The girl-child and rights: Part Nine … so-called human rights inferior to hunhu/ubuntu


By Dr Michelina Andreucci

PRIOR to the Portuguese subversion of the Munhumutapa governance, Munhumutapa’s ethos of hunhu/ubuntu and social welfare system of zunde ramambo were well known.
His benevolence is expressed by Portuguese explorer Antonio Bocarro: “… the Emperor (Munhumutapa) shows great charity to the blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through the kingdoms, wherever they come, food and drinks are given to them at the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that place to go to another, they are provided with what is necessary for their journey, and a guide, and someone to carry their wallet to the next village. In every place where they come, there is the same obligation…”
Historical evidence shows that though African people had not developed formal writing, none-the-less, a rich clearly legible language was left articulated in Rock Art.
The people of Zimbabwe were well-skilled in basketry, pottery, agriculture, animal husbandry and metal smelting (iron, copper and gold), long before the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
European colonialism in Africa lasted from the 16th Century to the mid-20th Century.
In order to establish political control, or sovereignty, over their colonies, the colonial powers used a combination of warfare, threat of force and treaties with indigenous African rulers in their efforts to gain political control; all gross violations of human rights.
Having looted Africa of her resources, they convinced themselves that trade and commerce, along with the introduction of Christianity, were key to the development of Africa.
As the empire began to crumble, with their customary attitude of stiff upper lip, the British remained calm and collected, balanced and dispassionate.
The empire has been on the defensive since; to atone for its sins it sends its Cyclopean (at best), emissaries around the world, mainly to its hitherto colonies, to thrust a few pounds in our hands (to pacify us), and preach on the rights of the child, childrens’ rights, the rights of the girl-child, child abuse, child labour and gender discrimination when their own history is so blighted.
Children in Africa are named after ancestors and are accorded equal respect; because for an African, a name does not only represent a person’s identity but a name is also regarded as a promise, a vocation and a list of expectations.
At the heart of this practice among Africans is a profound appreciation of the value of the human person.
By giving the child a name, parents and their family members go beyond seeing a child as a composition of cells (whether genetically modified or otherwise), to seeing the child as a person in search of an identity and a vocation.
Giving a child a meaningful name in Africa requires accepting that the child has personal dignity that needs to be respected and protected, beginning from the moment of conception. Thereafter parents take every opportunity to re-inforce the messages behind the name(s) given to the child.
In Africa, child-rearing and the inculcation of decorum and servility – hunhu/ubuntu, were the mandate of the African extended family. Zimbabwe needs to find its own socio-cultural solutions to the current urbanisation that is the result of the breakup and dysfunction of the extended family and its attendant socio-malaise.
Vakuru vane chirevo chinoti: Ziva kwawakabva, mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere. Chirevo ichi chine dudziro yekuti vana vasakanganwe vabereki vavo, zvikuru avo vavanenge vasiya kumamisha vachinotsvaga mabasa kungave kumadhorobha kana kumaguta.While most of Africa continues to grapple with its colonial yoke of lack of education, under-development and exploitation, the West insists on ‘liberal democracy’ with its incumbent human rights, rights of women, rights of the girl-child, for the continent while faulting African governments for not being capable of establishing and sustaining democratic institutions.They forget that development in the West was achieved on the tender backs of child labour and precious resources exploited from Africa, long before liberal democracy was introduced as a viable form of Government for them.
Former French President Jacques Chirac put it succinctly when he stated: “For four and a half centuries, we looted Africa of their raw materials; in the name of religion, we destroyed their culture and told them they were good for nothing. …we see that Africa does not generate elites, after getting rich at its expense, we give them lessons. Now, as we must do things more stylishly, we steal their brain through scholarships.”
Today we are placing our values on individualistic, capitalist society that has resulted in fragmentation and confused the African mind, though people by nature are capable of straddling two cultures; however, in times of crisis, it is the mother culture that remains steadfast in the memory.
By adhering to the foreign dictates of the NGO’s template on childrens rights, we are in fact, putting our own culture on the backburner of our civilisation, and Zimbabwean people face the total annihilation that the colonials failed to achieve due to our cultural strengths and resilience.
It has often been said that the solution to Africa’s problems does not lie in externally imposed prescriptions by bureaucratic liberal institutions that are most often ignorant, unresponsive and outright hostile to the needs of the impoverished indigenous African majority.
The solutions for Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, lie in a collective approach based on cultural empowerment of the people resulting in economic development.
We are at a time of re-discovering our African values and it is therefore appropriate that we examine some of the Western NGOs dogma that we have in so many ways embraced by signing so many treaties without a thorough afro-centred analysis of the merits of our own culture and the ways of raising and educating our children.
Are lawyers, politicians, parliamentarians, clergymen, academics and all those who are so ready and unreservedly echo the language of NGOs advocating the inclusion and adoption of Western ‘rights’ prepared to freely and unreservedly assist any wayward juvenile or citizen who may fall short of the law because of the West’s imposition of these inappropriate rights?
Today, Western-imposed children’s rights and the girl-child have emasculated the African man; an African father has been reduced to a mere ‘money box’ by Western feminists’ agendas – the law needs to acknowledge African customs and generational wisdom.
Where is the generational wisdom going to come from when the age of majority is reduced?
“We should go down to the grassroots of our culture, not to remain there, not to be isolated there, but to draw strength and substance there from, and with whatever additional sources of strength and material we acquire, proceed to set up a new form of society raised to the level of human progress” – Ahmed Sékou Touré
Culture is power; we should not allow the over-reaching pervasive hand of Western alms-giving, arm-twisting donors to overtake and destroy ours again.
This said, cultural dislocation is not by external forces alone.
Our culture provides us with an ethos we must honour in both thought and practice.
It is the summarisation of thought and practices by which we create, celebrate, sustain and develop ourselves as well as introduce ourselves to history and humanity.
Human rights are a result of people’s struggles against oppression.
Every nation has the fundamental right to come to terms with their own struggles. Western-imposed ‘rights’ should not feature so prominently in the new school curriculum.
We should have the desire to build from the foundations of Great Zimbabwe, which should inspire and characterise conceptualisations of human rights and people’s rights for Africans, in Africa.
Education in Zimbabwe must be integrated with development within the ethos of hunhu/ubuntu. Development means the development of the soul as well as the mind, which will in turn teach them to care, appreciate and nurture all things bequeathed to them by the Creator, God or Mwari.
Through hunhu/ubuntu, our children must be educated to care for their country, themselves and others; the land, animals, birds, bees, flowers and as a result preserve our heritage – kuchengetedza nhaka.
This they will not learn through Western-sponsored ‘rights’ that are being foisted upon the children.
Today we have failed to inculcate into our educational system national priorities to do with socio-economic and cultural growth so that when our children are in their teens they know what it means to be Zimbabwean and what is in their country.
When students come out of classes, they lack world skills, etiquette, negotiating skills for business, trade and monetary skills of why, where and how.
All these things eventually impact on economic issues and the overall development, stability and wealth of a nation.
Pope John Paul II, during his visit to Ghana In 1980, stressed: “… essential aspects link between Creator and nature, a great respect for all life, a sense of family and of community that blossoms into an open and joyful hospitality, reverence for dialogue as a means of settling differences and sharing of African culture are a vision of the world where the sacred is central, a deep awareness of the insights, spontaneity and the joy of living expressed in poetic language, song and dance”; in other words hunhu/ubuntu.
There is a saying: Little knowledge is dangerous – let us embrace African wisdom to save and educate our Zimbabwean children the Zimbabwean way.
It is time we restore in the intellect of the new generation of Zimbabweans the correct character of their ancestors, the past glory of the empire, the strength of our warriors, the pride of craftsmen, and the intellect of our leaders.
We did not need foreign-imposed conventions, dictates or other foreign interventions; they were inbuilt within our culture of hunhu/ubuntu.
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field. For Comments E-mail:


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