International Day - Africa Day 25 May 2021

AFRICA DAY 2021

[25 May 2021]

 

ARTS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE : LEVERS FOR BUILDING THE AFRICA WE WANT

Before getting into the main theme of this year’s Africa Day we are drawing attention to the media report that South African Minister of International Relations, Minister Naledi Pandor will be visiting Zimbabwe today to hand over aid for the victims of Cyclone Idai who are still suffering and have not been fully rehabilitated and able to pick up their lives again. This is a gesture of solidarity which indicates what African Unity is all about.

It has also been suggested that while she is here that she will use the visit to try and revive South Africa’s role of mediation in Zimbabwe.  Mediation is desperately needed – political divisions are still hampering the development of Zimbabwe, stalling its economy and preventing it taking its place in the Community of Nations.

After the violence following the elections in July 2018 former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe was asked to head a Commission whose objective was to improve relations between political parties and stop continuing violence.   On this day we must remember what the Commission’s report said about mediation.

“The Commission recommends the establishment of a multi-party reconciliation initiative, including youth representatives, with national and international mediation to address the root causes of the post-election violence and to identify and implement strategies for reducing tensions, promoting common understandings of political campaigning, combating criminality, and uplifting communities.”

Origin of Africa Day

In 1958, the then Ghanaian Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah hosted a handful of free African nations at a congress in Accra.  At the congress, they celebrated the liberation of the African states present but noted the importance of liberation of their fellow African states.  At the congress, they decided that there should be a day to commemorate the freedom of Africa.  It was to be called African Freedom Day.  The 25th of May ,however, only became earmarked for the occasion in 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded.  From 1963, the 25th of May was then celebrated as African Liberation Day.  In 2002, the OAU changed its name to African Union and likewise African Liberation Day became known as Africa Day. The day was to celebrate not only the freedom of the nations of Africa from colonial rule but to remind every African what it means to be African.  Africa Day celebrates the aim to bring together the African peoples, strengthen their faith in integration and popularize the ideal of union of the continent.  The celebration reinforces the conviction that regional integration is the key to the development of Africa and that it is the path to follow to ensure structural transformation and facilitate the beneficial integration of Africa into the global economy.

Another Recent Example of Africans Support for Each Over

So often the rest of the world perceive Africa as a continent of wars and conflict and forget the support African countries give each other.  We probably all looked with awe at the vast eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the fiery red of streams of lava flowing down the slopes.  Perhaps we did not notice the efficiency of the evacuation of the local people and the hospitality given to more that three thousand refuges that fled into Rwanda and were accommodated in local schools and churches.

Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want

In Shona, there is a proverb that says “natsa kwawabva, kwaunoenda husiku”. Loosely translated, the proverb means remember where you came from for you do not know what lies ahead.  The theme this year resonates very well with this saying. As Zimbabweans, it is important for us to remember our art, our culture and our heritage so that we may use this knowledge to carve a better tomorrow for future generations.  It is through our arts, culture and heritage that we learnt sustainability, democracy, economics and our general way of life.  It is from our past that we learnt the spirit of togetherness and seeking to thrive as a community and to be less individualistic.  The stories of yesterday help to shape and transform our stories of tomorrow. 

Lessons from Our Forefathers 

BUT as we celebrate our art, culture and our heritage, we must pay attention to our shortcomings.  How does the Africa we have today differ from and compare to the Africa we had yesterday?  As a nation, we must ask ourselves how we are adding to the value of the continent.  We must ask ourselves if we have levelled up to the standard of other African countries such as Rwanda and South Africa.  How are we as Zimbabwe pushing forward to reduce corruption, promote democratic progression and better the life of the common man?  How do we increase our general output so that we may uplift the quality of our education, enrich our arts and our culture?

What we learnt from various kingdoms that ruled over different areas of what is now known as Zimbabwe is that for us to be a prosperous people we must transform our way of thinking.  Principles such as openness, transparency and accountability must be at the forefront of our interactions and ubuntu, sharing and the rule of law must prevail for a harmonious society to exist.  The core principles must remain the same. 

This year’s Africa Day commemorations come at a time where our way of life has been grossly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The participation of citizens in democratic development and governance of public affairs, including through electoral processes is under serious threat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because the country is on an indefinite suspension of elections coupled with restrictions such as: maintaining social and physical distancing; limits on numbers of people who can gather;  and restricted movement of people. 

Veritas calls on all relevant stakeholders, including the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Alignment of Legislation to the Constitution, Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and CSOs, among others, to find ways of ensuring the safe continuation of electoral processes in Zimbabwe. Veritas firmly believes that whereas it is important to protect the health of the people, it should not be done to the detriment of democracy. To this end, Veritas urges stakeholders to learn from other jurisdictions where electoral processes have continued and to adopt what would be feasible in the context of Zimbabwe in compliance with collectively determined preventative measures to avoid the transmission of corona virus.

Conclusion

As we reflect on what it means to be African and what the African dream is, it is important to remember that Africa needs a successful Zimbabwe to complete the puzzle of a successful Africa.  We have an important role to play, a role that requires the highest form of integrity on our part from government to general society.  For Africa to be a world class continent that is anchored on art, culture and heritage we need to play our part.  May we never give any other nation a reason to doubt our prosperity and our freedom.  May we strive to please those that fought for our freedoms– from Kwame Nkrumah, to Joshua Nkomo to Nelson Mandela. 

“freedom is not free”

 

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2021