New Myths Needed

I just love the first song that they have chosen to begin with during the break of this Conversation, its title, “One Day Suffer Go Finish‘, says it all.

Part of Discussion: ‘The distance between how things are and how things should be in Zimbabwe” – ( Man from Chitungwiza

Having followed the Chimurenga and Chimurenga Chronic publication/movement, for as long as it has existed, part of my ambition as a writer has been to publish some stories or even essays and poems in this auspicious black radical publication. I was also glad when the Pan African Space Station was launched. It basically fused the literature and live Chimurenga music sessions to the whole revolutionary concepts. I could say more, but I am always keenly aware of the data-struggle among my people, not all of we have WiFi and affordable data. So it would be best to listen to this. I must add though, that since coming to live in Zimbabwe recently with my family, the urge to do work in and around Harare is huge. Part of it has to do with the realization of what Chimurenga entails, in its various aspects, but it is also about the texture of the land and the struggles and lives of the people of both Zimbabwe and South Africa. There is lots happening in terms of Art, Violence and Revolutionary possibilities in both these countries, in fact my upcoming book, The House of Plenty is an attempt at making sense of how beauty, strength, wealth and hope and suffering can coexist. We shall also investigate what really keeps Afrikan countries, particularly in the SADC region from developing at apace.

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Truth Will Free We All, Including Our Leaders

Freeing ourselves from psychological slavery is a daily task. Firstly we have to know how we are victims of this slavery, secondly we have to see ourselves as the primary agents of our own emancipation. The next step in my opinion, is we have to continually educate ourselves, our families and communities regarding our history, present situation and collectively find solutions to our predicament. The question of Leadership always arises. In an age of fake news and false prophets as well as virtual reality we have to ask ourselves certain crucial questions. What are the characteristics or traits of the best leaders we can find among ourselves, because it still remains true what Marcus Garvey said, “None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds.” We have to be truthful and we have to expose the fakers and promote the realness.

Lately I  have been watching with earnest concentration, some video’s from and about Dr Umar Ifatunde Johnson and thinking deeply about my own agency as a Pan-Afrikan activist. I am impressed as millions of others by the robust debates that the brother raises as well as his vision of establishing a Pan Afrikanist school for Black boys. When we hosted Dr Umar as The Institute of Afrikology in Kwa-Zulu I had several detractors to deal with. Most of the people who disagreed with Umar were Black feminists, Black radicals as well as people from the LGBTQ …community, yet our lectures were fully packed and great insights were shared among ourselves. I wrote a couple of essays about that and debated a few people in addition to speaking to Dr Umar in private regarding the concerns of all these people who follow our work. I still stand by my opinions, yet I have further concerns. The problem of viewing  and judging each other or ourselves through European and white liberal eyes.  We need to remain confrontational and factual as we carve our way towards Afrika’s liberation.

After posting some of the videos and debates on Umar on my Facebook timeline, I sat and meditated for a bit. The main realization and concern I have is not what Dr Umar Johnson said, but the problem of the Ego. Now everyone has a right to define and defend him or herself, but if we have a long term vision and seek to remain truthful, we have to become as transparent and as honest as possible firstly among ourselves. We owe no white people any explanations regarding our mission.

But I am writing today because I am watching videos of Dr John Hendrik Clarke, a scholar and activist of a much higher order. The videos that piqued my interest was the series titled The Million Man March and Fake Leadership, posted by Afrikanliberation*.

Dr Clarke is to me part of the foundations upon which brothers such as Dr Umar Johnson stand upon. Controversial mainly because they reveal things about the Black community which we are often afraid to confront. I will come back to the question of respect, egocentricity, the quality of our leadership and what we have to do to take progressive steps towards proper Black Power Pan Afrikanism. For now, please just listen to Mkhulu JHC.

Ankh Udja Seneb.

Ngcamane!!!

Visions From The House of Plenty

The country I now live in is undergoing a precarious transition. I come from a country that is still struggling to figure out whether its own celebrated democratic transition was worth it all or it is really a shambolic mess. I belong to a country without a name. Although many of we who espouse the Pan-Afrikan/Black Consciousness ethos call ourselves Azania(n), there has been resistance to that mired name, fraught as it is with what some call Arabic connotations of slavery. We shall deal with the name Azania on a different platform. Just call me South African for now, at least until the transformation is complete.

My family and I have been in Zimbabwe for just about a week now, and both my wife and I are still stunned by the amount of vegetation we have been confronted with, both in our yard and across every cultivatable surface. The people of Zimbabwe are on a mission to plant their own food in every nook and cranny. The only places where there is no maize, pumpkin, spinach, or sorghum growing are parks and business premises. This is another phenomenon I hope to return to once I have fully gained proper understanding of it. Suffice to say that, the whole thing is stoking my long suppressed will to became a serious farmer, a vision that I have long neglected in my home base in the suburbs of Durban, although I do have a few things growing in my garden, a smallanyana garden I had to reluctantly abandon for expedient reasons. I am also aware that farming requires much more work than I can afford right now, nevertheless, I would like to see my children growing up to a regime where we all get up in the morning to till the soil and mind the animals, this could be anywhere, between Azania and Zimbabwe.

Yet after reading today’s New Day newspaper, it is becoming clearer to me that this is a country whose transformation is going to take much more than politics and green-fields to achieve. The seemingly successful public relations campaigns that the present government lead by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a great start, and they are making all the right noises in order attract investors, but I am concerned about the noises that they are not making. They are not being practical or forthcoming with regards to dealing with their detractors, ignoring or rubbishing calls for restorative justice regarding the Gukurahundi massacres is not a great way to begin, or perhaps they are saving such things for a later period. In the letters section of the New Day, Dube says:

Gukurahundi is an easy way of seeking relevance and attracting cheap publicity among academics and unsuccessful politicians. To non-governmental organisations, it also serves the same purpose, but more importantly, it is a cash cow to get money from donors. One has to keep making noise and ruffling feathers of the establishment. As we approach elections, the noise about Gukurahundi will be ratcheted up. Such people had decades to confront former President Robert Mugabe about Gukurahundi, but they never did so in any meaningful way. Mugabe was never liked in Matebeleland, but he always won elections nationally ( questionable statement ). It is not, therefore impossible for the country’s new leaders to also win. Zapu leader, Dumiso Dabengwa is essentially a good man, but should be wary of individuals and organisations seeking to profit from his name.” – ( p.11, sms letters, News Day. Tuesday. January 16, 2018 )

I must admit, I said the similar things too in December, when I saw people all over South African news, who were opposed or heavily criticized Mnangagwa over this massacre. How come they were not as vocal during the Mugabe regime? But I also understand that it is far more complex than that, and people do not usually have free speech during the tyrannical reign of a man who was loved and much as he was hated and feared. Zimbabwe’s position is similar to the Ethiopian situation after the deposition of HIM Haile Selassie I by the Derg regime, but there are also uncanny parallels between Ramaphosa and Mnangangwa, both have a controversial history but the tides of future times and providence seem to be carrying them towards new and more promising shores.

Let me just add that I shall be writing short essays and short poems under the title The House of Plenty, once I have figured out just what kind of country Zimbabwe truly is. To gain such knowledge I have begun observing everything, reading and making notes, listening to the people in addition to aspiring to learn the Shona language. At the supermarket today, I discovered a bookshop I will be frequenting, mainly for historical books.

 

 

 

Afrika Matters

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President of the AU Alpha Conde, European Council President Donald Tusk (L) and President of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker. Reuters/Luc Gnago

Frank Mattheis, University of Pretoria and John Kotsopoulos, University of Pretoria

African and European heads of government gathered last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for their 5th summit since 2000. For the first time, the African Union (AU) rather than “Africa”, officially appears as the European Union’s partner. While plenty has been discussed about youth, migration, security and governance less is being said about the shift from an EU-Africa to an AU-EU summit.

Is this just a case of semantics? After all, the AU has been the key organiser of these triennial summits since they started in 2000. Or are there larger implications? We think there are.

The AU-EU summit coincided with the January 2017 report on the reform of the African Union prepared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The report recommends rationalising “Africa’s” many international partnerships by having the continental body take the lead. This means that the previous, current and future AU chairpersons, plus the AU Commission chairperson and the chairperson of the Regional Economic Communities, would represent the AU, rather than all its member states.

Despite some misgivings at the July 2017 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Kagame’s proposed reforms were well received. The AU and its member states have committed to a timetable of reform implementation, heralding a potential new era for the AU.

The transformation of the EU-Africa summit series into the EU-AU summit in Abidjan is more than just a change of name. It reflects the increasing recognition of the AU as an international actor that is becoming difficult to circumvent when engaging Africa. But there’s still a risk that the recognition remains confined to ceremonial purposes, as long as key challenges such as funding and mandate are not resolved.

The history

The first summit in Cairo in 2000 was intended as a meeting of the EU and the AU’s forbearer, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). But, the EU insisted on the inclusion of Morocco – the only African country not a member of the OAU and the exclusion of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a full member of the OAU.

Only after last minute shuttle diplomacy was the cancellation of the summit averted. The compromise solution was to call the event the “Africa-Europe Summit Under the Aegis of the OAU and the EU”.

The idea of “Africa” as the EU’s interlocutor was set.

This way of seeing Africa had repercussions for the relationship. Although the EU had targeted the AU as its principle partner by 2007, the AU’s organisational growing pains and less clear jurisdiction in external relations meant that it was exposed to the whims of its member states.

This was the case before the 2nd summit in Lisbon in 2007, when after months of AU-driven negotiation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, several AU member states voiced strong misgivings about it. Their objections on issues such as the restitution of stolen cultural artefacts, while crucial, were outside of the EU’s jurisdiction and threatened to scuttle the AU’s own good work.

The 2010 summit in Tripoli was overshadowed by the outsized personality of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who stole headlines insisting that the EU pay him to limit migration to Europe. Lost was the fact that the AU was endeavouring to upturn decades of EU driven agenda setting in the EU-ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States) relationship.

The upgrade

In theory the AU’s new status in EU-Africa summits has the potential to substantially contribute to the AU’s cohesion, recognition and identity. But whether this upgrade will actually materialise or whether the summit only offers a ceremonial appearance of the AU’s standing will depend on four crucial factors.

Firstly, the AU still needs to be based on a sustainable financial mechanism. So far, it depends heavily on development aid for its activities.

Secondly, member states need to provide the AU with an authoritative mandate to negotiate on their behalf. While it is becoming a stronger institution, it still heavily depends on compromises between heads of states.

Thirdly, the AU has to compete for the EU’s attention with other existing partnerships with Africa. Plans are already underway for the it to play a more prominent role in the ACP. This would underline the central role of the AU for all interregional arrangements.

Fourthly, other international partners such as China will need to recognise AU’s central role in their summits with Africa. So far, China is focusing on bilateral relations and there are few signs of the direct relationship China-AU receiving a substantial upgrade.