First in a Series of
The Devils' Annexe
Democracy and Africa
Sidney & Shirley Robbins
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We have lived through the period prior to World War II; the fall of the Smuts Government; the rise of Afrikaner nationalism; the Apartheid era; the fall of the Smith government in former Rhodesia and the subsequent ZanuPF/Mugabe era; and the post Apartheid - ANC era.
The liberation era was followed by the agonies of Africa; agonies of the people among whom we grew up; the agonies of the countries and continent we love and call home. We have watched helplessly as lives, viable economies and countries have been destroyed. ‘It cannot happen here’ is the tired cliché that has been repeated as, over the last four decades, each country gained independence and its ‘freedom’.
This is the first in a series of articles about Africa. These are based on our writing and lecturing in Central and South Africa. This is not to attack, denigrate or destroy. It is in search of the truth - the only means of saving this blighted continent and its people.
Where the truth passes for racism
'A week is a long time in politics’, former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson once said. If a week is a long time, then a decade is infinity. One would have thought that an infinity would relate more accurately to a hundred years, but not so in Africa, where almost anything can happen in only one day.
We are constantly struck by the ugliness of politics - its cover-ups and disregard for human beings.
All notions of integrity and honesty have been shattered. Africa’s present state of decay, sadness, human depravity, suffering, death, fear, starvation, hypocrisy and greed have torn the heart out of the romance and mystique of Africa. Instead, we see almost nothing but chicanery, mismanagement, lies, fraud, corruption and grinding poverty.
And who are the sufferers? It is the ordinary decent human beings who make up the vast majority of the population of Africa.
Those who survey the world from their comfortable armchairs, thousands of kilometres away, conveniently lay the blame for Africa’s woes at the feet of the colonial powers - or Apartheid. And this attitude applies to the majority of independent African leaders - some of whom experienced neither colonial rule nor Apartheid! No analysis of Africa undertaken from afar can capture the true reality of the situation on this continent. The majority of scholars, particularly anthropologists and historians, tend to treat the problems of post-colonial Africa as an extension or continuation of problems arising from the colonial era.
African Slavery in the Americas, and the Holocaust in Europe have inspired numerous scholastic historical works. But for some reason, the same suffering, injustice, tragedy, and oppression that is taking place in modern-day Africa receives little mention. It is left to bodies like the Anti-Slavery International, NS iAbolish and other NGO's to expose the pernicious situation that exists today.
Why are there no comparable works on Idi Amin’s Uganda; Mobutu’s Zaire; Banda’s Malawi; Abacha’s Nigeria, or the Sudan? Where is any work to be found on the Zimbabwean government’s violent rampage against its own people in the early 1980s? ‘Scholastic’ works are generally studiously detached in tone, if or when they address the character of the regime and its treatment of civil society. What is needed is a diatribe on the humanitarian tragedy – not just a chronological account of events.
Africa's Rocky Road to Democracy
Each year, the Bread for the World Institute (BFWI) publishes an annual report on the state of world hunger. In its October 2006 report we learn that at least 40% of the continent's 800 million people go to bed hungry each night. What is more, the report revealed that this number is increasing each year. Some 3 million African children die every year of preventable diseases before they reach the age of 5; if they were to live, they would simply add to the numbers who go to bed hungry!
And that is just the human toll. The loss of biodiversity as a result of soil depletion, desertification, forest clearance and over-population has meant that dozens of animal species are endangered or have become extinct - creating a further space for conservationist and celebrities to enter and campaign to save favourite (and very often the most photogenic) creatures. If they achieve nothing else, they do keep the state of Africa before us!
The situation is frightening. Africa is slowly sinking into a sickening swamp of despair and abject misery. This makes the whole business of Africa important. What cannot be evaded any longer is the stark truth concerning the teeming millions who continue to breed at an uncontrollable rate. And they are breeding themselves into ever-greater poverty and final oblivion, as they continue to die of hunger and Aids related diseases.
As events unravel, the future may not be pleasant, but it will not be dull, and indeed it could present a frightening dilemma. The biggest potential human disaster attracts the least attention, although it remains an inevitable catastrophe of gargantuan proportions.
What events are we talking of? Over-population, the cause of many of Africa’s problems – with its attendant outcomes of poverty, disease and finally - degradation.