Things fell apart: We would have been better off without Zille’s infatuation (colonialism)


“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.” (Helen Zille, circa 2017)


I ordinarily do not have the energy, inclination or desire to engage with Helen Zille’s utterances. It is a futile exercise. She lacks the insight to understand the deleterious effects of her ideological leanings.


Even here I intend not to dwell on her comments (Zille elaborated her vitriol in this Daily Maverick piece) instead I make a critique of some of the responses to her comments.


I am rather disturbed by an array of commentators who are, on the surface chastising Helen whilst, implicitly accepting as immovable truth the core thesis of her tweet rant.


My reading of her core claim is that colonialism brought about industrial (roads, water infrastructure) and social order (judiciary) that are inherently better than what prevailed and that could not have been possibly developed by Africans in the absence of the arrival of the eternal visitors from the Netherlands and England.


I do not accept this assertion. I find it telling that so many people can accept it with virtually no evidence and little interrogation. In an imperfect analogy it is, for me, similar to person A raping person “B” and then telling her that he has given her the best debut sexual experience possible. “B” cannot now have a chance to have a sexual debut of her choice and thus there is no way of disproving the callous assertion but that is hardly proof of A’s statement.


There is absolutely no reason to assume that Africa would have under-developed (whatever that means) without the painful interaction with the hostage takers that were the colonizers.


It is regrettable that we have never bothered to study the psychopathic drive that made some men want to travel the entire breadth of the globe terrorizing others, voraciously acquiring senseless amounts of wealth whilst inducing intractable levels of trauma and suffering.


The intellectual pollution spread by colonial and apartheid masterminds and their apologists requires critical thinkers to debunk and demystify the fallacious remarks that are easily accepted as given truths. For this purpose I challenge you to read any or all of the following: Chinua Achebe (whose title I have altered), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Decolonisation of the mind, Bantu Stephen Biko’s I write what I like, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed, Thabo Myuyelwa Mbeki’s speeches on the African Renaissance, Na’im Akbar’s papers in African Psychology, the seminal Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois…


Biko in particular left African folk with the arduous task of gifting the world with a more humane face. A commendable aspirational dictate that is made the more difficult by the world’s continued perception of Africa as not being a worthy student never mind a suitable teacher. What then can Africans do if the world is not a willing learner?