The Sunday Mail
“UNCIVILISED”, “backward” and “barbaric” are perhaps the most enduring words that are invariably used to describe Africa and Africans.
However, because of their despicable historical connotations, which are often linked to racism in all its various forms — from slavery, colonialism and imperialism — those who minted them have since coined new nomenclature for Africa and Africans.
Words such as “poor” or “developing” are now considered to be relatively decent, acceptable and palatable alternatives.
For centuries it was accepted as the gospel truth that before the white man set foot in Africa, the continent was just a political, historical, social and cultural void — a Dark Continent.
Apparently, the arrival of the white man is ostensibly regarded as the beginning of Africa’s history.
Claims that before its first contact with the white man, Africa did not have any written history are considered to be evidence of this “formless and empty” darkness.
For Bishop Lazarus, this narrative is reminiscent of the creation story in Genesis, except that in this case the white man is “God” and Africa is the nameless and shapeless void.
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light,” reads Genesis 1: 2-3.
Nature is wisdom
But absence of evidence of Africa’s written history is not evidence of absence.
It is, therefore, not surprising that tied to the continent-wide efforts to degrade, dismantle and destroy colonialism, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, were sustained efforts by nationalists and revolutionaries to reconnect with Africa’s culture, consciousness and normative values.
One of the foremost eminent luminaries of this crop of revolutionaries who maniacally worked to help his peers to “re-become” Africans, as he called it, was Amilcar Cabral, who was born in Guinea Bissau on September 12, 1924.
In essence, he believed that the African culture could not be effectively supplanted or whitewashed for it was written in the timeless secrets of nature and the environment. He famously once said: “You see, environment, they say, is formative of culture. If that is so, then ours is a highly cultivated society.”
He also wondered why the so-called process of civilisation, especially in Portuguese colonies like his own, was “being carried out by an underdeveloped country, with a lower national income than, for example, Ghana (at the time), and which had not yet been able to solve its problems”. Kikikiki.
Well, this is not an exaggeration.
At the time, Portugal had a 40 percent illiteracy rate and had one of the lowest standards of living in Europe.
But, most critically, Basil Davidson, a UK journalist and historian who wrote about Cabral’s legacy in one of his works, aptly described the pan-African firebrand as someone who had the uncanny “habit of linking the everyday scene, the banal scene you take for granted and barely even see, with the intellectual groundwork of an overall theory of culture”.
Nature and the environment are undoubtedly filled with invaluable life lessons and wisdom.
This is why Bishop Lazi loves village life.
However, one thing that he doesn’t love about the village, which he is sure most village folk would love to hate, are the notorious mammals called the mongoose (jerenyenje, uchakide).
These ferret-like creatures usually forage for easy meals by raiding fowl runs for chickens or eggs, which is often a bad idea.
You see, for village folk, the occasional and intermittent meal containing either chicken or eggs provides much-needed respite from the prolonged punishing regimen of taste-bud destroying dry vegetables and sour milk.
This is precisely the reason why the mongoose, just like the snake, is put in the same category as animals that are often killed on sight.
The mongoose is not blessed with speed, it normally limits its movements, but when it is cornered it bolts into the nearest burrow.
This is where it gets interesting. Whenever one tries to poke it out of its temporary bunker, the mongoose can be the most intimidating animal.
It can growl so much that the sound issues out from the burrow like a lion’s roar.
You can be forgiven to think that you are probably poking a vicious monster lying in the deep.
For the uninitiated, this guttural roar from the tiny mongoose is enough to induce incontinence. Kikikiki.
For those such as the Bishop, they know that this is not so much a roar than it is a squeal.
Sky is not falling
It is the same roar that was heard in the market recently by cornered market players when Government put down the hammer in its fight against gratuitous market abuse by the greedy and the inept.
The decision taken on June 27 to suspend mobile money agents from facilitating financial transactions and restricting merchant transactions to receiving payments for goods and services was largely interpreted as a desperate move by a panicky administration that is at wits’ end.
Well, the tragedy is that we now have a generation that has the attention span of a gnat.
They view events as spontaneous and not part of a pre-planned continuum driven by human agency.
It is made worse by the heavily politicised and thoroughly partisan commentary they receive from equally naïve, self-proclaimed social media-based analysts, who flaunt supposedly lofty academic credentials — professor, doctor, engineer, etcetera — as a waiver for common sense.
Bishop Lazi recently warned that Government will progressively shine a light “in all nooks and crannies, including the darkest recesses of the financial system, where the beast resides”.
In fact, he lied.
Government has been doing so for quite some time. Remember the suspension of the four top head honchos of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on October 23, 2013.
For those who might not know, those chaps who were temporarily suspended superintended over four key portfolios — financial intelligence, bank supervision, security, and financial markets.
Does it now make sense?
You see, it does not make sense for people to have carte blanche to transact without supervision.
It simply doesn’t happen anywhere.
This is exactly why we welcomed the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) back from the dead.
Like ZACC, it has since been transformed from a Chihuahua to a Rottweiler.
Four days before the lockdown, on March 26, Statutory Instrument (SI) 80 of 2020 [Banking (Money Transmission, Mobile Banking and Mobile Money Interoperability) Regulations, 2020] was introduced.
Essentially, this piece of legislation placed the burgeoning mobile money sector under the ambit of the central bank and within the realm of formal banking operations.
Most importantly, Section 3 and 4 made it obligatory for mobile money operators to “open and maintain a bank account that is designated exclusively for mobile banking services”, including ensuring “that no money is transmitted or is retained on the payment system without a corresponding bank balance”, respectively.
The FIU has been aggressively moving to ensure compliance with these critical provisions, and hence the current growls in the market.
There were jaw-dropping revelations, which largely went unremarked, that were made by RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya when the apex bank was recently dragged to the courts by Ecocash, which sought an interdict against the decision that had been made to freeze some agent lines.
Not only did he accuse the mobile money service of shadow banking, but of fraudulently creating bank balances as well.
In fact, there were some Ecocash agents who reportedly had an overdraft in excess of $40 million.
“How can an entity or individual have an overdraft on an electronic payment platform such as Ecocash? . . .
“Applicant has failed to proffer an explanation and is challenged to do so under oath,” said Dr Mangudya.
“The applicant can only operate the payment systems in a lawful way. Operating the payment systems unlawfully through a Ponzi scheme and shadow banking amounts to a violation of the law . . .”
As a result, High Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora (HC30007 of 2020) sensibly upheld the RBZ decision.
Where some expected a blockbuster legal clash, the case crumbled no sooner had it even begun.
There is another case of two Ecocash employees from Manicaland who were arrested in May for allegedly fraudulently using agent lines belonging to cotton company ETG Parrogate to conduct illegal foreign currency transactions.
Apparently one of the merchant lines was used to transfer large volumes of money amounting to $2,8 million between April 25 and April 30, 2020, when everyone else was on the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
As the mobile money sector is being reformed, Bishop Lazi would like to say — and hear him clearly — there is no way these reforms would not conceivably visit the banking sector.
There is absolutely no way someone can simply withdraw wads of scarce cash above the set limits or move suspicious amounts of cash while escaping the eagle eye of the State. Impossible!
But of course these aberrations are made possible by manual systems — retained either wittingly or unwittingly — that make it difficult to unravel
In other jurisdictions, questionable transactions are flagged and the accounts frozen, only to be unfrozen upon the tender of incontrovertible evidence proving they are above board.
There is another added layer of multiple-agency scrutiny that is supposed to ensure checks and balances in the system, and this can only be enabled by technology.
Well, do not get me wrong: the Bishop is not saying anything that he is not saying; he is just musing. Kikikiki.
Reforms are not easy; they are naturally accompanied by upheaval.
And when those who might be cornered in the process of reform growl, you should know that this is not a roar, but a squeal similar to that of a desperate mongoose.