The Dark Ages
We tend to forget that Europe went through a long period of history,
is now loosely described as the "dark ages". During this time the main
of State administration was feudal in character and this resulted in
massive, absolute poverty for the great majority and enormous wealth
tiny elite who owned the assets of the countries affected by this
The historical evidence of that era is still seen today in the massive
houses and mansions that litter the European landscape. The human
of those times is well documented and remembered even today. Modern
conflicts such as the IRA insurgency in Ireland and the ideological
conflicts that caused such suffering in the 20th century are testimony
the legacy of the "dark ages".
Could it be that Africa is going through such an era? It is of course
different in many ways - the underlying culture is different, the
context is totally changed and there is the influence of travel,
communications and education as well as the legacies of a 100 years of
colonial occupation when for a short time the influence of local
history was subdued and an imposed colonial subculture prevailed which
more "European" than African.
With the sudden collapse and subsequent withdrawal of such imposed
influences, Africa has progressively slipped back into a form of tribal
feudalism that allows a small elite to dominate and in fact use the
of colonial administration to loot national resources in the pursuit of
So Africa slides back into poverty and decay associated with some of
greatest fortunes in terms of personal wealth, in the world. Mabutu in
old Zaire, with a fortune estimated at the size of his countries GDP.
Nigerian President's family taking US$1 billion a year from the
and their children arriving in European capitals with suitcases of hard
currency. The government of Angola, a "Marxist" regime, stealing a
total oil revenues. The list goes on and on - fortunes being
with scant regard to the welfare or interests of the countries and the
peoples being governed. The term kleptocratic state takes on new
But is this any different from the conditions that prevailed in Europe
scant 200 to 500 years ago? We may be late in coming to the party but
that same play - different actors, different stage. It also will not
hundreds of years. Our dark age will be decades, rather than centuries
appropriate in a world that measures progress by the speed of change.
But that does not make any excuses for people like Robert Mugabe -
they really have had all that it takes to enable them to avoid the
that have created these nightmarish conditions in many African
is well educated - a classical Catholic education in the hands of the
dreaded Clergy, well traveled, he gets his suits from Saville Row, he
above all an Anglophile and has several University degrees.
Do not for one-minute think he does not understand what he is doing -
highly intelligent and astute. He is also totally ruthless - but then
the Mafia in modern Europe. The great difference is that he claims to
Marxist, a modern socialist and a Pan African humanist. He is actually
of those things in reality and his behavior of late has simply branded
as a tsarist thug who has looted his countries wealth in pursuit of
gain and power. His actions under the guise of the Murambatsvina
are in line with Stalin's genocide against the Kulaks. He cares little
the suffering of the majority - only for the welfare of those who can
he remains where he is and has the continued capacity to rape and
But in any "Dark Age" you have your islands of enlightenment and hope.
so it is in Africa and in places like Zimbabwe. You can find such
visiting our private schools where dedicated teachers and
maintaining a small but effective system of education that continues to
produce outstanding athletes, sportsmen and women and fine academics.
all they produce achievers - men and women who go out into the world
succeed wherever they go. You can find them by visiting certain
organisations - I have a friend here who runs a globally competitive
clothing factory - he exports the great majority of his output to the
sophisticated markets in the world. Another friend manufacturers fruit
drinks and chemicals - walk through the doors of his business and you
a clean, modern environment, which is comparable to any in the world.
are motivated and work hard and their product is expensive, but always
Another person I know has all 32 members of his family here - they meet
weekly to discuss problems and opportunities and to agree on any thing
needs action. They support each other, help with school fees and
costs and they ensure that the family has what it needs to prosper and
a life style that is second to none. Walk through the doors of one of
modern private clinics or hospitals and you are in a first world
environment - you do not have to wait a year for a procedure as in the
you pay and it gets done. And remember I am talking about life in
that collapsed State created by bad government.
Recently our local Catholic Hospital suffered a serious fire that
the top floor and the roof and damaged some of the rest of the
Volunteers rescued the patients, the local fire department was there in
few minutes and now - just six weeks later, the roof is back on and the
tiles are being laid - much of the work, design and construction done
volunteers. Islands of hope and enlightenment in a sea of despair and
To be frank, we are yet to see similar islands of enlightenment in the
political realm in southern Africa. The Congo is a mess, Zambia and
are struggling with internal problems, South Africa has its problems
Jacob Zuma and corruption in high places, even little Botswana now
signs of political intolerance and studied neutrality when it comes to
problems of its neighbor - Zimbabwe.
Unless the MDC gets its act together, and soon, it too might lose its
as a beacon of hope in an otherwise dismal morass. While I accept that
of the MDC problems can be sourced in the Zanu PF Secret Police who are
African equivalent of the East German Stasi, we are guilty of shooting
ourselves in the foot over the Senate issue and are not exhibiting a
deal of maturity right now.
As for the consequences of Gono's revelations last week - this week the
price quadrupled, the stock market nearly doubled in value and the
flow of resources into many of those small centers of excellence and
began to improve. This will, if they stick to their guns, bring new
back into the private sector across the country and help us to keep
going while we sort out our political leadership.
Bulawayo, October 29 2005.