'Hero-worshiping' and its consequences in Africa...

2015-02-06 13:12

“…for it happens in this as physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. This happens in affairs of a state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen, they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that everyone can see them, there is no longer a remedy to redress them.” Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince

The African Union’s (AU) choice of Robert Mugabe as its Chairperson is only symptomatic of the hero-worshipping plague that has long infested our continent. If it wasn't for hero-worshiping tendencies, cults of personality and the politics of rear-licking we as Africans could have long avoided the brutality of a dozen dictators like Idi Dada Amini, Mobutu Sese Seko or even the anarchic threats from populists like Julius Malema.

The fact that our leaders genuinely believe that a 91 year old man with a dismal record of governance in his own country, a man so old is now seen falling off stairs and failing to stay awake for the duration of any conference lasting more than three hours has the energy and stamina to effectively govern our continent shows that hero-worshiping in Africa begins at the top (as a fish rots from the head).

This is of course not an entirely shocking development for watchers of African politics seeing that Idi Amini, Africa’s most brutal tyrant who literally ate the flesh of his own people, was also Chairperson of the Organization for African Union at one time. So perhaps it must not shock us that our leaders think a 91 year old man who presided over the Gukurahundi genocide, leads one of the most corrupt governments on the continent and stole three consecutive elections is best suited to be the Chief Executive of African governance. It is because they worship him as the ‘Slayer of Colonialists’, 'Gallant Son of the Soil' etc, some of which is praise he once deserved, but not anymore.

Some revolutionaries may have good job in resisting and dethroning the evils of western colonialism and apartheid. Some still do a good job warding of the reign of ‘coloniality’ and resisting ‘colonial matrices of power’ as the pioneer of decoloniality Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni puts it.

…But we cannot afford to worship them. The political consequences of hero-worshipping are dire. We saw it when Mandela became hero-worshiped, he ended up betraying the essence of his people’s struggle in 1994 by not rightfully claiming land stolen by colonialists, becoming a whitened version of the revolutionary African man he once was and setting up a TRC which effectively let perpetrators of apartheid walk free in return for international praise and worship.

When a politician counts on the masses’ sheepish worship of his heroic and revolutionary deeds he can effectively trade off the one struggle that made him worshipped in the first place in order to secure more praise and worship, like some hero-worshiped leaders in 1994’s CODESA did to their own people who had died for the restoration of their land and to see justice for the apartheid crime. How else do you think a respectable Communist like Joe Slovo betrayed what he stood for as a communist and proposed the ‘Sunset Clauses’?

Robert Mugabe may be convinced that he is better than Mandela because Mandela “was too good at the expense of black people”, but Mugabe was also too socio-politically radical at the expense of his own people, and if you look closely in to these two men you will realize that despite differences of character or differences in leadership styles, they both became what they are because they thrived on hero-worshiping.

Robert Mugabe way, Robert Mugabe Square, Robert Mugabe Avenue, Nelson Mandela Square, Nelson Mandela Drive, Nelson Mandela Bay, Mandela Bridge, Nelson Mandela this or Robert Mugabe that… its all hero-worshiping; and it’s the one thing that got us in to leadership crisis we find ourselves in as Africans. I heard the former apartheid president FW De Klerk will also be joining the ‘list of the worshipped’ with the coming of ‘FW de Klerk Boulevard’. Jah neh…

Those of us who believe in Frantz Fanon’s Africanists ideals of emancipation are always so quick to dismiss ‘cult of personality’ as just one of the side effects of messianic communism and a phenomenon we wish had died with Joseph Stalin. But the truth is that in paying reverence to our ideals of Pan-Africanism, paying due reverence to fallen revolutionaries or extolling emancipatory ideals that we deem to favor the restoration of the dignity of Black skinned African we unfortunately pave way for a pervasive syndrome of hero-worshiping and the same madness of cult of personality which under the all seeing eye of Joseph Stalin brought thousands of Russians to the slaughterhouse. If you have time you can do your own calculations as to how many Africans have to this day died on the altar of cults of personality and hero-worshiping -slaughtered by our so called heroes to preserve their endless regimes.

We should have known when these revolutionaries where out there in the bush fighting the liberation wars that when they are done slaughtering colonizers in the battlefield they will return only to turn their AK47s and guerillaness against us. We should have known that when they return with the brutality and radicalism forged in the battlefield they will find no colonialists to slay and they will turn in to colonialists themselves and oppress their own people, and coerce us in to sacrificing our political freedoms on the altar of their political expedience and endless brutal regimes.

If you are thoughtful, you can wonder how it came about that as a people who fought and successfully dethroned slave trade, mercantilism, imperialism, colonialism and apartheid we now have to contend with realities of our own brutal, oppressive, power hungry tyrants who hold our human rights at ransom demanding to be worshiped as heroes and bulwarks of African liberation. The root cause of it all is hero-worshiping. It has become so bad and degenerated to a point where by we are even worshiping and honoring apartheid personalities like FW de Klerk.

When slave trade, colonialism, apartheid etc were defeated the mistake that we as Africans made was to raise the those who fought these systems to the point where they were above the status of citizens, we adorned them with so much praise and worship and placed them above criticism and above the rule of law, we extolled them and graced with so much authority that some of them saw themselves as divine rulers and ‘presidents for life’ who will rule ‘until Jesus comes back’. So one of the consequences of hero-worshiping is being ruled by these merciless ex-guerrillas who never have to think twice before suppressing popular will and stealing elections to safeguard their power on the basis that they liberated us from colonialists therefore they will rule us ‘until Jesus returns’.

Hero-worshiping made respectable men like Nelson Mandela turn in to soft whitened neo-liberals who betrayed the people’s interest by leaving their land under the hands of white-apartheid-capital. Hero-worshiping is the reason why we have 80 and 90 year olds occupying offices of heads of state in Africa and the reason why incompetent struggle heroes are filling up executive vacancies they do not deserve. Hero-worshiping turned battlefield conquerors and Pan-Africanist revolutionaries like Robert Mugabe in to pervasive, racist and tribalist tyrants. It made great liberation movements like the ANC to risk electoral decline to safeguard the privileges of one man who used tax payer’s money to build himself a fortress amid a sea of rural poverty and starvation. How many gallant sons of Africa have we seen turn from humble servants of the people in to pervasive tyrants feeding off the slaughter of their own people for want of political worship and extending their charisma to perpetuity?

The masses worship(ed) their heroes for many reasons, for some it is because they are victims of populism and propaganda, some do it because they are victims of their own religious and cultural institutions, some are just stunned by the gap between their own perceived inferiority and the superiority of their leaders to the point of thinking leaders are superhuman, some do it to receive the benefits of clientelism and patronage politics and some do it merely as a necessity to survive political onslaughts, whatever its cause may be, the truth is that African nations have been battling the inferno of tyranny and lack of leadership because of hero-worshiping our leaders and excessively indulging in their charisma.

Of course, not forgetting that we are in fact hero-worshiping corrupt kleptocratic leaders who are de facto selling us to China piece by piece and selling us one mineral at a time…

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