by Seewell Mandizha
OF the songs by South African super group Juluka, arguably one of their best is the enigmatic ‘Scatterlings of Africa’, where Johnny Clegg’s anthropological background exuberantly coalesces with the melody to mould a metaphorically incandescent explosion of visual and auditory delights, in addition to the sobering reflection and danceable rhythms.
The song is as much a eulogy in honour of exiled apartheid-proscribed patriots as it is a lament occasioned by what Johnny Clegg portrays as the greatest falsehood in the history of humankind: the denial of a common ancestry in Mother Africa. Put very simply, everyone is an African! Therefore, any marginalisation, any discrimination and/or segregation against Africa is, in fact, an act of self-inflicted ignominy. It is the same as inflicting wounds on one’s own being and psyche.
Clegg’s words as Juluka sings ‘Scatterlings of Africa’ have the truth of ages that rings true across millennia, gone and foreseeable. Let us, for a moment, sample some of the lyrics. The opening lines say:
Copper sun sinking low
Scatterlings and fugitives
hooded eyes and weary brows
Seek refuge in the night
They are the scatterlings of Africa
The problem of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe where they imagine life will be sweeter and better is vividly captured in these words, as is the tragedy of the barbaric Atlantic Slave Trade. Every single migration from Africa is captured in these opening lines of the Juluka song. Any doubt one might be entertaining is laid to rest by these telling words:
On the road to Phelamanga
Where the world began…
In Johnny Clegg’s words, the story of Africa is the story of creation. Africa is where “it’s at”, where it all began. Introspectively, Clegg muses:
Ancient bones from Olduvai
Echoes of the very first cry
“Who made me here and why
beneath the copper sun?”
God is black. Life is black. Everything else is adaptation and variation. That is the import of “Scatterlings of Africa”. Whatever form of humanity was created first, the prototype was God Himself. And since the creation of this first man, whether by evolution or instantly at the instigation of God’s speech acts, happened in Africa and the result was the willing into existence of a black person, the conclusion from all this is obvious.
No one can deny Olduvai Gorge and its significance. All things go back to where they started. In the end we and everything else become as dust once again. That way we are swallowed up into the universe. Science and philosophy both point to this.
The proponents of the big bang theory for explaining the universe also offer the same big bang theory for its inevitable demise. Interestingly, if you are like Richard Duncan and others you will embrace the Olduvai theory. According to Duncan, “the descent into the Olduvai valley will be steep and swift”. While the olduvai theory does not speak of the dissolution of the world and the universe, it nevertheless tries to predict the time and pace of the return to Olduvai which would be the same as a homeward journey back to the location of humanity’s origins – a return to the basics.
Duncan and others argue that this descent is inevitable when we consider that our extractive activities, especially where energy is concerned, will one day mean that we shall have exhausted all our energy sources. Looked at this way, it does seem that, led by an avaricious West, the world is indeed cutting of its nose to spite its face. Racists and supremacists are also doing the same, committing the same crime as Noah’s progeny who ridicule their father’s nakedness.
These are the things that went through my mind recently as I watched Western journalists attempting to unsettle Zimbabwe’s current President, Emmerson Mnangagwa at Davos on his first trip to the World Economic Forum. Invariably, Western journalists in the main, typically scoff at anything African and shamelessly try to demean African leaders. The unspoken message in their words is, “Big Brother is watching you”.
That some African charlatans deserve the grilling is a foregone conclusion. What is less of a foregone conclusion is the fact that many Western leaders, past and present, are even more qualified for that sort of grilling. Donald Trump is an obvious case. That man who dyed his hair gold thinking it would make him the world’s golden boy.
My observations are informed by the many stereotypes spoken and exuded by some of the presenters whenever they interview so-called people of colour. Their attitude is decidedly hostile and antagonistic while at the same time being patronizing and demeaning. They eschew a false universalism according to which the standard by which everything ought to be measured against Western stereotypes, biases, prejudices and even perversions. Human rights become what the West says they are. The taboos of Africa are relegated into the dustbins of history.
At Davos, Richard Quest of the CNN practically snarled at Emmerson Mnangagwa as if he would scalp him any moment. In a violation of the basic rules of communication, especially the interactive aspect, Quest persistently tried to wade into Mnangagwa’s responses with such condescending words as, “Surely Mr. President; But Mr. President, isn’t it obvious that…” and so on and so forth. To his credit, Mnangagwa did not wilt before the barrage of innuendo and insinuation. Quest-s attempt to mainstream the gay agenda into the Zimbabwe’s discourse on the basis that this is the trend around the world is patently false and despicable. The subject would never even arise with a Turkish President, for example.
Is it not a human right to have your dos and don’ts, and to have your taboos upheld? And is it not the collective responsibility of the people as a whole to exercise their democratic rights and pronounce what will or will not do among them? Is democracy always about aping the proclivities of the West? Why must something that really ought to be left to the individual have to be made a public concern?
The likes of Quest and others must remember that it is the voice of the people that is the voice of God, not the voice of journalists. We would like, for a change, to see these gurus grill Trump and others. Justice has a long memory. Therefore, it should be easy to make George W. Bush, Tony Blair and most French Presidents sit before a tribunal or even a public inquiry looking into their various and many misdemeanours during the incumbency. The panel that grills them should be an African one with infusions from Asia and Latin America.
Still at Davos, the BBC’s Mishal Husain, was at her most insistent and caustic self as she played the lawyer and tried to angle for a submission from Mnangagwa on the matter of Gukurahundi. The only problem was that she had a real lawyer on the opposite chair and he was obviously alert to her antics. Mnangagwa politely pointed out that there were processes already in motion in the country to constitutionally address Gukurahundi, once and for all. But the woman would just not take the cue. She was dying to be the one to trample upon an African President and break him down. But that, of course, did not happen.
Africa needs to reverse the process and put Western politicians and rulers to their defence. That, in the end, is the only way to conclude the unfinished business of decolonization in former French colonies in Africa. Africa must be as one and make the utmost sacrifice if necessary, to kick France back to Paris.
Quest, Husain, Sackur and others are at their most abrasive and aggressive when the person being interviewed is from Africa. It is time to dissuade those who would weep louder than the bereaved from their sanctimonious acts. Our scribes must go on the offensive and grill the West for the slave trade, Wounded Knee, the massacres in India, the wars of the world so-called, and the many low-intensity conflicts around the globe which are externally propagated and internally fought to create chaos and make easier the task of exploiting the continent’s natural resources.
Even as we speak the state of the world is frightening, with the ‘Fire and Fury’ man threatening the world. He thinks the button on his table is a brand new toy to play with. The United States continues its quest to make the ultimate weapon to which there would be no answer. That is the only way to explain its obsession with autonomous weapons and with hypersonic weapons that are meant to travel so fast as to make it practically impossible to respond to them. These are the things which, when done, are also tantamount to cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.
Beyond the African passport and the pronouncement of new agendas, the African Union must begin, in all matters of international significance, to speak for Africa.