Activists and campaigners, get your act together!

Make no mistake, all African nations need radical change if they are to throw off their corrupt, repressive governments and allow their citizens to go from poverty to affluence in the shortest possible time.

President Tsvangirai

The stumbling block is that all movements for change like this are incredibly reliant on activists and campaigners who are capable of leading the charge. In fact, without them, these movements can have no hope of succeeding. In short, the single most important element – the absolutely vital element – in the success of any movement is to have effective activists and campaigners.

Africa is not short of the activists, campaigners and campaign organisations needed to complete this task. But what few of them seem to have grasped is a fundamental rule for effecting radical social change:

No radical movement has ever succeeded without creating a mass movement of citizens forcing a government to do what needs to be done.

Where Africa is concerned, every government needs to be forced into two directions.

First, with very few exceptions, they need to be forced to act for the benefit of their citizens, and not for their own corrupt self-interests.

Second, every single government, without exception, needs to implement policies that actually will take the majority of its citizens out of poverty and into affluence in the shortest possible time. Because at the moment, not one has.

How successful this mass movement of citizens will be depends entirely on how effective its activists and campaigners are in educating it in what needs to be done, and in co-ordinating, leading and motivating its efforts.

Not least, citizens need to be taught exactly what they must demand of their opposition parties, and to make it very clear they will not vote for any candidate or party unless the ideals of the movement are incorporated in their manifestos.

In some countries such as Zimbabwe, where so-called democracy has actually become a dictatorship, this mass movement may need to be aimed directly against the ruling elite (Mugabe and ZANU PF) because such regimes are very likely to simply ride roughshod over any adverse election results.

When you look at the activities of African activists and campaigners – especially from the standpoint that no radical movement can succeed unless its activists and campaigners are up to the job – it quickly becomes obvious that they are letting down the whole African race by simply not doing what needs to be done to eradicate repressive governments, or to take African citizens out of poverty and into affluence.

First of all, they look in the wrong direction. At the moment most of them blame Africa’s continuing problems on any number of causes, principally their own governments, the opposition politicians, Western or Chinese commercial and financial interests (what they call neocolonialism), or globalisation. More specifically in Zimbabwe’s case, they blame Mugabe, ZANU PF, Tsvangirai or their opposition politicians.

But if you recognise that radical change comes not from governments but from the mass movement of their citizens, it immediately becomes obvious that you should be spending all your time on helping to mobilise this mass movement of citizens, because that is where the fault lies.

Apart from anything else, activists and campaigners should have learnt by now, so long after the end of colonialism, that criticism of their governments or oppositions will fall on stony ground. Such activism is a waste of time and effort – it’s futile.

The problem is that while you keep blaming the wrong causes, you will never cure the problem.

Because governments the world over, not just in Africa, only behave in whatever way they do because their own citizens let them.

We need to understand that, had activism been properly directed right from the end of colonialism – mobilising the people to make their governments do what needs to be done – Africans could and should have gone from poverty to affluence years ago. And that is not an unrealistic ambition. By and large, activists and campaigners are educated people, but what they don’t do is learn their craft, what is actually involved in creating a successful activist movement. And they should have been able to learn early on which way their governments were heading, and what they needed to do about it.

Particularly, what they have not done is to learn from the history of developed nations, because most of those have followed the same path. At one time their citizens, too, lived in poverty as bad as any in Africa today, and were governed by ruling elites, some as bad as ZANU PF.

The only material difference between Western citizens then and African citizens now is that their predecessors finally got fed up with it and, as their governments were clearly not going to do anything about getting them out of poverty, they decided they must take matters into their own hands. So they got together, exercised their citizen power and forced their governments to do whatever was necessary.

Similarly, Africa’s governments will continue like this until their own citizens rise up and force them to govern for the good of all citizens instead of their own self-interest. There is simply no other way to stop them.

Some Zimbabwean activists and campaigners are also expecting SADC to intervene, for instance if ZANU PF rig the election or refuse to abide by its result if they are voted out of office.

Again, such appeals are the result of activists not bothering to learn about SADC. It can only act at the behest of the governments that make up its membership, and Mugabe has far too many friends among Africa’s other corrupt and repressive heads of state. But even if SADC was able to act, does anyone seriously think Mugabe or ZANU PF will take any notice? This is Zimbabwe’s problem, and only Zimbabwean citizens themselves, properly led by their activists and campaigners, can solve it.

Appeals to the AU are futile for exactly the same reasons. But neither SADC nor the AU are at fault here. It is simply that both organisations only get their power from the governments that make up their membership. So to accuse them of being weak or useless as some activists do is ridiculous. Both organisations actually do a very good job of representing the interests of the repressive, corrupt governments that make up the majority of their membership. The problem is that the interests of Africa’s largely corrupt, repressive governments are diametrically opposed to those of their citizens.

Zimbabwean activists and campaigners should also not rely on ZANU PF’s internal divisions and fights for leadership to do the job for them (i.e., destroy ZANU PF’s power) because, come any real threat to ZANU PF, and I suspect we will see a different side to it, one of solidarity.

The other thing few activists and campaigners have fully taken on board is that a mass movement of citizens actually means ALL citizens, most particularly the working and peasant classes. That matters because the sheer numbers are in the working and peasant classes. As it is now, they tend to address themselves very largely to the middle class, but that is no good because it is only a small percentage of the population. It is the working and peasant classes you need to appeal to.

Very much to blame for this omission are both African and Western academics and intelligentsia because they very much see either Africa’s governments or its middle class as the instruments of change. Or they make their appeals to the UN or the World Bank. Virtually all of them ignore the mobilisation of the working and peasant classes. That is because they simply do not understand what, in practical terms, Africans need to do to get from poverty to affluence. And this is definitely a very important but much underplayed contributing factor for why Africans did not go from poverty to affluence years ago.

Zimbabwean activists and campaigners have a good teacher in this right on their doorstep, in ZANU PF. It is particularly clever at the way in which it engages the rural peasantry and the young people, because it knows they are a vital part of the real source of true power – not the middle class.

Real activism or campaigning is not sitting in endless meetings and discussions. Or in firing off letters or articles to the press or anyone else. Nor is it appealing to the government or the political opposition. Real activism and campaigning lies entirely in deciding what, and how, to teach the masses, and then to mobilise and motivate them into carrying out what needs to be done. Nothing else matters. As it is now, African activists are extremely long on talk – something they are very good at – and extremely short on real, effective, targeted action.

What this amounts to is that activists and campaigners need to stop looking outside themselves to find out why such pathetically slow progress is being made against repressive governments and taking citizens from poverty to affluence. They need instead to look inside their own community and ask: “What are WE doing wrong that progress should be so slow? And what should WE be doing about it?”

Another factor activists and campaigners need to deal with is that, unlike Western citizens who have been taught that citizen power is the only key to radical change, African citizens need to be taught that if they really want change, they must fight for it themselves. Because they have not been taught that. Instead they have been “taught”, if that’s the right word, that someone else will look after them. This was conditioned into them by colonialists and then very successfully consolidated by a combination of corrupt, repressive governments and the whole Western aid community.

The only people who can teach them this are activists and campaigners. Because African governments certainly won’t. It must be very obvious to everyone why not: it is not in their self-interest to do so.

The Western aid community also could and should have taught African citizens this. United Nations could easily have done so. As could the World Bank. Because all three know very well how Africa’s corrupt, repressive governments could have been replaced by properly working democracies, and they know very well how African citizens could have been taken from poverty to affluence years ago. But, again, it is in none of their interests to get rid of African poverty.

So, activists and campaigners, it is down to you, and you alone, to show all citizens what needs to be done because there is literally no one else who will.

A major error of judgement by Africa’s activists and campaigners is their almost total ignorance of the most important plan ever to come out of Africa, one that gives every activist and campaigner everything they have been fighting for. This is the AU’s Agenda 2063 together with its accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023. Why you have all not latched onto this and promoted it hard completely bemuses me.

Among other things, Agenda 2063 makes it very clear that the mobilisation of all African citizens is absolutely essential and vital if Africa is to change. In other words, the huge majority of Africans are only in poverty because not nearly enough of them are prepared to help themselves. And it is down to you activists and campaigners to make them.

As soon as you succeed in that, all African will rapidly go from poverty to affluence.

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