Africa needs African Democracy and Justice

by | Jul 15, 2021 | Opinions | 0 comments

Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa

If you want to see how democracy works, you need to go to any African village on a day they hold a traditional meeting.

On that day, all household heads gather to talk about the issues affecting the kraal in the presence of either the kraal-head or the village headman who is presumably the chair of the meeting.

What normally occurs is there would have been problems that are bedevilling the community and solutions are to be proffered for the betterment of all.

All affected parties must air out their views at this village ‘Dare’ and all views are considered and weighed.

Of course for weightier matters, the village autochotones with greyer hair come together to ruminate on the matter and come up with an acceptable solution which is then communicated to all.

For the dispensing of justice, the same occurs too.
This was the norm everywhere and this brought peace and harmony across communities.

I bring this to the fore, first to debunk that before colonialism, Africa was without justice, democracy and was primitive. In fact, our sense of justice and democracy, was the fairest.

Our communities lived in harmony and accord with each other. You would never come across individuals who could never reach an understanding or who after the matter had been adjudicated still held grudges.
There is a Shona saying: Kugara hunzwana which translates to peaceful existence starts from understanding one another.
This was cultivated via these village ‘Dares’ that were held periodically.

Also there is another that says; ‘Mbavarira inotya vane dare’ meaning one who would want to cause divisions among people will not succeed if the people are united.

The village meetings always created a close bond, a togetherness that was unshakable.
If there was a starving family, it was catered for by the village via the Zunde ramambo. There were no orphans, for a child belonged to the village.
Then came westernisation and while there were positives, have the positives not outweighed the negatives?

Let us look at the prevailing situation in South Africa. For political brinkmanship, 72 people had to die, communities alienated, property destroyed, hundreds wounded and a way of life disrupted not just for one place or country but a whole region and worse the North/South Corridor Route.

Was it really worth it to kill those 72 people and burn down warehouse, factories, shops and everything else?

Was it really necessary to compromise the Southern African economy all in the name of proving a point to Jacob Zuma, and in order to adhere to some constitution that is ultimately nothing more than a colonial construct?

There is clearly a conflict between adhering to constitutional demands and the African way of resolving such issues.

While Zuma might have been in the wrong, it is clear that constitutional adherents have overstepped their boundaries and should have realized that some things are beyond a constitution which in the grand scheme of things is nothing more than a piece of paper.

Here was a chance to use the village approach to a problem. All the leadership of South Africa vis-a-vis of the African National Congress had to do was reason together.

There was a serious lack of foresight displayed here that shows it was never about constitutionalism or about justice.

No one in their right sense or wisdom would suppose the arrest and incarceration of Jacob Zuma would have just been ignored.
No one understanding the economic disparities of South Africa would have taken the issue lightly and supposed there would be no backlash. The disturbances, looting, rioting that followed are just a reaction to deep-seated anger issues.
Jacob Zuma’s arrest was just the casus beli, definitely just the spark they needed.

None in their right mind can ever argue that people in South Africa, looted, burnt and killed and got killed all because of Zuma.
The question is: Should Zuma have been let free to violate the country’s laws?
On the contrary, there are other remedies available. A punitive fine or a house arrest would have worked equally well as a deterrent.
But above all, in all fairness, a simple understanding of African culture would have informed the decision first of Justice Raymond Zondo’s recusal or the final court decision.

President Zuma was not being unreasonable. KaMabija his ex-wife who was thrown out of the family amid accusations of poisoning and attempted assassinations has strong family ties with Zondo.
It was Zondo who led the the delegation that brought KaMabija to Nkandla, Msholozi’s* home.
Now obviously, Zondo had some interests in the matter as seen from the African perspective. There was close family ties between the two.
The incarceration of Zuma, a former President of the country, from the most populous tribe in the country could not just have passed without a whimper.

The lack of preparedness for the obvious eventuality that the incarceration of Nxamalala* would bring suggested a divorce from the African way of thinking that is appalling and strongly disturbing. It was obvious that Zuma’s clansmen and indeed his tribesmen would see his arrest and jailing as political persecution of one of their own. It was obvious they will take exception to it. Those who were prepared to have him jailed and taught about constitutionality should also have been prepared to quell the resultant reaction.
But no, they were not, they said nothing would happen, Zuma will go to jail and the world will just continue. They were very wrong and a country’s Economy has been irreparably damaged and the reputation of South Africa as peaceful or the regional big brother vanquished all for political gamesmanship and brinkmanship.
More than anything, we Africans should learn from this experience and realize that we are a very unique people with our own cultural nuances and norms, and that parachuting Western standards into our spaces will not always be a panacea to our problems.
*Nxamalala and Msholozi are Zuma`s monikers in IsiZulu.