We must reconcile Africa’s wealth to our quality of life


31 May 2020

Stop being apologetic and start doing big things

INthe week when Africa “celebrated” Africa Month, African-Americans in Minneapolis and elsewhere staged protests following the brutal killing of George Floyd.

In what looked like a sure case of racist brute force, Derek Chauvin, assisted by three of his police colleagues, knelt on Floyd’s neck, momentarily forgot his duty to serve and protect, and thus sucked life out of the 46-year-old descendant of African slaves.

Fed up, many took to the streets, broke into stores, set the city alight and the moron-in-charge of the country, Donald Trump, responded with a tweet: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Even Twitter had to flag his tweet as glorifying violence, denoting, of course, that Americans must be saved from harmful messaging from their own president. This wasn’t historic though because Trump, true to his form, had advised Americans to ingest detergent to kill off the Coronavirus – a suggestion rejected all-round.

This week, though, as Chauvin was charged with third-degree manslaughter, something close to culpable homicide here at home, many black people around the globe used the #BlackLivesMatter almost like we wanted to plead with the rest of humanity to be kinder to us.

Not so for Chinese App Tik Tok. It blocked the hashtag, reminding many that the Chinese people responded to COVID-19 with indiscriminate attacks on Africans in mainland China for no other reason but bigotry. So, from the US through colonial Europe to China, the globe is united in its contempt for Africa.

The lives of descendants of African slaves like Floyd just perish under racists like Chauvin’s knee, crying out: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” No one listened. No one cared. No one could save Floyd. He wasn’t the first. And he is not the last.

Meanwhile, back in South Africa, the main topic for this Sunday is what bottles we are going to buy tomorrow as liquor shops reopen. Who is going to be offsick on Monday? Who is going to be late, or leave early just to get booze.

It will feel like Freedom Day. The queues will be long, with almost zero social distancing.

Yet Africa Day, this past Monday, was almost without any significance. We did the normal, abnormal things: we chose to wear our African garbs to show solidarity with our own self. On other days, we look more European than the Europeans in our suits.

Political parties regurgitated statements released annually, quoting known and over-used African greats like Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Thomas Sankara, to name a few.

You see, this is what we do. We talk about how great our forefathers were and forget to be great ourselves. We don’t ask: what is the historical duty on the shoulders of today’s leaders? Happy as we are with the contribution by Nkrumah and them, what then ought to be the contribution today’s leaders make for the betterment of the lives of future Africans?

How is it that Africans, like Floyd, can die like flies, be so disrespected in Africa and elsewhere – and our minds are focused on things that don’t change the price of bread? And we think it’s okay. How is it that Africa can be so rich, so endowed with mineral resources and yet African people are some of the poorest – objects of poverty porn?

The conversation should quickly move beyond the Africa Free Trade regime to industrialisation and actual structural transformation of economies. And it really isn’t complicated.

The resource-rich African continent must stop talking about waiting for crumbs from foreign investment firms and enact legislation that will ensure the reconciliation between the wealth of the continent and the quality of life of Africans.

Last week, we looked at how Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe is being stopped in his tracks by (mis)educated, supposedly smart black executives who, to me, are nothing more than house niggers in the mining sector.

But even if you put these Uncle Toms aside, Mantashe’s government is still fighting for 30% black ownership in new mining licenses.

In my book, that’s sheepish. In a country like ours, with our history, why shouldn’t the state have a share in all mines? Why must the state only receive a pittance of tax and licence royalties that do not change in a significant way the lives of children going to school in Mamotintane or Alex?

Why must we be this apologetic? For Mantashe to be remembered, like
Lumumba, Nyerere and Nkrumah, he must be bold in his pursuits.

When I watched the video of Floyd being killed by racists in America, remembered the Chinese indiscriminately attacking Africans for being in China, the bigotry of the colonial English, I wasn’t sad. Nor was I moved to throw stones and burn buildings. I was just disappointed with us. Africans must stop crying and do big things – here in Africa.

We, the Africans of today, have a responsibility to change Africa’s fortune. Not through tinkering or tweaking. How do we sit with 80% of the world’s platinum deposits, for example, and still want to be told by some people in London how much to sell the platinum for? We must be price setters – not takers. What is required is political will to use the power to legislate as a potent tool to transform, drastically, the lives of African people. If we don’t do it here in Africa, those chasing dreams in the diaspora will continue to be killed, as Floyd was, and clapped in China for no reason but because we are African.




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