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Making sense of Amilcar Cabral on our 38th anniversary

Two weeks ago I wrote about the crucial need for Zimbabweans to embrace the current political transition from a perspective of building a sustainable future of democracy.

In the same manner, last week’s instalment focused on the need for Zimbabweans to invest in genuine pluralism and that our independence celebrations must heighten our commitment towards sincere nation-building. As such, it is crucial for all of us to be drawn to the importance of our 38 years of sovereignty as part of a needed philosophical reclamation of what it means to be a free people.

Our independence commemorations connects us to the universal realities of that tradition of African resistance which we continue to celebrate in acknowledging our milestone achievements with regards to annihilating our conditions of oppression in a world order whose development is marked by prejudice imposed on our being, our sovereignties and knowledge(s).

This memory draws us closer to the accuracy of our common experience as Africans no matter where we are in the world; be it in Canada, Zimbabwe, Latin-America and the Caribbeans.

In our respective and displaced conditions of coloniality our unequivocal yearning is to return to the genesis of our civilisation which was ruptured by centuries of external domination — now cohering us to be part of a discriminatory and asymmetrical order of belonging.

Our quest for horizontal engagement has only been sustained by the philosophies of resistance which direct our moral campus in the fight against vertically set parameters of power, knowledge and being. The same is noted by Amilcar Cabral (1966):

“Although the colonial and neo-colonial situations are identical in essence, and the main aspect of the struggle against imperialism is neo-colonialist, we feel it is vital to distinguish in practice these two situations.

In fact the horizontal structure, however, it may differ from the native society, and the absence of a political power composed of national elements in the colonial situation make possible the creation of a wide front of unity and struggle, which is vital to the success of the national liberation movement.

But this possibility does not remove the need for a rigorous analysis of the native social structure, of the tendencies of its evolution, and for the adoption in practice of appropriate measures for ensuring true national liberation.

While recognising that each movement knows best what to do in its own case, one of these measures seems to us indispensable, namely, the creation of a firmly united vanguard, conscious of the true meaning and objective of the national liberation struggle which it must lead.”

To bring the context much closer to home beyond the transcontinental Afro-perspective, our independence creates a unique and necessary reminisce on the protracted struggle that Africa has endured in pursuit of her liberation from foreign domination.

We reflect and introspect on how this course has been successful and how it still continues to be a defining mark of how the agenda to be genuinely post-colonial has been stagnated by our misguided fixation to normative grammars of reconciliation, social cohesion and integration.

In the process, we remember how we have failed to cede due diligence to the ideas which must shape our commitment to engaging Africa’s enemies particularly those who have been historically sworn to dehumanising us; exploiting our natural resources and thriving on our superficial paradigms of difference to create decoys of nation-making insolvencies in African politics.

Therefore, today as we engage our global compatriots’ perspective to development, their approaches to “good governance” and their institutions of capital; do we have the adequate ideological capacity to defend our own interests; particularly blocking the further exploitation of our people?

We are in an unending struggle, but there is no doubt that Africa’s resistance to imperialism has produced many heroic figures.

However, it’s not over until it’s over. As Africa continues to grapple with neo-colonialism; neo-liberalism and globalism many more heroes will be produced.

In my book, Pan-Africanism: The Cradle, the Present and the Future (2014), I argue that the process of safeguarding Africa’s place in the epistemic realm defines the basis of our “thought-power”.

Historically, our struggle naturally produced charismatic forerunners for the intellectual justification of our universal anti-oppression routines.

These are men and women of valour with unwavering commitment to the anti-imperial resistance. They are the voices against the pedagogy of oppression. Many of them, some turning in their graves still give vision and direction to our consumed path to overcoming the normalcy of imperial dictates.

These were (are) resolute figures who rejected avenues of escapism from the conditions set by imperial hegemony and the supremacy of oligopoly capital bent on exploiting Africa and her people. In so doing then, these men and women of character live forever in our mindfulness of the present and the future. We celebrate how they have reaffirmed the basis for the oppressed to assume their rightful place in time and in space. Amilcar Cabral is one such a revered character.

Beyond his influence in the political affairs of his motherland, Guinea (Bissau), Cabral is remembered for his remarkable heroic exploits in the battle for Africa’s identity preservation.

Cabral’s contemporaries as a student included Agostinho Neto and Mario de Andrade (who were key in the formation of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola-MPLA). His other pan-African compatriots included Eduardo Mondlane, and Marcelino dos Santos (founding fathers of the Mozambique Liberatio Front-FRELIMO).

These men all rejected Portugal’s right to define the lives of African people. They simply committed themselves to rejecting Portuguese conquest. Cabral studied in Portugal with Africans from other Portuguese colonies.

His raise as an intellectual dates back to the edgy epoch in the embryotic success of African nationalist movements. At that point, this group of thought-leaders across the continent and some in the diaspora were now contending the given of democracy, freedom and equality.

They were earnest to break down colonial subjectivity hence their enlightened perspectives were key in framing the agenda of decolonisation. Many Africans had even fought and died for “independence” of their colonial masters.

The conditions of colonialism unique to Guinea (Bissau) and on the Cape Verde Islands were influential in contributing to Cabral’s input to the anti-colonial fight. To the mass of the people, colonialism under the Portuguese meant oppression and downgrading the values of human liberty and dignity.

More than 99% of the native population was illiterate; thus rightly substantiating an organised marginalisation in terms of access to education.

During that time the country’s indigenes had a high infant mortality rate not to mention the country’s overall poor health delivery system particularly in Black communities.

There were never more than 11 doctors for the country’s entire rural population, or one doctor for every 45 000 Africans.
The Portuguese Government had a deliberate structure set to deny the majority’s access to a wide range of public goods and services.

On the contrary, the minority enjoyed adequate public service delivery and the wide right of entry to development opportunities. It was such conditions which informed Cabral’s raise as a voice of resistance. As a thought-leader he was instrumental in shaping the thought course of Guinea’s resistance:

“Factors external to the socio-economic whole can influence, more or less significantly, the process of development of classes, accelerating it, slowing it down and even causing regressions. When, for whatever reason, the influence of these factors ceases, the process re-assumes its independence and its rhythm is then determined not only be the specific internal characteristics of the whole, but also by the resultant of the effect produced in it by the temporary action of the external factors.

On a strictly internal level the rhythm of the process may vary, but it remains continuous and progressive. Sudden progress is only possible as a function of violent alterations — mutations — in the level of productive forces or in the pattern of ownership.

These violent transformations carried out within the process of development of classes, as a result of mutations in the level of productive forces or in the pattern of ownership, are generally called, in economic and political language, revolutions. (ibid)”.

The references made to Cabral’s words signifies the extent to which he is a significant African political theorist.

Through his framing of theory to explain the condition of the African in his country he became a leading thought powerhouse against the structured subalternity of the African in the global order.

From the time of his assassination, on January 20, 1973 — Cabral forever symbolises our determination to freedom as a race and as humanity at large.

The present order offers us struggles not so different from those fought by Cabral, Neto, Nkrumah, Mugabe, Kenyata, Mbeki and others.

Today demands us to revisit the template of resistance which was set by the founding fathers if we are to achieve meaningful development in Africa.

The path has been set, we just have to follow in the right direction towards Africa’s real aspirations to be free. Zimbabwe still has a mandate to align the meaning of her freedom to the wider aspirations of the continent.

Therefore, our march into the fourth decade of freedom must be characterised by strategic manoeuvres to make Africa great again.

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