In Zimbabwe we constantly blame the West and their allies for our problems. We accuse them of trying to westernise us. I believe it’s time we take a long hard look at ourselves and who we are. Do we truly remember who we are and where we come from? Make no mistake I am proudly Zimbabwean but I am not proud of what I see. I have seen a better Zimbabwe and maybe one day the lost lady will come back, who knows.
Our country is rich in many ways including our culture and mannerisms. One of my favourite aspects of Zimbabwean culture that I grew up with is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is no doubt an African concept that we struggle to adequately define because it is a way of life. It can be simply explained as humanity towards one another. Ubuntu teaches us to love self, love others and our belongings, and helping the community achieve what it has set out to achieve.
In Shona we say munhu munhu nevanhu (translated, I am what I am because of who we all are). In traditional Shona culture Ubuntu meant that a society had acceptable conduct of what one could do and couldn’t do. It meant that the wellbeing of the society was more important than the individual person. As Nelson Mandela rightfully put it ‘A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu….’ Ubuntu means we value people more than anything and use everything we have to save a life.
I grew up in Harare and although the concept of villages didn’t exist there I experienced Ubuntu in our way of life. I never heard of a family in the neighbourhood that went hungry, because people shared the little they had. No one would sleep hungry because food was given freely at no cost to ensure that everyone survived. I remember one lady who moved into the neighbourhood and lost her daughter a few days after she moved in. Even though people didn’t know her well, they came out and helped her as she mourned. That is how I define Ubuntu in modern day Zimbabwe -knowing your neighbour and helping them out in any way you can.
Have we lost our Ubuntu because of the West? I believe it’s time we start owning up to the mess we made all by ourselves. Ubuntu is an African concept and we make reference to it when it suits us, but our lives betray the very core of who we are. We do not need to look to the West to see how individualist we have become. If we are to own anything African I would say it would have to be Ubuntu. We need to go back to the concept of Ubuntu.
If one would argue that we still adhere to the concept of Ubuntu then I would ask why are certain things available to others and not to the rest of the population? If you are Zimbabwean you know that power cuts do not occur in certain areas because of who lives there. You will also know that these are the same people with the highest electricity bills yet they do not pay their bills and never experience power cuts. Where is the Ubuntu in that?
Have you ever wondered why there are so many private schools in Zimbabwe now? People have realised that government schools which were once the pride of the nation have become the shame of the nation. Does anyone disagree with that? Ask all the ministers and government officials where their children learn. Ask all of them which universities their children attend. Ask them why it is so? I can answer for them; they do not have the will power to improve the schools so they send their children to better institutions. Therefore it is fair to conclude that the spirit of Ubuntu doesn’t dwell in this nation anymore!
A bold statement but an honest one! If we are to embrace who we are and celebrate everything African, we need to understand that we have lost certain things along the way that are pertinent to who we are. One day when we have instilled within ourselves that African lives are more important than power , money and recognition then that will be the rebirth of Africa.