By Eddie Cross
Those of us who have Africa as our home and come from people of European extraction, have many good traits but there are certain (many) things that we are simply not assembled to do.
One of them is how to dance to an African rhythm. Anyone who disputes this simply has to refer to the spectre of Mrs. May, dancing at an event in South Africa when she was greeted by some young people who danced to a local beat. It was a most uncomfortable scene.
It reminded me that we are all different – the Bantu peoples of Africa are quite distinct from their Nguni counterparts. In fact, Africans are not all black, we range from ‘white’ in a Mediterranean sense to the very dark, almost pitch black tribes of Central Africa with everything in between.
Even physically we are quite different – the fine bone structure of the people of Ethiopia who must produce some of the most beautiful women in the world, the tall lanky people of the swamps along the Nile River (the Dinka), almost looking like the long legged Herons which stride along the sand banks of all African waterways.
Walk down the main road in Windhoek in Namibia and you will see every variety of the human race you could imagine. The Khoi with their protruding bellies and posteriors, the Afrikaners – big rangy men with beards and huge hands and feet, the ladies in their hats and dresses – looking as if they are on a film set. Black, brown, yellow, white. In fact, no one is really ‘white’ = we range from a peach, pink, red to paler brown.
Culturally we are also all very different; how can we not be when we have all grown up in different places and among different people? So often we interpret ‘different’ to ‘inferior’, but it is not so. I can recall when an associate of mine travelled to Europe for the first time from a Shona background in Zimbabwe.
When he came back all he could talk about was black people who spoke like white people, about white people doing menial manual jobs like digging trenches and how hard everyone had to work to make a living – no sitting in the shade in a village served on by the women. His other great impression was that when he was in Ghana, he discovered, to his horror, that they were quite different to him. He was glad to be home.
Mrs. May is a very principled and clever woman (although why she is still trying to push the stone called Brexit up the Hill, is beyond me), but she cannot dance the way Africans can. She can probably sing and hold a tune, but I guarantee, when she hears Africans sing in harmony, she will recognise real talent. So why can we not recognise that we are all different, but at the same time, the same?
We all have strengths and weaknesses. The Americans are by and large, hardworking and innovative, US productivity is among the highest in the world, but they have Trump as their leader right now, coming after Obama, the contrast could not be greater.
White people cannot dance the way most Africans do, completely naturally, almost if they were born to dance, but we can do other things. We may have little in common with people from India and China but we have to admit they are doing great things in a highly competitive world. I learned long ago that ‘God does not speak English’, we used to think that but we now know differently. Just imagine if we all looked alike and all did the same things well, what a dull and uninteresting place this would be.
But what I do know is that when we use our differences and use them to define who is the ‘superior’ race we open a Pandora’s box of issues – the Second World War was predicated on the false premise that the Germans were a special race that deserved to dominate the world. Colonialism, in all its different forms was premised not only on a mission to ‘civilize’ ‘pagan’ people but also to extend the domination of one part of the human species over the rest of the world.
Race was at the core of the Apartheid system of separate, but equal development. It’s inherent conflicts with the Afrikaners Calvinistic beliefs was always a problem but they brushed that aside until the fiction became simply too expensive to maintain.
Japanese belief in their superiority was at the very foundation of their attempt to subjugate the Chinese mainland and then in the Second World War to dominate the Far East. In the process killing many millions of people and causing huge suffering. It explains the unspeakable cruelty of occupying forces in the campaign in the second world war. It explains the cruelty of the Concentration Camps.
All of us need to identify racial prejudice as a common enemy. Christianity teaches, quite clearly, that all of humanity in its different forms has a common origin, common problems and common solutions. Cut us and we all bleed the same colour blood.
This concept of the sanctity of life is so important to everyone, that we need to espouse it with all our strengths. So to me a Mongoloid child or a person who is spastic is just as special as everyone else, in some ways more special. We have a responsibility to care for people with these differences, to give them dignity and respect and a reason for living.
The Nazi solution was to eliminate them, in doing so they missed out big time. I can remember a famous couple in the USA who had a severely disabled child and loved and cared for her discovering in the process that she was an Angel who was unaware of just how special she was.
They wrote a book about it. I was once on a plane from Europe carrying the Zimbabwe team from the Special Olympics and I must tell you those kids lit up the whole aircraft and all of us regular people on board got off in Harare with a song in our hearts. We had been in the presence of the winning team.
Countries that build on what they have in common and refuse to use their ethnic and other differences to determine whom they appoint to top positions or who gets better opportunities or which group or tribe is favoured in the allocation of resources, are always more peaceful, more progressive, more productive and more successful in the long term.
So why do we do it? African States share one common characteristic – few are ethnically homogeneous – Mozambique has 70 different Ethnic groups and have to speak Portuguese because is it the common denominator. What is essential in nation building is that we recognise that we have one Nationality, one Country and are all essential to the whole.
Under Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe became a very divided society and ethnic divisions were always at the centre of national policy and the allocation of scarce resources. As a consequence, after 37 years of Independence, although our politics have been dominated by one Party for most of the time, Zimbabwe has in fact become more fragmented.
The Mugabe led regime discriminated against almost everyone – the small community of European origins, the even smaller Asian population, the Ndebele population and the other minority tribes in the South and West of the country.
One of the main goals of the new Government is going to be to implement the policies designed to show all Zimbabweans – no matter what their origins are, that they are first and foremost Citizens with all the rights and responsibilities that that status brings.
I have no doubt at all that that simple step will engender a huge response from the whole country and get us working as a united nation to put this great little country back on its feet and running the race to improve the lives of every person who live here.
Harare 30th of August 2018