By Charles Nhamo Rupare
We are all part of a collective struggle. I say this on good authority and many who realise that being an Afrikan means living on the fringes of the free share my viewpoint. We need to build one another to totally break free.
The xenophobic attacks witnessed in South Afrika demonstrated the ‘brokenness’ of our way. We all know that Zimbabwe and Mozambique helped South Afrika attain its freedom. These two nations, amongst others, reached out in solidarity and unity during the dark days of apartheid. Our grandfathers worked in the mines, gardens and kitchens of South Afrika. They had the same masters. We all had the same oppressors. I grew up on stories of Sophiatown narrated by uncles returning from Egoli where they had gone to work. Some of them brought back wives from Qumbu and Ixopo. This is how Afrikans have always lived their lives before colonialism and long after it. The only difference between Dandora, Kenya and Alex in Johannesburg is geographical. Our villages look the same, our townships have the same original purpose and lobola is our attempt at ‘ties that bind’ marriage philosophy.
We share a path well travelled by our ancestors. We share languages, ideologies, values and a shade darker than blue. Sadza, Sima, Nshima, Posho, Ugali, Ngima, and Oshifima are no different from Pap. The ‘Zulu’ surname can be found at Kwa Ngilazi in Enkonjeni, Kwazulu Natal and around the corner from Mwinilunga Bar in Matero, Lusaka.
All these things led me to believe that killing another Afrikan is like killing your own brother or sister. The ideology is not indigenous to South Afrika but to Sub-Saharan Afrika. The Zimbabweans call it unhu. The Burundians call it ubuntu and in Uganda and Tanzania it’s known as obuntu. Our way is linked and it’s up to us to exercise unity and humanity to advance our legacy.
‘A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you is able to improve?’ – Nelson Mandela.
Our kinfolk on the continent look to South Afrika because they believe in South Afrika not only as a country but also as a beacon of democratic freedom. The vicious attacks on fellow Afrikans by South Afrikans show a lack of civil education within the general population, the very foundation of ‘ubuntu’. Apartheid left a legacy in us that is only coming to the fore now – that Black is bad, therefore a Black foreign national coming from another Afrikan country is even worse.
Afrikans cannot pay the price for poor local service delivery because of their mere addition to the population. I’m a Zimbabwean and I say we are all Zimbabweans. I have Shangani roots but apparently this might be a problem to some of our brothers and sisters. We are all related to one tribe or the other, but it’s critical to acknowledge the unity that exists in a shared destiny. No South Afrikan can deny the inspiration Zimbabwe brought to peoples’ hearts when it attained its independence. Our continent rejoiced when South Afrika shook off the shackles of apartheid.
Hate is a weapon for the feeble mind and I know that South Afrikans are of just minds and generous hearts. I have lived in this country long enough to realise that common understanding is an instrument of peace when wielded appropriately. We are a people of just minds and generous hearts but some of us got kicked so far into the dark by the oppressors’ magic that co-operative opportunities go unclaimed. Some of us think that getting rid of all foreign Afrikans will solve problems. We are all Zimbabweans I tell you and we are Afrikans too.
We must abhor this aggression and ask the spirits to take away the anger, misery, strife, pain, oppression, frustrations and confusions that we all carry – from Naija to Mzansi. The media wrote that South Afrika is a nation at battle with itself and the horrific images plastered across newspapers and websites bear testament to the calamity of the situation. This is not only in South Afrika but also across the continent. What do we need to do to grow as a collective? How do we right the wrongs of the past and restore pride and dignity in our people?
‘A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others and does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.’ – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Elder Drake Koka spoke of freeing the mind and liberating Afrikan genius. This is what we all need to strive towards. The lack of passion on the part of South Afrika’s government to increase people’s wealth and health has resulted in our people being deprived of basic education and a sense of comfort in their own abilities. Our problems have been reduced to economic casualties of war. We are foreigners on our own soil and to practice our humanity is to move away from the hand that feeds you. South Afrika’s national intelligence was caught unaware when the attacks started spreading. One hopes that they would have the relevant intelligence that informs the situation in its totality but these pockets of incidents are far removed from the tourism shots of South Afrika.
These are issues that have long since been part of an oppressed mind – hate, worthlessness, rage, helpless, trepidation, dehumanised. Some of us might feel that this rage is justified and the actions are – well, actions. The fringes of freedom brings with it stress, anxiety, disappointment and in some of us, the illusion of freedom. Sometimes this illusion can become too much to bear.
Our former freedom fighters are getting bloated on wine, big cars and suburban bliss but on the other hand there are those freedom fighters that are about the people and for the people. These are the people who gave their time, prayer, property, and a shoulder to cry on during the aftermath of the attacks. These are the people who symbolise the possibility of a unified Afrika.
I have been hearing a lot of debates by our so-called celebrities who are using the activist platform to project a façade of personality and purpose. We need national, local, traditional, social, religious, and spiritual leaders to use their persuasive skills to ignite a movement of intervention and unity. People are poor in Afrika and poverty is not only in South Afrika but a part of our communities across the continent. The only way to fight it is to get involved beyond the public debates or music shows and just get on with it.
The mob mentality seems to be lingering on and in most cases it’s always done on behalf of everyone. We had ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and most recently Kenya where the mob mentality was also evident. South Afrika’s xenophobic mobs grouped the Venda, Shangani, and Tsonga into one ‘kwerekwere’ tribe, but are they not South Afrikans too? Are we not all Afrikans? If a man is judged by the contents of his pockets then the state of affairs favours those with deep pockets. This dichotomy ultimately divides kinships and perpetuates envy and territorialism.
These mobs are not mobs but actually our uncles, brothers, aunts and friends. They are frustrated, deprived and tired of suffering. How do we address this? Those without fight each other to get a piece of the pie, which is still nothing in the end. Those with deep pockets keep finding ways to make their pockets deeper. Our people need to know our history. We need civil education to be implemented by our leaders and we need to identify issues that hold us back and not group people on colour, geography and social class.
We want our collective intelligence to be the backbone of our progress on this continent. We want our children to be proud of their roots not only as children of a tribe but also as children of Afrika. What we witnessed was a destructive mentality and the ‘let down’ by our leaders who occupy positions given to them by the people to meet their mandate. Our people are part of a scramble for scraps from the rich and as long as they do not have the bare necessities to function as honourable citizens an outlet will always present itself. We are all Zimbabweans and we share the same destiny. Our worth is always reflected in our behaviours. To forget this is to forget our humanity.
None of us are illegal on our own soil. The invisible borders created by past injustices create an illusion that breaks our common bond.
Mr. President, we want action on your part. As the highest civil servant in the land your allegiance and promise to the people should be displayed. We all want to think with just minds. We want the state hospitals to provide the care that is needed. We want the education system to become the most important tool to progress our nation. The police should be our protectors and not conspirators. Afrikans should not be known as refugees. We are neighbours on this continent and an act of neighbourliness should be evident in your actions as this is what inspires a nation. Roll up your sleeves and tell us what’s on your mind. Vent if you must but please do not approach us with a cold, placid expression on matters that need your most urgent service. Our people need support and provision. This is your job Mr. President. Your service to us determines the nature of our nation and right now Mr. President; our nation is confused and embarrassed. Brothers and sisters need jobs. They also need to be armed with education that will enable them to understand who and what made South Afrika beyond the tourism money-shots and façades. They need to be armed with the right facts and ultimately education that will enable them to fight intelligently – with their minds.
They say black man you are on your own. The scramble for scraps does create this perception. Xenophobia is an ignorant condition that needs mind therapy. I hear this in airports and hotels on this continent where natives of this continent speak of South Afrika with fear and pity. They say capitalism has confused us. They say we have an inferiority complex. They say we also have a god complex. They say our false sense of progress will be our demise. I tend to believe them in some cases but we are Afrika’s children and we have it in us to exercise our humanity.
Someone asked me why we say ‘South Afrika and Afrika’ as if they are two different things. We are being left behind in moral development. We continue to delay the process of taking education to the people. We need to teach to build and not to create one-dimensional workers.
It was inspiring to read about and be part of many events that took place across the world denouncing this criminal behaviour, but we need to use this as a wake up call. We cannot hide in the suburbs and think we are far from the war zone. The battle is being fought in front of us and we fail to realise this. Our Afrikan leaders need to realise that unity in governance and progress with solidarity will affect the way people act out their frustrations. The detachment of South Afrika from the rest of the continent has been proven and for those who see no boarders the task of educating the ‘least of these’ begins. Brother Sly Stone told us we are everyday people. Change is at its most potent when it manifests in the hands of everyday people. We are all Zimbabweans, Azanians Mozambicans, Angolans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Congolese, Somalians, Basotho, Malawians, Batswana, Kenyans, Ugandans, Guineans, Tanzanians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Ivorians, Central Afrikans, Djiboutians, Gabonese, Burundians, Togolese, Gambians, Chadians, Sudanese, Zambians, Senegalese, Cameroonians, and Rwandese. We are all children of Afrika and our future is in our actions and relations.
Charles Nhamo Rupare is of Shona origin and lives life through the creative eye. He dreams of Afrika regaining her dignity and her sons and daughters developing the necessary mental freedom to love peace and communal co-existence. He is an award-winning Afrikan-centred brand specialist, percussionist, writer and a Pan-Afrikan thinker. He is chief editor of www.kush.co.za, a co-founder of Kush Kollective and a Partner of TEDx Soweto. He is a consultant to various organisations on Afrikan music, art, brand building and social development. He can be reached at [email protected]