Thirty-one December 1980 saw the epochal resignation of Leopold Sedar Senghor from the Presidency of Senegal to which he had been assigned to since 1960.
Almost coincidentally, his funeral was held on 29 of December 2001. On that mournful day, Jacques Chirac, who said, upon hearing of Senghor’s death: “Poetry has lost one of its masters, Senegal a statesman, Africa a visionary and France a friend” joined the collage of African nationalists and their friends to inscribe on Senghor’s epitaph, an extract from one if his poems:
“When I’m dead, my friends, place me below Shadowy Joal,
On the hill, by the bank of the Mamanguedy, near the ear of Serpents’ Sanctuary.
But place me between the Lion and ancestral Tening-Ndyae.
When I’m dead, my friends, place me beneath Portuguese Joal.
Of stones from the Fort build my tomb, and cannons will keep quiet.
Two oleanders — white and pink — will perfume the Signare.”
This stanza, among many inked by the Senegalese griot is a harmonic flute of philosophical tunes humming humility, patriotism, love of his land but above all, a sense of ownership of his country, Senghor gave his all to Senegal because he felt that his country belongs to him and he ought to service with all his might.
Legacies are immortal, it’s the bodies that aren’t
From the voluminous events of 31 December 1980 I could pick from, I felt a reflection of African Iconism would do justice in crossing over to 2018, equally prophetic and symbolic a year to ignore. For my unflinching Pan Africanist friends, remembering 2017 will be ideally dismembering the idea of misplaced African belonging and its historiography. 2017 grinds a tombstone which destroys miswritten knowledge about being, belonging and legacy.
It is a year which shall reside in memories as a length of events that destroyed a creation which had wrecked the apposite creation. In the middle of all the theatrics, the legacy restored as once championed by former President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe shall never be forgotten as continuously reminded by one of his brilliant students of Nationalism — His Excellency E D Mnangagwa.
Like Senghor’s 31 December resignation memory, Robert did it earlier despite under unpleasant circumstances, however, necessary and still relevant to preserve his legacy to the world’s black people, Africa’s colonised minds and Zimbabwe’s litany of successes. It will be folly on this day to only celebrate Senghor and forget Mugabe and his collective contribution to Africa’s liberation — Asante Sana!
Military in politics and differing ideologies
To some who read less, Leopold Sedar Senghor was a soldier first, before he was a politician. More of a classical Plato drawn political philosophy.
According to Plato, a strong military background is a pre-requisite for political participation, and many outstanding and widely spoken politicians possess that. I wonder what amazes some Zimbabweans we regard learned when our former service men join politics after years of military education.
Senghor and many other nationalists differed on certain levels, however, with the same intention of liberating their people and keeping them so.
Although a socialist, Senghor avoided the Marxist and anti-Western ideology that had become popular in post-colonial Africa, favouring the maintenance of close ties with France and the Western world. This is seen by many as a contributing factor to Senegal’s political stability.
Senghor’s tenure as president was characterised by the development of African socialism, which was created as an indigenous alternative to Marxism, drawing heavily from the négritude philosophy. In developing this, he was assisted by his diplomatic advisor, Ousmane Tanor Dieng. On 31 December 1980, he retired in favour of his prime minister, Abdou Diouf.
Mamdani and Zimbabwe
On 4 December 2008 on of Africa’s intellects, Mahmood Mamdani published a paper titled: Lessons for Zimbabwe. Again, our country became a good example of bad happenings. Coupled with a legion of political and economic problems, 2008 is not a supple year to keep in mind besides a temporary relief with the less effective Government of National Unity to which opposition always wants to take credit for: I wonder, what credit is there when nothing administratively tangible is there?
The reason why I quote Mamdani’s 2008 December publication is because of its similarity with the food-land status quo, then and now. I think an interaction with him may help in reflecting back and forth on how the new dispensation can and will reshape the national happiness. Mamdani had this to say about Zimbabwe which I shall paraphrase as I engage: Zimbabwe, once a food surplus country, is today deficient in both foreign exchange and food. In 2002-3, half the population depended on food aid: this was a drought year and the figures improved in 2004-5.
To separate out the effect of drought and that of reform — and thus to understand how land reform has hit production —one needs first to distinguish between three groups of agricultural producer: local white farmers, who were the target of the land reform; peasants with farms in communal areas; and foreign corporations, whose large farms (except for small tracts of unused land) remain intact. Harry Oppenheimer, for example, lost most of his private land, but his firm, Anglo American, kept its sugar estates, which it then sold to Tongaat Hulett, a South African firm with 15 000 hectares in Zimbabwe. In a nutshell, white commercial farmers focused on export crops, whereas communal farmers were the major source of food security — our people.
The production of tobacco, hitherto the main source of foreign exchange, is concentrated in large-scale commercial farms; it has seen the most severe decline, almost entirely as a result of land reform. Maize and cotton are peasant crops and have not really been directly affected by land reform, but have suffered badly from prolonged drought — maize production was down by 90 per cent between 2000 and 2003. In contrast, the production of crops — sugar, tea, and coffee — grown mainly by the large corporate plantations has remained steady.
To this, one can almost fully agree that effects of land reform have been over sensationalised by both media and academia. The existing public discourse on land reform being reversed to speedily rescue our economy becomes folly after the President of Zimbabwe unhesitatingly declares that we are not “going back” on that except to clean up the process. Not only shall we learn from Mamdani’s truths, but connect it to Command Agriculture whose outcomes were more than the projections to the point of irking the “talkative” and twitter hiding-present Professor who devised names and monikers for such a stomach pleasant programme. Food security is paramount even at micro level — thus says the wise words “The only way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. I can say, 2018 we are food safe and our new year’s resolutions tonight should be of actively participating in growing that programme.
Food price and New Year’s resolutions
To this day, the public is not happy about the cost of food. Everyone was anxiously waiting for the new events to cut straight the ridiculous cost of food.
This problem should not have been still existent to this last day of the year. To many, the high costs are a semblance of the continuity of corruption which should be clipped like the wings of a faction which thought it could put the party into its pocket. Sadly that has not happened and we shall walk into the new year with that scourge of costly milk, cooking oil and meat.
Despite stern statements made by the President of our Republic, the public yearns for a commandeered approach to price control which the President on Thursday instead instructed Minister of Industry and Commerce, Cde Mike Bimha to engage stakeholders on mapping cost arrangement as affected by value chains. This approach will probably not be the public’s favourite but a diplomatic and engaging approach to providers and consumers to allow compromise is probably the best way to start a new Gregorian year with the already flourishing new politics.
To you reader, the price of food and other commodities may be higher, let’s not be quick to despair but hold steadfast and be faithful that the rectification of the problem be suitable. The bigger picture is not cutting the price to impress the public, but to create measures that avoid future increases and illicit operations that incentivise such actions. Let the bigger picture be of how we re-write our wrongs, right our wrongs and avoid our wrongs because as much as we waited for five years to pass by for the next elections, many things have happened and the new year is seemingly breathing a breeze of a better Zimbabwe with elections shortly coming, we wonder how others will campaign.
As I used to say in 2017 . . . #2018willtell