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Africa: It is the darkness now!

13 Aug 2016 at 08:47hrs | Views
I have no difficulties with insults heaped upon our ancestors by the white world, both before and after colonisation. Much of it arose from overweening Victorian pride and racism anyway, a lot more from sheer ignorance of how to read things African. Of course with time, there was a political ulterior motive in misreading our world. The cub had to smell like a goat for the hungry lioness to eat it, is it not? We had to deserve our invasion, deserve our occupation, indeed deserve our colonisation.

So, as the myth went, we were in a state of barbarism, a state of socio-economic stasis, were dark and irreligious. Benighted in short. A people who had not invented the wheel. Or anything that mattered to world civilisation for that matter. Was it one Oxonian don who dismissed Africa as existing outside history, as dark, sharply adding darkness is not a subject of history?

What development meant
But all this was a self-subverting narrative, which is why I am not worried. We had lived from time immemorial, through our forefathers, without the West, which means we had evolved answers to life's questions, which to me is what science, technology and development boil down to. Meet your needs, minister to them to fullness, or minimally to survive and reproduce, needs met in their hierarchy, and you have development. It is the unmet needs which kill, all else passes for wants. We met needs and in doing so, developed civilisations.

Developed cultures. Developed identities. Became peoples. That is all that matters when life begins and evolves; what drives it. How you are organised socio-economically, politically, militarily, demographically, even maritally, depends on the survival questions which your living environment throws upon you. And you have little choice but to answer them, to evolve in other words. Or simply to perish as we didn't. And we were alright for as long as we evolved, our own way, consistent with our environment, meeting our ever-changing needs, our aspirations. Our forefathers are a generation that acquitted itself.

Social Darwinism
The trouble was not that the white man found us where we were, the way we were. We were doing fine, doing very well, on our own terms, at our pace, in our own direction in our own environment. And to say so is not to romanticise backwardness, whatever that means. Yes, whatever that means. You cannot invoke the notion of backwardness without succumbing to Darwin and his perverse, racist ideas of evolution. Without succumbing to this uni-linear view of human development, where some are far ahead, the rest far behind, groping.

In the 21st Century, this is a discredited mode of thinking, one openly western, subliminally racist, and thus a self-assault when repeated by thick black lips. There are many paths to development and let no fool place humanity in a single file. Or draw an imaginary start-off line, to then invent a god swelling his chubby cheeks for a universal "get steady, go!". It is plain stupid; the race cannot have a human umpire, without that soul existing outside history, human history.

Ndarubva's garment
The trouble, the real trouble began when we began to view ourselves as some devolved West, some second cousin of a far-away race, not as our mothers' sons and daughters, as of this earth, this continent with its wondrous means. When we ceased to regard ourselves as sons and daughters of that woman of massive breasts that dropped round and full, lactating to fullness, wielding a complexion darker than two nights put together, without a tinge of guilt or excuse. Nay, with a brag that knew no other colour. And here is my key postulate: you cannot image Zimbabwe as a donor recipient country without operating within the circuit of Darwin's evolutionary mode.

You cannot pontificate about donor support, about FDI, about imported development models, without accepting and genuflecting to the servile status that Europe has placed you in the global racial hierarchy, in the racialised rat race. I don't know that Zimbabwe needs FDI, whatever that is. I know that Europe and the rest of the world needs gold, platinum, chrome, uranium, iron, vanadium, etc, etc, which Zimbabwe has. Which the rest of the world might not have, but needs. That is my starting point: what I have, what I own, what is mine. Not Ndarubva's garment. It's cut to her, never to me who will be a misfit in it.

Money? Wealth?
Why this tedious and debilitating song about what Zimbabwe needs, never what Zimbabwe has, what the world needs from it? Why this self-abasement? Capital is a coward, we are repeatedly told. Entice it by flushing your mother's inner portions! Well, let it be coward, die a thousand times. We don't need to marry off our mother, however hard challenges are. Platinum isn't shy, and that is what we have. Gold isn't; it's yellow, not lily-livered, and that is what we have. Coal isn't; it is dark, darker than feared night; that we have, too. The coward in our midst is us, so unworthy inheritors of this earth, our earth. We, a generation who believe a coin minted from a machine abroad surpasses the vast gold embedded in our subsoil. The Americans may trust in God. We all wish they did. But they eat from conquest.

That is why they come to invade us, those who invent and mint money? Yes, Mugabe is right: it is not money; it is wealth. There is nothing called a resource curse: yet another of the white man's many distracting inventions; there is a self-curse, a lack of self-belief curse: that tendency to give away what you have, what in fact matters, for what you won't have, what you don't need. And it is this learned mantra: in the beginning was capital, which has been our bane. Much worse, that capital is not even our money, someone else's.

The goods are not our goods, someone else's. The food is not our food, someone else's. My goodness! I wrote about the Ethiopians and their cuisine, their ndyera, did I not? Here we frown at our own water, preferring purified urine from abroad! We think we are smart, educated, yet it is now vividly clear: knowledge enervates us, pushes us into a national stupor. Can you imagine if Great Zimbabwe was built on material from Stonehenge? What hard lessons do we draw from that architectural wonderment? A cursed people!

The geo-thermal wonder of Nemangwe
Last week I was in Gokwe. Uumm, Minister Gumbo needs to do something about that road, especially after Chief Nemangwe's homestead, right up to Chitekete. I hope I don't hear someone shouting "that needs money!" No, it needs us, you and me as Zimbabweans. How come there is so much unemployment when there is so much to do, so much undone, in the country? Starting with the roads? Or it's the donor who must come and do the roads for us? Nonsense! But that is a story for another day.

Past Nemangwe High School, there is a pool of water that strikes a passer-by, especially in this season when everything looks so dry, so parched. And that pool is a cynosure: the real focal point of human souls inhabiting that part of our beautiful country. Women balancing pots and water cans; young boys leading harnessed donkeys drawing rickety carts, inside which are overspilling water jugs. Or "well-dressed" widowers eyeing that live-alone mother of two who has gone laundry a-washing. One such widower sat there, aimlessly, his not-so-holy eyes straying in just this one direction whence came a soft false ditty from a dame whose chores never seemed to finish. Clearly a love pantomime afoot.

When a solution is our problem
It was late afternoon, five-ish, when I stopped by, winter dusk already gathering, early as it is always wont. I was dumbfounded by the spectacle. Not of the uxorious widower. Or that of the coquettish apple of his eye. It was the water. A long pipe bent into numerous right angles from source, before it took a sudden upward, right-angled bend, seemingly angling for the mighty heavens. Only shyly to do another horizontal right-angle turn, as if to peep back at, and mock its beginnings. And yet another right-angle bend downwards, this time as if to look down on the sorry sample of village humanity. Crispy water jetted out of it, in copious quantities.

Endlessly, too. I looked at the source of the pipe, met yet another right-angled bend that sank into the soil – ashen, decidedly poor. But where is the motive force, what is driving the water past all the horizontal turns, past the vertical turns, right up to the drooping busy spout? There was no handle, no youngster dangling up and down it, as at a village borehole.

It's God's!
Beating back perplexity, I plucked courage to ask the doting widower: where is this water coming from? From the borehole over there-ee, where the pipe sinks into the earth, he responded, confident that dutifully taking questions from a vexed soul from Harare would yield a monetary reward far in excess of the tender hand he was out to entice. But where is the pump, I further asked. There is no pump, came the reply. How so, I persisted. So how does the water come up? It's God, shot back the widower, an old, lovelorn SDA. Gooood? Yes, we have a few such wells here in Gokwe, another one barely a kilometre or two further down the road to Chitekete. And the bends, what are they for? Ah, to control the pressure-ka; don't you know? No, I don't live here. We simple villagers think you who come from Harare know everything. Nyamba hamuzivi nhai? How come the city that does not know governs us, was the widower's sarcastic message, cleverly put. I agreed. Kindly, he picked up the thread of his narrative relating to this mundane local feature, but a wonder to a Hararean: when the DDF team came to drill holes for slacking Gokwe's desperate thirst, they hit a subterranean water body that sent a massive jet of warm water up the skies. The bends are meant to tame that massive pressure from down under, so we can access the water, politely concluded the widower, a kind smile splitting his face.

Yet another God's
On further examination, I realised the main pipe had been split into another smaller tit that served the local women doing laundry and other small chores. And the overhead pipe was meant to serve drawers who came on carts. After dropping a few notes into the widower's hands, I left, carrying away my quiet puzzlement. A kilometre or two further down, another such spectacle, but this time fronted by a big shallow pond where man and tame beast took turns to wallow and drink respectively. The architecture was as before — pipe full of bends — but only less grand. The roar of trapped and frustrated subterranean pressure was quite audible, the pipe itself being relatively short. The pool yonder was a hive of splashing activity, with little boys enjoying chaotic dives into the water. Silhouetting the pond was a green jungle of tall, thriving reeds, unlike at the first water point shorn of vegetation. The diving village urchins were not about to be interrupted by a curious stranger from the city. Or by any sense of bashfulness, what with their little phalluses wagging about innocently, barely aware of their sinful futures.

When a man is his back
Near enough to greet, I noticed something peculiar. A good number of little ones fronted discoloured teeth, rusty, brownish. My mind raced back to Marange High School where I had done my TIRA, teaching in rural areas during university holidays, back in the early eighties when our Uhuru smelled new, fresh and hopeful. Many of my students had the same discolouration, especially those who had grown up around the Hot-spring area, kwaana Gudyanga. A local teacher had told me the discolouration came from water from the Spring, especially when drunk at tender age. I immediately connected. It is a lifelong discolouration, but the affected youngsters did not seem to mind. They smiled, gaily laughed, without inhibition. Was bilharzia not a problem in the area, I again asked? No it wasn't? Why was there no thriving vegetation around the pond, except of course the green, flourishing reeds? It's the water, Sir. You use it for vegetable watering, you have a good harvest in the first year. Thereafter, plants simply dry up, I am told. But the story is different when you allow the water sometime in the open, possibly in an overnight dam. The water becomes kind to plants, I am again told.

Indeed an irrigation project had been attempted at the first hole, but had failed dismally, leaving behind its bare carcasses. An eloquent tribute to our capacity for rural development! Does the water affect humans, that is beyond the milk teeth of the young ones. White men who once came here to investigate told us we could drink the water, but warned that after 30 or so years of drinking the same water, backs would be afflicted by aches, noted the widower I had met at the first sight. So, too, would the bones. So does he drink the water himself? No, my back is still useful, still has some work to do, came the bold answer. I don't want it finished, he added, clenched fist beating it as proof of its current undiminished strength. A man is his back, so goes the lore of our masculine society! Guard it jealously.

In summary . . .
I summarised the mighty finds of the day: pressurised water from below, God's work; warm water, again God's work; watering a famished land; largely safe for drinking, but with immediate effects to milk teeth, with long-term effects to the back and bones. And for us, an aching kidney is a back that is not well. Could that be it? Kind to plants in the first year of use, but scorching thereafter. Why? Usable agriculturally if left overnight in the open. Again why? Safe for swimming, with no risk of bilharzia. In fact, no aquatic life. Why? A secondary school close by using scarce and expensive electricity for heating water. Why? Too far for God's miracle?

The wonders of Gokwe
The Rhodesians — those clever hatefuls — built the Kariba. Not long after, they built the Kariba Research Station to pry into the mysteries and possibilities of the waters they had created. The Rhodesians — those despicable clever colonialists — got to know about the Hot Springs. Not long after, they built hotels around it. Same with the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, many other places of interest and wonderment. They met questions, sought answers. They created questions, raised answers. Much like our forefathers who mastered the art of darning iron, working copper, taming the terraces of Nyanga to create one of the most elaborate labyrinth of irrigation systems after the Incas. That was our forebears, their simmering ingenuity.

Gokwe has many subsoil resources, not least the black rocks that daily smoulder in Sengwa. Huge coalfields that fired Chitekete Growth Point in their heydays. They are still there, smouldering, smouldering in a Nation shivering from the gale of un-development, unemployment. Lebombo in Matabeleland North, same story. Come down to Lupane and you come face to face with the full truancy of our nation. A derelict generation. There the earth puffs visibly, puffs where there are people without a blush. It belches airs, mercifully not pestilential airs. They call that methane gas. What is wrong with us? The guardians of this land hide all these riches from the knee-less ones, only flush the land's riches for us after 1980, when all is now ours! And we don't know what to do with this flushing maiden called Zimbabwe? FDI! Nonsense! So many excuses from generation guilty of dereliction.

Terra incognito
Gokwe. Do our universities know where Gokwe is, in the first instance? Do they know about this geo-thermal phenomenon? What it can do and cannot do for us? Our researchers, where are they? How many bars are that pressure? Can it turn turbines for mini-power generation before the water flows to villagers for household chores? Why are backs that must populate Gokwe aching after 30 or so years of drinking that water? What can be done? The beautiful teeth of young ones, what is discolouring them? The ponds, why is there no aquatic life, no vectors of bilharzia? What can we learn about disease control? Our agricultural scientists, where are you? Our planners, why is there no Nemangwe Geothermal Research Station? Tourism industry, only Victoria Falls, David Livingstone; Matopos and Cecil Rhodes nhai? Environmentalists, what is the impact assessment of uncontrolled activity on these two sites? School developers, why is Nemangwe Boarding School without warm water in June, July, August when all is nippy? Plant scientists, why have those reeds thrived where all else gets scorched? Hydrologists and chemical engineers, what happens to that water when it is left overnight to breathe? So many questions, no answers! Ease-of-doing-business, the newest fad. No ease-of-harnessing-local-endowments, the banished wisdom. A generation that views itself as devolved from western systems of thoughts, values, technologies, FDIs and so forth, can never build a nation, indeed can never be anything but servile. Its back aches, is probably broken. It is now, not yesterday, when Africa is a dark continent. Terra incognito. And the epicentre of that darkness seems here, with our 81 percent literacy rate. Kukanda matombo kupera.

Njelele, Matonjeni or Mabweadziva, is the religious name for Matopo Hills. It was the spiritual shrine of Murenga, which is where the name Chimurenga or liberation war, comes from, ironically, it is here that Cecil John Rhodes is buried


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