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Colonialism was not an event, but a long-term project of global control

Opinion & Analysis
Tapiwa Gomo

Queen Elizabeth II was finally laid to rest last week after 96 years of life and 70 years of service as the Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until she died this September. That is quite a milestone. However, her death triggered the debate on whether her legacy was as great as portrayed by Western media.

The death of the Queen of the United Kingdom occurred at the same time as a friend’s brother here in South Africa.

My friend’s brother was a well-known criminal who was on the wanted list for many years and was eventually shot dead and was buried last week. Before his demise, his criminal activities had resulted in so many deaths, thefts and destruction.

He wrecked many lives, terrorised people and destroyed hopes and dreams of many, and he used his loot to uplift the lives of his family members.

The family will inherit a massive portfolio of properties, businesses and other investments whose capital was acquired through criminal activities.

While the nation celebrated the death of one of the most feared criminals in the country, the family mourned their hero. Sometimes, life can be confusing like that. One man’s hero can be another’s villain.

The role of the Queen of the United Kingdom has to be understood from the broader definition of colonialism.

And the challenge with us Africans is that we cry foul far too long instead of dusting ourselves up and move on.

Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by powerful nations over others or areas, often by establishing colonies generally with the aim of economic dominance.

In the process of colonisation, colonisers impose their cultural aspects such as religion, language, economics and other practices.

The imposition of these cultural aspects is designed to convert the colonised’s mindset into a new being that is submissive, loyal and dependent on the coloniser for as long as it takes.

Therefore, what happened after the Berlin conference in the 1880s up until the period when African States began to attain what is described today as independence was not a single event of scrambling and partitioning of the African continent.

It was the installation of a long-term project of control that began with coerced submission and is being sustained by voluntary submission and parochial loyalty. That was effective domestication of Africans and their systems.

Let’s try to simplify this. Imagine a group of foreign strangers approaching villages as they dig trenches and lay pipes in the process disregarding and displacing people from their homes.

In some instances forcing the villagers to provide free labour, sing the foreigners’ anthem and to speak their language and join their religion.

Imagine the village head mobilising men and women of all ages to fight the “invaders” but that too does not stop the digging of trenches and laying of pipes.

By the time the villagers received donated victory and independence, the entire land, both on the surface and underground, was already littered with pipes connecting the village’s natural resources to the invaders’ base.

Some of the pipes supplied the village leadership with lifelines. By the time of the perceived victory, the villagers were forced to occupy pieces of land demarcated and allocated by the invaders.

But the villagers still viewed this as victory because they had regained “their land” by “chasing away” the invaders.

The pipes continued to feed the invaders with very little trickle-downs to the leadership of the village.

Everytime there was a leak, the village leadership paid the invaders for the repair even though the pipes were feeding the invaders.

The invaders always blamed villager leadership for not maintaining the pipes and sometimes sanctioned non-compliant villages.

What the African continent witnessed between the 1880s and 1990s was the laying of pipes or installation of colonial software.

Real colonial exploitation is happening post-independence voluntarily facilitated by our leadership. It is easy to blame African leadership oblivious that they too are products of a system that inculcated a submissive and loyal mindset.

It is a sophisticated system of subtle oppression that enslaves people unaware.

The result of this is that all lifelines of what is described as basic human needs are no longer controlled by Africans, despite providing the raw materials. Several studies have bemoaned the centralisation of the global food system making it hard for poor countries to independently produce their own food without depending on imported inputs.

Europe is the leading producer of chlorine needed to achieve universal access to clean and safe water and yet Europe sanctioned several countries. Access to health care and medicine is controlled by pharmaceutical companies in the west who continue to discount local herbal knowledge. So access to health care is no longer in our hands.

Money makes everything happen or does it? The global finance system was among the first to be centralized and controlled. Accessing the United States of America currency and its use requires compliance with certain conditions. It is one of the tools used to bring down economies over the years. That is a reminder of what happens when you lose ownership and control of your own lifelines. 

Africa has been systematically ensnared into a maze of a system that does not empower allow it to take a different route other than complying with global dictates. Divergence from these is resented and sanctioned because the only way is to feed the engine, the colonial beast. Sadly, education the key to any form of emancipation was hijacked or there has been a lack of realisation by the African leadership to re-align it to the goals of owning and controlling the lifelines. It is possible but scary because it will be seen as challenging the colonial beast and therefore undemocratic and unacceptable.

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