We’re inextricably linked to the monarch

18 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views
We’re inextricably  linked to the monarch

The Sunday Mail

The ostentatious ceremonial pageantry of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s grand funeral reaches a crescendo tomorrow when she is buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, which is inside the walls of Windsor Castle that was completed in the 16th century.

Over the past 10 days, all major news channels have been dutifully saturated by a deluge of reverential coverage that was clearly purposed to ‘Hollywoodise’ the royal funeral.

Newsmen and women had to take a slight detour from their usual relentless drivel on Russia and China.

And one could not miss the ceremonial rites steeped in traditions of the British Empire, which defined the customs, heritage, culture and fabulous riches of the current United Kingdom and, conversely, wrecked fortunes of faraway lands such as Zimbabwe.

We still live with the scars of the Empire, which profoundly shaped our past and current wretched circumstances.

At its territorial peak in the 20th century, it held sway over swatches of the world covering over 35 million square kilometres — about a quarter of the planet’s total land area.

By 1920, its subjects numbered over 400 million, roughly 23 percent of the world population then.

In mineral-rich Africa, its colonies included Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, southern Cameroon and Sierra Leone in West Africa; Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Tanzania in East Africa; and Botswana, Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and our own Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

Our own history is inextricably linked to the British monarch.

Few people know that it was our gallant liberation fighters who ended the British Empire’s colonial era in Africa when the Union Jack was lowered just after midnight on April 17, 1980, at a ceremony that was “graced” by then Prince Charles — now King Charles III.

We might have unclasped the asphyxiating vice-grip hold of colonialism, but there are still landmarks that are a stark reminder of our storied past.

For example, our very own majestic falls, the Mosi-Oa-Tunya, still bear the name Victoria Falls after being renamed on November 16, 1855, by Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone in deference to Queen Victoria.

We also have Queen Elizabeth High School right at the heart of the capital.

Who can forget King George Road and the seedy Queen Elizabeth Hotel, which has since been put up for sale?

The indelible footsteps of a monarchical past are there for all to see.

While we might have vanquished imperialism, its lingering culture and symbols are still pervasive and have contaminated our own values, norms, culture and customs.

In kindergarten, Bishop Lazi still remembers blissfully singing the lyrics “London’s burning, London’s burning/ Fetch the engines, fetch the engines/ Fire fire, Fire Fire!/ Pour on water, pour on water”, which he barely knew what they meant.

Our Justices still wear those outlandish white wigs (often fashioned out of horsehair), a thoroughly British practice that was adopted around 1685, while some pageantry and ceremonial rites of State functions still mimic alien traditions inherited from the British.

And thanks to the Macaulayian education system first trialled in India and spread across the empire, we now have a generation in this part of the world that is African in “blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”.

The Bishop thinks these vestiges of Western traditions are a manifestation of a cultural imperialism that is not only still extant but also deeply entrenched.

Wretched circumstances

As Britain prepares to lay to rest their iconic Queen, who sat on the throne for an incredible 70 years, many across the world, particularly in former colonies, are painfully reflecting on the legacy of the Empire that the royal family embodied.

There was fiery and animated debate on this throughout much of last week, and justifiably so.

You see, the egregious practice of buying and selling human beings to be used as draught power and in some instances for amusement actually began in earnest in 1663 when King Charles II issued a royal charter to the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa, which marked the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade.

In fact, it explicitly sanctioned “the buying and selling, bartering and exchanging of, for, and with any negro slaves, goods, wares and merchandises whatsoever to be vended or found in Africa”.

Bishop Lazi’s ancestors were not spared.

Professor of economics at Harvard University Nathan Nunn, who pored over tomes of archived documents, believes that between 1 400 and 1 900 more than 1 089 Zimbabweans — 554 and 536 traded through the Trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trade routes, respectively — were frogmarched into slave ships.

It was really a dark period for the continent.

To its credit, the Crown assented to the Slavery Abolition Act on August 28,1833, albeit after centuries of the morally reprehensible trade.

Instead of benefiting the continent, the more than 10 million slaves that survived the dreaded Middle Passage — forced voyage across the Atlantic — were used as beasts of burden in the New World, where production of coffee and sugar, among other commodities, to meet tastes of the West, minted fabulous fortunes for the slave masters.

As a result, Europe grew richer, while Africa grew poorer, which helps explain the rich-poor dichotomy between us and much of the developed world.

Then came colonialism just as we were about to close the 19th century.

Many make the mistake of thinking that colonialism was an imperial phenomenon borne out of the banal instinct to establish dominion over other races and communities, which is clearly not the case.

Political dominion was, and is, only crucial insofar as it underwrites an economic system that rapaciously extracts resources in colonies for the benefit of the Empire’s industries and its citizen’s well-being.

We lived through such a system for 90 years before 1980, where multinationals, principally from Britain, ruthlessly exploited our resources and salted away massive fortunes.

You can imagine how much we lost in nine decades of unrestrained pillaging?

Its staggering!

Time and again, Bishop refers to the instructive work of Indian scholar Utsa Patnaik, who, after scouring through two centuries worth of data, concluded that Britain siphoned more than US$45 trillion from the Asian country during colonialism.

New colonialism

Again, many make the mistake of thinking that stories on colonialism and exploitation of resources — both human and natural — are unhelpful folk-tales of a bygone era.

Well, colonialism is still alive!

It has only assumed an insidious form that imperceptibly and systematically extracts resources from former colonies through a neo-colonial economic system that has been established over centuries.

Past colonialism spawned industrial behemoths that have the heft, capacity and wherewithal to have their way in countries struggling to escape the vicious circle of underdevelopment, poverty and desperation.

It is a point that Mark Curtis strenuously makes in his work “The New Colonialism” a study that claims more than 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange — most of them British — now have mining operations in 37 Sub-Saharan African countries and collectively control over US$1 trillion worth of Africa’s most valuable resources.

It was a point that was also amplified by Guardian (UK) columnist George Monbiot in a revealing opinion-editorial titled ‘If you think the UK isn’t corrupt, then you haven’t looked hard enough’, published on September 10, 2020.

He boldly claimed that most of the money that was being stolen from poorer countries in the modern era was through tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Jersey, which are part of Britain’s Overseas Territories.

“These activities are a perpetuation of colonial looting: a means by which vast riches are siphoned out of poorer countries and into the hands of the super-rich.

“The UK’s great and unequal wealth was built on colonial robbery: the land and labour stolen in Ireland, America and Africa, the humans stolen by slavery, the US$45 trillion bled from India,” he said.

Tanzania’s late President John Magufuli — may his dear revolutionary soul rest in peace! — was keenly aware of these shenanigans and had epic duels with British gold company Acacia for prejudicing the East African country for decades.

He eventually succeeded in arm-twisting the multinational miner to pay a US$300 million fine, cede a stake to government and equally share future proceeds.

This is the way to go.

Africa, as is now shown by Zimbabwe, can only extricate itself from poverty and develop on the back of its huge mineral deposits.

New beginning

But, as Queen Elizabeth’s sun sets and King Charles III’s sun rises, we can only hope for a new relationship built on the plinth of justice.

An apology for the unconscionable crimes visited on Africa through centuries of abuse first would not hurt, followed by real conversations on reparations.

Leviticus 6 verse 1-6 says: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving a neighbour about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbour, or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit — when they sin in any of these ways and realise their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, or whatever it was they swore falsely about.

“They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering’.”

If these people who became rich by profiting from our resources, blood, sweat and pain are made to compensate us, maybe this might knock some sense in some unrepentant and unashamed racists such as American TV presenter Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who, in similar fashion to opposition MDC-CCC folk who believe that Zimbabwe was better off under the Ian Smith’s white minority rule, said last week Africans were well off under colonialism than black majority rule.

“Speaking of what did come after the British Empire, how, for example, did Africa fare after the British left?

“Let’s see! Uganda got Idi Amini, who was a cannibal; Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and then became the poorest country on the planet under the racist lunatic Robert Mugabe,” he said, adding: “As of tonight, South Africa is still being run into the ground by the incompetent kleptocrat called Cyril Ramaphosa. So it is hard to see any of that as an improvement, because it is not an improvement . . . In the real world — the one that we live in — strong countries dominate weak countries, and that trend shows no signs of changing!”

Yes, he really said that, in typical Hellen Zille style.

If this does not rile you up, nothing else will.

What a load of bull . . . and nonsense!

One day, we will prevail.

Bishop out!

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