By Mashingaidze Gomo
AFRICA was partitioned in a scramble set off by the Berlin Conference of 1884.
The participants were European clergy and explorers who cut spheres of influence for European countries as ‘patriotic gestures’ to their motherlands.
African kingdoms were replaced by countries whose borders were defined by the natural occurrence or proliferation of the natural resources the colonising powers were seeking to power their industrial revolutions and not indigenous demography.
The borders were further determined by physical conveniences of rivers, mountains and deserts and they were contested and resolved in Europe without African representation.
To that extent, they were informed by European and not African nationalism and their establishment translated to acts of ‘patriotism’ to metropolitan Europe.
The established countries were, in essence, overseas provinces of Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Spain.
And like slavery, they were established expressly for the benefit of Europe.
Colonisation made Africans second class subjects of European countries.
The language of the coloniser became the conveyance to the acquired European sense of well-being, tragically valued in fluency and not the insights it should have provoked.
Those conscripted to fight in European world wars, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) included, sang and marched to the rhythms of European national anthems and laid down their lives as ‘patriots’ for Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Spain.
In British colonies, the ‘National Anthem’ was one, and it was: ‘God Save The King/Queen’, not African King/Queen, but the British monarchy.
After the First World War, there was a redistribution of German colonies to Britain and racist Boer South Africa.
In the Zimbabwean case, the country that replaced African sovereigns was Rhodesia.
It was founded by a British chartered commercial company – the British South Africa Company, and named after the founding merchant and ‘British patriot’, Cecil John Rhodes.
Rhodes’ patriotism towards Britain was so much that he wanted to colonise Africa from Cape to Cairo for his motherland.
He wanted African resources for the development of metropolitan Britain.
He died trying and his Will dedicated a whole ‘scholarship’ to that purpose.
The Rhodes Scholarship has been accepted by African governments and individual recipients not as ‘the donation of a worldview’, but the recognition and development of academic potential by an ‘innocent’ philanthropist.
The Rhodes Scholarship removes gifted young Africans from the crime scene (Africa) where the donor (Europe) commanded genocide and counted African corpses.
The Rhodes Scholarship takes gifted young Africans abroad and chains them to another ‘worldview’.
It has been awarded to Africans who have not seen ‘donor’ scholarship as the donor’s patriotism to their own motherland.
African recipients of donor scholarships have largely misread the ideological import of it all.
They have not read the paradigm.
They have not identified the permeations of slavery in scholarship.
They have not seen the chains of slavery in awards.
Physique is no longer the exclusive feature in the new slave.
The new requirement is academic potential.
We raised the flags of our ‘independence’ but carried on the system left by the colonisers.
They had laid the blueprint of our education; we spoke their language and therefore carried their worldview.
The foregoing contentious history shows how European nationalism and patriotism fractured African nationalism and patriotism.
It shows how the two are exclusive paradigms.
And in the Zimbabwean case, it defines the late ZANU Chairman Herbert Chitepo as instance of patriotic scholarship at work.
Said Cde Chitepo: “I come from Zimbabwe.
To many of you, this small little territory is known by the name of Rhodesia.
We, the African people of Rhodesia, do not like it to be called Rhodesia.”
Cde Chitepo encouraged a patriotic reading of history.
Those who read history might have read a description given by Arnold Toynbee in his Study of History on the definition of the word ‘native’.
I am usually called a ‘native’ when in Zimbabwe (by white people).
Toynbee says: “When we, Europeans, call people natives, we take away anything from them; anything that suggests that they are human beings.
They are to us like the forest which the Western man fells down. Or, the big game that he shoots down.
They have no tenure of land.
Their tenure of land is as precarious as that of the animals that they find.
What shall we, the lords of creation, the white people, do with the natives we find?
Shall we treat them as vermin to be exterminated or shall we treat them as hewers of wood and drawers of water?
There is no other alternative if niggers have no souls.”
The above quote indicates the sort of mental outlook that those who settled in our country had of us.
We were a natural resource to be exploited — the same as the trees, the same as the grass, the gold mines, the gold underground, the same as the wood.
Cde Chitepo’s correct reading of history took him back to Rhodes’s crime scene where he saw that the land issue was ‘the beginning of every other form of exploitation, that is in Zimbabwe – in industry, in education, in every other form.
This is the beginning.
This is the base of the exploitation.
He returned to the crime scene and questioned kuti: ‘How can 12 million … 24 million people live on that small amount of land?
They can’t survive!
Because they can’t survive, what must they do?
They must sell themselves in slavery to white capitalists and imperialists.
The ones who have designed this law for the very purpose of making sure they can drain the African labour into their own industries, onto their own farms, into their own mines.
Pay them next to nothing, because they have no alternative.
They must try to live’.
A correct reading of the crime scene told him that: ‘If there is any group of people in a country who are affected and hurt, and injured more than any other group on land issues, it is the peasant.
The ordinary man and woman who is living on a plot of land in his country’.
A correct reading of the crime scene told him that: ‘Revolution has been about land everywhere in the world.
It is about land because land is the thing on which you live.
You build your house on it; you get your food from it.
Life is sustained on the land and, without it you are really facing death’.
A correct reading of the Battle of Chinhoyi in 1966 made him realise before very long why they hadn’t made very much progress.
“It was because there had not been a complete hug between the freedom fighters and the masses of the people in Zimbabwe. And, it is for that reason that during the period that followed, we concentrated on a regime of political education of the masses to get them to appreciate the goals that the struggle was aiming at. To be fired by the new vision of a new Zimbabwe and to participate in its realisation and to realise that the realisation of the new Zimbabwe, the new vision that we tried to sell, which we tried to inspire in their hearts could only be achieved by struggles which involved life and death; by armed struggle.”
Contentious history has consistently fractured our sense of nationhood.
Racist Rhodesia advocated the separation of races in everything.
In Zimbabwe, rituals that define nationhood include Independence Day, Heroes Day, Defence Forces Day, Unity Day and sports, among others.
Rhodesians and the opposition do not attend these.
They don’t even sing the National Anthem.
Their children do not take the National Pledge.
They do not do the national curriculum and do not believe in black majority rule.
The national curriculum is the blueprint of what the nation aspires to be and the National Constitution lays down the rules of implementation.
To not say whites undermine blacks is not patriotism.
It is suicidal tolerance.
Tolerance is not all goodness and being humane.
It is a semantic coin, an oxymoron mismatching a curse and a virtue.
To some people, tolerance invites more than co-existence.
It also inadvertently invites abuse.
It is an irrefutable truth that, for some people, it is not enough that you lie down for them to step on.
They will still complain that you are not lying flat enough for their indulgence.
Such has been the relationship between whites and blacks.
The Rhodesian settler-community invokes Zimbabwean citizenship, but their patriotism goes to Britain.
They do not celebrate the days that define the nation of Zimbabwe.
In African history, slavery and colonisation were racial reactions to African tolerance.
And in Zimbabwe’s case, the 1890 occupation of Mashonaland, the 1930 Land Apportionment Act, the 1952 Land Husbandry Act, the 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence and ZDERA in 2001 were all reactions to indigenous tolerance.
The racist Acts were not aberrations, but cumulative arrogations encouraged or invited by previous capitulations.
Racists campaigned for illegal sanctions to be imposed on Zimbabwe, and so did members of the opposition in the country.
Is that patriotism because, indeed, the opposition joined Rhodesians!
What then shall we say, because patriotism is founded on social justice.
The patriots who took up arms to liberate Zimbabwe did so for that reason.
People, like Mbuya Nehanda, who died for Zimbabwe, did so for that reason.
When we say Zimbabwe, we mean its people, its ambitions and its vision.
The contribution, whatever you make, wherever you are, at the end of the day it will be recognised as a contribution that promotes, develops and nurtures growth not of one generation, but generations to come.
Patriotism should be taught and informed by history.
Patriotism is how we read our interests in our history — it is our national consciousness.
We cannot be Zimbabweans without knowing our history.