Molweni mawethu, molweni maAfrika, hello Africans.
Ladies and gentlemen it is an honor for me to be standing in front of you today, to share my thoughts with you about Africa and the African renaissance (uvuselelo lweAfrica).
I am not one for long speeches, I don’t like listening to them and so I don’t do them. I will try to be brief, and to save time ndizakuzazisa kakuhle (the African way) ukugqiba kwam lencoko as you know that can take some time.
So my talk will only focus on three areas, and those are:
- What happened in Africa (the history of Africa)?
- What are the challenges facing Africa and Africans today?
- What Africans must do for a better future?
I must warn you though, that what I’m going to say here today may not sound good or diplomatic to some ears, but Africa is in trouble ladies and gentlemen, and when you are in trouble you must speak the truth without fear or favor.
First let’s define Africa and Africans to make sure that we all have the same understanding of what we are talking about.
Africa is the second largest continent (shaped like a fat 7) in the world, it is the most loved, many people want to see and experience Africa, but I am not sure if its people (the Africans) are so loved, that they love one another or even love themselves as Africans, I am not sure.
But who are Africans/who is an African?
Now this is a contested subject and not easy to define. Some say you are an African if:
- You were born in Africa – the problem with this definition is that it excludes Africans who were born outside Africa and it is not applicable I other continents.
- You can trace your ancestry to Africa – the problem here is that science teaches us that African is a cradle of human, which means all humans can trace their ancestry to Africa, making everyone to be African.
- You carry African features and qualities and feel and love for Africa (the skin color, hair type, traditions, religion, and languages) – the problem here again is that this definition may exclude most Africans who don’t speak or follow African traditions.
I will leave it to each one of you to decide what makes you an African? Think about it. For me all three definitions apply, but the one I like the most is the last one of the three for I Am an African and I look like an African, Speak like an African, follow African traditions and beliefs, I feel and love Africa, its rhythms, its people, my people, mawethu.
So what happened in Africa (that it is troubled with poverty, under development, and diseases)?
This land has always been rich in natural resources and minerals. Herds of animals roaming the land, flocks of birds floating across the skies, different kinds of plants that Africans used for food and shelter, for medicines and weapons, etc.
Africans carried on with pride, with the wisdom and skills that were necessary for that time. They took pride in their possessions, their looks, languages, traditions and religions. Their wisdom and beliefs were based on living within nature (what we call today sustainability) as the most important thing for their well being and lasting survival.
During that time the rate of civilization was high in Europe, the Mediterranean (Middle East), and Asia. This was followed by rising human populations, which put stress in their resources and changing climates made things even worse for those people. This led to wars, colonizing each other’s lands, and turning each other into slaves. Others went away from their lands or places of origin looking for greener pastures.
In that process the Europeans “discovered” Africa, and America, and Australia. When they found people in these places they colonized them, shipped them to Europe to work there as slaves, some were turned into slaves in their own lands. Resources were also shipped to Europe to feed their families. They stole our possessions, rubbished our languages, customs, traditions, beliefs, and even made fun of our looks.
They believed they were a superior race and that their ways were right, that they had a duty to turn the whole world into looking like them and behaving like them in language, culture and religion.
And the most interesting thing is that most of those tendencies still exist today. Africa is divided, almost half English, half French, and there are pockets of Portuguese, and Spanish. Africa’s reaches are still being shipped to Europe while Africans suffer. Africa’s resources and produce is still being shipped out of Africa and enjoyed by people outside Africa, while Africans die of hunger, malnutrition, and disease. African traditions, beliefs and languages are still being trampled upon, even by Africans.
Self-hate is rife among Africans and we are willingly trying to be more un-African. Some use skin whitening products, straighten their hair or wear wigs resembling European appearance. Others even change their languages, traditions, and religions to those that are not African. However, other nations are still proudly keeping their customs even though some were also colonized (e.g. Chinese and Indians).
But all of that is history, which you will not learn in school, by the way. But we know history tells us why we are here, and not where we are going. And we shall not judge history by the knowledge we have today. We shall not blame history. We are all responsible to change things now, for a better future for our communities, our nation and the continent at large. We must work together to deal with the challenges that are facing our land.
So what are the challenges facing Africa today?
For me the main challenge is poor governance or lack of good leadership. Our governments continue with policies that keep Africans poor, uneducated, and diseased. While our leaders are busy with power struggles among themselves, our riches/resources are still being shipped out of Africa to be enjoyed by people on other lands. Africans remain slaves in their own land. Other Africans leave Africa to be refugees all over the world; it is a very shameful situation maAfrika.
Why can’t our leaders change things for us?
It is because they lack will power and knowhow? Or is it because they are purely driven by greed, to enrich themselves, their families, and friends, while the majority of Africans suffer? And due to lack of knowledge and misplaced trust, Africans continue to support and keep these crooked leaders in power voting for them again and again and again.
Secondly, African youth are scattered all over, roaming hopelessly, uneducated, unemployed, poor and drowning themselves to a life of alcohol and drugs, crime and prostitution, neglecting and abusing their families and children. Africans continue to depend on others to survive, to be at the mercy of the world, to beg for survival. Those who are fortunate to be educated, employed, and/or in positions of leadership focus on enriching themselves and competing with one another and neglecting their people and communities.
It is therefore not only the government or the leaders who are failing our people and this land, but individuals and especially the youth, we have a responsibility to change things round and reclaim our African values of putting the people first. If we don’t do that we will be failing our communities and our continent. As the youth we are responsible for the future of our people and that of this continent, but where do we begin?
What must Africans do now?
African renaissance, the awakening and reclaiming of our Africanism begins starts at an individual level. It begins with you. As umntu omtsha you must love and respect yourself first (as your forefathers did), then others will respect you.
Know yourself; who you are; your history as an African; and what makes you an African and be proud like your forefathers were.
Empower yourself with education, knowledge, and skills so that you contribute to the development of you family, and your community and your country, Africa and the world.
Get rid of all that divides us as Africans and as people in general. My heart sinks every time I hear about Africans killing each other because they speak different languages (French or English) or practice different religions (Christianity or Islam), when all these things are not even African, yes they did not exist in our world, but came with colonialist and we fight over them.
Our government is not all that bad; their efforts to uplift Africans and support the spirit of African renaissance must be commended. Recently our Minister of basic education announced in parliament that from next year it will be compulsory for every learner in government primary schools to learn an African language. At the same time the Minister of Science and Technology announced efforts to develop indigenous knowledge to also contribute to the envisaged knowledge economy of South Africa.
Let me end by introducing myself properly, ndicela uphakamise isandla ukuba siyazalana:
Ndingu Mawethu Nyakatya, isduko ndinguMgwevu, uTshangisa, uZulu, uSkhoma, uMhlatyana, uSnuka, uRhudulu, ndinguBhodlinyama…
Ndizalwa nguMamKhuma, uNondzaba, MaMbhathane, umaMxesibe, iBhacakazi.
Umama uzalwa nguMampondomise, uMajola, UmntaneNkwakhwa.
Utata uzalwa nguMamQocwa, ooTiyeka, ubuTsolobentonga
I wish you all a happy and peaceful Africa day. Thank you, (Applause!!!).
By Mawethu Nyakatya, on Africa Day Celebration, in Kayamandi, organised by Lokxion Foundation in partnership with IMBADU MA- FRIKA DEVELOPMENT CONSORTIUM.