The Sunday Mail
THE Sunday Mail has for several years been chronicling the history of the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe through candid and in-depth interviews with various characters that participated in the Second Chimurenga, which marked the turning point in the quest to vanquish white settler colonial rule. The thrust is part of a wider local, regional and international effort to tell the story of Africa. Last week, President Mnangagwa launched the first edition of the Africa Factbook at State House, whose compilation was made possible by support from Government and the African Union (AU). The publication captures factual research into the history of Africa, inventions and discoveries, including the continent’s invaluable contribution to the world. After the idea was mooted in 2016, the African Union Commission, which was then chaired by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, recommended that Zimbabwe leads the way in the project. The Africa Factbook was compiled by the Institute of African Knowledge (IAK), which is chaired by Professor Simbi Mubako. A former ZANU PF chief legal advisor, Minister of Justice as well as High Court Judge, Prof Mubako spoke to Gender and Community Editor Fatima Bulla-Musakwa about the book. Below we publish excerpts.
Q: What was involved in developing this book?
A: The work involved organising, co-ordinating with other Africans and approaching institutions like the African Union Commission, and finally approaching the Government of Zimbabwe for support and funding. The funds came from the Government for this book.
Q: What are the major issues the book addresses?
A: First of all, “Busting the Myths”, which is the title — to destroy all these old myths about Africans. That Africans are inferior, Africans do not produce civilisation, or did not invent anything. We put together some of the achievements such as those in sport. As black people, we excelled in sprinting, marathons and so on. We have highlighted the stories in the book to show that we, in fact, have done great things and can do more in the future.
Q: What has been the effect of foreigners telling Africa’s story?
A: The effect is that we unwittingly believe what we have been told. There are some Africans who believe stories that we didn’t build the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, for instance, yet there are so many other monuments lying around, which are like it, that we built. And there are some who believe that there must have been someone from outside who came to build and left. And some who believe that we are not related to the ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids. And that they are a race separate from us, yet, in fact, those are our achievements.
And those are the beliefs we hold because we have been taught that way by other people who had their own agenda. People who felt that if they admitted that we built early civilisations, they would have to respect us. And they don’t want to respect us because they want to exploit us. That is the slave or colonial mentality which has been instilled in us and we have to try to undo that by teaching the true story from our own perspective.
Q: Does the Africa Factbook deal with centuries of myths about Africa?
A: Very much so. For everything, you have to have a beginning. When the Europeans wanted to instil their ideas in Africa, they started somewhere. The Berlin Conference and so on. They decided, “let’s go into Africa” and they came. Within a 100 years we were European-orientated.
Now we believe that within a few years we will be able to turn around the minds of Africans into being Africans themselves and having pride in themselves.
Q: What kind of spirit has the collective effort fostered for Africans involved in this project?
A: I think it has fostered a spirit of self-confidence in that people began realising that we can achieve something by ourselves. There are many of the professors who had the knowledge but no way of getting it published and getting to influence other people.
Now that we have got them together and we have produced this book, I think they will be more encouraged to be more productive. There will be other books following this one, other editions and so on. This will be revised and many more perfected as we go on. And we think that spirit will spread so that people can do things by themselves, publish by themselves.
Q: How much did it cost to produce this book?
A: I couldn’t tell you the exact amount because there are collations currently being done, but it was roughly about a million US dollars.
Q: What does that say about Zimbabwe’s commitment?
A: Well, it speaks of leadership with foresight, and the kind of foresight which many other leaders do not have, and if they have, they don’t get to a situation where they can commit resources. They may agree with you that it’s always a brilliant idea and so on. But when you say, well, can we get so much money in order to be able to pay a professor to write an article, you don’t get anywhere. But in this case, the Zimbabwean Government, particularly President Mnangagwa, saw that this is something that needs to be supported materially and he did it.
Q: When you look at the book, how do you feel?
A: Well, it’s a feeling of accomplishment, pride; again a feeling of confidence that we can do better. We can actually turn the minds of the young people whom we want to teach by the books and by the Mobile Museum. We do that systematically. We will be able to change the minds. It’s not just in Zimbabwe, even in other African countries.