Vusi Mavimbela: To Africa belong the praises
Harare: Africa has just emerged from the 19th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. It was perhaps the most anticipated summit in the history of the African Union since its inauguration in the year 2002 in the city of Durban. The essence of what fuelled the anticipation is captured in the very Press Release No 11/19th AU Summit, issued at the conclusion of the deliberations. It says: "The high moment of this Summit was the election on the 15th of July of the new Chairperson of the African Union Commission, in the name of Dr Nkosazana Clarise Dlamini-Zuma and the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Mr Erastus Mwencha."
The Press Release further states: "According to the AU Chairperson (Dr Thomas Boni Yayi), the Heads of State have demonstrated solidarity, unity and brotherhood in finding a solution to the difficult situation the continent faced due to the inconclusive electoral process during the Summit in January 2012".
At the conclusion of the summit, President Boni Yayi also stated that the outcome of the election is primarily "a victory for Africa", a victory for the continent. It is perhaps this latter statement that, more than any other one, we should carry in our collective hearts and minds as the African people well into the future of our dreams.
To be able to appreciate the import of this statement we have to remove ourselves from the platform of the ordinary and the mundane and look at the richness and rewards of African development and progression that this development represents.
Africa as a geographic space as well as a socio-economic and political continent is very much the theatre of human development and progression. It has been the player in this theatre even before the beginning of time. To be able to remove ourselves from the ordinary and the mundane we often have to borrow from the enduring laws that govern and explain human development and progression.
These are the laws that have stood the test of time and withstood the ups and downs of a many millennia. We can only ignore these laws at our own peril and thus fail to understand the positive essence of our social development and progression.
One of these laws is called dialectics or the laws of dialectics. It was there in the thinking of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who lived in the 6th Century BC. He argued that everything is in constant change as a result of inner strife and opposition. This basic tenet is a golden thread that can be discerned running throughout many centuries in the social thought of, among others, the Hindu, the Buddhist, Socrates, Hegel and Marx, down to the contemporary thinkers like Eric Hobsbawm.
These enduring laws of dialectics have been refined over the centuries but have maintained their basic structure. I would like to isolate only two principles of these laws for the benefit of the subject matter of this article.
One of these principles states that the "universe is not a disconnected jumble of things completely isolated from each other, but an integral whole". Indeed that can be said of our own abode, the African continent.
What seems isolated in this continent, in our superficial mind, is actually enduringly related in space and time and always has the potential to influence the integrated whole. When the AU today talks of the need for a common African agenda, a common market, an integrated Nepad programme and a Peer Review mechanism, it is articulating, in the modern context, what objectively should have been in the agenda of the African continent for many centuries.
Basil Davidson, one of the foremost authorities on African history, sketches this reality formidably. He writes: "Visitors to the major stone-built sites of the Zimbabwe Culture had wondered what power and ambition could have raised these structures, the largest of which, at Great Zimbabwe, has enclosing walls which rise 30 feet and 5 feet thick at the base.
"That power and ambition were of the same order as those embodied in the capitals and governments of old West Africa in the same period. They were the outward and visible signs of a political and economic organisation which had developed regional production and exchange and had then enlarged this system by ample international contacts".
The "same period" Davidson is referring to is the 13th Century AD. The old West Africa he is writing about is the territory that today is occupied by Ghana, Mali and Guinea. Davidson says the gold new monetary standard of exchange that fuelled the European economy of the time and laid the basis for its supremacy actually came from Africa, especially the old West Africa.
Davidson thus concludes that: "So it may be said without exaggeration that this rise of the late-medieval Europe and its first steps in the development of capitalism were another consequence, however indirect, of the achievements of West Africa's miners, merchants and entrepreneurs".
What we have here is an example of two developments, happening in the same African continent, that seem to resemble a "disconnected jumble of things completely isolated from each other"; one in West Africa and the other in the South of the continent.
The consequence of the interaction of these two African regions with the world, however, is that because at that historical material time they could not, and could not have, both subjectively and objectively, co-ordinated and forged a common strategy and agenda, they unwittingly fed the forces that were later to subjugate their common continent.
Hardly any region or country in our continent can claim that historically it has not unwittingly fed the forces of our subjugation dictated upon by the limiting historical conditions, fragmentation of our resistance efforts and the military superiority of the forces of slavery, colonialism and imperialism.
There is a plethora of examples in all the corners of the continent of developments that historically, wittingly or unwittingly, militated against the need to co-ordinate and forge a common strategy and agenda for Africa's resistance and emancipation.
The raison d'être of the strong, effective and agile African Union and its institutions is precisely to ensure that we do not relive the continental theatre of the 13th Century in the 21st Century. In the 13th Century, as Davidson shows, the great and remarkable achievements of the kingdoms of Zimbabwe and the kingdoms of Ashanti that traded in gold, disproportionately favoured the fortunes of other continents.
The AU, through its institutions like the AU Commission, has to ensure that the collective strength of the market of a billion people of the continent, that the vastness of our natural resources, are not manipulated in order to frustrate the agenda of African progress.
The second principle of dialectics I want to refer to is similar to that articulated by Heraclitus.
In modern philosophical parlance this principle says that any organism is in constant motion as a result of the principle of the "unity and the struggle of opposites". In the unity and struggle of opposites, the quantitative accumulation of conflicts eventually leads to a qualitative resolution where something of a higher order is born.
To put it in simpler terms; where there is a thesis there is always an antithesis. With time the conflict between the two will result in a synthesis. The synthesis is something qualitatively higher than the original two but carries within it some of the elements of the two. So neither the thesis nor the antithesis is an overall victor. Only the synthesis can claim victory.
That is what President Boni Yayi meant when he said it is the African continent that is a victor following the Heads of State "finding a solution to the difficult situation the continent faced due to the inconclusive electoral process during the Summit in January".
Neither the thesis nor the antithesis is a victor. Neither Dr Jean Ping nor Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a victor. Neither of them constitutes the synthesis. It is the outcome that is the synthesis and the victor.
It is the outcome that carries a different Dr Dlamini-Zuma in the sense that she is a different person from the person she was before entering the gruelling election campaign. It has been a campaign and an outcome that could not have left her untouched.
Certainly we can surmise that today she is more sensitive to the urgent need to unite the continent. In her own words, one of her urgent priorities is to interact with stakeholders across the continent if only to assure them that she is there to serve all of them with equal favour. Today she is much more aware about whom she needs in order to fulfil her mandate.
Today she is much more aware who is going to embrace her and who will give her the benefit of the doubt. That certainly makes her wiser about how to handle perceptions, inter-personal and inter-country relations as she assumes her responsibility. The gruelling campaign would certainly have tempered her sense of honour and the burden of responsibility.
Similarly, today there is a different Dr Ping than the one who entered the campaign trail. The same argument can be extended to everybody who was actively involved in the campaign.
As they flew and drove from one capital to the other, one city to the next, interacting with different stakeholders who sometimes held different views, there is no way that they could have escaped the dialectical processes that go with it. Everybody has learnt and has been enriched.
For example, one can hazard a guess that some of the statutes of the AU that govern the electoral process might be revisited. That constitutes transformation, not only of the statutes, but also of the individuals concerned.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma was the candidate nominated by Sadc as the region. The Sadc leadership worked very hard to campaign for her election because they were convinced of the correctness of their decision.
However, we need to underline again that the outcome of the leadership election in Addis Ababa does not constitute the victory for Sadc, but the continent, of which Sadc is part.
It behoves us to thank the whole leadership of Sadc for appointing and campaigning for a candidate they believe will better advance the agenda of the continent.
Zimbabwe should certainly be commended that she deemed it fit to sacrifice the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Simbarashe Simbanenduku Mumbengegwi, to the gruelling campaign effort. He is one of those who criss-crossed the continent, setting aside some of his urgent and important ministerial responsibilities and personal time, all in the good name of the African course.
South Africa, on the other hand, has among other things, the task of convincing the ordinary man and woman in the street why they should be happy to leave Dr Dlamini-Zuma to go to serve in the AU Commission rather than to keep her at home.
For them the long anticipation of the outcome of the AU Commission Summit elections has left them with a hangover of anxiety in the home front. This is the measure of the extent to which Dr Dlamini-Zuma's contribution to the work of government has touched their lives.
She has served in three different cabinet portfolios (Health, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs) since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994. It is not only the Home Affairs portfolio that she is being credited for turning around, but she has left indelible marks in all the three of them.
For example, her successors in the health portfolio are wont to admit that some of the bold standards she set for that portfolio in South Africa have remained the benchmark to outperform up to this day.
The election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma is also linked to the struggle for the emancipation of African women from the claws of patriarchy in all its forms.
The process of democratisation of the continent is incomplete without the emancipation of African women, who make up more than half the population of the continent. Their emancipation is the task for all of us so that they can be able to contribute fully to the rebirth of the continent.