Anyone (and I believe there are one or two who read my rubbish!) may have noticed that I rarely comment on politics or religion or similar controversial topics in my blogs and posts. But for once I thought I would make an exception here as the early chapters of the first Amie covered my take on the way I saw Africa.
I have had some amazing reviews, including the following:
This world we live in is an often ugly and dangerous place. And those of us privileged to live in a first world country too easily forget that. The story then has redeeming qualities beyond being just a great read; it’s the kind of book you read and then go out and change the world. It’s why people become activists, coming up against this kind of pain and suffering, and this kind of injustice when they find it in the world. Sadly, nightly news numbs us by comparison at a time in history when we all need to be fighting for something and for someone. For this reason, this is the kind of book they need to teach in high school, college, and hand out at community centers.
In any less capable hands, I’m fairly convinced I would have put this book down. It’s dangerous writing, and that’s why few authors attempt it. If your subject matter terrifies people, you still have to hold on to them, make sure they resist the urge to put the book down. The author deserves five stars, thus, not just for writing a memorable tale, but for picking a story to write that few people can write, fewer can read, but that we’d all like to say we did.
And many people (though not all) acknowledged that having lived in Africa for over thirty years, I had a fair idea of how things tick on the Dark Continent – from the point of a white resident.
In the early nineties I was commissioned by The Sowetan editor Aggrey Klaaste who introduced the concept of “nation building” which was basically a self-help initiative to persuade Africans away from ‘the give me’ attitude to the ‘do things for themselves’ point of view. He was an amazing man and impressed me by his views and insight.
One of my main reasons for writing Amie was to share my beliefs that it is not the colour of a person’s skin that characterizes their behaviour but the mindset, culture, aspirations, expectations, lifestyle and beliefs that define them. I added more information in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.
I repeated this on The Authors Show interview. But it is only fair to include the view from another perspective and it’s certainly food for thought.
The article below was written from a black point of view. It was published in the English language newspaper The Sowetan and written by Prince Mashele, a South African national who holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. Before becoming Executive Director of CPR, he was Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies. He also worked as a speechwriter in The Presidency, and in the research unit of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. Prince spends time analysing a range of areas on contemporary African politics and is a prolific writer on a multiplicity of issues.
By Prince Mashele | May 09, 2016 SOWETAN
In the midst of the political confusion that has gripped our country many people are wondering if we have come to the end of South Africa.
The answer is simple: the thing called an “end” does not exist, not in relation to a country. SA will be there long after Jacob Zuma is gone.
What Zuma has done is to make us come to the realisation that ours is just another African country, not some exceptional country on the southern tip of the African continent.
During the presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, some among us used to believe that the black people of SA are better than those of other African countries.
We must all thank Zuma for revealing our true African character; that the idea of rule of law is not part of who we are, and that constitutionalism is a concept far ahead of us as a people.
How else are we to explain the thousands of people who flock to stadiums to clap hands for a president who has violated their country’s constitution? Such people have no idea of constitutionalism.
Now that we have reclaimed our place as another African country, we must reflect on and come to terms with our real character, and imagine what our future portends.
In a typical African country, ordinary people don’t expect much of politicians, because people get tired of repeated empty promises.
In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families.
The idea that the state is an instrument for people’s development is a Western concept, and has been copied by pockets of Asian countries.
Africans and their leaders don’t like to copy from the West. They are happy to remain African, and do things “the African way”.
The African way is rule by kings, chiefs and indunas in a setting of unwritten rules. Is there anyone who has seen a book of African customary laws?
The idea that a commoner can raise questions about public money spent on the residence of a king is not African. The ANC MPs who have been defending Zuma are true Africans.
Asking a ruler to be accountable is a foreign – Western – idea. In a situation where there is conflict between a ruler and laws, Africans simply change the laws to protect the ruler. This is why no single white person has called for King Dalindyebo to be released from jail.
The problem with clever blacks is that they think they live in Europe, where ideas of democracy have been refined over centuries.
What we need to do is to come back to reality, and accept that ours is a typical African country. Such a return to reality will give us a fairly good idea of what SA’s future might look like.
This country will not look like Denmark. It might look like Nigeria, where anti-corruption crusaders are an oddity.
Being an African country, ours will not look like Germany. SA might look like Kenya, where tribalism drives politics.
People must not entertain the illusion that a day is coming when SA will look like the US. Our future is more on the side of Zimbabwe, where one ruler is more powerful than the rest of the population. Even if Julius Malema were to become president, it would still be the same.
African leaders don’t like the idea of an educated populace, for clever people are difficult to govern. Mandela and Mbeki were themselves corrupted by Western education. (Admission: this columnist is also corrupted by such education.)
Zuma remains African. His mentality is in line with Boko Haram. He is suspicious of educated people; what he calls “clever blacks”. Remember that Boko Haram means “Against Western Education”.
The people who think we have come to the end of SA don’t realise that we have actually come to the beginning of a real African country, away from the Western illusions of exceptionalism. Those who are unsettled by this true African character need help. The best we can do for them is to ask them to look north of the Limpopo River, to learn more about governance in Africa.
What makes most people restless about the future of SA is that they have Western models in mind, forgetting that ours is an Africa country.
The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered an adverse judgment is Western. Only the Prime Minister of Iceland does that; African rulers will never do that.
Analysed carefully, the notion of SA coming to an “end” is an expression of a Western value system – of accountability, political morality, reason, and so on. All these are lofty ideas of Socrates, Kant, Hegel, and so on. They are not African.
All of us must thank Jacob Zuma for introducing us to the real African Republic of South Africa, not some outpost of European values.
As Diana tells Amie “Democracy is not the African way, one man, one vote, once.” I think Prince Mashele would agree.
Lastly thank you to all those who voted for Amie 2 in the ReadFree’ly competinion, she came in at #17 and got a lovely new sticker 🙂
All the books can be found here