Friday, March 18, 2011

(HERALD) Let’s reassert our self-worth

Let’s reassert our self-worth
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 21:57
By Tichaona Zindoga

IT has become apparent that the current Government programme of economic empowerment and indigenisation, just like the land reform before it, is a matter beyond mere economics, politics and attempts at righting an ugly historical milieu.

It has also emerged that underpinning the attempts at so righting the politics, the economics and the history on one hand, and on the other the resistance and indifference to the same, are deep psychological dynamics.

For, can the once formerly deprived group come to terms with its own rehumanisation; getting to believe in the self and that the black self is capable of doing what the white one has done and succeeded, often on the back of oppression of the black man?
And can this latter group that exploited, deprived and denied the other come to terms with the other's call for equality, advantage even?

It is a fact of history, especially that of Africa, that the rape and plunder of the continent by Europeans manifest in both slavery and colonialism was preceded and accompanied by the racist devaluation of the African people.

This racist devaluation implied the negation of African rights to human dignity and to the resources that abounded in their locality.

The dispossession and disenfranchisement of the African race was carried out in the name of "enlightening" the "dark continent" and with the racist assumption that Africans had, and would have, no use for their resources, which resources were then carted to the Western metropolis.

That the continent has suffered underdevelopment due to the siphoning of its human and natural resources is a stated historical fact.

Africa is scarred economically, geographically and politically.

The effects of this multi-faceted scarring, which can be quantified with relative ease in some cases and otherwise in others, are still being felt today, and will continue to be so felt way into the future, perhaps eternally.

The above is captured by a perceptive African writer who says that "Imperialism is total: it has economic, political, military, cultural and psychological consequences for the people of the world today. It could even lead to a holocaust".

Having been able to identify the other dimensions, namely economic, political and military, the psychological aspect has not had adequate attention.

And even if it had, with the help of the forces that spearheaded the liberation of the continent in the other fronts, there are chances that left with the deep psychological scars of colonial subjugation many Africans would not believe in their own worth.

Award-winning Cameroonian literati Dr Peter Wuteh Vakunta demonstates this in one essay on "Manichean stigmatisation".

He says in part: "The assumption (by Eurocentric Westerners) is that the rest of the world is primitive, savage, barbarian, and underdeveloped, and that the West is civilised and developed . . . Teleologically (or ultimately) stigmatisation cretinises non-Westerners, especially Africans.

"The result is that Africans start to doubt themselves . . . have nothing to be proud of."

Already, in the past couple of years that the concept of indigenisation has been in the fray, talk about how black people cannot manage to own big business, just like what was said of the "new farmer", have abounded, not as fact but racial slur. (And connected with this the allegations of corruption and the so-called cronyism.)
One local columnist demonstrated this doubting of the black Zimbabwean in an article, "What indigenisation?"

"The benefits of indigenisation are outweighed by the long-term destruction of private firms as people lose jobs, goods are scarce, and costs go up because you don't know what capricious act in the name of the people is next," the writer told his audience.

The notable aspects from the first part of this excerpt are that the writer does not believe that Africans who stand to benefit from indigenisation constitute real business minds.

Rather, they are vandals who will lead the destruction of "private firms".
That the same private firms - usually foreign owned - have been making profit out of the country's resources for private gain and that of their mother countries, does not seem to matter to the writer.

In fact, their making profit at the expense of locals, according to the writer, represents a holy efficiency that the locals cannot match, least so deserve.
In the same vein, the locals should be the ones to be employed, not employ; consume goods not produce; and be charged for goods and services but never to be the ones to produce, and charge for products and services.

This attitude speaks of someone who likes to be a perpetual recipient of "enlightenment" brought by foreign-owned companies and personalities.

Such attitude believes that the continuum of liberation from the yoke of colonialism and imperialism, of which the African people are at the centre is an act of senseless courage and breeds uncertainty and discomfort. And, according to such reasoning, colonialism and imperialism, and global capitalism should not be upset!

However, the fear that a "few" people might tend to benefit is not unfounded. This situation, which however, should not take away the inherent justice in empowering the formerly deprived (after all still fewer foreigners are in control), has played out in different parts of the continent.

Basically, what is needed in Zimbabwe and other developing countries, as has been pointed out by many analysts, is a genuine wealth-creating middle class that should drive the economy.

This entails that the class is grounded in the developmental aspect of the economy rather than growth.

This class should not be driven by the need for profit or supplanting the foreign business to the extent of selling out to the former elites and get nominal, but quick profits.

The externalisation of funds, and the "fronting" by certain business people in the current scenario in Zimbabwe is evidence of this malpractice.

On the other hand, cases of certain individuals - and they are a handful - plundering already established companies and farms riding on the wave of revolutionary programmes have also been encountered.

The creation of a genuine middle-class, which stems out of indigenous people getting equity in big businesses, and the creation of businesses to rival, and if possible buy out foreign businesses, is a process.

And it should be viewed as such.

Just as the 1980 Independence was not achieved in a day, so shouldn't this envisaged economic independence through what a certain analyst has called the Fourth Chimurenga.

It is only too daft or mischievous to want to see the fruits of indigenisation only too soon.

This is the quick-buck mentality which would see someone wanting to own a plantation of oranges because he admires the fruit and the money that comes with selling them instantly - and never wanting to, or capable of cultivating such a project.

As middle classes form painstakingly slowly, a false middle class of quick-buck meets its downfall quickly, mired in its own contradictions.

And in Zimbabwe's hastening such a downfall serves a purpose of negating the necessity and desirability of indigenisation.

Zimbabwe has the brains, and the resources and a genuine, self-believing, wealth-creating middle class - helped by the policy of indigenisation - should set the country on course for industrialisation.

That takes many years of genuine work, underpinned by the right psychology.



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