Of hippos and Xenophobes #notoxenophobia

Africa, African Renaissance, Human Rights

Last night I watched a documentary on hippopotamus. Territorial and aggressive; that is how best one can describe them. Hippos do not only behave violently towards each other, but also to humans and other species . I drew parallels between this behaviour among the hippos and the developments I have observed unfolding in South Africa. For years since its independence, I followed the reportage on South Africa’s “alarming” crime rates recording violence among South Africans; from murder, burglary, armed robbery, and rape to corrective rape of lesbians. The list is endless.

In 2010, I studied the alarming rape trends in South Africa, with up to 55 000 reported cases per year and an estimated 450 000 unreported cases just in 2006. 9 of the 10, experts I spoke with agreed that the rape was symptomatic of deeper problems within South African society.  The emasculation of men , economic deprivation, unequal power relations, inadequate security structures for women to be protected from rape or to report and receive justice after the rape, they said. They spoke to failed attempts by the state to disconnect the past from the present, yet in reality some citizens, psychologically challenged by their past and lack, are using violence (including rape) to reclaim their sense of masculinity and power

Now, there is xenophobia and Africa has witnessed the callous hand of a nation slaughtering the very same brethren that housed freedom fighters , supported them, trained them, and provided them with the much needed financial, moral and logistical support.

Technically speaking- it is xenophobia-but in reality South African blacks are targeting their (Anger? Frustration? Hate? ) on vulnerable foreign nationals of African descent who are black! I struggle with the pain of comprehending how one human being can burn another- to death- because they supposedly belong on the other side of an invisible demarcation called a border/national boundary. Indeed, until Africa emancipates itself from the shackles of mental slavery, the scenes in Durban today will be another page in a horror story book tomorrow.

I recognise that Xenophobia in South Africa is not a problem of a “few” South Africans, as some would like to believe. Attacks have been taking place since May 2008, with very few if any convictions secured against perpetrators. The leadership has displayed moral bankruptcy by building and sustaining a culture of impunity where xenophobic attacks are concerned. The police, immigration officials constantly make xenophobic remarks and display xenophobic tendencies, enabled and protected by the South African Immigration Act.

Simply put, Xenophobia in South Africa is institutionalised!

What we see on the streets is a physical manifestation of such institutionalisation and a dearth in leadership to address the root causes. That is what South Africa needs to fix, beginning with the creation of leadership that is conversant with the needs of those at the bottom of the ladder, leadership that does not press the mute button when such attacks are taking place because it recognises that condemning the attackers for their actions could open a Pandora’s box on its own inadequacies and failure to deliver.

*** So, that point brings me to the actual blog ***

The philosophies of Jean Jacques Rousseau — a proponent of the social contract theory — have informed the legitimacy of political authority for centuries. Rousseau argued that government came into being to right wrongs such as the economic and social inequalities precipitated by civilization. He claimed these inequalities robbed human beings of their natural state, one characterised by freedom and dignity.

Rousseau suggested that to recreate the balance of nature, where freedom existed and inequalities did not, man made two pacts: pactum unionis and pactum subjectionis. Under pactum unionis, human beings agreed to coexist peacefully in return for the guaranteed protection of their lives and property. Under pactum subjectionis, they ceded their rights to an authority with the power to enforce the contract. This meant giving power to the authority to govern them to their benefit, to represent their interests and to protect their freedoms.

This theory assumed that those vested with the power would respect the submission of individual wills to the collective will, and that the agreement was between free and equal persons.

Rousseau’s theory would work perfectly if those given the power to govern would be driven by the desire to serve, and to serve first. Assuming that those to whom power is assigned are driven by humility, selflessness, empathy, foresight and are deeply committed to identifying and fulfilling the needs of all those they serve. The theory would also work if those in power knew how to communicate instead of throwing teargas at school children protesting the grabbing of their playground (Kenya) or beating women asking for better service delivery (Zimbabwe).

It would be applicable if those in power did not stir conflict, change constitutions to extend their stay in power and took rapid steps to entrench authoritarianism. Maybe, just maybe, it could work if those leaders were persuasive, convincing others to work together toward a common good, reaffirm others, nurturing the abilities of those around them and recognising their own limits.

This not to say Africa has never had good leadership. It has; leaders who were deeply committed to identifying and fulfilling the needs of those they served, without segregation and recognised the invaluable contributions of all members of society towards building sustainable societies. They worked hard to promote the equality of all human beings.

These revolutionary minds from the continent stated:

“We must understand how the struggle of the Burkinabe woman is part of a worldwide struggle of all women and, beyond that, part of the struggle for the full rehabilitation of our continent. Thus, women’s emancipation is at the heart of the question of humanity itself, here and everywhere. The question is thus universal in character.” Thomas Sankara

“There are among us – the organisation is well aware of this fact – people who believe that we must consecrate all our efforts to the struggle against colonialism, and that the task of women’s liberation, in this case, is purely secondary since it is a useless and strength-consuming task….The liberation of women is not an act of charity. It is not the result of a humanitarian or compassionate position. It is a fundamental necessity for the Revolution, a guarantee of its continuity, and a condition for its success.”-Samora Machel

These leaders walked in the shoes of those they lead; for their comfort and even existence came secondary to that of the people they led:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”- Nelson Mandela

Indeed the core is to serve, and to enhance lives.

Seven years ago, Thabo Mbeki pledged, together with other leaders to:

• do everything necessary to ensure that as Africans, regardless of our geographic origins, we will once more live together as Africans, at peace with one another, refusing to impose on ourselves a new apartheid order;

• work expeditiously to achieve the reintegration of all the displaced Africans within the communities from which they were forced to flee because of murderous criminal activities;

• do everything necessary to assist the victims of this criminal onslaught, both the South Africans and our foreign guests, to resume their normal lives;

• act without any unnecessary delay to address all genuine concerns which may give birth to tensions between the native and immigrant Africans;

• work to improve our social and national cohesion, we will also address the challenge to entrench the understanding that this includes full acceptance within all our communities of new residents from other countries, as well as the understanding among the latter that we welcome them as good neighbours and citizens;

•work to mobilise all our communities to isolate and defeat the evil elements in our midst who target vulnerable African migrants, subjecting them to violent attacks for criminal purposes and personal gain;

• ensure that all those responsible for the criminal activities during the dark days of May, targeted against African migrants, face the full might of the law; and,

• take all necessary and possible measures to sustain respect for the law and our Constitutional order by all who live in our country, and the safety and security of all these, whether native-born or immigrant.

Today, the leadership loots from the people, ignores calls to #bringbackthemoney and stays mute in the face of deepening inequality. What we have got out of that is a discontented society whose anger bubbles over to the levels that we see today. That still doesn’t justify the attacks, but the context gives them perspective.

24 January 2063: Dear Kwame from Nkosazana

Activism, Africa, African Renaissance, Governance, History in the making, Peace, Politics, Shared Resources, Social Justice

They are dreamers my friends, just as I am one too and, as I always say, I shall continue to dream for  dreams turn into visions, visions become plans, plans can be turned into designs and designs can be implemented and spring forth the change I want to see. In my optimism I find hope, for it is my hope that the Africa you shall read about in the letter below shall BE. It is the vision of that Africa that fuels my anger, energy and passion in doing the work that I do; for I know, Africa is better than what many say she is-Africa is capable of doing better than she is doing today.  So may the pessimists close this page before you throw up from the high dosage of optimism it contains. But may the optimists and hopefuls be encouraged in the knowledge that Africa INDEED shall rise!

*Beautiful note, written by Chika Onyeani of the Africa Sun Times; first published on the African Diaspora Network mailing list by Melvin Foote.

Date: 24 January 2063*

To: Kwame@iamafrican.com
From: Nkosazana@confedafrica.gov
Subject: African Unity

My dear friend Kwame,

Greetings to the family and friends, and good health and best wishes for 2063.

I write to you from the beautiful Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, as we finalize preparations for the Centenary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity, which evolved to the African Union in 2002 and laid the foundations for what is now our Confederation of African States (CAS).

Yes, who would have thought that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah and his generations, when they called in 1963 on Africans to unite or perish, would one day become a reality. And what a grand reality.

At the beginning of the twenty first century, we used to get irritated with foreigners when they treated Africa as one country: as if we were not a continent of over a billion people and 55 sovereign states! But, the advancing global trend towards regional blocks, reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage.

In fact, if Africa was one country in 2006, we would have been the 10th largest economy in the world! However, instead of acting as one, with virtually every resource in the world (land, oceans, minerals, energy, forests) and over a billion people, we acted as fifty-five small and fragmented individual countries.

The bigger countries that should have been the locomotives of African integration, failed to play their role at that time, and that is part of the reasons it took us so long. We did not realize our power, but instead relied on donors, that we euphemistically called partners.

That was the case in 2013, but reality finally dawned and we had long debates about the form that our unity should take: confederation, a united states, a federation or a union.As you can see, my friend, those debates are over and the Confederation of African States is now twelve years old, launched in 2051.

The role played by successive generations of African youth contributed to our success. Already in 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, it was the youth that loudly questioned the slow progress towards integration.
They formed African Union Clubs in schools and universities across the continent, and linked with each other on social media. Thus we saw the grand push for integration, for the free movement of people, for harmonization of education and professional qualifications, with the Pan African University and indeed the university sector and intelligentsia playing an instrumental role.

We were a youthful continent at the start of the 21st century, but as our youth bulge grew, young men and women became even more active, creative, impatient and assertive, often telling us oldies that they are the future, and that they (together with women) form the largest part of the electorates in all our countries!

Of course this was but one of the drivers towards unity. The accelerated implementation of the Abuja Treaty and the creation of the African Economic Community by 2034 saw economic integration moved to unexpected levels. Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045. This integration was further consolidated with the growth of commodity exchanges and continental commercial giants.

Starting with the African pharmaceutical company, Pan African companies now not only dominate our domestic market of over two billion people, but they have overtaken multi-nationals from the rest of the world in their own markets.

Even more significant than this, was the growth of regional manufacturing hubs, around the beneficiation of our minerals and natural resources, such as in the Eastern Congo, north-eastern Angola and Zambia’s copper belt and at major Silicon valleys in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa, to mention but a few such hubs.

My friend, Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization.

Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors. Africa is now the third largest economy in the world. As the Foreign Minister’s retreat in Bahir Dar in January 2014 emphasized, we did this by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and RECS to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialization and economic integration.

Let me recall what our mutual friend recently wrote:
“The (African) agrarian revolution had small beginnings. Successful business persons (and local governments) with roots in the rural areas started massive irrigation schemes to harness the waters of the continent’s huge river systems.

The pan-African river projects – on the Congo, the Nile, Niger, Gambia, Zambezi, Kunene, Limpopo and many others – financed by PPPs that involved African and BRIC investors, as well as the African Diaspora, released the continent’s untapped agricultural potential.

By the intelligent application of centuries-old indigenous knowledge, acquired and conserved by African women who have tended crops in all seasons, within the first few years bumper harvests were being reported. Agronomists consulted women about the qualities of various grains – which ones survived low rainfalls and which thrived in wet weather; what pests threatened crops and how could they be combated without undermining delicate ecological systems.

The social impact of the agrarian revolution was perhaps the most enduring change it brought about. The status of women, the tillers of the soil by tradition, rose exponentially. The girl child, condemned to a future in the kitchen or the fields in our not too distant past, now has an equal chance of acquiring a modern education (and owning a farm or an agribusiness). African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled.

The producers’ cooperatives, (agribusinesses) and marketing boards these women established help move their produce and became the giant food companies we see today.’

We refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the Green economy and to claim the Blue economy as ours. We lit up Africa, the formerly dark continent, using hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels.

And, whilst I’m on the Blue economy, the decision to form Africa-wide shipping companies, and encourage mining houses to ship their goods in vessels flying under African flags, meant a major growth spurt. Of course the decision taken in Dakar to form an African Naval Command to provide for the collective security of our long coastlines, certainly also helped.

Let me quote from our mutual friend again:
‘Africa’s river system, lakes and coast-lines abound with tons of fish. With funding from the different states and the Diaspora, young entrepreneurs discovered… that the mouths of virtually all the rivers along the east coast are rich in a species of eel considered a delicacy across the continent and the world.

Clever marketing also created a growing market for Nile perch, a species whose uncontrolled proliferation had at one time threatened the survival of others in Lake Victoria and the Nile.

Today Namibia and Angola exploit the Benguela current, teaming with marine life, through the joint ventures funded by sovereign funds and the African Development Bank.”

On the east coast, former island states of Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius are leading lights of the Blue economy and their universities and research institutes attract marine scientists and students from all over the world.

My dear friend, you reminded me in your last e-mail how some magazine once called us ‘the hopeless continent’, citing conflicts, hunger and malnutrition, disease and poverty as if it was a permanent African condition. Few believed that our pledge in the 50th Anniversary Declaration to silence the guns by 2020 was possible. Because of our first-hand experience of the devastation of conflicts, we tackled the root causes, including diversity, inclusion and the management of our resources.

If I have to single out one issue that made peace happened, it was our commitment to invest in our people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013 we said Africa needed a skills revolution and that we must change our education systems to produce young people that are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.

From early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education – we experienced a true renaissance, through the investments we made, as governments and the private sector in education and in technology, science, research and innovation.

Coupled with our concerted campaigns to eradicate the major diseases, to provide access to health services, good nutrition, water and sanitation, energy and shelter, our people indeed became and are our most important resource. Can you believe it my friend, even the dreaded malaria is a thing of the past.

Of course this shift could not happen without Africa taking charge of its transformation, including the financing of our development. As one esteemed Foreign minister said in 2014: Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.

With concerted political determination and solidarity, and sometimes one step back and two steps forward, we made financing our development and taking charge of our resources a priority, starting with financing the African Union, our democratic elections and our peacekeeping missions.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations were the start of a major paradigm shift, about taking charge of our narrative.
Agenda 2063, its implementation and the milestones it set, was part of what brought about this shift. We developed Agenda 2063 to galvanize and unite in action all Africans and the Diaspora around the common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa. As an overarching framework, Agenda 2063 provided internal coherence to our various sectorial frameworks and plans adopted under the OAU and AU.

It linked and coordinated our many national and regional frameworks into a common continental transformation drive.

Planning fifty years ahead, allowed us to dream, think creatively, and sometimes crazy, to see us leapfrog beyond the immediate challenges.

Anchored in Pan Africanism and the African renaissance, Agenda 2063 promoted the values of solidarity, self-belief, non-sexism, self-reliance and celebration of our diversity.

As our societies developed, as our working and middle classes grew, as women took their rightful place in our societies, our recreational, heritage and leisure industries grew: arts and culture, literature, media, languages, music and film. WEB du Bois grand project of Encyclopaedia Africana finally saw the light and Kinshasa is now the fashion capital of the world.

From the onset, the Diaspora in the traditions of Pan Africanism, played its part, through investments, returning to the continent with their skills and contributing not only to their place of origin, but where the opportunities and needs were found.

Let me conclude this e-mail, with some family news. The twins, after completing their space studies at Bahir Dar University, decided to take the month off before they start work at the African Space Agency, to travel the continent. My old friend, in our days, trying to do that in one month would have been impossible!

But, the African Express Rail now connects all the capitals of our former states, and indeed they will be able to crisscross and see the beauty, culture and diversity of this cradle of humankind.

The marvel of the African Express Rail is that it is not only a high speed-train, with adjacent highways, but also contains pipelines for gas, oil and water, as well as ICT broadband cables: African ownership, integrated planning and execution at its best!

The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, makes tourism one of our largest economic sectors.

Our eldest daughter, the linguist, still lectures in Kiswahili in Cabo Verde, at the headquarters of the Pan African Virtual University. Kiswahili is now a major African working language, and a global language taught at most faculties across the world.

Our grandchildren find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight that the English version is not in line with the French or Arabic text!
Now we have a lingua franca, and multi-lingualism is the order of the day.

Remember how we used to complain about our voice not being heard in trade negotiations and the Security Council, how disorganized, sometimes divided and nationalistic we used to be in those forums, how we used to be summoned by various countries to their capitals to discuss their policies on Africa?

How things have changed. The Confederation last year celebrated twenty years since we took our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and we are a major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice.

My dear friend, I hope to see you next month in Haiti, for the second round of unity talks between the Confederation of African States and the Caribbean states.

This is a logical step, since Pan Africanism had its roots amongst those early generations, as a movement of Africans from the mother continent and the Diaspora for liberation, self-determination and our common progress.

I end this e-mail, and look forward to seeing you in February. I will bring along some of the chocolates from Accra that you so love, which our children can now afford.

Till we meet again, Nkosazana

An ode to a great man: Celebrating Mandela

Africa, African Renaissance, Governance, History in the making, Politics

A bright light has been dimmed in Africa, our motherland. No it hasn’t been switched off, for the legacy of this great nation-builder remains with us. We mourn, we remember but above all we celebrate a life well lived, fighting for peace, dignity and freedom for the down-trodden.  Individuals like Nelson Mandela are not mourned, they are celebrated for he inspired change wherever he went and the millions of condolence messages pouring in are a testimony of the depth of character of this great leader.

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

He led a selfless life, sacrificed his youth to the advancement of human dignity and the freedom of his nation and people. His courage of conviction led him through the 27 years of incarceration, as he envisioned a free South Africa in which black and white co-existed peacefully. His release signified the beginning of freedom and unity as he sought progress for his country through reconciliation. He inspired many with his integrity and compassion, including myself, and we shall continue to pursue the ideals that he preached and lived.