Corruption and Cynicism in Africa

The following letter to the editor was printed in The Namibian newspaper on the 8th April 2011. If I had written anything like it, I would have been labeled a racist. Does it have the ring of truth to you?

President Pohamba of Namibia is a wealthy man...

“Although hard to swallow, us black people despise everything that looks like us. To prove my point, not so long ago fellow blacks who had run away from atrocities in their own African countries were beaten, burned and some even killed by fellow blacks in South Africa.

In Namibia, black supporters of the ruling party Swapo and the opposition parties clashed in 2009 and we still hear of such quarrels or violence just in the name of politics. Through studying history, I have come to learn that we actually disliked one another before colonialism, hence fierce tribal fights during those years. Colonialism united us all in the fight against a common enemy and after colonialism, we saw the rebirth of things we thought were buried a long time ago, like tribalism, regionalism, favouritism, etc.

Although we do not like others from other tribes, we all love things that we do not produce. We love fine branded clothes from Europe, we love American and German-made cars, we love expensive wines and whiskeys, yet no African person brews any of them.

Most Namibians are poor

All we own, unfortunately, are thousands of shebeens where we drink ourselves to death, stab each other with knives/bottles, infect each other with the HIV virus, make lots of unwanted babies and then blame others for our miseries. We love all sorts of expensive foreign made items and show them off yet we look down at our indigenous products that we fail to commercialise.

As blacks, we know very little about investments, whether in stocks, or in properties. All we know is how to invest our money in things that depreciate or evaporate the fastest like clothes, cars, alcohol and when we are at it, we want the whole world to see us. I know some brothers driving BMWs, yet they sleep on the floors and don’t have beds because nobody will see them anyway.

This is what we love doing and this is the black life, a life of showing off for those who have. A black millionaire tenderpreneur living in Ludwigsdorf or Klein Kuppe in Windhoek will drive to the notorious Eveline Street in Katutura where he will show off his expensive car and look down on others.

We sell our natural resources to Europe for processing, and then buy them back in finished products. What makes us so inferior in our thinking that we only pride ourselves when we have something made by others? What compels us to show off things that we don’t manufacture? Is it the poverty that we allow ourselves to be in? Is it our navigated consciousness, our culture, or just a low self esteem possessing us? For how long are we going to be consumers or users of things we do not produce? Do we like the easy way out, such that we only use and consume things made by others?

Do designer clothes, expensive wines or changing our names to sound more European make us more confident in ourselves?

Our leaders scream at us how bad the Europeans are yet they steal our public money and hide it in European banks. We know how Europeans ransacked Africa but we are scandalously quiet when our own leaders loot our countries and run with briefcases under their arms full of our riches to Europe. The Europeans took our riches to Europe but our African leaders are doing this too.

Mubarak of Egypt, Gadaffi of Libya, Mobutu Sese Seko of the then Zaire, all had their assets allegedly frozen in Europe. Why do our African leaders who claim to love us run to invest ‘their’ money in Europe? Again when they get sick they are quick to be flown to Europe for treatment, yet our relatives die in hospital queues. Don’t our leaders trust the health systems they have created for us all?

Why are we so subservient, so obedient to corruption when committed by our very own people? Nobody can disagree with me that in this country that we are like pets trained to obey the instructions of their masters.

I am sure we look down when we think of our broken lives but what do we see then? I wonder if we realise how we sell our dreams to our leaders for corruption, misery, poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment and all other social evils affecting us.

How long are we going to let our manipulated minds mislead us, from womb to tomb?”

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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