It is a paradox that the so-called under-developed African countries are the ones endowed with natural resources and yet the poorest in terms of the consumer goods ad services currently provided by and for their citizens. Indeed, it has always been a great puzzle as to why Africa is so underdeveloped despite the great abundance of wealth underneath the continent’s soil. Africa, notably, Zimbabwe, houses some of the most precious minerals to be found anywhere yet the population is struggling to survive.
The questions are; what exactly are the causes of African under-development? How can the continent be saved from economic and social catastrophe? What does the future hold for Africa, especially, Zimbabwe? These questions have occupied the minds of the decision-makers both at national and international levels. There is therefore the need to underscore the causes, effects and possible solutions to Africa’s development problems.
This article starts from the premise that any analysis, particularly of social phenomena, presupposes a theoretical framework, and this is particularly true of development issues. Even to conceptualise the problem in terms of international order — old and new — is already to have accepted a certain theoretical position.
It is important to note that poverty and affluence are incompatible. Therefore, the domination of the world economic system by Western monopoly capital explains not only the phenomenon of under-development in African countries but its values, culture and consciousness also. In other words, capital transmits not only economic and political subservience but cultural degradation as well.
In light of the foregoing, it is argued that mental colonisation is the biggest obstacle in African development. It is hampering the transformation of old political, social, institutional and economic structures inherited by many African countries from our former colonial masters.
Psychologists define mental colonisation as the belief that the cultural values of the colonisers are inherently superior than those of the colonised. Thus, mental colonisation is a psychological syndrome which seeks to imitate and to preserve colonial values and models. For example, in all African countries, the former white colonial sub-structure was merely replaced by black elite that is incapable of any kind of critical and constructive thinking, let alone executive management. At best, African leaders became poor imitators of their former white colonial masters and at worst, are unable, among other typical inadequacies to formulate and implement plans for industrialisation.
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Zimbabwe, should be in the process of establishing a society which is based on its traditions, customs and beliefs. However, the country is in need of a systematic examination of cultural, economic and political record of its 43 years of independence so that a future can be charted that is free from the unhappy experiences of the past four decades.
The main characteristic of post-colonial Zimbabwe politics is the struggle between the forces of justice and equality on the one hand and on the other hand, the forces of neo-colonialism, comprador tyranny, arbitrary military-civilian dictatorship, class aggrandisement of economic and natural resources and oppression of the people in the name of national interest.
The world outlook of our African nationalist leaders, educated in colonial values and schools mindlessly glorifies neo-colonial values.
From the foregoing, it can be argued that the responsibility for African’s under-development generally should be located not merely in the international division of economic labour into which many African countries have been drawn but also in the inability and unwillingness of many African leaders to decolonise their minds.
For example, 43 years on, learned judges and lawyers are still wearing wigs and gowns. It is common knowledge that such attire is a symbol of British royalty and it also acts as a safety net against the cold weather conditions in the UK.
By wearing the wig and gown in tropical Zimbabwe, the judicial fraternity is simply glorifying neo-colonialism. This author, therefore, is calling for judges and lawyers to be stripped of their wigs and gowns and the attire should find its way into the dustbin of history. It is time the court system became much more of a place where the ordinary person feels they can go and not feel intimidated by the wig. The average courtroom should be much more accommodating with judges and lawyers wearing simple judicial attire without wigs and heavy gowns.
Similarly, addressing judges and magistrates in courts as “your lordship” and “my worship” respectively and addressing the president as “His Excellency”, should be done away with. All these smack of mental colonisation on the part of those who perpetuate this colonial culture. Addressing judges as “your Honour” and the President as “Mr President” is much more preferable to mimicking colonial values.
Mental colonisation amounts to psychological dependency on Western values and as a way of life, culturally and politically in a neo-colonial situation. The tendency to mimic is a result of the colonial education bestowed on Africans by missionaries before and after independence. There still exists on the part of African leaders a colonial hangover, and an attitude of mind which seeks to imitate and preserve colonial models from the past rather than to lend support to a cultural paradigm shift.
There is now a strong call for mental decolonisation as the only way to promote African development. This can be achieved through adopting the concept of African consciousness. The latter is a political and cultural philosophy which seeks to strive towards the restoration of the dignity, confidence, self-esteem and collective assertiveness of the African people.
African consciousness entails the re-ordering and re-orientation of our minds towards solving our political, economic, social, cultural and institutional problems according to the conditions and circumstances peculiar to our environment. It entails that when we are advocating for democracy, we should take into account our historical, social and cultural values and traditions. For Zimbabwe to be truly independent the country should dispose of all colonial values. Not everything English, American or European is beautiful. African values matter as well.
Austin Chakaodza is a political analyst on African affairs. He writes here in his personal capacity.