By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
IN matters of security, diplomacy and counter-terrorism, is the misrepresentation of funds and laundering of money more dangerous than the misrepresentation of persons, groups, organisations, their character, identity and motives?
Are there no cases where (based on our understanding of character and identity) our policy should be that we will not touch anything from certain quarters regardless of how many billions of dollars or pounds sterling they may be offering for investment and wealth creation?
While thinking of aspects of the current debate over Al Jazeera’s alleged documentary:‘The Gold Mafia’, I was struck by the testimony of one Sobona Mtisi, chief investment officer, Office of the Presidential Envoy and Ambassador-at-large Prophet Uebert Angel.
According to The Zimbabwe Mail of March 25 2023, Mtisi and his organisation seemed to suggest that it was more important to establish whether people approaching his office had funds to invest than it was first to establish who they were and what their real mission might be.
Isn’t a certain level of mutual trust and reliability necessary together with the proven capacity to invest?
Here is part of what Mtisi put in the statement called ‘Response to Al Jazeera Documentary’:
“The best these people got are the audios from decoys, they never got the chance to film the President or the First Lady because the Ambassador (Prophet Uebert Angel) was already informed by the security agents prior to getting in the meeting that they (visitors) didn’t have the money they claimed to have.
However, as aforementioned, we battled with the what if the intelligence was wrong and the country loses (out on) the much needed investment.
The decoys helped in asserting that if they (visitors) were real investors, we would be able to get it from their reactions after the call.
The Ambassador was already informed by the security agents prior to the meeting that they (visitors) didn’t have the money they claimed to have.
The investors failed to produce confirmation of funds to back their financial capacity to invest in Zimbabwe. Consequently Ambassador Angel swiftly and immediately called off any further engagements with these ‘investors’.”
So, what really mattered first was how much money could be proven as available in this company’s accounts, not whose company it was and what its reputation was?
At some point Mtisi says that his team later became certain that the country had not lost out on a chance to get investment because the fake investors were, after all, just Al Jazeera journalists.
But the conclusion that the so-called investors were journalists from Al Jazeera compounds issues because, for those people to be confirmed as journalists they would need to produce papers from the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, as well as confirmed accreditation from the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).
Their equipment would also have to have been registered for the project with Customs, Immigration and the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), so that on their way out they could still take it with them.
Were all these details in place?
Was this a bona fide media project?
Alternatively, if the ‘documentary’ turns out to be just a patch-work of footage collected in South Africa and elsewhere without the journalists ever visiting Zimbabwe for on the ground verification, then the Ministry, ZMC and BAZ should say so.
Hunhu/ubuntu and the science and art of human character and motivation
Today we seem to take for granted the science and art of human character and motivation.
Theatre arts, TV shows and the movie industry are based on these disciplines.
Both defence teams and prosecutors in complex homicide cases rely on such science and art of human character and motivation to determine who is who and who did what, when and where in order to win cases or nail psychopathic killers.
Jury selection and service are based on assumptions about character, mindset, motivation and identity.
The marketing and advertising industries rely on theories of human psychology, character and motivation to deceive buyers, sell products and to get politicians elected.
The whole system of TV celebrities and charismatic preachers, to a great extent, depends on concepts of human character, motivation and morality.
Our interpretation and understanding of honour, respect, dignity, trust, love, pride, excellence and even ‘development’ depend a lot on how we have been taught about what it is to be human, our concept of hunhu/ubuntu.
So, doesn’t the question of who people are come first before what they claim they have for investment?
Indeed, historians of civilisation consider the two-step invention of character and conscience to be among the greatest transformations and breakthroughs in the world.
Those breakthroughs first happened in Africa, especially along the Nile Valley.
Step One: Constitution of the family
The first step was the constitution of the family with parents, siblings and relatives who served as mentors, elders and later ancestors of that family’s children.
The family was the hammer and anvil on which the human being was first minted.
It was the family which saw the need to mould optimal character in their young ones and to cultivate in them a sharp and discerning awareness of the complicated nuances of human personality, morality and intelligence.
According to James H. Breasted, The Dawn of Conscience, (p.496), it was as part of the development of human relational intelligence within the family that the concept of character was conceived.
“Precious to a man is the virtue of his son, and good character is a thing remembered.”
Shrewd businessmen and women also try to present their actions as guided by virtue and trust.
According to Breasted: “The word (character) itself is very interesting.
Its original meaning is to ‘shape, to form, to build’ and it was early employed especially to designate the work of the potter in shaping clay vessels on his wheel.
Its derived meaning: ‘character,’ a Greek word meaning the impression of an engraved seal on the yielding clay or wax, or of a die on the metal in striking a coin.”
So to be fully human and to ‘develop’ meant to be fully engaged in the pursuit and teaching of good character, truth and a clear conscience against deception, lying, cynicism and corruption; against dubious projects of change and reform that turn us into copycats or accomplices of people whose character we do not fully understand or have not even established.
The African family so involved in moulding character in its young ones clearly and boldly assumed human agency and a historical role, to shape a new reality in human existence which still matters so much to this day.
The family as we have known it is now under threat from the rampant capitalist market, but nothing yet is capable of replacing it.
Step Two: Community and the State
Step Two was that great family teachers eventually found leaders and kings who facilitated their teaching of character to the wider society and even to officials of the State.
In their public phase, these people were earlier on referred to as prophets.
It is therefore interesting that Ambassador Angel also refers to himself as ‘Prophet Angel’.
Whether that designation still has the same meaning and authority now which it commanded then, is a legitimate question to ponder.
Breasted recorded the writing on the tomb of one local government official named Ameni, who wanted it to be known he was of clean conscience and of good character as governor:
“There was no citizen’s daughter whom I misused, there was no widow whom I afflicted, there was no peasant whom I evicted, there was no herdman whom I expelled, there was no overseer of five whose people I took away for (unpaid) taxes.
There was none wretched in my community, there was none hungry in my time.
When years of famine came, I ploughed all the fields (of my estate)…preserving its people alive, furnishing its food so that there was none hungry therein.”
Step Three: International (global) spread of concepts of character, development and conscience (hunhu/ubuntu)
Much of ancient Africa’s broadcasting to the rest of the world of the programme to transform society through teaching character and conscience happened under Ikhnaton.
According to Breasted, Ikhnaton abandoned the old capital Thebes and built a new city between Thebes and the sea at Tell el-Amarna which he called Ikhetaton, meaning Horizon of Aton, horizon of the Sun God.
“A similar Aton city was founded in Nubia (Sudan), and in all likelihood there was another in Asia.
The three great portions of the Empire, Egypt, Nubia, and Syria, were thus each given a centre of the Aton faith ( Sun God faith).
Besides these, sanctuaries of Aton were also built at various other places in Egypt.”
In the poems and hymns to the now universal Sun God there is a double interplay between the young king and the Creator of the universe whom the king glorifies.
The love of one Creator and of God’s creation in nature became the basis for the pursuit and teaching of character, conscience and righteousness as supreme, unifying values for human development:
“Creator of the germ in woman,
Who makest seed into men,
Making alive the son in the body of his mother,
Soothing him that he may not weep,
Nurse even in the womb,
Giver of breath to sustain every one that he maketh….
“Thou risest beautifully, Oh living Aton, Lord of Eternity;
Thou art glittering, beautiful, strong;
Thy love is great and mighty,
Thy rays furnish vision to every one of thy creatures
Bright is the earth when thou risest in the horizon;
When thou shinest as Aton by day
Thou drivest away darkness…
As for their eyes, when thou dawnest,
They see by means of thee…
Thy rays illuminate the whole earth,
And every heart rejoices because of seeing thee,
When thou dawnest as the lord.
“When thou settest in the western horizon of the sky,
They sleep after the manner of the dead,
Their heads are wrapped up,
Their nostrils are stopped,
Until thy rising in the morning,
In the eastern horizon of the sky.
Then their arms are uplifted in adoration of thee,
Thou makest the hearts of men to live by thy beauty,
For men live when thou sendest forth thy rays,
Every land is in festivity;
Singing, music, and shouting of joy
Are in the hall…
Thy temple in Akhetaton, the seat of Truth (Maat),
Wherewith thou art satisfied.”
The universal message is clear.
Nature and its Creator are generous, non-discriminatory; so men and women of character and virtue must also be generous; celebrate and enlarge (rather than diminish) life.
Enduring examples of Africa’s contribution to development of character, conscience and ethics
Hebrew civilisation came into its own 2 000 years after the dawn of conscience in Egypt.
And Moses, the greatest leader and founder of that civilisation, was known among his own people as a Prince raised in the palaces of African rulers of Egypt to become a man of strong character and conscience. According to Breasted:
“Down into the Christian Era the Hebrews preserved a tradition that Moses was learned in ‘all the wisdom of the Egyptians’.”
The Hebrew story of young and handsome Joseph, is an Egyptian tale for teaching about strong character and good conscience.
The story of Anubis and Bata was changed into one about Joseph, Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife.
Beyond contributions via Hebrew and Islamic teachings, there are of course Greek borrowings as recorded so well in George James’ book, Stolen Legacy. There James documents the Greek debt to Egyptian civilisation and learning.
Greek philosophers and intellectuals, like the Hebrew Moses, were educated by Africans in Egypt.
The other transformations in reverse
Professor Bernard Magubane in Race and the Construction of the Dispensable Other has documented historical developments which can be taken as great transformations directly seeking to reverse the legacy of Africa as explained in the preceding narrative.
The invention of imperial Eurocentric Christianity and the imperial Church with its role in promoting and justifying chattel slavery, the development of a capitalism rooted in the middle passages of slavery, the development of colonialism and apartheid with their doctrines of white separatism and white supremacy based on a programme of intentional dehumanisation of the other – these transformations clearly negate the African legacy in developing character and conscience which we have tried to explain.
Suddenly the generosity and abundance of life and nature offered free by one Creator have been replaced by a hostile and crusading intolerance emphasising scarcity, meanness and avarice.
The long list of denials required and refined by Western society to sanitise and justify chattel slavery clearly flies in the face of the quest for human conscience, human dignity, truth and an abundant life under one Creator.
As Magubane points out, Christianity under the Church as empire had to deny its own origins in order to embrace capitalism rooted in slave labour.
Through its belated programmes to abolish slavery and to re-invent and re-universalise ‘human rights’ – capitalism has compounded the character and conscience issue by overplaying its alibi, its denial of foundation and inheritance in the ‘middle passages’ of slavery and apartheid.
The consequences of these denials still haunt the human race to this day.
Trying to escape through television and advertising
In addition to trying to deny continuing slavery and apartheid by re-inventing ‘human rights’, capitalism has embarked on a programme to reconquer humanity through advertising and rebranding.
This latest approach just further complicates the human situation in relation to character and conscience.
In his book, The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, David Korten cited Duane Elgin’s ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ where the latter states that:
“By programming television for commercial success, we are programming the mindset of entire civilisations–perhaps even the species-civilisation–for evolutionary stagnation and failure.
The use of television to promote exclusively materialistic values has become a massive mental health and public health problem for the United States and for the world.”
Author Peggy Noonan once described as ‘the culture of death’ the values that dominate television advertising and therefore also dominate other programming via corporate funding.
And recently philosophers in education, psychology and psychiatry have voiced concern that the corporate domination of global media and the disintegration of the family are producing a new dysfunctional personality who thrives on hostility, cynicism, aggression and a tendency to enjoy inflicting pain upon perceived rivals and even dehumanising them.
This (dehumanisation) is a streak continued and continuing from the days of chattel slavery.
From China, Ali Kadri shared a recent article called ‘The Martial Personality and the Decline of Communal Values’ by Ronald W. Pies, MD, which appeared in Psychiatric Times, Volume 36 issue number 10.
The article cites New York Times columnist David Brooks who in 2016 wrote that:
“The greatest challenge of our moment is the crisis of isolation and fragmentation, the need to rebind the fabric of a society that has been torn by selfishness, cynicism, distrust, and (false) autonomy.
At some point there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored anthropology, emphasising love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity, and neighbourliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust.”
A global communications system driven by television advertising means focusing on the propaganda of money, commodities and machines.
Any other programming for societal purposes has to be adjusted to make sure it is compatible with the main message, main purpose, of the propaganda of selling finance, commodities and machines.
In Western countries right now, the media have reduced Ukraine to something called ‘the arsenal of democracy’ into which every white Anglo-Saxon state is celebrating the pilling up of more and more machinery and ammunition for human annihilation based on a Cold War, stereotypical, hatred of the Russians.
The Russian view that NATO is no democracy and they do not want NATO for a next door neighbour has been buried under the piles of human destruction in this ‘arsenal of democracy’.
Character, conscience and basic decency are being buried together with the real human communities of Ukraine.
The global Military-Corporate Complex (MCC) is very real and powerful.
It dominates Western global media for now, so that we see just the building up of this gargantuan ‘arsenal of democracy’ and not the humans buried beneath the tanks, the drones and downed bombers.
How is it going to be possible to reconstruct Ukraine before the MCC move on to Taiwan, where they threaten to start piling up yet another ‘arsenal of democracy’ against China?
And where will our character and conscience be in all of this?