Measuring the dream and promise of independence

Measuring the dream and promise of independence

Poloko Khabele

Africans are intellectually bankrupt. This crude and provocative statement is made by Chika Onyeani the author of Capitalist Nigger when discussing achievements and contributions of the black race. He doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the question of the independence of the continent. He is unapologetic when he says the promise of independence for Africans has not been fulfilled.

Amongst his many contentions is that there is more poverty and less delivery of essential services now than before independence. He argues that even though Africans have political power, they remain economically enslaved despite the continent being endowed with an abundance of natural resources. Africans are dependent on other communities for their culture, language, feeding and clothing because they are a consumer and not a producer race. Instead of finding solutions to their problems, Africans are inclined to blame others and not take accountability.

Way back in 2000 when I first read the Capitalist Nigger, I was disgusted and offended by his assertions. Today however, I feel less defensive. I am able to engage this emotive topic more maturely especially as Lesotho’s 50th anniversary approaches. I do however confess to being confused and unable to decide what to make of our own performance. You will understand why later.

Onyeani however, does not suffer similar obfuscation.

He is unequivocal when he says there is no difference in independent Africa because African leaders continue the same culture of pillage and destruction systemic under colonialism. He declares that Africans remain enslaved because they are not economically emancipated.

Is this fact or a figment of his imagination?

Perhaps we should delve a bit deeper into his thinking before you make up your mind.

He says the elite betrayed the dream and promise of independence right at the beginning. Those who led their countries to independence with the exception of perhaps leaders like Mandela, Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Azikiwe perpetuated and maintained the opulent lifestyles of the oppressors. Governance systems designed to exclude and to keep people in subjugation were not eradicated and jettisoned but were preserved and further cultivated.

This resulted in later generations of African leaders inheriting even more corrupted and flawed systems including inheriting the demand for unquestioned authority and obedience. The trappings of power which once upon a time were the sole privilege of the coloniser became the order of the day with the new dispensations.

For a nation to fail to produce what it consumes (e.g. books, cars, medical and electrical supplies and gadgets, food etc.) and to have no control over the natural resources it possesses, proves her people are still conquered. Economic independence is the foundation upon which political independence rests. Without economic independence there is no true independence because the risk of being recolonized is nigh and real.

People who claim to be independent should be able to produce independent thought and be able to use their education to acquire knowledge beneficial to their people. This is not the case in Africa. If indeed this were the case, how is it possible that Africa could have millions of educated men and women yet still import experts in all fields to manage areas of economic development, engineering etc.

I think we can safely conclude that Onyeani believes quite strongly that independence for Africa has disappointed. I admit some of his arguments are compelling but is he right? I think a lot of what he says is subjective and stereotypical hence his arguments are rendered adequate only to court controversy. They fail to galvanise people into action.

What then is the best approach to engage this emotive topic but without the subjectivity?

I suggest we create a “Jubilee Independence Scorecard” or a JIS similar to scorecards used in business for tracking and measuring strategy. Using a JIS, will help to remove subjectivity when tackling the issue of our accomplishments since independence.

The JIS would help to align us all behind the common vision that inspired our Founders 50 years ago. It would elucidate what their vision for an independent Lesotho looked like. It would give us insights into the strategic areas they thought important to support the realisation of this vision. Light would be shed on relevant targets and how they envisaged measuring progress over time. The JIS would give us a balanced and holistic view across multiple perspectives and not just the easy and expedient ones.

So, let’s approach the whole debate about how far we have come since 1966 mindful that unless our evaluation is subjected to the rigour of a JIS, we only express opinions which are not very useful to the debate about our journey in the last fifty years.

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