“When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” Desmond Tutu
I read this quote and I tried to imagine what Tutu was trying to say, to the African people and about the African people. What came to my mind was Things Fall Apart, the world acclaimed novel by Chinua Achebe. For me, the village of Umuofia is an allegory of the African continent.
The missionaries came into Umuofia and they came with a new religion- Christianity. This religion had different ideological beliefs as compared to the traditional culture of the people. However, what Christianity did was leave them vulnerable to imperialism. The religion divided a people that had once been one, the outcast were the first to convert and soon even some elders in the society converted too. By disrupting the people, the missionaries were then able to come in with his government and soon ruled over the people and owned their land. It was a simple strategy; divide and conquer. This is exactly what happened to Zimbabwe.
Thirty three years later, Zimbabwe is a free country and celebrating independence on the 18th of April. My question is, where is Zimbabwe headed and have we achieved what we initially intended to? My father is an ex war veteran and growing up he would say he went to war to fight for the emancipation of the black man. He says he went to war so that I could have the opportunities he never managed to have when he was my age: good education, gainful employment and the chance to feel like I could be a change maker in my community.
After three decades, Zimbabwe is still a very young country and still growing. It is a country that has gone through turmoil and tribulations, but it is also a country that has endured and achieved a lot. Zimbabwe is currently ranked in the top three of the most literate countries in Africa, wherever I go I can boast about the intelligence of my people. Zimbabwe recently passed a revised constitution which is a feat that must be commended. All great nations are built on great institutions and a constitution is a good beginning. The vice president of the nation is a woman and more women have begun to join the government.
Nevertheless, Zimbabwe has suffered a poor economic situation over the last couple of decades. I have met people and read articles that fail to see past Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. I for one recognise the crisis but asked why the economy collapsed. The answer to this brings me back to Desmond Tutu’s words. Land. Zimbabwe is blessed with minerals and fertile land. This is what people went to war to fight for and after independence still did not have. Now, we have the resources but we are not using our resources efficiently; for us to use our resources efficiently we need to have skilled and futuristic people.
Most of my friends finish their A-levels and leave Zimbabwe soon after and never come back, my brothers left Zimbabwe three years and have since not returned. The problem is that there are no opportunities in Zimbabwe. People complain a lot in Zimbabwe, but what I always tell my brothers and my friends is that we need pioneers to clear the paths and create opportunities. If the highly skilled youth who are leaving remained in Zimbabwe and created their own businesses and became their own employers, they would greatly reduce the unemployment rate which sits at 70%. Granted it is not an easy task but it is one that must be done, Zimbabwe must experience its own ‘boom’ if we are to grow. We will not grow if we sit and talk and do nothing. We also cannot expect the Government to do everything, we have to take ownership of our own country.
We got back our land, which is something many African countries have not done. Now, it is up to our generation to make sure that we utilise our land and that in the next thirty years our children will also be able to feel like change makers who will take over from us and our efforts.