Gold Mafia and colonial hangover

Gold Mafia

IN project planning, there is what they call a key result area, a short list of overall goals that guide how individuals do their job, or general achievement and progress goals for an organisation or one of its divisions. It fits into the ultimate goal of an organisation.

In the field of animal domestication, they also say you would have achieved the overall goal if your pet or animal can speak and understand your language and perform all tasks on its own without your supervision.

In the field of engineering, they are also happier when their machines can perform tasks and make the right decisions on their own without human supervision.

During the period of slavery, the masters were happier when their slaves woke up early in the morning, organise themselves and carry out their work in the plantations and farmlands without the supervision of the masters. Masters would be happier if this level of acculturation led to increased yields.

The more oppressed people get used to it, accept it and embrace it, the more they assume a sense of loyalty and responsibility to the oppressive system. They cease to see or feel the oppression as they begin to look at it as a personal and collective responsibility and obligation.

The primary goal of slavery was forced labour, but later loyalty which extended to slaves voluntarily providing their labour without force because they felt it was now their responsibility to do so. There are several case studies of slave fidelity to their masters or to the system.

In the era of colonialism the same principle applied. Colonisation was the act or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. In many situations, it used force and violence.

While history tells us that the primary objective of colonisation was to take resources from the colonised territories to European countries, the ultimate goal was to install a system that would, on its own, ensure a constant supply of resources without the supervision of the colonisers.

That system was instilled in the minds of the people and leadership of the colonised territories. It is an auto system that was expected to function towards achieving the same goals long after the human face of colonisation was gone.

By the time wars of liberation broke out across the continent, the system was already instilled, running and functioning to the extent that it was part of the factors that spurred liberation movements.

Why this is so? While regaining control of the land and natural assets they were dispossessed by colonisation was part of the agenda, the real appetiser was that the people wanted to live the same life as their colonisers and that included access to their services.

The colonial system made the people idolise the life of the colonialist. It made them think, for as long as they do not live the life of the coloniser, they had not made it in life. That remains the situation today.

It was and is still the same for those who are or aspire to be leaders. Their aspiration to be in power has nothing to do with improving the lives of their people but to live a high life like that of their former colonisers. This aspiration does not end with a life of opulence. It extends to the use of force against the people, abuse of power and self-hate that appears as self-love which is explained in detail below.

The self-hate which appears as self-love manifests in various themes. Sometimes, it is called corruption, plunder, normal trade, smuggling and others all of which appear to be enriching few individuals. The focus by many scholars and analysts on why Africa is poor tends to be centred on the enrichment of a few individuals and not the mentality that it is okay to steal and ship national natural resources to the former colonial masters or elsewhere in the world.

It is a much bigger health issue installed by colonialism and has over the decades blinded most Africans because most of the lenses they use to view and describe situations are provided by Western discourses.

A leader or a member of a family who thinks it is okay to steal family resources and stash them at a neighbour’s house and make that family richer and better while starving his or her own family, is suffering from colonial hangover.

The scenes we have seen in the Al Jazeera Gold Mafia documentary, how the Chiadzwa diamonds never contributed to national development, how the land reform programme left us poorer and how some among us are wealthy outside the country when the majority are poor back home is the crescendo of this colonial mental issue. It is self-hate that feels like self-love. It is the hate to see own people better coupled with an obsession to appear sophisticated and generous to foreigners.

African scholars such as our own professor Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni have preoccupied themselves with advancing the idea of decoloniality which aims at the liberation of (ex-) colonised peoples from global coloniality.

Development begins with self-love — that is the development of one’s own people which does not idolise other races but rather pursues the betterment of own people over others. This is why Western countries can launch wars against other countries and colonise and oppress other societies just to loot resources and develop their people back home.

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

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