A Mugabe comparison? Really?
Too often within the Black struggle for identity and finding a purpose that justifies our fight for fuller human freedom and dignity, we see ourselves only in the context of colonial servitude. Therefore, the mode of expression in activism is reactionary. Nothing can be a greater example of that than the words of Cabinet minister Jason Hayward, who in 2023 championed the actions of Robert Mugabe in addressing White participation and criticism within a majority-Black country.
To think clearly, we need to step outside of this colonial dispensation. It is useful to look into some African responses and reactions to diversity challenges that go deep into pre-colonial periods. Many think of Africa as one people and one country, when in fact it is divided into many languages and tribes with distinctly different cultures. Were not for some measure or way of dealing with and accepting differences, there might have been endless wars all over the continent for ethnic and tribal dominance.
Aside from cultural and tribal differences, it is well known that there are some major religious groups that emerged over the past 2,000 years — Christianity, Islam and the longstanding but varying native animist religions of the continent. West Africa is the best example of mutual coexistence.
Somewhere around the 13th century, a scholar by the name of Al-Hajj Salim Suwari taught his students that the best manner of persuasion was to have good character. He also taught that education was the greatest tool to uplift people, and to do so meant crossing many ethnic lines and cultures to unveil what works. Knowledge comes from diverse sources and one limits themselves if one believes it all comes from one basket. Suwari became known as a pacifist who saw the need for conflict and/or war only if there was overt aggression — and even in such circumstances, he still chose peace.
Bearing in mind the prevailing rulership all over West Africa was animist, with tribal rulers and chiefs, but owing to the attitude of the followers of Suwari and the Suwarian tradition, they soon took over these districts because of their attitude towards education and personal development. This attitude generated many followers and a culture prevailed that gave cause for many to convert to this way of life; hence, West Africa is today prevailingly Muslim. Setting aside recent negative stereotypes popularised by jihadist groups over the past 40 years, the original history is very different in some areas.
Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, of Senegal, is an outflow from this same attitude and his legacy against 19th-century French colonisation is legendary. The city of Touba, of two million people without police, is testament to that same pacifist behaviour and a reason why his area was never colonised. The Mouride of Senegal are known as persons keen on education and personal development.
Most of us in the West are very aware of Booker T. Washington, who was born nine years before slavery ended, and the story of his post-slavery dilemma. When one day a man arrived on his farm and told him he was free, his young mind asked: “Free to do what?” He realised he could do nothing except remain in some sort of slavery unless he did something useful as a service — and to do so, he needed to be educated.
Young Booker realised all enslaved persons were in his predicament and that, unless they had something they could sell as a service needed in the world, they would have no momentum to catapult them out of their dependency on their former masters.
That formula is no different today in Bermuda. Until the Black population has the commodity or services needed in the world, it will be dependent on those who do have those services. Education and personal development are the instruments to achieve that status, not politics. Politics does not provide the education or the skill sets to develop entrepreneurial skills.
The sad truth about Bermuda’s political history is that we had at one time the necessary level of entrepreneurship. We had trade schools, too, and we had the culture to support the advancement of our community, as evidenced by the number of Friendly Societies and the churches we built. We had almost as many Friendly Societies per parish as we had churches.
Why were they there and what was their function? You will find that the Progressive Labour Party attacked the very foundation of our society with its socialist agenda and now that it is “woke” and realises “it’s the economy, stupid” — after attacking merchants for 40 years — wants to use the Government as a pulpit to enter the marketplace on behalf of Black people. Worse, it is the leaders who want to be the beneficiaries of that enterprise and who want to do so as though they have moral authority.
Bermuda society was not in any way similar to Zimbabwe or South Africa; the subjugation in 1960 was not comparable. Black Bermudians were near self-sufficient in 1960. Mr Hayward would be wise to help put an end to the self-imposed apartheid that the PLP leadership exercises against its own Black businessmen simply because they are not friends and family.
That they admit to this doctrine itself is deplorable, but to add the Mugabe style as a means because of their own failed economic ideology over the years has gone too far. He needs to step down as the minister responsible for economic development because his personal ethics are flawed.
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