By Merlyn Nkomo
At times as spectators of different movements and revolutions around the world, we can be amazed at how the aggrieved parties have let the problems they face go on for that long. For many, it is difficult to imagine how abuse, corruption, state capture and police brutality amongst other ills, can grip a nation until global movements like #METOO, #BLM, #ENDSARS, #DEMLOOT have to be set in motion to bring an end to the tyranny.
How do states fail, how are Banana Republics born and how are the former glories and hopes carried by nations lost? From my experience growing up in Zimbabwe when everything started going south, I can say I know how. On a taxi ride to crèche I remember a phrase being used by the people that sat on the row in front of us saying literally, “The dollar has fallen”. Our dollar coin was big, silver and round with the conical tower of Great Zimbabwe, I thought surely one couldn’t miss it if it had fallen on the taxi floor. For years after that, I gradually came to understand the devaluing of a currency and the devaluing of its people’s worth in the eyes of the world. We grew taller in the awareness of the grown-ups losing their voice, gripped with fear and accepting our collective fate until the outright bizarre was the daily norm.
This is how states fail, by exchanging our words for silence and fear in the hopes it will bring us peace. When we let the will of the people be ignored, the voices of millions go unheard and when we choose not to engage in dialogue that furthers the cause of others. All around us, the work of liberation movements in Africa is slowly coming apart. One wonders how far into the future the visions our revolutionaries reached. Were the foundations of our democracies laid well, is democracy a fit for Africa? Now more than ever we should gird up and be armed with the machine guns and grenades that are the voices and philosophies of this new generation that is inheriting this battered world.
For we have learnt that quiet isn’t always peace — Amanda Gorman
Many nations in Africa and indeed around the world are known for being peace-loving people. Neath this layer of seeming peace, rots the hopes and dreams of future generations shouldering the entire establishment. To be quiet is not to be at peace. Peace is a work of co-creation, through dialogue, song, poems and enactments of the future we all hope to achieve. It is not proclaimed over a people with a wave of a wand or slamming of a gavel. Not without concession and agreement that it is indeed peace and is representative of the diversity of the people involved. The world has changed and with it its people and the challenges they face. We cannot employ the same military strategies that freed us before. We must lend our voices to designing the communities, countries and indeed a world that is at Peace.
The freedoms attained “for us” by past generations can be quite hard to appreciate. Often reminders need to be posted periodically for example, how precious the right to education and voting is. It is not that we openly disregard these freedoms or we do not pay tribute to our heroes. It is that we do not defend them, if not for ourselves, for others elsewhere in the world. We cannot imagine the world different, yet it is possible in a few steps for us to digress from the path of democracy, for the work of building and fortifying takes longer than that of destroying. We should not rest until the full light of freedom shines upon all Africans. It is, after all, every generation’s responsibility to define what liberty is and defend it for one and all.
What is most important is not only to attain victory for democracy, it is to retain it. –Nelson Mandela
Amani will revive some of the discussion around the Freedom Charter in the form of the Amazwi Ethu campaign. When we went back and examined we found that the core messages of the historic document were not only fit for purpose, but were directly applicable in addressing some of the problems we face in our society today. We would love to hear your thoughts on the liberation movements across the continent, those from the past as well as those that are still happening. Share your reflections with Amani on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what freedom and dignity mean to you