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Envisioning the new day that must come

14/06/2017 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
 
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IN ChiShona we say, ‘Kugocha kunoda kwaamai, kwemwana kunodzima moto’ (Mother does not mind the fire being disturbed as long as she is the one doing it; she will always say a child doing the same kills the fire).

This is an apt analogy for Jojochenjera’s attempt to trash Mbuya Nehanda and her oft-quoted words as a myth. Some of us were taught the myth of St. George and the dragon as history.

The message is that only white societies can indulge themselves which any way they choose. But perhaps more sinister is the thinking behind all this: Africans cannot and do not have heroes. Heroes are definitively Caucasian as in the murderous Henry Morton Stanley in Africa after uttering his ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume’.

The reductionist narrative in Africa is a relic of the bourgeois romanticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, according to which Africa was the dark continent and also the ‘heart of darkness’.

White explorers, so-called, malevolent adventurers most of them, cast themselves in the roles of mini-gods before whom the splendid savages of the continent had to grovel. America’s Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations salved their consciences with the notion that niggers had no souls and were, therefore, no better than livestock.

Herbert Chitepo, then ZANU chairman, when addressing a meeting in Australia in 1974 had this to say:

I think those of you who read history might have read a description given by Arnold Toynbee- in his Study of History- on the definition of the word ‘native’.

In certain contexts the word ‘native’ was both derogatory and classificatory. When applied against Africans the word spoke of suppressed rights and deprivation. While the word ought to have had a fixed meaning, polysemy was used to create a difference between natives of the British Isles, for example, and other natives. Thus whites in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland and in South Africa called themselves Europeans to effect this distinction. They were seemingly unaware that by so doing they were forever declaring themselves alien to the continent and that they were invaders and usurpers to be ousted one day.

Chitepo continues: I am usually called a ‘native’ when in Zimbabwe (by white people). Toynbee says: ‘When we, Europeans, call people natives we take away anything from them, anything that suggests that they are human beings. They are to us like the forest which the western man fells down. Or, the big the big game that he shoots down. They have no tenure of land. Their tenure of land is as precarious as that of the animals that they find… What shall we, the lords of creation, the white people, do with the natives we find? Shall we treat them as vermin to be exterminated or shall we treat them as hewers of wood and drawers of water? There is no other alternative, if niggers have no souls.’



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Chitepo points out that Toynbee’s words are a reflection of the mentality of those who settled in Zimbabwe. The mental outlook of these settlers meant that for them, indigenous Zimbabweans were just another resource to be exploited. They were no different from the trees, the grass and the gold underground.

These things, among others, were, in Zimbabwe, the raison d’etre in the fight for nationhood and sovereignty, a fight that of necessity has had to continue to this day due to the emergence of neo-colonialism.

Neo-colonialism is specifically aimed at the resources of former subject nations. Former colonial powers make a show of going out and away only to return with greater venom in terms of the exploitation that they then mount.

It is generally agreed that Africa has more resources than any other continent. Yet she remains the poorest of the lot. North-South trade relations are skewed but more particularly where Africa is concerned.

Anglo-American multinationals usually negotiate deals that enhance their own interests while paying only lip service to the interests of host nations. In the DRC there is quite a plethora of mining interests exemplified by companies such as Dan Gentler Glencore, Dan Gentler Congo, The Fleurette Group, Glencore Katanga, Mutanda Mining, Glencore Cobalt and Katanga Mining.

On a website describing Congo-based mining concerns Glencore says it is proud to be a member of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the International Council on Mining and Metals and that it is an active participant in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

On the face of it and assuming that all other mining concerns in the DRC are similarly inclined, it would appear that the DRC has a good thing going. The situation on the ground, however, tells a different story. The DRC remains impoverished despite its fabulous resources. These are some of the untold truths that most people seldom get to know.

They are conditioned to think only in terms of jobs and bread and butter issues as if these are the only things that matter. The kind of distributive economy that the Libyan Jamahiriya exposed the falsehoods of Western-sponsored development models. So Libya had to go and Gadhafi had to die to preserve Western initiatives in Africa.

African leaders, with the notable exceptions of the compliant ones, are generally always portrayed as corrupt, power-hungry charlatans. This is done to ensure that African heroes become villains and we discover the error of our ways too late.

That certainly was the case with Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was a threat in that he understood the machinations of the Western world and the very real threat posed by neo-colonialism. He also properly understood the falsehoods surrounding so-called foreign aid. Above all, his call to Africa to unite or perish was a threat to the interests of the West.

On decolonization, former rulers left through the front door and returned through the back door in accordance with the perception of neo-colonialism as empire by other means. At the height of the cold war, America’s CIA orchestrated the overthrow of Nkrumah.

Time has a way of revealing what the truths of an era are and what its lies are. Ghana now reveres Nkrumah whose image has since been rehabilitated. Some of the projects that he envisioned and inaugurated have since vindicated Nkrumah’s vision and foresight.

Tema Harbour, Akusombo Dam on the Volta River and his template for industrialization on the twenty-two -kilometre stretch from Accra to Tema stand out in this regard.

On either side of the road were serviced stands where manufacturing for export was to take place within easy reach of the harbour. This was a version of the industrial park right here on African soil. By any measure or standard, Kwame Nkrumah was a hero, not the tin-pot dictator he has often been portrayed to be.

Another of our heroes is Sekou Toure, the elephant of Guinea. He chose freedom above servitude and survived French anger. He too is now revered for his insightful policies and programmes.

Guinea’s leftist president would not allow the multinationals into his country unless there were solid guarantees that his people would benefit from the exploitation of the country’s vast mineral resources. He also came up with self-contained villages that each had people with all the basic skills necessary for their survival. Sekou Toure is an African hero for all time.

Another not so oft-reported African giant and hero is Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita who modified aspects of Maoist policies and made them work for his country and nation. Keita was Thomas Sankara’s role model on whom he based the dynamization committees that helped transform Burkina Faso in a matter of years.

As might have been expected, all these leaders and heroes were interfered with and in some cases even assassinated. Such was the fate of Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara and Muammar Gadhafi.

An aggregate of the visions of Africa’s heroic thinkers and leaders would see Africa take its rightful place in the community of nations even now. Africa can transform herself into a vast economic zone and be the envy of the world. In doing this there has to be gender equity and no amnesia should be induced in people to beguile them into wilfully belittling their women folk.

Mbuya Nehanda is not a myth. She was a real person of flesh and blood and was tried by a racist court whose records are there for all to see. Fictionalizing Mbuya Nehanda by denying her the agency for which she was executed is an act of abject self-delusion.

Africa needs to extol her heroes over and above foreign ones. The arts must assist in this by creating cartoons, videos and movies to portray our struggles and our successes. The new day envisaged by this columnist is one in which Africa is dignified and assertive, insisting on her rights and having the guarantee that the United Nations will no longer be used to further the interests of the few.

 


 
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