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Principles for a truly African democracy in Zimbabwe

by Denis Moyo Hunt
01 May 2017

Recently, there was this exchange on Twitter between political analyst Vince Musewe and Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) –

Musewe: We must stop being masterminded by the West. It is their socio-economic paradigm which underdeveloped Africa in the first place.

ZUNDE: “We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in the field of human relationship. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa—giving the world a more human face.” (Steve Biko 1970)

That put me in mind of Michael Auret’s account of his 1979 discussion with Jesuit anthropologist Father Patrick Galvan who had spent 40 years studying the people he ministered to in Zimbabwe.

Auret: I asked him what he thought would happen when the war was over, when the majority had taken over the government.

Galvan: “In time they will destroy everything white and rebuild it in their own way.”

Auret: I pooh-poohed that thought as it was clear that no-one would ever destroy so developed an infrastructure or economy.

Galvan: “I’m not talking about infrastructure or buildings, I’m talking about white thinking, white attitudes and white domination. They will certainly attempt to rid themselves of that.” [Auret, M 2009, From Liberator to Dictator, pp vii-viii] Hunhuism or Ubuntuism book cover

The destruction foreseen by Father Galvan has come to pass. Now we have to set about bringing into effect the vision of Steve Biko. We have to think our way out of the situation we are in and develop sound strategies for the restoration of freedom, human rights and good governance to ensure that Zimbabwe rises again. It is incumbent on us to develop a set of principles for building a truly African democracy in the new Zimbabwe.

We could well begin with the principles expounded by another visionary, Professor Stanlake Samkange, a Zimbabwean historiographer, educator, journalist, author, and African nationalist, who in 1980 published Hunhuism or Ubuntuism: A Zimbabwe Indigenous Political Philosophy. (Unhu is the Shona equivalent of the Nguni Ubuntu.)

Samkange highlighted three principles that underpin the philosophy of unhuism/ubuntuism:
1. To be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish respectful human relations with them.
2. If and when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then one should opt for the preservation of life.
3. The king owes his status, including all the powers associated with it, to the will of the people under him. According to Samkange, this is a principle deeply embedded in traditional African political philosophy.

Steve Biko’s vision of the great gift still to come from Africa—giving the world a more human face—is encapsulated in the first of these principles.

The second principle points to maintaining the harmony and spirit of sharing among the members of our society that are embodied in unhu/ubuntu and are diametrically opposed to the socio-economic paradigm of the West eschewed by Vince Musewe.

Samkange’s third principle defines unhu/ubuntu as a permanent, essential, and characteristic attribute of a truly indigenous democracy in Zimbabwe. Continued next page...

© ZUNDE Inc. 2016

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