‘Let’s all benefit from our natural resources’

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THIS year, Africa marks the 55th anniversary of the formation of the African Union (AU), born as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on May 25 1963.
There is an increased need for the continent to own and benefit from its vast natural resources which for centuries have benefitted and built Western cities as well as enriching foreign nations who are in turn hostile to Africans and trashing their human rights and cultural diversity.
One of the fundamental reasons for the formation of this organisation was to ensure and promote dialogue and harmony among Africans.
The overriding principle of Africa Day was the ownership of African resources and liberation from colonial oppression by the Western countries.
This should remain as one of the guiding principles of the celebrations as there are still relentless efforts by some Western countries to colonise Africa and its resources through underhand deals and political overtures.
This year’s Africa Day celebrations should also be a milestone for Zimbabwe under the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa who made sure that the people of Zimbabwe should own and benefit from their natural resources.
The President, through his mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, has travelled far and wide in a bid to lure investors.
He relaxed some of the laws that made it impossible for ordinary Zimbabweans to benefit from their natural resources.
He has made sure that the ‘Open for business’ mantra is successful and the bringing in of new ideas in the revival of our economy should not exclude our own ideas and beliefs as a people.
The Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET) remains a vital beneficiation tool for minority communities who previously could not benefit from resources in their own villages, as donor driven programmes by some Western countries milked them of their resources, leaving them with nothing.
The present Government has ensured they exploit and add value to natural resources in their communities.
Both rural and urban communities have started unlocking the value of natural resources under the ‘Value Addition and Beneficiation Cluster’.
The value addition and beneficiation strategy is anchored on the private sector and communities, playing a key role in the execution of the activities around their communities.
The key in the beneficiation of this strategy is the capacity building of communities’ women, youth and the physically challenged acting as key drivers to the revival of community-based business ventures in exploiting our natural resources.
Efforts have been made to link tourism to rural development and conservation through the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, so that local people can benefit from visitors, while the visitors also learn on the local environment and culture.
There are a lot of cultural and historical sites as well as other places that can unlock tourism revenue for rural communities, but failure to market the places has led to the deterioration of such sites.
If managed carefully, these sites can bring advantages to local communities through generation of income for locals through jobs in the selling of souvenirs and local delicacies to tourists.
Communal lands have many attractions to offer and tourists already enjoy nature tourism, white water rafting and canoeing, viewing rock paintings, rock climbing and bathing in natural hot springs.
Other forms of tourism include trophy hunting, considered the ultimate eco-tourism in southern Africa and especially important for rural communities in Zimbabwe, which earn significant revenues from foreign hunters.
It is also imperative that, as the country joins the rest of Africa in celebrating Africa Day, we should not forget some of the most horrendous colonial injustices perpetrated by colonialists as well as manoeuvers by some Western countries to effect regime change on the continent.
Culture remains an important tool that binds and makes a people.
The colonial regime used cultural imperialism to divide the people of Zimbabwe.
The racist regime of Rhodesia was very notorious for mutilating African languages to the extent that wholesale changes and renaming of towns, cities and streets had to be done.
It was a form of subjugation of one race by another and the war of liberation was meant to correct this.
It is also important for Zimbabwe to remember the achievements made to promote cultural diversity and the incorporation of other minority languages in the new educational curriculum.
However, apart from celebrating cultural diversity, it is important to remember those who were subjected to colonial injustices in Africa.
There are some sad stories on how whites subjected blacks to cruelty during the slave trade when millions of Africans were shipped to the Americas to work in factories and fields under inhuman conditions.
The desire to control the blackman’s land and natural resources was enough justification for the enslavement of black people, but now it’s time they should regain their dignity and say no to the exploitation of their resources.
To date, Africans have remained humane enough despite the genocide, brutality and enslavement that was unleashed on them by white people.
Despite these and other atrocities perpetrated against the people of colour in Africa and elsewhere in the world, we still have the same ‘devils’ in our midst and they are still trying to do the same things they did centuries ago, this time using different tactics to advance this colonial agenda, especially on the vulnerable people of our continent.
As we celebrate Africa Day, we should resist manoeuvers by some extractive Western industries to exploit our natural resources without us benefitting from them.
Granite in Mutoko, diamonds in Marange and Zvishavane, gold in Mhangura, flora and fauna in our rivers and national parks belong to us and the future generations.
We must resist efforts to label and use our cultural diversities and guard against the West’s imperial agenda and its implications on indigenous cultures.
We should be able to go back to our roots and promote the use of indigenous knowledge systems in promoting the well-being of our people so that we are less-dependent on the Westerners for medicines, agricultural implements and drought mitigation.
We cannot continue to be told by former colonial masters that we are still vulnerable to our own environments and resources.
African communities are potential libraries of ethno-botanical information and can make invaluable contributions to conservation policy by sharing taxonomic knowledge and ecosystem management approaches.
African values like respect, sharing, reciprocity and humility characterise systems of traditional management of our own environments and the promotion of cultural diversity.
As we celebrate Africa Day and cultural diversity, we should also celebrate and recognise the arts — music and dance — that have made Africa what it is today.

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