HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComparing the generation of excuses with the pre-colonial and colonial epochs

Comparing the generation of excuses with the pre-colonial and colonial epochs


A lot has been written about African poverty. Loads and loads of literature proffer analysis of the assumed indelible damage caused by colonialism in Africa from varied dimensions.

Today, the question of why Africa is poor still haunts our minds and dominates local and global debate.

And as usual, African leaders are yet to provide answers free of colonial excuses — Western interference, sanctions imperialism — the list goes on.

In fact, when one reads African history from pre-colonial to the present day Africa, this is the epoch in which a generation of leadership has relied on excuses to construct our social reality and escape the real issues.

And sadly, our minds have succumbed and been converted to parochially absorb this normative rhetoric as gospel. I think it needs to be challenged not only for its irrelevance, but emptiness of substance in our present times.

A colleague recently told a joke about one of our mayors who gave sanctions as an excuse for not cutting grass along the main roads. He only fell short of blaming imperialists for sowing the seeds of the grass.

To get a better glimpse why the post-colonial African leadership might be the worst in the history of the continent, let’s juxtapose them against the pre-colonial and the colonial periods.

The pre-colonial Africa was known for its progressive empires which include our own Great Zimbabwe Empire which was in control of the larger part of southern Africa.

The architecture and artistry of the Great Zimbabwe structure remains not only a legacy, but the epitome of that period.

It shows a leadership that had a plan and vision to building a city which would become a regional political centre in the southern part of the continent. They never used the lack of technology or resources as an excuse for not fulfilling their goal.

Everything was manually done, the hard way, and yet they still managed to erect that structure. History reminds us that somewhere in 13th century the economic growth rate of the Great Zimbabwe was equivalent to some of the big cities today.

Then came the Scramble for Africa which divided empires into small colonial pockets. One would assume that the colonialists, brutal as they were, would build upon some of the already existing physical and political structures, but alas they came with their own plans.

As the Pioneer Column headed north, the idea of the Great North road was conceived giving birth to cities such as Bulawayo, Masvingo and Harare.

As they kicked our ancestors out of their land, mining and agricultural activities started. And again more towns and economic infrastructure were built to support these economic activities.

A new economy emerged which was later to be threatened by years of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations to bring the illegal regime of Ian Smith to order.

Instead if whining, the sanctions led to the development of a locally-based and sophisticated economy supported by sound local and competent financial services.

So sanctions are not a new phenomenon and those who defied them have emerged stronger.

Unlike current African leadership, the settler worked hard to break the bond with external influence, especially the British authorities.

They believed, instead of sending resources to Britain they could use those resources locally to develop themselves, their infrastructure and their environment, something which is lacking among our post-colonial leadership today.

The settlers, despite knowing very well that they were foreigners in Africa and were facing resistance from nationalists, still had a strong sense of belonging which was demonstrated by the huge investment in the development of local economy and yet today our leaders do not save or invest a dime in their countries.

If the colonial settlers had adopted the same attitude, perhaps some places would still have been virgin without the infrastructure. Perhaps State House would have been at Great Zimbabwe.

If our African ancestors built Great Zimbabwe, the Congo Kingdom, Luba state, Bachwezi Empire, the great empire of Timbuktu; if the colonialists built the infrastructure upon which our economy is based, what has a post colonial African leadership done so far? Independence and freedom?

Independent from who and freedom to do what?

Independence and freedom in Africa are elusive concepts which have been used to cow people into submission.

Cecil John Rhodes called it civilisation and our nationalists called it liberation, but none came without causing untold suffering among African citizens.

African soil has always been soaked in blood and sweat from its people. From the ethnical battles in pre-colonial, liberation struggles and the present fight for real freedom in “independent” Africa.

But of course our children will remember the post-colonial leadership as the first black people to rule Africa.

They will indeed be remembered for replacing colonial names with local names on colonial structures as if they were not allowed to build new ones.

They will be remembered for occupying the same offices in which the abuse of black Africans was planned.

They have presided over the collapse of historic structures such as the Great Zimbabwe monument and even run down the infrastructure built by the colonialists, decorating them with potholes.

Vibrant industries now resemble graveyards and they have excuses — sanctions, external interference, and imperialism — the list endless.

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