|President Mugabe, Biko and the black consciousness movement|
|Thursday, 01 March 2012 21:22|
Because of space and time, we also need to analyse other radical Black nationalist writers as to make our readers appreciate the works of these intelligent sons of Africa, who through their far-reaching and deep-rooted writings, just like those of Biko, can help all black people to reorganise themselves as a true united people. In this last instalment on Biko, we merge his ideas on Black Consciousness with what President Mugabe said in an interview to mark his 88th Birthday.
It is quite disheartening, as observed by President Mugabe, that some African leaders feel more comfortable in taking advice from the former colonisers than being counselled by their own African brothers. There is too much back biting and back stabbing among African leaders who are busy scrambling to win favours from the white world. Libya and Ivory Coast are very good examples of such treachery.
The spirit of African brotherhood that cemented the relationships of the continent’s founding fathers is now lacking among the new breed of African leaders. President Mugabe is deeply worried by the absence and deficiency of a strong revolutionary and nationalist bond that drove selfless leaders like Kwame Nkrumah to vow that — Ghana would not regard itself as free if any part of Africa was still under the yoke of colonialism and imperialism.
Biko points out that Black Consciousness entails the rejection of the legacy of colonialism and white domination and it encourages blacks to build around themselves their own values, standards and outlook to life. Blacks should at least establish a solid base for meaningful co-operation amongst themselves in the larger battle of the Third World (Africa) against the rich nations (Western capitalists).
The basic tenet of Black Consciousness is totality of involvement. It means that all blacks must sit as one big unit, and no fragmentation and distraction from the mainstream of events is to be allowed. What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce at the output end of the process real black people who do not regard themselves as appendages to white society.
African leaders should stand as a united front, for in unity, there is strength. Biko notes that Africans are oppressed as well as looked down by the white world because they are black. African leaders must therefore use that very concept to unite themselves as a cohesive group. They must also cling to each other with a tenacity that will shock the perpetrators of evil.
Such unity and cohesion is not forthcoming given the calibre and breed of African leaders we have today in the 21st century. President Mugabe notes with concern that some African leaders who are “supposed to represent the African Union in the Security Council are voting with Europe against their own countries. Not only have they become cowards, but they have also become sellouts of their own people.”
According to Biko, the call for Black Consciousness is more than just a reactionary rejection of whites by blacks. The quintessence of it is the realisation by the blacks that, in order to feature well in this game of power politics, they have to use the concept of group power and to build a strong foundation for this.
Being an historically, politically, socially, and economically disinherited and dispossessed group, they have the strongest foundation from which to operate. The philosophy of Black Consciousness, therefore, expresses group pride and the determination by the blacks to rise and attain the envisaged self. African leaders should not take pride in basking in other nations’ failed ideas. African leaders should be committed and determined to develop the continent and uplift the people’s lives.
Biko argues that Africans should realise that the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Once the latter has been so effectively manipulated and controlled by the oppressor as to make the oppressed believe that he is a liability to the white man, then there will be nothing the oppressed can do that will really scare the powerful masters.
It was after a whole nation, a whole people, an entire state, had taken to the streets in fierce and violent protests against the scrapping off of fuel subsidies that the Nigerian leaders realised the folly and irrationality of the recommendations they had been given by their Western friends. The Nigerian leadership had through its unceremonious and adulterous flirtations with the Western world and IMF technocrats brought untold misery and suffering among the populace.
African leaders now resemble coquettes who sell their bodies for mere pittance. President Mugabe also looks at how the white world has manipulated some amongst us, when he says, “. . . the MDC decides to side with the Americans, with the Europeans in supporting sanctions against its own people. They . . . find it very difficult, to say sanctions are hurting us. They try to avoid using the word sanctions; they want to call them restrictions.” He is speaking from a well-informed position, just like Biko, who four decades ago, witnessed and saw through this treacherous skewed alliance between blacks and whites in the then apartheid South Africa.
According to Biko, thinking along lines of Black Consciousness makes the black man see himself as a being, entire in himself and not as an extension of broom or additional leverage to some machine. At the end of it all, he cannot tolerate attempts by anybody to dwarf the significance of his manhood. Once this happens, we will know that the real man in the black person is beginning to shine through.
What’s comforting is that some Africans are now seeing through the thread bare Western lies of Western democracy. It doesn’t make any sense as noted by President Mugabe for African leaders to brag about their connections with the white world whilst neglecting their own people. What does it profit a country when a leader boasts that, “I have a home in Geneva, I have a home in Paris, I am married to a white woman”, when his people are languishing in abject poverty? Egyptians rose against Mubarak despite his many connections with the white world.
Africans, as observed by Biko, should begin to rethink their position in black-white coalitions. Despite protest and charges of racism from some sections of society, blacks should stand firm in their rejection of the principle of unholy alliances between blacks and whites. Unholy alliances are characterised by one group (whites) dominating and dictating what policies, programmes, projects and plans the other members of the group (blacks) should implement or follow.
Black Consciousness should herald a new era in which blacks begin to take care of their own business and to see with greater clarity the immensity of their responsibility in this white-centric world of lies and exploitation. In Africa, you observe that most of the opposition political parties which challenge the nationalist/revolutionary parties are donor funded. They have nothing concrete to offer the citizenry other than mere Western rhetoric on democracy, rule of law and good governance. These Western acolytes never walk their talk of good governance as evidenced by the rampant cases of mismanagement of public funds. A genuine indigenous political party should be led by locals not foreigners. A look at the hierarchy of these neo-political parties will reveal that the former white colonisers have an upper hand in decision making. This isn’t strength, but complete weakness, which should be condemned with all the contempt it deserves.
It boggles the mind how the very same colonisers who formed white only parties yesteryear now want to be incorporated into black political parties taking a central role in decision making especially on very crucial issues which concern the future of the continent and its people. This is not surprising that the issue of homosexuality keeps on rearing its ugly head in Zimbabwe’s draft constitution despite the fact that the majority of Zimbabweans rejected it in totality during the outreach programmes.
It is those who wield more power in any political party who usually decide on which policy best suits the grouping. It does not make any sense that during the Copac outreach programme Zimbabweans irrespective of their political affiliation unanimously and overwhelmingly scorned homosexuality yet some individuals due to remote control want to smuggle in and defend such a diabolical clause.
This clearly shows that the white factor is very dominant in the donor funded political parties especially when we look at the pro-homosexuality stance which has been taken in support of the white constituency whilst going against what the majority of black supporters see as abominable to African culture. This is always the danger of having political parties which are controlled by former colonisers. Indigenous views are undermined at the expediency of alien ones.
The few blacks who were integrated in the white colonial political parties always assumed a very peripheral role which was more of a smokescreen for non-racism. The white-washed African in these white owned political parties could hardly decide on anything of significance as to help his oppressed brother as he himself was also being exploited by the same white colonialists.
His peripheral role was the same, as not being there in the first place. This white-washed African suffered the worst form of racism from his white colonisers as compared to his colonised black brother who at least had the courage to resist the dictates of the oppressive white system. This is the worst dilemma faced by those Africans who form unholy alliances with the former white colonisers. The white world dictates to them on many issues as well as controls them like kindergarten kids or marionettes — left, right and centre.
Lastly, picture this scenario, over a hundred Zimbabwean football fans went to Zambia in a show of solidarity to Zambian players as they faced Ivory Coast in an African Cup of Nations played in Gabon. Groups of South African youths purge Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Malawians, Zambians and other black foreigners leading to the death of many blacks in what was termed xenophobic attacks.
Black Consciousness entails that everyone of us’ blackness is no different from that of other black people who hail from different parts of Africa or those who because of slavery have found themselves living among the white race. Black consciousness should draw us closer to each other despite the diversity of language and beliefs.
We, and other progressive Africans want to congratulate President Mugabe for his consistency and unwavering stance in defence of African values and we wish him many more years.
l Bowden Mbanje and Darlington Mahuku are lecturers in International Relations and Peace and Governance with Bindura University of Science Education.