24 May 2013

Zimbabwe: May 25: Charity Begins At Home


AS the mother continent marks the golden anniversary of Africa Day tomorrow, it would be amiss not to delve into the significance of the founding of the African Union (AU), formerly the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which in essence is the cause for reflection on May 25.

Like any human being at the age of 50, independent Africa has surely come of age. Whether the coming of age coincides with the wisdom normally associated with that is a subject to debate.

The greatest irony is that, even though this date has behind it the idea of African unity, it is only an official holiday in five countries, including Zimbabwe.

We pose the question: does this mean the other 49 member states feel there is nothing to celebrate? We wouldn't blame them for doing so, for, notwithstanding the harsh impact of slavery and colonialism, the continent has been a failure among nations due to the ineptitude and greed of its leadership.

Our West African elder brothers have been renowned for political strife that included military coups, brazen dictatorships and gross economic mismanagement.

Nigeria, the continent's largest nation in terms of population, made headlines for all the wrong reasons with the Biafra war in the late 1960s and continues to do so. Ethiopia, where the OAU was founded and is still the headquarters of the successor AU, sent shockwaves around the world when images of famine were beamed across the globe some years ago.

Not to be outdone, young Zimbabwe, barely two years old, embarked on one of the most ruthless episodes of post-colonial massacres when it unleashed the notorious North Korean-trained 5 Brigade in south-western parts of the country, code-named Gukurahundi.

Although the rest of the world was quiet about Gukurahundi (and many were misinformed) with the passage of time, the US dubbed North Korea one of three countries that formed the modern-day axis of evil.

Interestingly, the architects and perpetrators of Gukurahundi still roam the steets scot-free. Its senior leaders are in the running for presidential office while army officers involved are among the country's military top brass today.

And yet Zimbabwe, in spite of the toxic and divisive politics of its political leadership, is one of the countries that fervently marks this day.

Charity begins at home. You cannot claim solidarity with the rest of the continent while your own house is on fire. In typical African culture, your neighbours may not speak, but they know the truth. When they need to talk among themselves, they will as the Shona-speaking people do, make you feel important by asking you to slaughter the goat "desperately" needed by the gathering during deliberations.

Zimbabwe has given itself some self-importance as a champion of Africans' rights, be it the right to land or empowerment. But its neighbours in the AU are exasperated by its failure to accord its own citizens basic human rights, such as civil and political liberties, that is freedom-oriented rights and security-oriented rights.

If this persists, then the country will be unable to take advantage of all the positive indicators of a new era of prosperity dawning on the continent. Africa is marching on while Zimbabwe lags behind.

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