Inside plunder of public resources

HARARE - Struggles for independence took different forms in various nations on the African continent.

Following colonisation in the late 19th century, Africa’s quest for total freedom has been portrayed in many different ways. Some chose to write in prose while verse has also been widely used notably in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and other like places. Poetry by Carlos Chombo, Augustinho Neto, Freedom Nyamubaya, Chenjerai Hove has portrayed the struggles differently with varying levels of effectiveness.
The fight for freedom in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, South Africa among others, took the form of armed conflict, which led to the loss of thousands of lives while for others independence was handed over without a fight.

This freedom and independence from the former colonialists represented political freedom but the real issues that led to war remained largely unresolved.

It is this extension of the struggle that Aaron Maboyi seeks to take the fight for total independence and in doing so he makes use of powerful poetry in the anthology My Freedom is My Right.

The West, particularly Europe, has forever had interest in. In a number, if not all African States, the hand of the colonial master has always been present to continue to plunder the vast resources in these areas.

Those countries that have had the privilege of abundant natural resources in the form of fertile land, minerals like gold and diamonds, oil in others like Angola have remained contested territories as the fight for the control of these resources continued unabated.

Generally, when you travel around, you encounter images of abject poverty. This is against a picture of plenty painted by reports of the abundance of mineral resources in the country, especially diamonds. Maboyi’s prose poetry is very bold and borders on militancy in its approach towards the revulsion of “the hawks with pink eyes” (p11).

The comparison here is very powerful. A hawk is a bird that is known for its greed and insatiable appetite that leads it to swoop on peoples’ property — chicks. It is the same greed that Europe possesses.

The general image of suffering of the indigenous African population is effectively described. In “Wail not, Sons and Daughters of Africa” Maboyi begins with a population that is wailing. Wailing is not ordinary crying. This is a loud and long cry and the persona in the poem has carefully chosen his words to emerge with a picture of grief and sorrow.

The wailing on the part of the indigenous population is made worse by the fact that their countries are endowed with vast tracts of fertile land beneath which is embedded different forms of mineral wealth.

The tragedy of the situation is that citizens are not enjoying this wealth.

They have to make do with unsafe water, a public health care system that turns away people because they cannot pay for the service, an erratic power supply and potholed roads among many other inadequacies.

The similes that are employed in the poetry seem to paint a picture of Africa that is bereft and is in the middle of mourning for its lost wealth.

The plunder of African resources has continued even after independence, where the powerful have taken turns to loot minerals like diamonds and gold at the expense of the general population.

Readers who may have come across Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa will glide through this kind of poetry with ease. It was at the cost of underdevelopment for Africa that Europe developed.

The arduous and perpetual struggle for extrication from slavery and bondage to start with, through the fight against forced occupation culminating in colonisation and attendant deprivation of land, livestock and mineral wealth have been extensively dealt with by many writers.

Mboyi simply reminds readers of the cunning nature of European philanthropists.

In Zimbabwe natural resources like diamonds have largely not benefited the majority of Zimbabweans.

Very few individuals including foreigners from all continents of the world have continued to benefit from the diamonds from Chiadzwa, which are virtually being plundered.

History has it that missionaries led the way towards colonisation and most literary works from the continent have explored the role that missionaries played in the process of pacification of indigenous African populations.

Maboyi sees through the double-faced nature of Christian missionary involvement in Africa.

“Harbouring sinister motives inside your chest,/ Smiling and giggling like suffocating frogs,/While the holy of holies dangles at your side,/ Your mouth full of ground pepper,/ To be squirted into the eyes of my people,/ Eager to listen your holy words,/ Which rise from your hollow heart,/ Whose mission is to grab my land,/ Whose valleys today run red,/ By split rivulets caused by splintered bones.”

Maboyi’s poetry is poignant and is testimony of a distressed soul, a tormented individual whose resolve to fight on has been whetted by material loss suffered by his kith and kin as well as the physical injury they have had to endure through the years.

Evidence of this is found in the treachery of the missionaries: “smiling and giggling like suffocating frogs”.The simile of suffocating frogs is powerful and effective.

The unfeeling and insensitive colonisers are collectively described in the gustatory as well as visual image in “Your mouth full of ground pepper,/ To be squirted into the eyes of my people” (p11)
Pepper appeals to the sense of taste. It is not a pleasant taste and is consistent with the general bitterness in a dispossessed population.

Squirting the pepper into the eyes of the people does not only exert pain but also has a final blinding effect. In that blindness, temporary though, the coloniser then has the opportunity to “discern the wealth stored/ In the bowels of our ancestors; land”.

Maboyi does not only see the hand of colonisers at the point of occupation but also sees evidence of this hand after independence where the former colonial power, representing the insatiable appetites of imperialism and global capital uses local proxies to maintain their presence in former colonies.

The people have been set “in systems foreign to them,/ While in helpers’ guise you nod,/ Nailing the death nail on your people,/ Usurping their independence in foreign aid”.

Maboyi seems to believe there is no bondage that is worse than reliance on foreign aid.

The persona is taking aim at foreign aid and seems to see no glory in it as a development model because it is given with strings attached. It is given with specific prescriptions, which in the end acts like a “web/ Spun by mankind to enslave my people.” (p13)

Already, “foreign concepts” have succeeded in “enslaving their minds fully”.

The hegemonic influence of western culture has had devastating effects on indigenous African populations and dependency on the west as a development model for Africa and the third world is questioned.

The adoption of foreign languages at the expense of indigenous ones has been equally debilitating. “In the outsiders’ language, I endorse my servitude — / Priding myself in an idiom unknown”. This is what is happening to the people “who slave in school and church/ Toil in factories to manufacture, /With no originality in themselves / Despising themselves as if human created”

The persona obviously does not have pleasant words for those of his people who have openly embraced foreign concepts. He also laments Africa’s technological inadequacies, which has led to the continent responding to foreign, particularly Western initiatives.

They have virtually been turned into willing cogs within the mechanics of global capital.

The anthology does not end with the same kind of poetry. There are other pieces within the 23-poem collection that celebrate the exploits of some of the country’s heroes of the liberation war. Some of these are; “Masotsha Ndlovu, the Spirit of Makokoba”, “Rekai Tangwena, Fighter of the Mountains”, “Sons of the Soil, Mqabuko ka Nyongolo”.

The Love that Never Was shows the pretence that characterised European contact with Africa, a relationship that was largely exploitative.

Maboyi’s nostalgic tone does not escape the readers’ attention in “Great Mount Zhouphembe”, a piece which explores the serenity of nature in Venda.

Towering above the land of Venda,/ Unsophisticated and unspoiled by nature’s creepers,/ Climbing and quarrying into your belly,/ Full of hidden treasures unknown,/ With seams of value like streams of blood,/ Drenching the valleys of the Mtshabezi,/ So proud and so full.” (p24)

The mountain is personified in the stanza for purposes of effect. It has a belly just like a human being and it is this that is being quarried by “nature’s creepers”

Maboyi’s poetry is captivating. It bears a rare kind of militancy, underneath which lies a living Africa, majestic and resolute and with its overt quest for freedom as well as proclamation of life.

This anthology will no doubt intrigue the discerning reader and is an important text in the common anti-imperialist drive.

The poet is a Zimbabwean educationist who has played several roles in the struggle for freedom and is an accredited diplomat.

An articulate public speaker and firm believer in justice for the oppressed, his poetry is a tribute to fallen heroes of the protracted war for independence and also an inspiration to younger generations.

Although the mining of diamonds at Chiadzwa has been going on for over five years now, very little if anything, has found its way to the generality of the population. - Eddie Zvinonzwa

My Freedom is My Right: An Anthology of Prose Poetry; By Aaron Maboyi, London, Athena Press, 2007. 63 Pages. ISBN:978-1-684401-852-9 (Paperback)

Comments (1)

what kind of poetry is that?munongochema ,was Zimbabwe the only country to be colonized?look at Asia ,poorer than Africa in the 1960s,exploited by western powers and japan.where are they now?Africans are poorer today because the leaders exploit us like hell,look how they are giving resources to china,complain katinzwe .give us proper poetry not this soviet Stalinist junk.

muda - 7 May 2013

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.