Obert Gutu: singing our own song

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“When the ancient drum rhythms ring
The voice of our forefathers sings
Forward Africa run our day of freedom has come
For me and for you Amandla Awethu
We will fight for the right to be free
And we will build our own society
And we will sing, we will sing
We will sing our own song”
I OPEN this piece by quoting from the chart-topping song from the renowned British reggae band, UB 40. The name of the song is SING OUR OWN SONG. UB 40 was formed in the West Midlands city of Birmingham in England, in 1978. It was made up of young men who were essentially surviving on unemployment benefits; hence the name UB 40.
I am proud to be African. Yes; I am proud to be black. I am proud to be Zimbabwean. Black is beautiful. I am dark and lovely. But I am not a racist. I am just proud to be who I am. I have no apology to make about my identity. I am a direct descendant of Rwodzi, one of the twelve sons of Chaurura WeGona Chinomukutu. I am a member of the seventh generation of the Chinomukutu dynasty and I belong to the Madyirapazhe clan; the original maKorekore who migrated from what is now Musana communal lands in Mashonaland Central province to what is now Gutu communal lands in Masvingo province in the early nineteenth century. I am proud of my history.
Most of Africa today is caught up in a crisis of identity. We seem to have lost it; particularly when it comes to whom we really are. We are caught up in a confusing maze of cultural imperialism. We think it’s fashionable to forget where we really came from. We don’t seem to appreciate that language is everything. Without a language you have got absolutely no culture. And without a culture, you have no identity. You are just floating around. You don’t know where you are coming from and where you are going. Put simply, you don’t know who you are.
I know of black Zimbabweans who take pride in the unfortunate fact that their children, whether in Zimbabwe or abroad, cannot speak Shona, Ndebele or any of the other indigenous languages. I have been a guest in certain Zimbabwean households, both locally and abroad, where parents deliberately discourage their children from speaking in their mother language. They are only supposed to communicate in English. This is a very depressing manifestation of cultural imperialism. If you are ashamed to speak in your mother language it essentially means that you are ashamed of yourself. The long and short of it is that you are suffering from a chronic identity crisis. You need help.Advertisement

As Zimbabweans, we are essentially on our own. We have to know and master our identity as a people; as a nation state. No one is going to come to our beautiful country and create a paradise for us whilst we sit aside and watch. In this rough and tough world, there is absolutely no free lunch. There is no money for nothing. Friendships are reciprocal. It is never a one-way traffic. As the legendary Chimurenga music icon, Thomas Mapfumo, says in in one of his hit songs, CORRUPTION, there is something for something and nothing for nothing!
A few weeks ago my wife and I were guests at a dinner that was also attended by both the Japanese and the Korean Ambassadors to Zimbabwe. As we were enjoying the sumptuous dinner of Japanese sushi and some very strong Japanese traditional wine, I asked both gentlemen what, exactly, was the magic behind the remarkable economic success stories of both Japan and South Korea.
The two gentlemen are very friendly people I tell you. They smiled gently and reminded me that we have everything here in Zimbabwe; from virtually every mineral known to mankind as well as very hard-working and honest people. They told me that both Japan and South Korea hardly have any minerals. But who doesn’t know of strong Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda and Yamaha? Who hasn’t heard of strong Korean brands such as Samsung, Hyundai and Kia?
Africa is home to the richest natural resources under the sun, But Africa remains the world’s poorest continent. How is that? Please don’t continue to tell me stories about colonialism, imperialism and neo-imperialism. I know a lot about that already. Some African countries have been independent for more than half a century, but still 80% of Africans live in abject poverty.
We have the African Union (AU) that is supposed to champion the political and socio-economic advancement of the African people. Isn’t it a complete shame that the bulk of the budget of the AU secretariat is bankrolled by the European Union (EU)? Are we, as Africans, not ashamed of the fact that we failed to build our own headquarters for the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, until China saw it fit to give us a massive “donation” by constructing the AU headquarters? Where is our pride as Africans? Why are we so poor when, in fact, we are so rich?
Africa simply has to wake up from its deep slumber and get real; none but ourselves are going to liberate ourselves from poverty and under-development. For how long shall Africa remain the global charity case that it is today? Africa needs trade and not aid. Africa has to speak with one voice when it comes to issues of changing the global economic architecture that is grossly tilted in favour of the so-called rich North.
Instead of fighting for the disbanding of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Africa should introspect and ascertain why the average African country is grossly mismanaged and therefore, under-developed. Granted there is corruption all over the world but then, why is it that corruption is more pronounced in the average African country than in the average European country? Why do we continue to have weak and fragmented systems for fighting graft and corruption in both the public and private sectors? The solutions to these various challenges should basically be Afro-centric. We have to drive our own continental developmental trajectory. We have to synergise and integrate our otherwise weak individual national economies.
Our national politics should be exorcised of the ghost of intolerance, corruption and greed. Africa belongs to all of us Africans. We should deliberately inculcate a feeling of belonging; particularly within the younger generation. The era of “Big Man” rule in Africa should be a thing of the past. There should be unity in diversity. Governments should be more responsive to the people’s needs. Africa needs leaders and not rulers. It is now our generational challenge to take Africa to the next level.
We pay tribute to our founding fathers and mothers for tenaciously fighting against racist colonial oppression and for ushering us into political independence. But don’t you think it’s high time our founding fathers and mothers take a back seat and enjoy their long overdue retirement? We will, forever, hold them in very high esteem for their gallant contribution to the political liberation of the African continent.
No one can take that heroism away from them. They bravely and selflessly fought for us. We thank them. We love them. Indeed, we salute them. But then they are now old and tired. They are way past their prime. They should graciously pass on the baton stick to the next generation of leaders. This is a clarion call to my brothers and sisters on the African continent and in the African diaspora. This is now our time to rise and shine. There is no looking back. Africa needs us now more than ever before. Let us sing our own song.
Obert Gutu is the MDC Harare provincial spokesperson. He is also an international corporate legal consultant.