By Rejoice Nharaunda
“There is need to revisit the agreement made at Lancaster”.
To him, it was an utterance made in passing, the appropriate quip of a seasoned Director of Ceremonies, befitting to the occasion – the inauguration of the building that houses the vehicle that was created to "decolonize the African mind".
To this daughter of the soil, it signified something deeper. Something so innate that it re-kindled a host of old familiar emotions.
Sentiments that resurface from time to time and seek to question and interrogate. Anxiety and uneasiness. That yearning for answers for the myriad of questions that the mind holds, but that no ready answers exist for.
The same questions and thoughts that had been silently entertained the night before as dinnertime banter was carrying on. Repartee about Cecil, the lion, his "murder" and the subsequent furore in the media, both locally and far ashore. The nuances behind the naming of Cecil the Lion.
Nearly four decades post-independence? That Zimbabwe might even still have had a lion named Cecil, supposedly named so after the ‘great’ CJR (according to dinner time chitchat)! If indeed the African mind is to be de-colonised, then surely the quest for nativity must accompany that process? Or not? Why on earth would Zimbabwe still have a lion named Cecil?
Worse still, why would Africa, emancipated, continue to have roads, entities of education, libraries, hotels and whatever else, named after Cecil? That same Rhodes, who in another breadth might epitomise colonialism?
So my soul cries foul, and remains troubled and unsettled! My insides continue to churn at the thought of Cecil – not just the lion, but the son of Reverend Rhodes himself. A similar rush of emotions engulf the inner man at the mention of Lancaster, as one is reminded of the glaring realities and truths behind the polemic land issue – that unambiguous giant which haunts Africa, but one that most have neglected or are too fearful and reluctant to tackle.
Whether this "neglect", "fear" and "reluctance" is real or imagined, the truth remains – the need for restoration of ancestral land rights exists. And so the words restitution, redistribution and reform continue to ring in the ears, reminding one that it’s all because of Cecil!
“Africa is still lying ready for us, it is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best the most human, most honourable race the world possesses.” - Cecil John Rhoses.
Huh? That was the colonial quest, kept steadily before their eyes - to take over Africa. On a personal note and on behalf of women-kind, we hold Cecil partially responsible for the prevailing position of African women. This place of unending subjugation is largely a legacy of the colonial regime initiated by Cecil, although heightened and intensified by our own male folk. As a result social stratification with respect to women has remained on the global agenda, with ongoing debate raging on how their lives can be improved, and be emancipated from the various daily afflictions to which she remains subjected.
Rife within such deliberations has been the variances between the white woman and the woman of colour, as well as the rural woman and her urban counterpart. The fact emerging, that women in rural Africa suffer the most due to issues around but not limited to poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of education, harmful traditional and cultural rituals and gender-based violence. Since colonialism, access to land in rural communities is male-dominated.
Male members of the family take up inheritance and women are often left destitute. Women in Africa produce 70% of the food but receive only 10% of the income and women own less than 1% of the property in Africa.
“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” - CJR
And that is what Africa is reduced to - source of raw materials, exploitable cheap labour and dumping ground of colonial surpluses! Before his arrival, Southern Africa was known for its rich mineral deposits. In fact, history chronicles how the Cecils amassed wealth through the British dominion of Cape to Cairo.
Yet today, all but two of the 30 poorest countries in the world are in Africa. Cecil arrived and took our men as cheap slave labour, and while the African men travelled to industrial areas to work, it was the women who remained behind to keep the households and rural economies running and such was the marking of their fate. These women to date, continue to live in conditions characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs.
On the backdrop of such abject poverty, socio-cultural issues come into play and the rural woman and girl-child especially, are natural victims. While the economic situation at family level affects the entire family, girls and women bear the brunt of it. When poverty strikes, the daughter becomes the readily available ’asset’ for disposal. Thus, when the family is starving, she is married off to some food-secure old man. Child marriage is illegal but culprits remain unpunished because it is "traditionally and culturally" acceptable and normal culture.
Research reveals that 40% of marriages in Zimbabwe involve girls aged 15 to 18 years. Culturally, a dead person’s spirit can be appeased with a young virgin. Therefore, alongside marrying her off for food, "culture" also allows that she be used to settle reparations.
Meanwhile, Africa embraces polygamy through economics, tradition or even religion thereby sanctioning man’s insatiable desire for sex and a right to several partners. Maybe not a direct doing of Cecil, but social hierarchies that elevate men above women were elaborated when the "men without knees" arrived thereby establishing the current status quo.
When Cecil’s predecessors introduced formal education, emphasis was placed on education males, their “cheap labour”. Resultantly, research proves that generally, in the African context "educating a girl is regarded as bad investment" rather, given the choice, parents will invest in the boy – all because of Cecil!
“I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race...What an alteration there would be if the Africans were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence.” - CJR
HIV and Aids is another very crucial factor that contributes to the troubles of rural women. It is said that this disease was first discovered in Kinshasa, but how the man got infected has remained a mystery. Other sources say that it was planted into animals that were sent to Africa from elsewhere.
I’m inclined to blame Cecil and his cronies, even if only for the sake of apportioning blame but also based on their desire to possibly eradicate all native Africans in order to ensure take-over by the “finest race”. The pandemic has affected the rural woman in a variety of ways. Many a time, when an illness becomes long drawn and the patient incapacitated, they are sent to the rural areas where their care is the direct responsibility of the womenfolk!
Women's day-to-day realities in rural Africa remain dire and unless rural development on the continent is prioritised, alongside tangible implementation policies, that situation will remain. One therefore proposes expeditious transition from theory of equality and non-discrimination into practice of empowerment and socio-economic upliftment to ensure women’s liberation.
Meanwhile, as patriarchy continues to reign, mitigation to the plight of woman and its impact remains limited and can only be fully achieved at policy development level.
The conviction that remains seated on this mind is that had matriarchy prevailed in the days of Cecil, and Lobengula been a woman, the trick Cecil played would not have flown. You see, Cecil’s well-crafted ploy that resulted in signing of the Moffat Treaty and handing over of the motherland would have been smelt. Women possess intuition that the male folk lack. Woman is able to smell a rat, even in it’s absence, and can tell when they’re being played. As that deed of 1888 replays in the head, the persuasion remains, that today’s landscape would have been different if a woman had been in the driving seat.
While patriarchal attitudes have prevailed and prevented women from taking their due place both in society and political decision-making, one is convinced that given half a chance, it would be a totally different ball game. Largely because of Cecil, experiences of citizenship depend on social position and roles – roles that are dictated by social dynamics of unequal power formed on the basis of race, ethnicity, caste, class and gender. Patriarchy chooses to park the abilities of women on the peripheries, instead preferring that men take the key positions. This mind then poses the question - if the world continues to be predominantly in the hands of Lobengulas, are the correct decisions being made? Are incorrect political decisions that affect the globe being repeated? Selah!