REMEMBERING MANDELA

What can i say about Mandela,a man who like my maternal grandfother whom he shared a first name and  year of birth with.

He towers over my child hood memories no matter where i look.

My father had the chance to travel to Botswana and growing up our house has always been filled  with the sounds of South African musicians,he  had come back from down south with music cassettes.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon sounds filled our house.

He thrilled us with stories of Mandela,and for years my grandfather and Mandela looked the same in my eyes.

Mandela.
Mandela.

When the apartheid regime was at its worst in the 90’s i watched street protests on our JVC TV,watched burials of prominent anti apartheid fighters and admired Winnie Mandela ‘s stoic appearance and i was enthralled by this man Mandela.

I was in primary school when Mandela was released from prison,i will never forget watching him and Winnie walk hand in hand with the amandla salute…what joy!!!!

So much  so did my curious mind love everything  South African ,i had to learn the national anthem Nkosi Sikelel’  iAfrika .

And when they released the musical Sarafina,well that was the icing on the cake,i knew all the dance moves.

How many times did i read Mandela’s Long walk to Freedom ..countless time and more recently Winnie Mandela’s  book A Life.

Yes, Mandela has been a part of my walk in life too.

We can learn a lot from this man who was never afraid of his faults but changed the way we view ourselves as African as well as the way the rest of the world views us.

His long walk to freedom was for all of us as a continent,it carried with it hopes,dreams and aspirations  not only for his generation but for generations to come.

The walk is not over…….let us keep walking it like he did,proudly,humbly,stoically,faithfully.

The South African struggle for equality among the races is a story of all of us.

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AFRICA IS CHANGING AND SO SHOULD AID ORGANISATIONS

On the 21 st of May 2011 ,months before Ms Lagarde had become the head honcho at IMF,i had written about her being the most likely candidate to get the top job there.

Read about it here.

Not only was I weeks ahead of most news agencies,I had done my research well and nothing much had been written about her before the 21st of May.

Right now a Google search on her brings about 6,700,000 entries.

Check out these group of young women ,Akirachix.

They are using technology to change some of the challenges the continent faces and mentoring younger girls to follow in their footsteps.

My point…

change

Africa is setting trends in unprecedented places and the world is already taking interest.

Africa has the talent,the the people and the knowledge to be a trend setter in unusual places.

Aid agencies have found fertile ground in Africa because we acre a continent though gifted with astounding beauty,natural resources and people we sometimes fail to make the best use of what we have and end up victims of our own making.

Take the never-ending hunger and famine in the horn of Africa every decade.

I have lived in places where when it rains,it pours and tonnes of water go to waste.It is only recently that people started harvesting water and i have noticed  more  people putting up water storage tanks even in residential areas to harvest the precious liquid.

If we used that harvested water to water green houses in arid and semi-arid areas that make up a large part of the horn of Africa we would be able to feed ourselves all year round.

If aid organisations helped small farmers tap into the knowledge base that has made developed countries self-sufficient in terms of food we would no longer need to take out our begging bowls for food aid every five years.

In a few years time the largesse that makes up a large part of the donor agencies funds may start dwindling,what then?

Africa is at the cusp of a revolution right now and it is time aid organisations developed frameworks that will still have them in businesses in the next decade.

How can these aid organisations still remain relevant on a continent that is rapidly changing to keep up with the rest of the world?

How can aid organisations change the attitude of the people they help by enabling them to see aid is temporary and not a permanent solution to the problems Africa faces.

How can aid organisations make the growing population of Africa’s middle class a partner in the provision of solutions to the continents challenges?

Only the aid organisations know the answer to these and other questions but change in terms of policy, strategy and implementations is definitely going to  be top priority.

While we are talking about aid,it would  be a good idea to read the book Emergency Sex,tells the very colorful life of a group of aid workers .

THE BOOK EVERY AFRICAN BUSINESS LEADER SHOULD BE READING

The past year saw me read a business book that i could not bear to put down.

I read it into the wee hours of the night.

Here it is….

Good to Great... By Jim Collins
Good to Great… By Jim Collins

It is an absolutely fascinating book that takes you through a research project by Jim Collins and team on some of the greatest companies in American history and what it took for them to be great.

The first chapter of the book is titled “Good is the enemy of great”

Further on along the book you get to learn why  who you hire and not how much you pay them determines the trajectory .

Why do i think every business leader should read this?

Most of us have heard about Kimberly Clark,Wells Fargo,Cisco systems and Walt Disney.

What made these companies great over time?

Read the book and find out.

I am definite Steve Jobs applied the same principles and insights  highlighted in this book to make Apple the great company it is today.

Let me finish off with an excerpt from the book..

“Enduring great companies don’t exist merely to deliver returns to shareholders.Indeed,in a truly great company,profits and cash flow become like blood and water to a healthy body:They are absolutely essential for life ,but they are not the very point of life.”

AFRICA’S FATHER FIGURES ……..

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.

 

 

 

 

A REASON TO END WARS IN AFRICA…….?

“War is Africa’s perpetual ripe fruit.There is so much injustice to resolve,such desire for revenge in the blood of the people,such crippling corruption of power,such unseemly scramble for natural resources.The wind of power shifts and there go the fruit again ,tumbling toward the ground ,each war more inventively terrible than the last.”-

Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness -Alexandra Fuller

 

Perfect.

This was my first thought after reading this analogy by Ms Fuller.

Reading through the wars that have plagued the continent,we seem to have developed a knack for coming up with more terrible ways to revenge perceived wrongs.

If it’s not tribes trying to correct historical injustices,its victims of Africa’s colonial past who want the wrongs that were committed then corrected now.

But can we really rewrite history?

We can only seek to understand it,learn from its lessons and hopefully never make the same mistakes again.

For Africa to ever move forward all ethnic and religious  groups living here must acknowledge that this is home .

We can never claim to own a part of this continent or a part of any corner of the globe because soon we will be dust.

As Shakespeare says…as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

One moment we are here,the next we are gone.

Of what use will be theesources we fought over,the acreageso land we fought over and the power we mindlessly hang on be?

Recently these wars have taken a new dimension because now we are fighting under the guise of our beliefs.Think of the sectarian violence in Nigeria, where Chrisitans and the war in Somalia that has been driven by fundamentalists…it never seems to end.

Yet the underlying reasons for the wars remain the same power and resources.

Why do we find even more ingenious reasons to kill and maim each other?

The wheels of history grind on and todays wars will be history tomorrow but we never learn.

As soon as one fire is put out in one corner of Africa another erupts in another corner of the continent.

We cannot keep insisting in righting historical injustices half a century later or else we will always be looking backwards instead of forwards.

We need to learn to live with the scars past wars have wrought on us and swear that it shall never happen again.

We need to forget the prejudices we hold against other tribes,ethnic and religious groups and realize Africa belongs to none of us,it belongs to all of us.

We need to make sure the next generation of Africans be they black ,white,green or purple are not scarred by the mistakes of the past.

We need to find a reason to end the wars……

AFRICA NEEDS ITS WOMEN…..FREE.

“…… all countries (especially developing ones) are better served when women are encouraged to play a full and mature role in the running of their communities.”

 

These are not my own words but those of a former head of the Canadian International Development Agency Margaret Catley – Carlson.They are from the book In My Own Name ,a memoir by another Canadian,  Maureen McTeer.

Women in Africa,and the world over have faced the same prejudices and challenges for years and until each and every woman is free from the prejudices society places on her,then no woman can claim to be truly free,no matter what corner of the globe she lives in.

When African women lack access to equal opportunities in education,employment and the political sectors,none of us can claim to be free.

When women are dying as they bring forth life into the world, because their countries lack hospitals that should have  basic life saving facilities or trained medical personnel,then none of us is free.

When women are denied jobs or face discriminative  policies at work because their employers are afraid they will get pregnant in the future and disrupt corporate/business functions then no woman is free.

When women are denied the chance and opportunity to make informed choices in regards to their reproductive rights then no woman is free

When an electorate looks down on a female candidate not because her experience is lacking or her educational capabilities are lacking but just because of her gender,then no woman is free.

When women have to turn to prostitution,degrading working conditions in foreign countries because their lack of education leaves them little choice,then no woman is free

And until we are all free,none of us can lay claim that we live in a free and democratic society.

Most African governments are just beginning to acknowledge the role of women in development.

When men are  running for elective posts they see these posts as  challenges and ask them selves one questin ,”why not ?” and then run.

For women it is a whole set of different rules ,as Maureen says in her book, women will first list all the reasons  and setbacks (real and imagined)  of why they should not run then either give up or if they do decide to run have to work ten times a s hard as men to prove themselves.

It is time African society sets women free from the chains it has bound them  in.

Let us allow women the chance to embrace the  opportunities their  lives gift them  to lead their  communities and countries.

Let us not to be afraid to let them stand tall and be counted when the opportunity arises to make better the institutions and bodies that serve their fellow citizens..

Let us change the way politics is played,let’s make politics relevant again to the millions of people who call Africa home and especially for its women .

 

DINNER WITH MUGABE…..AN AFRICAN STORY.

Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland could  be the story of any post independence African President and most of its political leaders.

A war hero whose dreams for his country went up in  smoke and here is why…

The best thing that can explain this, an excerpt from the book where the author interviews a former Cabinet Minister who has this to say about  Mugabe’s rise in the  independence movement….

….he comes home on holiday;a man bringing his future wife to meet his family and intending to return to Ghana as a teacher to teach.He wants to settle in Ghana,where he has a well paid job,which he hasn’t resigned from .And then the Rhodesian nationalist movement ,which is going through turbulence including leadership deficiency ,hears of him,this articulate man called Robert Mugabe.Word goes around that he trains teachers so he is more articulate than the teachers ,who are the most respected people in the country at that time.And of all exciting places,he lives and works in Ghana,where Nkrumah is leading the way to African Liberation.He has Fort Hare qualifications.His wife is impressive.So he is approached ,persuaded to join the liberation movement ,and he agrees to give it a try.

Nowhere in his record prior to becoming the leader of Zanu do you see Robert Mugabe driven by political passion or a vision of a better future for Zimbabweans.He has not left his well paid job in Ghana to join the nationalist movement at home.No,not at all.He has simply taken leave on a visit to Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe).Nowhere is there any logical progression ….

Mugabe just happened to be well read,at the right place at the perfect time and with the help of fate and overzealous,hopeful Zimbabweans he got the plum job he holds today.

Does it not read like a script picked from any of the countries on the continent?

Countires which today are going through periods of upheaval be they  political or economic?

Bright,well read minds carrying the hopes,dreams and aspirations of their people until something went  horribly wrong.

They got comfortable,they lost focus of why they waged war against their colonisers,they became drunk with power.

Right now.more than half a century after most of the African countries gained independence, all bar South Africa and Rwanda are being led by leaders who share a story similar to Mugabe’s.

They came to power riding on the high expectations and hopes their people had of them ,that they could change the way things were.

But sadly this hopes were dashed when these same leaders surrounded themselves with selfish cronies and advisers.

The elected leaders became beholden to the people who had put them in power.They turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of their friends and cronies,after all they owed the power they enjoyed to these same people.

These cronies and advisers turned into neo colonialist who wanted to amass wealth for themselves while neglecting the suffering and needs of their people.

As another writer Michela Wrong put it in her book…it was now their turn to eat.

But one thing the book does very well is show Mugabe the man who is not infallible,with his weaknesses,his shortcomings and not the enigmatic persona he is so frequently potrayed as.

Reading the book you almost feel sorry for the man ,growing up without a father  and with a mother who thought her son was nothing less than Gods chosen,Mugabe had to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Candidly the book tells the story of a man who is grossly misunderstood but whose life offers  useful insight into the many problems  most of the countries on the continent are struggling with  today.