A Lone Voice – Africa needs more Mugabes
Has Africa gone to the dogs?
Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Sekou Toure, George Padmore, Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Julius Nyerere, Marcus Garvey must be furiously turning in their graves given the way the continent has transformed – or rather regressed – decades after the dismantling of colonialism.
How can these forbearers of African nationalism be happy given what is happening in Mali where jubilant Malians ululate the arrival of French troops on their soil, ostensibly on a “rescue” mission to repel marauding Islamic fundamentalists from the north.
All over Africa the United States has set up military bases disguised as command centres to monitor terrorism.
Is this the Africa that the founding fathers of African nationalism envisaged when they galvanized African consciousness based on the continent’s prolonged history and culture of resistance against dehumanising beliefs, prejudices and practices?
And is President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe a voice in the wilderness when he calls for a re-framing of the current AU to reflect the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity, itself a more focused and unwavering body whose ultimate goal was the total emancipation of the black man from dependency and oppression.
So what exactly has been President Mugabe’s fight?
In the localised sphere of things, Mugabe has in general been fighting to right the wrongs inflicted on the indigenous people by the erstwhile colonizers together with their puppets in our midst.
Mugabe’s fight has been to restore the tattered dignity of the African and charts a new chapter away from just being hewers of wood and drawers of water.
President Mugabe was the first African Head of State to tackle head-on the issue of land imbalance by redistributing this resource to the indigenous black people, much to the anger of not just the West, but other African countries that felt such a move would scare way so-called international capital.
The President has signed various empowerment laws whose main thrust is to make the African a master over his own resources including the means of production- our industrial base.
But President Mugabe’s legacy is and will be much broader than just redressing our domestic historical imbalance.
Over the years, President Mugabe has led the clarion call for African unity and for the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security to have more teeth in dealing decisively with conflicts within member states.
Indeed, there is no single President on the African soil who has highlighted the African cause without fear at any international cause better than President Mugabe.
So Mugabe’s call for African leaders to go back to the foundational basis of the OAU as reflected in its charter is neither hollow nor wishful thinking.
The dilemma that Africa faces today is that most of its current heads of states play lip-service to the idea of a united Africa. They espouse rhetoric on the need for African solidarity while totally unwilling to practically bring unity to life.
These African leaders also fail to act in a manner that fosters unity and solidarity. Their duplicitous stance is as much a problem to African unity just as the forces that strive to ensure the continued fragmentation of the continent.
Fortunately, President Mugabe is not alone in leading the call for real African unity and solidarity.
His views are echoed by various Pan-Africanists, including Professor Mammo Muchie who edited “The Making of the African Nation-Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance”, published by Adonis and Abbey 2003.
In “Re-framing Pan-Africanism”, Prof Muchie says African unity as envisaged by Kwame Nkrumah and company is not only feasible but the ultimate goal if Africa is to achieve its place in the global scheme of things.
Prof Muchie says there is a tendency by African leaders who are against unity to emphasise issues of differences as unbridgeable and in turn exaggerate problems because of their apparent lack of imagination and intellectual stamina.
These leaders are content with the status quo as long as they have a political real estate with a few million people to rule over.
Prof Muchie says there is an urgent need to rescue Africa from clashes of Afro-optimism and Afro-pessimism.
“A change will be possible when the feeling of defeat is defeated. Afro-pessimism stress the enormity of the problems that divide Africa rather than those that unite, and start with the presumption of self-defeat, allowing the African crisis to prey on their judgment and limit their imagination,” writes Prof Muchie.
On the other hand, Afro-optimists say that despite the many difference that Africans have they have more things in common to unite them. In a way the Afro-optimists have at least defeated the feeling of being defeated by, seeing the possibility of renewal, despite prevailing despair in large swathes on the African continent.
But it will be naïve to gloss over the obstacles that currently litter the way for the total unification of the African. At no time in the history of the continent has it been besieged by more internal strife than at present.
The unity that once bonded Africans in their fight against imperialism seems to be swiftly waning. Most Africans had hoped that the demolition of apartheid in South Africa and heralding of independence to Namibia was to pave the way for total unification of all African states but alas this is still a mirage.
The major obstacle to African unity at the present epoch is the lack of a shared idea of an African.
As Africans, we need to construct a Pan-African identity through the development of a shared goal out of our shared social and historical experiences.
As Africans, we need to rescue and uplift the continent form its untenable status as a marginal, oppressed and largely written off land mass.
In trying to counter Afro-pessimists’ emphasis on tribal or ethnic differences as hindering continental unity, former South African President Thabo Mbeki is convinced that our shared historical experience, African resistance, African culture and African consciousness must be the rallying point to coalesce peoples of the continent to speak with one voice.
Thus in a book titled “Africa: The Time Has Come”, Mbeki says: “My mind and knowledge of myself are formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopian as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the Desert.
“I am the grandchild who lays flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind’s eyes and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk: death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads and dreams in ruins.
“I am the grandchild of Nongqause … I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact that, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and foreign who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.
“Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion I shall claim that I am an African,” (Cape Town & Johannesburg, Taelberg Publishers & Mafube Publishing, 1998, pp31-2)
As Africa commemorates Africa Day, it must be realised that the project to unite Africa is still an unfinished task. This is so because of the lack of a concept of the African as a universality going beyond the specific identities of individual nations as envisaged by Nkrumah and others.
Sadly, all the concepts that Nkrumah enunciated have been borrowed by the European Union without any acknowledgment including the idea of a common currency.
In the meantime, Africa lumbers on on its divisive path.