Being a Bantu from Eastern Africa I have been struck recently by how words which color both my language and our national language Swahili have in common with Shona that is spoken in parts of Southern Africa especially Zimbabwe.
Swahili for anyone not familiar with the language is the most colorful language in the world.It is spattered with Bantu,Arab,Portuguese even Indian influence and originated along the Kenyan coast before it became the national language .
Words like nyoka(Swahili for snake),muti(Bantu reference to charms),while the Shona call a witch doctor nganga the Swahili word for it is mganga.
All these learnt while reading a number of books on Zimbabwe.A country which has become famous for all the wrong things in the last two decades.It fell from being a bread basket to a country whose inflation rate hit the stratosphere and it started receiving food aid.
I did a review of a book about Robert Mugabe called Dinner with Mugabe here and why his story could be that of any other African liberation leader.
What struck me however and sent chills down my spine was the book The Fear :The Last days of Robert Mugabe by Peter Godwin.
Godwin whose parents left England for Zimbabwe has written many other books but The Fear is a book that is raw,unedited and tells about what happened in Zimbabwe after the disputed 2008 elections.
The accounts of victims whom Peter visited in hospitals in Harare,in villages outside the capital tell of blood curdling human violence.
It did not matter if you were black or white but if you voted for Morgan Tsvangirai’s(the only other contender in this election) MDC or movement for democratic change,you got your ass whipped black and blue literally.
These handy men of the state reigning error on their brothers and sisters did not discriminate on sex,age or color,everyone had to be taught a lesson,how could they shame the country’s liberator from white rule(read Mugabe) by voting against him.
They had to be taught a lesson.
African leaders watched silently while these was going on….but here is why they should not have kept quiet…
Reading this excerpt from the book it is easy to understand why African leaders are sometimes all lumped together.It was an observation made by one of Mugabe’s former students who had travelled widely in the 1960’s and had met a lot of the new crop of leaders who would take over leadership in their countries after independence….
“I knew Kaunda and Banda and Kenyatta before independence,when they were still on bicycles,when we were still elarning.I know the leadership of Africa:a father is a figure head.It’s about masculinity.All radical fathers want to dominate their wives and kids,so in a political party,that domination is carried out too-you don’t want people to answer back-you select “yes” men.People have to listen and obey,or else.”
That short paragraph summed up all of Africa’s struggle with democracy for me.
Years after many countries were set free by their colonial masters,many more countries ar now shackled with new slave masters who bear the same color as a majority of citizens in these countries only difference being that they wield bigger whips.
When will things change…?
Change will come when we stop thinking political leaders will save the continent.
Change will come when the millions living on this continent collectively pull themselves up by their sandal straps and start the move towards change….. themselves not at the behest of so called father figures.
Change will come when we as a continent understand that so long as one country in Africa is at war,then we are all at war.
Change will come when we challenge the so-called father figures to stop dragging us backwards in the past where terror,submission and blind obeyance earned you brownie points but left you less of a human being.
Change will come when we dare tell these father figures that they are wrong to think submission is a sign of respect.
Change will come when demand that our leaders stop living in a past full of the ghosts of colonialism.
Change will come when we are all working to ensure the sins of the past are not visited on any other future generation of Africa’s children.