekou Toure are still relevant and definitive in today’s Africa. In some ways, it is rather tragic that so many years after decolonisation and so many years into the 20th century we still have leaders who behave as if they are naked boys begging from rich capitalists.

This must have been a problem that irked Sekou Toure greatly judging by what he said regarding the mentality of Africans in general. Speaking about the priorities of his government in Guinea he said;

“For the first twenty years, we in Guinea have concentrated on developing the mentality of our people. Now we are ready to move on to other business.”

It is saddening to know that the issues that Sekou Toure and others were grappling with continue to be a thorn in the flesh. Africans continue to be apologetic about who they are and they continue to act as if Africa was created for others to exploit. The scourge of armchair revolutionaries has been with us for quite some time. Again, Sekou Toure was sharply aware of fellow travellers and quislings, hence his incisive utterance:

To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song: you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves.

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to attain high levels of material well-being and prosperity, especially when we consider that Europe has for too long been the beneficiary of not only the resources of Africa, but also the blood, sweat and tears of her people. The time to restore the balance and let Africa reach the heights that beckon to her is long overdue.

A new day will have dawned on the continent when unification reaches such levels as will make it easy for people and goods to move across the borders imposed upon her by some blue-eyed devil, as Malcolm X would have said. The passport that has now become a reality for the leaders of Africa must quickly be extended to the populace of the continent so that people can move around without inhibition. This will obviously mean the aligning of some laws across the continent and the enactment of others in order to create a uniform dispensation on all matters of consequence.



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Africa must embrace all her heroes and heroines across the board and commission academics and researchers to retrieve our history from the dustbins of colonial annals. If this is left too late there will be much that will be lost. So, speed and urgency are of the essence here. We need African heroes, both fictional and historical. We need them in our theatre, on Television and on the big screen in cinema houses. We need African thrillers that express our own sensibilities and depict the things that we yearn for. We need to applaud people who excel in the things that really matter.

The frivolous antics of clownish members of the nouveau riche brigades like South Africa’s Kenny Kunene are a curse to our dignity: eating sushi from the naked body of some young woman as if she was part of the cuisine! For heaven’s sake, let us highlight our real achievements, now and in the past

 There are those who will argue that history should not matter. When we fall victim to such faulty reasoning we should always take note that Africa’s traducers never forget their history. A tour guide around London, for example, will vividly, and as a matter of fact, describe how Cromwell’s body was dug up after lying buried at Westminster for two years. Charles the Second, son to beheaded Charles the First insisted on making the corpse of Oliver Cromwell stand trial for the murder of his father. Cromwell was found guilty posthumously and sentenced to death. The corpse was then drawn and quartered in accordance with tradition in such matters. The restoration was then complete.

In each country on the continent, it will be necessary to train tour guides who can, with confidence, talk about all the important issues from African history. This together with changes in the curriculum and domestic tourism will. The same criteria should apply to curators of museums and art galleries.

These things are possible, given what we have on the ground: the Pan-African Movement and the Pan-African Parliament. The Pan-African Parliament sits regularly and is peopled by seconded legislators from member countries of the African Union. The Pan-African Movement held the first half of its 8th Congress in Accra, Ghana early in 2015. The resolutions that came out of that congress are enlightened and instructive and the Pan-African Movement should in the near future engage the Pan-African Parliament with a view to coming up with a legislative agenda. The PAP should agitate for reforms at the United Nations, especially in the Security Council where Africa is treated like a poor relative at a wedding.

The recent moves by South Africa and the Gambia to leave the ICC are commendable and well worth emulating across the board. The ICC has tended to be selective and discriminatory in its actions. Its racist agenda and tenor are more than evident. Mostly, it is African leaders that are targeted, humiliated and victimized. Former Western leaders with known criminal records in Iraq and Afghanistan are walking free with never so much as a murmur regarding the possibility of their ever standing trial anywhere or even facing any inquiry.

The PAP can coordinate efforts by Africa to coordinate efforts to establish her own international court of justice where such former leaders can be indicted, even in absentia. Africa can build a smithy in which the oneness, the dignity and the interests of Africa are forged and exalted above all else. Foreign leaders liable in cases of the brutalization of Africa can be called to their defence before such a court.

The agenda of the PAP can agitate for restorative justice wherein outstanding issues such as the land question in countries like Kenya and South Africa can be addressed using a uniform template so as to obviate contestation by parties with vested interests. Compensation for past wrongs and crimes can still be exerted from the perpetrators.

For example, no-one has ever been made to pay for the enslavement of millions of Africans through the heinous Atlantic Slave Triangle. Catharsis is necessary and all Africans must speak with one voice on this and not be apologetic in any way. The countries concerned should openly admit their historical culpability and commit to heal the centuries old wounds. Whatever is done must have relevance, meaning and lasting significance. Symbolic actions can never be adequate.

It is tragic that Africa remains impoverished and disadvantaged despite being the richest in the world in terms of natural resources. A new nationalism is required – a bold kind of resource nationalism that ensures that indigenous populations are major beneficiaries of proceeds from their lands. The spectre of towns that stand as islands of inordinate affluence in the middle of acute deprivation can no longer be acceptable.

Ghost ‘towns’ such as Empress Mine in Zimbabwe, a former Rio Tinto gold mine from which the surrounding communities benefitted nothing, except perhaps only peripherally. It cannot be enough to have some locals being employed on the mines if, at some future date after the ore runs out, all that is left are gaping holes in the ground and pretentious structures. Due diligence must also mean ensuring that the locals benefit visibly through infrastructural development and other developmental projects.

Zimbabwe’s Mashava and Zvishavane, both asbestos mining centres did not fare any better than other places where multinational companies took what they wanted out of the ground, invested it elsewhere and left. Former French colonies endowed with oil and other resources, Gabon included, continue to be economic slaves of France as a look at their revenues as well as the disposal of such revenues is concerned will show. The proceeds are invested in French financial institutions and the countries involved have no direct access to their own funds. France lends them money that belongs to them at interest. The negation and destruction of such iniquitous arrangements should be Africa’s next battle.

Watching images of the Marikana debacle in South Africa on television in 2012 was like watching a horror movie. South African police shot and killed striking miners for agitating for better pay and better working conditions. What they were asking for in South African rand was no more than slightly over USD400 a month. And state machinery descended on them for that paltry sum. The action smacks of a country pandering to multinational interests, and this is disgraceful to say the least.

Africa needs a more enlightened regime when it comes to her natural resources. Aberrations such as the shortage of fuel in Nigeria when that country has oil in abundance are totally uncalled for. Whatever one’s ideological stand regarding socialism are, in the context of Africa in general, and South Africa in particular, it is difficult to contradict Chris Hani’s incisive observation in the words:

Socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory. Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. It is about health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market. As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.

Sadly, what Hani critiqued is still very much a reality in the ‘fabled land across the Limpopo. Economic apartheid is alive and well and is the reason why when the last apartheid President, Fredrik de Klerk was queried about the terms of decolonisation in South Africa, his observation was that whites had not done too badly for themselves. This skewed situation also explains Winnie Mandela’s disenchantment with what her erstwhile husband settled for.

At its height of Muammar Gadhafi’s reign Libya had a GDP higher than that of Spain. Oil money in Libya was used to advantage to give citizens free health, free water and electricity and also to make available to those who required them, bank loans at no interest in accordance with Islamic economics. Education too was free all the way to university. At the time Nelson Mandela was released from incarceration, Libya’s GDP was the same as that of South Africa but for obvious reasons Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank preferred not to talk about this. Libya even had the highest wages and salaries on the continent.

Gadhafi raised the lot of women in his country, cleared the arrears of OAU member states to facilitate the coming into being of the African Union (AU) and built the biggest man-made river in the world. He was going to establish a green belt from the southern confines of his country right up to the Mediterranean. That the project would have been successful is beyond debate. Soon after he overthrew King Idris in 1969 and becoming president, Gadhafi had built desalination plants for agricultural and other purposes. In the end, a country that had been importing fruit and vegetables from Gibraltar became self-sufficient.

Gadhafi had amassed enough gold to back up an African currency to diminish obeisance to the US dollar. That among other issues was a major reason for the West to bay for his blood. Today we can only say ‘Cry our beloved Libya’.  It weighs heavily upon the heart to have to admit that some of us in Africa were complicit in the destruction of Libya.

But who said there’s no avenging spirit? The chickens have come home to roost in Europe. The waves of refugees sweeping on Europe are a direct consequence of NATO action in Libya. Now they cry crocodile tears and pretend to have humanitarian compassion for the thousands of hapless refugees making their way across the Mediterranean to uncertain futures in Europe. Gadhafi also was very clear about the historical injustices that Africa has suffered over centuries and thus is quoted as having said in 2009:

During my term in (the) AU, I will initiate an organised compensation claim for Africa and I will fight for a greater voice for Africa in the United Nations Security Council. If they do not want to live with us fairly, it is our planet and they can go to another planet.

A new and emphatic militancy that asserts unequivocally and unapologetically, the rights of Africa in the world and in the community of nations is required. Without it, Agenda 2063 will be unattainable. That should be the message going out to all and any African leaders who, to paraphrase Sekou Toure’s words, are still behaving like naked boys begging for a pittance from rich capitalists.


 
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