A Modern Lotshe
More than 150 years ago, the first Westerners came to settle in the land now known as Zimbabwe.
These first visitors were largely greeted with hospitality, albeit with a measure of caution natural when interacting with any strangers.
How foolish these ancestors of modern Africa were!
Little did they know that Cecil John Rhodes was soon to follow, with ideas that had nothing to do with friendship and equality.
And the rulers of the time had no inkling that one of their own would collaborate with the invaders in their plot to take over the land and subjugate anyone with a darker skin than their own.
Lotshe Hlabangana, King Lobengula’s chief induna, a very close advisor to the powerful leader of the Ndebele, was to sell out.
Lotshe first rose to prominence under the rule of King Mzilikazi, Lobengula’s father, in the 1860s.
After King Mzilikazi’s death in 1869, it was Lotshe who led a delegation to Natal to see if another heir apparent to the throne was still alive.
Satisfying himself that there was no other claimant to the throne, he returned to fully support Lobengula and was instrumental in his ascendancy. Who was to guess that Lotshe would be the very person who would convince King Lobengula to sign the duplicitous Rudd Concession of 1888 – four years after the infamous Berlin Conference – that paved the way for the creation of Rhodesia?
In 1899, seeing the treachery, the people of the land decreed his execution and Lotshe and his entire family were wiped out. But we do not seem to learn from history. We like to say only the present matters, while forgetting that today is a reflection of yesterday. The past inspires and informs the present so that we can build a better future.
Today, opposition political parties in Africa – particularly in Zimbabwe – think they can out-Lotshe Lotshe.
Morgan Tsvangirai, before he joined Zimbabwe’s coalition government, invited Western economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Of course he and his MDC-T party deny that now, but facts are stubborn. He is even on record on SABC News pleading with South Africa to cut economic ties with Zimbabwe so that the economy crumbles and he can walk into State House on the back of people’s suffering.
How different is this from what Lotshe did all those decades ago?
Because of his greed, Lotshe’s actions saw the people of the land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers soon being pushed off their farms to stony, unyielding ground; being made to pay ridiculous taxes; losing their cattle; and generally being turned into something worse than dogs.
Just like Lotshe, Tsvangirai’s actions have seen the imposition of debilitating illegal sanctions on the people of Zimbabwe. It is important for us to read and understand history: there is no salvation in selling out. Africa does not need the brand of politics that thrives on self-enrichment at the expense of ordinary people. The time is long past that opposition political parties rise above parochial interests and look at their countries’ long-term future.