What does it feel like to be a mindful Depression survivor with strong Pan-Afrikan views, and a flair for storytelling? South Africa was in the news again last week, for the obvious reasons. I was at the public library again.
I stumbled upon the timely history of this bag. What Kenyans and Ugandans call osuofia bag or mimi. This bag is sturdy, efficient and low budget. Here, this bag just saves the day. In West Africa, it is (in)famously called the Ghana-Must-Go bag.
Ghana-Must-Go. The plastic bag that is made of historical and political fabric. The bag that carries emotional baggage. The bag that embodies soul rot. Nobody told us that in 1983 the Nigerian government under president Shehu Shagari expelled millions of West African migrants, mostly of Ghanaian descent. The bags were on high demand during that short ugly period, hence the name.
In recent times, we have found a more articulate name for that atrocity. Xenophobia. Except South Africa is now on the spotlight for it. #ForeignersMustLeaveSA was trending on twitter just three days ago.
Violence is bottom barrel low they said, we are all Africans. The AU should take a stance: Ask the government of South Africa to protect African migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. How thoughtful. But until the AU does so while asking these ‘victim’ countries why they are not making their citizenry comfortable at home, it is ill-advised. Bearing in mind that the ability to emigrate from the third world is deeply embedded in a form of privilege. This is not an act of microaggression. Someone said political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners. I put it to you that political correctness is a cancer. It undermines democracy and the fabric of society. You do not go into people’s homes and make them not feel at home. An in-law does not replace a biological child. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Most African countries are embarrassingly mismanaged. Being anywhere from the middle class and below is the ultimate test of faith. You get up every morning and get demoralised from your doorstep to wherever it is you’ll be trying to make ends meet. You live from hand to mouth. You lead a frugal existence. If you’re not languishing in poverty then you’re just one ‘bad’ financial decision away from it. One hospital bill away, one semester’s tuition away, one simple car away. Poverty is always looming. Always lingering. These are bandit countries where even those with sterling credentials leave the private sector to go and loot in government. Because that is the prudent way to have a decent life here. Where the gap between the rich and the poor widens by the tick of the clock. Where the intelligentsia is intimidated and replaced by highly trained ‘professionals.’ Where presidential palaces and the streets are as different as night and day. Countries run like warehouses. Countries with economic structures that stink to high heaven. Economies on their deathbeds. Tyrannical regimes of men who put their countrymen on graft and tribal steroids. Where presidency is treated like a birth rite: till death do us part. Where republics operate like monarchies. Do we not know that in Equatorial Guinea the sitting president of 4 decades is now deputised by his own son? The bottom line is, the average African is disillusioned by his government. Most African governments are tactfully skilled at disenfranchising their people from access to livelihood. But South Africa is taking the heat for getting concerned about her sovereignty and her citizenry. For reacting. Xenophobia is just a reaction. Actions precede reactions.
In the spirit of Pan-Afrikanism, I think African history needs to be re-written. To include the home truths. For our healing, for our mental health, for our coexistence, for unity in diversity. The lions now need their own historians, because the history of the hunt is notoriously adept at glorifying the hunter. History must now be written by the villains. For the victors have long been crafty in their victory. The whole history should be revisited, from precolonial days. Maybe then, we might accept that before colonisation, African communities were sovereign and mostly just united by the vast geographical location, skin colour and white imperialism. That Africa was a continent of immense energy and culture with hundreds of different languages. And our history did not begin with colonisation.
Just before dust could settle on the xenophobia hashtags, the librarian in-charge announced to us that the government has suspended the borrowing of books for reasons best known to it. It might interest you that the said public library is actually understocked with books that are in all conditions but pristine. Books that we pay to read and borrow, with added hefty fines for exceeding your deadline. Not to mention how strenuous it is to secure membership if you are neither a student nor employed.
Xenophobia is not it. South Africa is the scapegoat. And the AU is nothing more than dogs barking at the full moon. I think we better think while it is still legal to!