African leaders dying overseas expose cruel deception of independence

Late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe

HOW many nationalist leaders, who bravely fought European colonialism and avidly preached against so-called Western imperialism, actually took their last breath in African healthcare institutions?

I wonder!

Of all those African revolutionaries — who valiantly led vicious, oftentimes, armed liberation struggles against colonial powers, and in so doing, joined hands with communist nations, such as the Soviet Union, China and Cuba — how many ended up seeking lifesaving medical treatment in those countries they once appeared to despise?

Is it not the height of hypocrisy and extremely ironic, that we continue witnessing African leaders — who, in their peak, never ceased teaching us how evil the West was and how we should shun their lifestyles and beliefs — now lying on their death beds, while benefiting from predominantly Western medical facilities or at least, countries far away from their own continent?

Whatsoever happened to the promises of phenomenal progress and prosperity for the African continent and African people — since they convinced us on how colonialism and colonialists had degraded and dehumanised us, since we were treated as second-class citizens in our own countries, while settlers and their masters plundered all the abundant wealth God so richly endowed us?

After 42 years of majority rule — just how developed and prosperous have we become as self-ruling Africans, at the hands of our erstwhile liberators?

Can we justifiably boast in the faces of those Western “plunderers” and “pillagers” just how far much better we have become — after finally taking complete charge of our own countries and resources — such that today we are at par with our former oppressors, or even surpassing them, as we fully enjoy the fruits of our God-given blessings and self-determination?

Or, have our former nationalist leaders now become the new plunderers, pillagers and oppressors — treating the rest of the African population as second-class citizens in their own countries, degrading and dehumanising millions into extreme poverty, while reducing the little development left by our colonisers into ruin?

Surely, how else can anyone explain why the likes of former Angolan revolutionary and President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, ended up being treated in a medical facility in Barcelona, Spain — where, he tragically passed on in July and was finally buried a fortnight ago back in his homeland in Angola)?

Indeed, why did Zimbabwe’s late former President — another acclaimed anti-imperialist leader Robert Gabriel Mugabe — who among several other African liberation icons, was honoured at a recent Southern African Development Community summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo for their gallant fights against colonialism — see it fit to be medically attended to in the Asian island of Singapore, where he finally breathed his last on September 6, 2019?

Then, we have other former African leaders such as Michael Sata of Zambia, who died in 2014 at a health care facility in London, United Kingdom; compatriot Levy Mwanawasa in Paris, France, in 2008; Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, in Brussles, Belgium; Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea-Bissau, who passed on in France in 2012, just to name a few.

Of course, this is not to mention the numerous others who may not have died in these expensive and top-class overseas hospitals and clinics — but, frequent these, with maddening regularity, whenever they feel under the weather.

Yet, just early this week, I received a most touching message, which grieved and broke my heart, from a reader of my writings  who heart-wrenchingly chronicled his deplorable dilemma at a major public hospital in Karoi where he had taken his mother, who had suffered a stroke.

After hiring a vehicle to ferry his mother from the rural areas (in Kazangarare), he was made to wait from 0900 to 1600 hours, for a promised doctor who never turned up as he was said to be too far away to make it to Karoi.

All this time, his mother did not receive even a single pain killer, but only had her blood pressure checked.

Considering that he sent the message to me at around 0400 hours the next day — decrying the late hour at which he was eventually informed of the doctor’s no-show and not knowing anyone in Karoi, from whom to seek accommodation — I shudder to imagine the unbearable conditions he and his mother had to endure throughout the long cold night.

As a consequence of all this pathetic and disgraceful failure of our public health delivery system, he told me that he was desperately in the process of putting together funds, of which he had very little, in order to ferry his mother to neighbouring Zambia, about 200km away.

His last cry of despair was his apprehension of his mother possibly being mistreated and berated in a Zambian hospital — as occurred to another Zimbabwean lady who suffered the indignity of public humiliation by the provincial health Member of the Executive Council for Limpopo, Phophi Ramathuba, after she checked into a South African hospital in search of medical care that is non-existent back home.

In all this, our former liberation leaders have absolutely no qualms flying abroad to some of the most opulent medical facilities — and can never be bothered improving, upgrading and even maintaining local institutions, which ironically, were largely constructed by our erstwhile colonial masters.

In fact, why do they seldom go to their “all weather friends” in Russia, China and Cuba — who “assisted” them fight Western colonisers, whose major cities (New York, Washington DC, London, Paris) are now their destinations of choice, as opposed to Moscow, Beijing or Havana.

Is it not a fact that these supposed “all weather friends” are now more interested in helping themselves to our abundant natural resources, with the complicity of those in power in our countries — with scant regard for the welfare and well-being of the indigenous people they appeared to assist during the quest for Uhuru?

We actually witness our “all weather friends” cruelly displacing local communities from their ancestral lands, and being champions at the wanton desecration of their heritage sites — yet, ploughing practically nothing of substance back into these communities.

Do our ruling elite, surely, not feel ashamed of such levels of disgusting incompetence, and indifference towards the welfare and well-being of the ordinary citizenry — whom they vowed to be fighting for during the independence struggle?

Are they not appalled at themselves when they prefer looting the vast wealth that our countries are blessed with — with dos Santos’ daughter being one of the richest women on the continent — yet, never developing those countries that they convinced us were being plundered during the colonial era?

Who are the real plunderers now?

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator

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