Stop being the victim

2018-04-22 06:01

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Could it be a fact that Africa is a shithole continent, as US President Donald Trump boorishly asserted in January when speaking about immigrants he didn’t want in his country?

Typical of the usual recycled theories on victimhood besetting Africans, Trump’s comment was greeted by anger and scorn from Africans. He was called many demeaning names. His leadership foibles, including his racist nature, were rehashed and amplified.

Yes, Trump has proven himself to be intemperate and racist, and his leadership of the US has put his country’s globocop status in jeopardy, but the indignation over his crass statement contained an instructive omission as Africans missed another golden opportunity for introspection and self-assessment.

This was spawned by deliberate intellectual dishonesty in pursuit of the time-honoured victim mentality. Africa has always clamoured for victimhood, which manifests in various books and speeches. An African is couched as a victim of circumstance; a person who, through no fault of his own, was dispossessed of his land and natural wealth.

Slavery has been cited as one of the many reasons Africa remains trapped in a cycle of poverty and underdevelopment. This interminable history lesson doesn’t include everything Africans should know, such as that Africans participated in the selling off of their fellow Africans, that the unseen human reversal has also been aggravated by the postcolonial African leaders who promised a thriving Africa during the decolonisation struggle and that huge deposits of mineral wealth remained intact for African use postcolonially. Instead, the same “gospel” of the West being the reason for our problems continued unabated after independence. But objective facts are telling a different story altogether.

Africa’s noble struggle against colonialism and slavery was predicated on the promise by our forebears of a prosperous Africa postcolonially. For the past 40 years and more, Africa has topped the charts on poverty, child soldiers, unemployment, diseases, corruption, rape, civil wars and other human depravities. This is due to the postcolonial African leaders who have betrayed their forebears’ dreams of upliftment by imposing corrupt, tyrannical and despotic leaders on their citizens.

The rate at which the continent produces warlords is alarmingly high. Africa has endured brutal conflicts such the long-running war in the Congo and the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which claimed more than 5 million and 1 million lives, respectively. There have also been many other self-inflicted wars that have left behind broken families, communities and nations.

“Baba! All of us, all of us here have been raped! Every single one of us! I have a child from rape. My husband doesn’t like me any more because of it. All the men who did it to me are around still in the village!” said a woman in a Congolese village.

According to reports from the UN, more than 200 000 women have been raped in the eastern Congo since 1998. This happened under the postcolonial African leadership.

Africans have depicted peerless levels of innovative thinking when it comes to self-harm and destruction. If only this brainpower could extend to business and other life solutions. Who can forget Sierra Leonean warlord Foday Sankoh’s “short sleeve” and “long sleeve” torture methods? Short sleeves – a victim’s arm is chopped off at the elbow; long sleeves – the victim’s arm is hacked off at the shoulder. This is what Africans did and continue to do to each other after the departure of the whites who oppressed and looted us.

Ordinary Africans are fleeing the continent, their motherland, in droves. Joblessness and instability have caused them to seek out accommodation from the same people Africa chased away – the Europeans.

They are so desperate to leave the continent that they are daring death to come for them. Many have perished trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Africans were sold into slavery in Libya just last year. Who would have thought that Africans, who fought against and defeated slavery, would be enslaved by their own leaders? How could this happen when we are led by the people who look like us in a postcolonial Africa? This exposed the lie Africans have been sold over centuries that only a white man can oppress us.

These atrocities don’t stop Africans from defending their African leaders. They mindlessly use every ploy possible to excuse them, but are the first ones in the queue to criticise an offending white person. The unsettling evidence of pillaging, murder, rape and personal enrichment means nothing to these avid apologists. As long as these deeds are perpetrated by blacks, it’s ok.

Post-apartheid South Africa remained a beacon of hope for a while and citizens have witnessed pockets of improvement in their lives. But it would be disingenuous to not mention grim and disturbing trends that have left some wondering whether the dream of a free and just rainbow nation was in good hands.

Just a few grim examples include Andries Tatane, who died during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg in 2011; the Marikana massacre in 2012; the Life Esidimeni tragedy in 2015; the death of Michael Komape, a 5-year-old boy who drowned in a pit latrine at his school in Limpopo in 2014; and those connected to the Mancoba Seven Angels Ministries Church in Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, who have been accused of murder and of sexually abusing children. Then there’s the ballooning fruitless and wasteful expenditure and state capture to think about.

The road to 1994 was paved with a promise for a better life for all. But the inverse is painfully true. What logical sense does it make to complain about the implacable reversal imposed by apartheid when state capture was a well-orchestrated voluntary takeover by our democratic government?

To many Africans, African leaders aren’t capable of abuse and hate, only whites are. We have been taught to blame everything, including our own weaknesses, on other races. This is learnt helplessness in psychological terms, and victimhood in plain terms.

Decrying the peddling of guilt against Europe, French writer Pascal Bruckner likens its impact to “a groggy boxer, stunned by the blows he has absorbed, feels overcome by crimes that are too heavy to bear”.

Instead of working hard to rebuild the continent, postcolonial Africans have been using the “tyranny of guilt”, to borrow Bruckner’s term, to permanently extract resources from the West. The high priests of this victim mentality aren’t encouraged to know the amount of the actual losses Africa suffered at the hands of the enslavers and colonialists against the amount of aid thus far paid to Africa. The answer to this question is patently obvious.

Nothing describes the victim mentality better than Bruckner’s assertion that “to set oneself up as a victim is to give oneself a twofold power to accuse and demand, to cast opprobrium on others and to beg”. I think Africans have perfected this art and it is so beguiling that stopping it has become unthinkable.

No sane individual can deny the fact that slavery, colonialism and apartheid were profoundly debilitating for Africans. They were not only stripped of their material wealth, but of their cultures, religions and languages. But Africans are not the only ones who have suffered humiliation, however, unlike Africans, many have picked themselves up and become meaningful global players.

Africa remains nothing but a source of labour and minerals for the world. Consequently, an African child is born into the disaster of human reversal and indignity.

Africa can still become a global player, but only if prudent leaders who adore their citizens beyond their own families and friends are elected. Yes, Trump may be right – Africa may well be a shithole.

- Qoma works in the public sector

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