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It always amuses me when the American president, Mr. Donald Trump, repeatedly says that European countries should contribute much more towards their own security than they have been doing for decades.
Trump is saying that European countries cannot just sit there and wait to be protected by the US, without the Europeans themselves contributing a lot more to their own security.
That, I think, is normal and practical - but only if we do not consider that NATO was formed after the Second World War “to prevent the spread of communism in Europe and beyond”. America thrust itself in the fight against communists anywhere in the world and claimed the war for itself.
But then, before we get too deep into the murk, we must understand that, in other lands, the weak are given priority and special attention to maintain life while in Africa, presidents have no time or will to save a life and will jump at the chance to finish off a political opponent, a troublesome tribe or group of people.
Years ago, in defense of then president Ian Khama’s attitude towards Robert Mugabe’s government, I mentioned that the best way for Botswana to safeguard its democracy was to fight and protect it outside its borders.
This was in reference to the influx into Botswana of not only Zimbabwean refugees, both economic and political, but from as far afield as CAR, Angola, DR Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and many other countries.
If there was stability in those countries, their citizens would not be leaving. It still applies to this day.
I often wonder what would happen if African countries were forced to take care of their problems whereby each country is made to contribute towards the upkeep of citizens from an area, such as SADC.
We have seen the mayhem in South Africa in which black people of foreign origin are brutalized. This is something we have seen many times before, with South African leaders seemingly capitalizing on this.
For years now, the South African government has always tacitly ignored its citizens’ acceptance of any foreigners other than black people of any origin.
It was painfully shameful to see South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, being booed in Harare after several African presidents had shunned and criticized his lackadaisical attitude towards what was happening in his country.
He gave a silly apology at Robert Mugabe’s wake where he was booed, bringing shame to South Africa.
Up to this moment, South Africa, which was liberated, not by force of arms but by a concerted effort of worldwide sanctions, is still marred in the belief ingrained in their limited minds by apartheid rulers that a person from Lesotho is a foreigner but a person from England or America is welcome.
Those who did not belong in Africa, regarded Africans the same. South African mines were mined by Africans from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi and from just about any country. There was no problem then.
Today, the black people of South Africa look at other Africans as foreigners and set them on fire, hack them to death, destroy their dwellings and cut them with machetes.
South Africans say black people are unwelcome foreigners after coming from working at a Chinese shop. They do not stop to think who owns the company they work for. They kill people for jobs as lorry drivers while people elsewhere are fighting to own the company that owns those trucks.
The way successive South African governments have handled the attacks on Africans is shameful and, hopefully, South Africa will accept help from the Southern African Development Community and the African Union. They belong to each other. At least their mental capabilities are even.
But then, there is this man called Julius Malema who warned South Africans that their attack on so-called foreigners is dangerous to them because “after they are done with Nigerians, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Angolans, Zambians, Malawians…they will come for you”.
Malema said that the South Africans’ anger against foreigners was misplaced because, he said, most of the crimes are being committed by locals. He further said that black Africans do not own businesses that discriminate against South African blacks.
His choice of heroes aside, I was enthralled by his adamant denial of the existence of SADC or the African Union.
The man was emphatic, saying these two organisations do not exist but are clubs for the old, tired leaders who do not care for the exit door.
Malema’s emphasis and encouragement of the youth to step forward and participate in political issues that have to do with their future made me think how much it could change things if, say, Emmerson Mnangagwa would say this to the youth of Zimbabwe.
Trump’s encouragement of local initiative for self-defense and national preservation is just fine, if there is no outside interference to tip the scales in a direction that would benefit the benefactors.
Why should Zimbabwe not protect Mozambique, or South Africa protect Zambia, or Zambia protect Malawi?
There must be a local initiative. And this thing of African leaders crisscrossing the globe begging for money, borrowing money and giving away national assets for a pittance must stop.
African leaders have no heart. We have seen them watching while their people starved; we have seen them murdering their citizens; we have witnessed them drive millions of their citizens into exile.
We have not seen them gathering to find ways of protecting their people at home or abroad. All their expensive summits are about themselves.
Yes, if Trump’s challenge to European countries to contribute more towards their own security was to be transferred to Africa, Africa would not have enough space to bury its dead while the elite spend as much money as they do not have just to be in the company of those who give them the handouts.
It seems to me that Africa needs a radical shift, a continental revolution ten times bigger than the Arab Spring.
But again, changing the leaders without grooming tomorrow’s leaders is just as futile as milking a dead cow.
*Tanonoka Whande writes in his personal capacity.