Zimbabweans shouldn’t blame anyone for failing to fully benefit from British colonial rule

What does Britain mean?

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

 

In fact, where is the name London, or for that matter, England derived?

Britain is a derivative of the Latin name, ‘Brittannia’, or ‘Britannia’ – whilst, London is from the Latin ‘Londinium’, and England being Latin for ‘Angles’ and ‘land’.

Actually, some may be interested to learn that what we term the English language today, is a result of influences of the Germanic (Anglo-Saxons), Norse (Danish and Scandinavians), and Romanic – all of whom, either settled or conquered the land and peoples we know today as the British.

The British Isles were invaded, occupied and conquered numerous times in their history – including, the Roman Occupation, Anglo-Saxons Conquest, Viking Raids, and Norman Conquest.

Where am I going with this brief crash course in British history?

Well, some amongst us may have never imagined that this land – which was to become a global empire, through the colonization of many peoples across the world – was, itself, a victim of multiple colonial occupations and conquests.

However, in all this, they have never allowed themselves to be bogged down and crippled by their horrid past – which, from our study of history, was more harrowing and horrendous than what we endured during our own colonial era.

At no point have I ever heard the British moaning and whining over stolen wealth and artifacts, or demanding reparations, or indeed blaming their problems and challenges on their erstwhile colonizers.

As a matter of fact, these people chose to move on from their past, and actually learning as much as they could from the advancements and development brought about by their occupiers – thereby, similarly developing their own nation, to the point of becoming a world power.

Of course, there can never be any justfication whatsoever, under the face of the sun, for any form of injustice, attack, invasion, and occupation of a nation by another – as that is the height of cruelty and savagery, motivated by nothing else but greed and quest for power and wealth.

Nonetheless, for any peoples to choose to be shackled by their past, in a dungeon of bitterness, resentment and vindictiveness – directed towards the perpetrators of these callous and cold-hearted injustices – can cause irreparable damage, not necessarily to the authors of this pain and suffering, but the victim who elects not to be a ‘victor’.

After the world leant of the passing on of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II (on 9 September 2022) – there has been, understandably, mixed reactions, both from her own realm, and the rest of the world.

To be expected, her own subjects were genuinely deeply grieved, after losing someone they have always regarded as a loving unifying ‘mother’, who was the figurehead of their kingdom, and carried that role with dignity and honour.

These sentiments of endearment were equally shared in those Dominions (Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) where the British monarch is still regarded as head of state – as well as, numerous other countries globally that were moved by her passing.

Nevertheless, there were several expressions of anger, and even glee, from those who believed the British crown had to answer for the invasion, occupation and plunder of those nations that were to be known as the British Empire.

As a citizen of a country (Zimbabwe) that also suffered from the wrath of colonialism, I may empathize with the rage and feelings of being gravely wronged at the hands of our former masters – nonetheless, I tend to believe that we should never allow ourselves to be prisoners of our own hatred and anger.

This is a principle I live by in my own daily life – since, I have experienced that there is nothing more liberating and joyful than forgiving and letting go of any who I feel did me wrong.

In that way, I can move on with my life, with unclouded clear vision.

Therefore, instead of being handicapped by grievances over a supposedly US$400 million diamond worn by the British monarch, allegedly stolen from South Africa – would we not be better served if we demanded accountability from our own black leaders, specifically here in Zimbabwe, on where billions of US dollars from our diamond revenue is going?

Will the ordinary citizenry not benefit more from the vast mineral wealth we have today – yet, being plundered and pillaged by the ruling elite, with reckless abandon – than, shouting on top of our voices for one precious stone that is long gone?

Why do we seem to derive some sort of warped gratification from always reminding each other of the cruelty and wickedness of slavery and colonialism – yet, failing to stand up for ourselves, and stopping, the sadistic savagery those in power today in our country, are unleashing upon us?

Are we waiting for our decedents, four or five generations down the line – to finally speak up about the maliciousness and heartlessness of the leaders we have today?

Would it not be too late, and an utter waste of time – since, they also need to be focusing on issues facing them in that day?

Instead, of being held back by ‘what was’, why do we not focus of ‘what is’?

There is absolutely nothing untoward about teaching each other about our history – because, not only is it the proper and just thing to do (for us to know our past and understand our present), but also those who do not learn from it, are prone to repeat it.

However, there is a world of difference between ‘learning from our past’, and being ‘held back by our past’.

Admittedly, what these colonial powers did to us was undeniably barbaric and heinous – yet, we have an opportunity to learn from the knowledge and expertise that they exhibited whilst still dominating us.

That is how those countries as Britain eventually developed into powerhouses, subsequently enabling them to establish global empires.

Let us not forget that, before the many raids and conquests they endured at the hands of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danish and Scandinavians, and Normans – the people who were to be known as the British were just an impoverished backward groupings of nations.

The Romans built an intricate network of roads, magnificent towns, and majestic architectural feats – which are largely still in existence and intact today, being some of the most recognizable landmarks in modern day Britain.

Does this not sound familiar for us in Zimbabwe – whereby, infrastructure constructed by our colonizers still stands today, whilst what we built ourselves, post-independence, steadily crumbling?

I remember a friend of mine telling me how a British friend of hers once told her that, “Had it not been for the Romans colonizing us, we probably would still be painting our faces blue”!

As much as that may have been said in jest – but, there is a wealth of truth packed in that statement.

If those of us who were occupied and colonized made a deliberate decision to look at what we can learn from our colonizers – rather than holding on to vindictiveness and spitefulness – we have a better chance of moving our countries forward.

Our existence today is largely shaped and fashioned around our colonial past – so what batter way to succeed and be prosperous than to learn from those who brought this life to us?

The very fact that we are now a constitutional democracy in Zimbabwe – where we have a president, parliament, and other Western-style institutions of governance – is a product of colonialism.

So, why not spend our time understanding, from those who brought this system, how to make our democracy work?

Remember, we chose to continue with this system of governance when we attained our independence – as opposed to reverting to our traditional forms of leadership, whereby chiefs and their structures had full authority over the nation.

We could be expending our energies and time learning how to make our commercial large-scale mining, manufacturing, agricultural, and other industries work, from those who have been successfully doing this for centuries.

Yet, we would rather moan over a diamond in London!

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]

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