Poverty is a tool to retain control

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Tapiwa-Gomo

By Tapiwa Gomo

COLONIALISM is about the control by a powerful State over those perceived to be weaker societies. It takes place when one nation or group of foreign people subjugates indigenous people and their area — conquering and controlling their population and exploiting their resources as well as imposing their language and cultural values on the weaker societies.

To sanitise the colonial ills several justifications were offered among which include the perceived legal and religious obligation by powerful States to “liberate and civilise” indigenous people and their land.

For several decades now, the assumption is that colonialism was conquered and is a thing of the past with most countries having “liberated” themselves from colonialism.

They are now independent States.

However, the reality is that while some aspects of colonialism have been erased or seemingly has disappeared from current narratives and policies, its real intentions have remained intact and are being perpetuated by the leadership of independent States to the extent that they have become part of how they do business.

Most scholars have described this mutation of colonialism as imperialism — basically a refined version of colonialism. Imperialism is a system or policy of using power and influence to control weaker and willing societies or States — mainly those formerly colonised.

Unlike colonialism, imperialism has been de-Christianised to erase the religious obligation to civilise and has introduced poverty reduction and economic development.

There is largely no major difference in the two concepts other than that the former is religious and the latter is developmental but both amount to some form of liberation whose discursive source, narrative resources and definition remain foreign.

Another difference is that with colonialism, the colonisers descended on the land of the colonies.

With imperialism, poor States approach Western financial institutions to be enrolled into financial packages and to receive what seems to be economic development prescriptions with the hope that these will lead to liberation from poverty.

The outcome of these remain the same as those of colonialism, the only difference being that the face of those implementing the acquired imperialistic policies are those from the formerly colonised societies.

In both seasons of colonisation and imperialism, those who control and influence the State of affairs in former colonised countries remain the same.

They are still in a position of decision-making and have the power to direct or control political and economic affairs.

Let’s take for example, in 2007 after former South African President (Thabo Mbeki) won the African National Congress leadership in Polokwane, he was presented by several academics with ideas on how to transform the economy and reduce the widening economic marginalisation.

The proposals were influenced by the realisation that the South African economy — big as it may be — was getting overwhelmed and yet it was not expanding.

They were also influenced by the desire to expand the economy to accommodate black Africans and to create new economic streams that were not controlled by the former colonisers.

Some of the ideas included introduction of national youth service to curb crime and to inculcate national ethos and the introduction of vocational training to foster an entrepreneurial culture among youth in order to reduce job seekers.

They also included introducing subsidies in agriculture for black farmers, financial support for irrigation schemes for small-scale farmers, commence programmes that would lead to the establishment of new towns and cities and to inject more funding for tertiary education and scientific research.

The overall objectives of these proposals was to establish a new black African economy that would ride on the existing one but with the ultimate goal of eventually detaching from the white capital economy.

The benefit of these proposals would include poverty reduction, reduced unemployment and dependency on the current centralised economy and ultimately establishment of an empowered government and a neutralised white capital economy.

Given the size of the South African economy, if these ideas were adopted and implemented, there is no doubt that the deepening poverty and widening economic gap would have been reduced by now.

But then these ideas do not sit well with the dominant imperialistic power that has control over everything in South Africa.

One of its effective tools has been none other than poverty among black people and, therefore, maintaining a certain level of poverty remains part of the objective.

Any idea or policy that seeks to lift black people out of poverty and goes against the markets’ interests in South Africa is either thwarted via the courts or by funding civil society organisations to mobilise protests against the government.

It did not help that the same ideas were presented during Jacob Zuma’s tenure which happened to be the most monitored and controlled season by white capital economy.

In short, they are not ready to allow the creation of a new or parallel economy that frees people from the current economic system and doing so means losing control over everything.

Poor people remain an easily accessible tool to destabilise the government through protest disguised as democracy.

  •  Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.