Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

African intellectuals should be jailed

04 Apr 2012 at 04:59hrs | Views
Africa, the lowliest of the continents is still nocturnal. It is in this disposition that it emerges a superpower, greater than the United States, Britain, and China combined. In the night, when the world is somnolent, Africa assumes the status of global hegemony. Its inhabitants acquire lunar powers and perform wonders incomparable. They fly around the world in fireballs ten times faster than a NASA rocket. It is in the night that an army of butt naked Africans will thwack the U.S. Marines in their infra-red goggles. Using their charms they will blind them, recalibrate the drone in an instant and turn its missiles back on the attackers.

Klaus was laughing. "If that were the case you guys would be the world's superpower. We would all want to be black, grow Afro hair and live in Africa. But you and I know that it's all garbage, and yet you cling to it tenaciously like flies on rot. All of you, African doctors, lawyers, politicians…"

"All of us?" I asked just to ascertain.

"Yes all you Bantu people," he responded. "You are trapped in irrational beliefs, superstition, evil spirits, illusions, and trepidation. Your intelligence is stifled by supernatural forces. Your customs, traditions, doctrines and dogmas are so archaic they have dragged you to the deep end of the Third World."

Klaus is my first Boston buddy. Stick-straight, not exactly thin, he wears an abbreviated version of the Paul Kruger beard, and considers himself a voortrekker√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨"a more Boer than thou.  

"I grew up in Cape Town," he said in his Afrikaans accent when we first met at a writer's haunt in Cambridge. "I've lived in three countries, including yours."

"You've lived in Zambia?" I asked.

"I taught in Ndola in the early 1970s. Before that I worked in Salisbury, but was forced to flee to Zambia at the height of the Rhodesian bush war. And when Zambians started to stone whites on the street of Cairo Road, I fled, this time to Lagos. I returned to South Africa, but in 1994 when Mandela became president, I fled for the third time."

"Why did you flee?"

"I feared to be treated like a witch, necklaced, stoned, and set on fire. That's what mobs in Africa do. When blacks won the election some of us Boers were afraid to be captured and subjected to the same gruesome executions."

"Have you been home since?"  

"Yes, I went once," he said. I didn't like what I saw and came back."

"What did you see?"

"A still violent South Africa," he claimed. "The witch-hunting has not stopped. Blacks are still torching their fellow blacks due to rising poverty. They continue to take beautiful South Africa back to those savagery necklace lynching days."

"So you think blacks are not doing well enough."

"How can they?" Klaus responded. "They are too irrational, rigid, suspicious and xenophobic. I mean blacks everywhere, including you."


"Yes you. You all believe in witchcraft, in sorcery and all that nonsense, that's your science. You believe in things that lack evidence."

"Don't stereotype us," I protested.

"No, I am not," he said. "You have failed to break away from the unproven myths and miracles of your ancestors. You still believe sorcery works. Look, if it did work, South African sorcerers would have long killed apartheid by sending Jan Smut, Milan and Voster to the mad house. They would have raided Robben Island, rescue Mandela and fly him to safety."

For a moment Klaus had me asking myself why sorcerers failed to intercept bullets fired by the South African police at the innocent children of Soweto; in the Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia, why they did not warn Lumumba, Azikiwe, Nkrumah, and Tolbert of impending military coups and punish perpetrators; in Uganda why they allowed Idi Amin to destroy the Pearl of Africa; and in Rhodesia, why they failed to incapacitate the Rhodesia Air Force and allow freedom fighters to march on Salisbury without firing a single bullet.

"It is a fluke," Klaus insisted. "When sorcery, wizardly and evil spirits came knocking at the white man's door, we gave them the boot because they were inhibiting our ingenuity and divvying us. All the nonsense about magical powers, flying on a broom, communication with the dead, rain making, and vampires was left to the crazies. We opted for the actual stuff, the real scienceâ€"real planes, cars, and radios. Our achievements have turned us into a united superior race."

"United," I said without much thought.

"Yes, aren't we?" Klaus asked. "Give us sub-Sahara and we will turn it into a paradise. We will do to Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and your country what we did to South Africa. Why? Because we white people work and think like one. We pride in each other's success. The innovations of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Gugliemo Marconi, are our successes.

"Sadly, it is not the same with you Africans. You are so steeped neck-deep into the sewer of superstition, you can hardly see eye-to-eye. Your heroes are your local shamans. They are the ones you allow to take over your lives. Your scapegoats are witches. Anything you can't do you blame it on the witch. You blame witches for your misfortunes, evils, poverty, disease, death, famine, and infertility. People like Doyoyo are not your heroes."  

"Who's Doyoyo?" I asked.

"You see what I mean? Mulalo Doyoyo is a black South African inventor of Cenocell, a building material that will replace concrete and wood in construction and even aerospace. The guy has over thirty publications and two patents of great use to the world."

"I've never heard of him."   

"I don't blame you. Africans pay little attention to the achievements of their own people and we whites relish on that. We love the black on black spew. It makes you all look narrow-minded. I bet some of Doyoyo's relatives don't like the fact that the man is a genius. When I lived in your country there were stories of uncles and aunties bewitching their educated, successful and fortunate nephews and nieces.

"I actually witnessed a very sad situation in which a Zambian medical doctor friend was visiting a witch-finder to find out why he was having frequent mental lapses and nightmares. He was told his uncle in the village had something to do with it. He came back with deep tattoos on his face. My friends and I called him the tattooed intellectual."

For a moment I panicked and tucked my hands in my pockets. I didn't want him to see my tattoos (small parallel lines) between my thumbs and index fingers. I have had them since the threat of smallpox in the sixties. Thank god my brow tattoos have since vanished.

Let's face it. The majority of African men and women of my generation and above have a tattoo or more on their body. Mine are meant to protect me from infectious ailments. I remember a traditional healer cutting my skin and applying a black powder to the wound so that the "vaccine" may travel directly into the blood stream.

Some tattoos are meant to keep evil spirits at bay, while others are for bravery. In women tattoos below the navel are symbols of fertility and rejuvenation. In sorcery tattoos help with flying in the night or to stop bullets. And in almost all the African cultures, facial tattoos are meant to ward off death.

"Rubbish!" Klaus exclaimed. "If tattoos were able to protect you guys from death, you all be living a hundred years, and we white people would be flocking to Africa for longevity. But as it is you flock to us to save you from malaria and AIDS and you die young, some of you from infected tattoos. Field, tell me one case in which your African science has turned to be true in the eyes of the world, just one."

Klaus locked eyes with mine in anticipation. I was thinking of Adamson Mushala the "vanishing" soldier who led a rebellion against KK's government. He was believed to be a naked sorcerer who evaded detection. Zambian soldiers were told by Mushala's wife to strip their uniforms and pursue him naked if they were to capture him. They did just that!

How about my former foreign minister Katele Kalumba PhD? It was believed he had the same magical powers as Mushala. After his arrest was ordered on charges of plundering the nation's resources, the Zambian police failed to detect him. When they got to his tent in the village they found magical objects. It is said that the police consulted a witchdoctor who told them to search for him without their underpants on.

I was going to tell him about these two cases, but the Boer was demanding evidence.

"What good is Muntu science when you can't prove it," Klaus said. "Stop it! This rubbish is the reason for murder and genocide. Without proof you accuse your own relatives and friends of sorcery and stone or burn them to deathâ€"innocent men, women, children, and albinos. You push innocent old women over the cliff. It is madness, the most heinous crime committed by a human being on earth."

He paused and shook his head.

"I really do not understand you Africans, hacking a person to death on mere suspicion of witchcraft.  My doctor friend, the tattooed intellectual, went to the village and clobbered his uncle to pulp. As I speak thousands of innocent Africans accused of witchcraft are living in fear, or dead, murdered by family members. Albinos are being hunted for their body parts."

He paused and looked at me with burning eyes.

"You, the so-called African intellectuals ought to burn in hell for allowing such madness to continue under your watch. If I had my way, I would arrest all of you, find you guilty of genocide, throw you in jail and throw away the key."

I was overwhelmed by a sense of worthlessness and for a moment embarrassed to be an African. I could see how superstition poses a threat to our survival. Our witch doctors, diviners, spiritualists, and sorcerers have lamentably failed us. They have failed to provide evidence, elucidations, and remedies. Instead, they are the reason for blind faith, brutal deaths, bitter and irreparable family feuds, community hate, and fear of the unknown.

Since we, intellectuals and politicians, are as scared as hell to fight this dark scourge, we can only do one thing; keep our children away from this unproductive, regressive primitive influence. As our children prepare to awaken the sleeping giant and create an African renaissance in 2021, they must be free of paranormal theories, and dogmata. They must break with us and refuse to be contaminated with artifices and misconceptions. You, the successor, must create a culture of innovation and invention based on rational thinking, only then will Africa become a superpower.

Note: All African youth are wearing the T-shirt "Ours is a Future of Innovation." Make one for yourself.

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and an adjunct professor (lecturer). ©Ruwe2012 (Permission granted to media outlets)
Source - Field Ruwe
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.