Good Lawd, when do I go to Bulawayo?

Reason is the combined effect of emotion, experience and rationality. Without emotion and experience, rationality is nothing but absurdity.

This week, a radio personality in Uganda for a reason he knows best opined on his Facebook wall, that South Africa under black majority rule is heading towards a banana republic status, like any other African country. There is so much in his view that attracts obvious disagreement, but I won’t disagree yet. I will disagree with what followed the foundation he well laid.

He added that some people think Apartheid was/is responsible for South Africa’s ‘development’, something along those lines. The undertone I see is that, Africans need to lose their ‘freedom’ to develop. They need to be segregated to develop. Yes, that is the undertone I see. They are unable to develop unless denied of their freedom and humanity, which is what apartheid, did to the black South Africans and others not of a specific race.

There is so much to disagree with this so-called South Africa’s ‘development’ under apartheid, which is now being lost under black majority rule. From the meaning of development, whether it means those ‘cooked’ lifeless statistics or the lived experience of a people, to whether ‘apartheid’ in all its forms actually ended, but I will instead quote the words of my colleague and close friend, the Zimbabwean writer who lives in South Africa. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma says that “African Development equals selling our future.”

I will write a longer essay on this African Development thing once I am done with reading (I am half way) Amartya Sen’s ‘Development as Freedom’ book. But let me say a few small things for now; Kofi Annan interprets Sen’s argument in the book I am reading to be that “the quality of our lives should be measured not by our wealth, but by our freedom.” Kenneth J Arrow adds that “(Sen) shows how development, broadly and properly conceived, cannot be antagonistic to liberty but consists precisely in its increase.”

I picked most interest in the debates that followed the radio personality’s post, but on other walls. Such was on my friend, Agaba Rugaba’s wall. A majority of people agreed with the radio personality. One went as far as saying that no African country under self-rule is ‘developing’. Agaba pointed out Botswana, and it was dismissed as an exception. Of course, my pointing out of Mauritius as another country was given the ignoring it deserves. I read on that thread that Rhodesia is a typical example of what happens when the black people take charge. That Rhodesia is a basket case. Yes, these friends of ours do not even have the courtesy to call this country by the name her people chose, they still call her Rhodesia. But that did not annoy me, nor did it stir any emotion nor any lived experience.

What made it necessary to transcend empty rationality (absurdity really) was a comment to the effect that had it not been Apartheid, South Africa would be like the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose people enjoy dancing and things of the flesh and hence their country’s underdevelopment and all. Yes, I lost some hair on this. I happen to know some Congolese who do not love dancing. But that is not the point. The point is, is it true that the love for dancing and things of the flesh means underdevelopment? May it not be seen as development to love dancing and things of the flesh?

Anyways, I got my hair back and engaged more, away from Agaba’s Facebook wall, in the discomfort of my muzigo, with the alleged “basketness” of Zimbabwe. I have never lived in Zimbabwe. My only experience of Zimbabwe is the lived experience of Zimbabweans I have met in my short life. The backbone of Center for African Cultural Excellence, the organization I co-founded last year comprises of two brilliant and hardworking Zimbabwean ladies, Naseemah Mohamed and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. I have not met a teenager with as much energy and is as expressively creative as Khayelihle Charlotte Moyo, a Zimbabwean. She is a writer and rap artist, working with an online youth magazine DefZee.

You think that is all there is to my indirect lived experience of Zimbabwe? No, I will also tell you of the amazing Gilmore T. Moyo, founder of Deck Magazine. Do not get tired yet. Check out Her Zimbabwe, founded by Fungai Machirori, go see for yourself how Zimbabweans discuss the challenges of their country, with so much passion, born of love, than of the absurdity that informs one’s conclusion that Zim is a basket case. They do not wish for Rhodesia, I have not seen such wishes from Zimbabweans.

I think, that we as a society, whichever society we belong to, should desist from this absurdity we call rationality. We need reason; we need emotion and lived experience however indirect and far-fetched, before we dismiss what we think we know, because we read something in The New York Times. I wish I had permission to reveal my private conversations with a twenty something year old Zimbabwean academic, also my friend since 2008, Mr. Thompson Chengeta, from whom I learnt that university academic staff in Zim are paid much better than those plying their academic trade in Uganda.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Internet photo)

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Internet photo)

I have seen criticism of Zimbabwe and South Africa from Zimbabweans and South Africans, especially those currently living outside these countries. I am yet to hear them long for the days of apartheid and Ian Smith. These people have lived the reality of these countries. In their criticism, you see a depth. You see the love for their country shining through the passion with which they tear Comrade Mugabe’s policies apart. Those who criticize Daddy Zuma, in their many satirical works, you do not see the hopelessness and a lack of self-confidence in the abilities of Africans to manage their freedom as you see in the absurdity that some Ugandans have been spilling on Facebook about South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Reason is the combined effect of emotion, experience and rationality. Without emotion and experience, rationality is nothing but absurdity. Till Next time.