Wednesday, July 30, 2008

After writing The Legacy of Tshaka I was confronted by two points of view. The first was that this was an exaggeration and was the view of the White man. Well there unfortunately are no other accounts, and these ‘white man’s’ accounts come from different sources, not all from one writer. There were obviously exaggerations to make a point, and numbers of warriors, murders and deaths could only be estimated. Yet there is something authentic about them knowing what has happened in Africa's well recorded recent past.

The second point was made by someone speaking to me who had not read what I had written but was responding to me in conversation about Mugabe, yet not in defense of him. He said that the West had committed just as heinous crimes and did not have the moral ground to criticize him. Somehow there seems a difference between the history of the west’s barbarity and Mugabe. The west has learned something from the past and has a certain knowledge of how we now need to behave, Bush notwithstanding, and Mugabe should have learned from us. Well I expect that’s asking too much. We all have to learn from our own mistakes. In all the wars between countries there is an end to a war, a defeat, a victory, a truce and peace is declared, agreements made and accepted and somehow there seems to be some sort of trust. A bit like cricket. In Africa you don’t seem to be able to trust anyone. That’s where Retief failed, he trusted Dingaan and before that Dingaan stabbed Tshaka in the back.In fact the Blacks in South Africa seem to have reneged on the trust given to them by the whites in 1991. Still that’s not it. In all the wars in Europe, the leaders were not really trying to enrich themselves, they were doing it for a cause. The cause of their people perhaps. It certainly was about power but behind it all they had a cause. The war between the British and the Boer was about causes. In Africa it may start off as a cause but the leaders eventually lose sight of the cause and it becomes one of personal enrichment, and securing themselves in positions of power for life as all the dictators in Africa have done. Mbeki would have done the same had he been able.

The other point is that these leaders have been able to enrich themselves and remain in power because of a mindset of Africans. One that goes back to Tshaka in Natal and other leaders and chiefs in the rest of Africa. That is that Chiefs are above the law and they can do what they like because they are chiefs. That is their privilege and that is why they can stay in power till they die of are assassinated.

South Africa is on that path with Zuma. He has been made a chief, unlike Mbeki, who was never a chief. He is beginning to be worshiped and youth league leaders say they will kill for him and are prepared to roughshod over the law or anything else that gets in their way, crowning him king. Then he will be able to do anything he likes.

The other thing is that even after all the atrocities committed by the west to themselves, they seem to be able to pick themselves up and in no time at all are up and running. The countries may have been destroyed but the people have not. Japan, Vietnam and China have done the same as is India in the process of doing. There is always hope for most countries but Africa seems different. They can’t lift themselves up without outside help and that won’t necessarily always be forthcoming.


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