Learning The Language of the Oppressor

The kids were fighting in the back seats of the car, making an unholy ruckus, fighting about who had breathed the last of whose air and why it was so unfair. We were taking a day trip along the Garden Route, destination: I Can’t Recall. After 15 minutes I’d heard enough choruses of “Giiiiive-ugh!” and “Miiiine-ugh!” to last me a lifetime and was thus compelled to do something completely out of character. I turned on public radio. (Pandora is not an option outside of the US.)

Soon, our car was flooded with the sounds of native Afrikaans and Xhosa radio announcers, no doubt encouraging us to attend one event or purchase one product or another. Either way it was all preferred alternative background noise to me. One presenter with a particularly smooth voice caught my attention. I liked how he was saying what he was saying, but that harsh Afrikaans accent was grating on my ears. How could people grunt, growl and hack through so many words so many times a day without spitting up esophageal matter? I turned to my now silent kids, amused by a sudden thought.

“Hey guys! When you go to school, you’re going to have to learn how to speak Afrikaans just like this too!” I cleared a bit of phlegm in my throat for emphasis.

They recoiled at the very idea.

“Oh no, I’m not,” said the eldest.

“Me neither,” said her echo.

Soon the car was filled with vehement protestations – a visceral reaction at the very idea of having to speak a language from a people that they had no relation to or nothing in common with. I allowed them their moment of “American individuality”, knowing full well that after all the noise had died down, they would have no choice but to comply when school started. Some phenomena are universal. You gone do this math exam and you gone write this paper in Afrikaans!

They will be exempt from being tested in Afrikaans, an exemption that expires after two years. Eventually, they will learn the language not because it’s a mandate; because both Marshall and I want them to.


Today is June 16th, and it is the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Sarafina”, you have a vague idea of what the youth uprising was all about. In the 1950’s, South Africa and North America had adopted similar social and political attitudes with regards to race relations in each respective country. Apartheid and Jim Crow were fraternal twins living half a world away from each other. The Bantu Education Act was signed into law in 1953, providing Black South Africans with an education so parochial that they were only rendered fit to work as domestic servants post graduation. The Mission Schools that the British (who were far more tolerant in their racism than their Boer counterparts) were abolished. It was in these schools that scholarly minds such as Nelson Mandela received a premier education and allowed him to navigate white supremacist political structures in his country.

Mandela also spoke “high Afrikaans”.

In fact, he spoke Afrikaans with such authority and excellence that some Afrikaners were intimidated by his eloquence. Why did he expend the effort to learn the language of the oppressor? According this his fellow prison inmate, Saths Cooper, “He argued it was all a question of knowing your enemy. His position was that you had to know their language, their passions, their hopes and their fears if you were ever going to defeat them.”

Now, my family not in South Africa to be anyone’s enemy nor to defeat them. That’s not our motivation for having the kids and us learn to speak Afrikaans. I believe the same principle of understanding applies if you are on a mission to make friends, conduct business…or to understand basics of the environment in which you live.

I am always amazed by the melting pot of languages I encounter on a day-to-day basis. Everyone here can speak at least two languages. I see Black South Africans exhibiting the most versatility. I have yet to see an Englishman or Boer speak Xhosa in the town in which we reside, but I see Xhosa women slip between Afrikaans, English and Xhosa with ease, depending on their function and whom they are addressing. It’s marvelous.

Last year, I was mulling over the possibility of having Sally & the Butterfly translated into Afrikaans for the kids in the township that we worked in during our 2011 stay. A Ghanaian friend of mine who works in social justice circles balked at the idea. I could hear her frowning through the phone. She is just as well versed in South Africa’s violent history as I am, probably more so.

“Why would you want your book translated into the language of the oppressor?” she trilled.

I thought about it. “Well…isn’t English the language of our oppressor?”

“Yes,” she said after a brief moment of consideration, “but I feel like we’ve made English our own. We’ve Africanized it. We own it.”

I’d like to believe that in post-apartheid South Africa, the once openly oppressed colored/Black banker, the domestic worker and/or business owner can say the same thing – that all though this language was once forced upon them, and brutally so, that they were able to master IT and make it their own. That’s what I want for my kids.

That, and you really don’t want to be that one chick at the salon who everyone is talking about and you can’t say a word in clapbackery.


The Saga of my #Lost(GhanaMustGo)Bag

*Please make this go viral. Tell Richard Branson and the SAA CEO that they can keep everything else. Just please return my First Lady hat unharmed. The white hat never hurt anybody and deserves better than this!*


Travel is often difficult. It is made even more so when the carrier responsible for transporting you, your loved ones and your luggage loses any one of those entities. (My brother was one lost for 36 hours while flying as an unaccompanied minor on KLM when he was 6.)

Fortunately, none of my children found themselves misplaced during our transit between Atlanta and South Africa, but the airline(s) DID manage to lose the ONLY bag containing ALL of my shoes, my First Lady hat, my pale blue pashmina, my Blue Magic, my wide tooth combs AND my professional grade flat irons. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my shoes.

This tale of woe continues here…


Has an airline ever lost your bag? What was the eventual outcome? Surely by NOW they must understand why so many people are reluctant to stow their luggage! It’s a black hole down there.

Sabona! Greetings from the bottom of the World!

One of the greatest thrills of international travel is observing customs and human quirks that are foreign to the observer. If you can’t travel internationally, however, people watching at the mall provides you with similar rewards. Recently, I’ve found myself absorbed with greeting rituals. From dap, to a simple handshake, the ubiquitous Black nod or White folk’s tight-lipped half smile as they pass one another in the park, it’s all totally fascinating to me.

A few days ago I found myself in the midst of an awkward greeting ritual during my early days in the country. I passed a fashionably dressed man in a stairwell. We made eye contact. I smiled.

“Sabona”, he said in a creamy baritone.

“‘Sup”, I replied awkwardly.


SAA and the Franken Air Hostess

source: Pintrest
source: Pintrest

“What do you mean that I cannot speak my language? If I want to speak my language, I will speak it!”

Our flight had taken a scheduled detour to Ghana’s capital – Accra – where the cabin was being cleaned by the local ground crew and a new set of meals, blankets and headsets brought on board to accommodate new passengers. I stood in the aisle, gazing out of the windows at Kotoka International’s arrival terminal and the numerous mansions that had sprung up all around it. They looked out of place, cuddling the tarmac so tightly. They bothered me, but something else had me ill at ease.

In the early moments after landing I was dumbstruck by a sensation I was experiencing. Or a lack of a sensation, I should say. I was shocked by the absence of a need to bound down the rolling stairs and run pell-mell towards to arrival hall in a desperate bid to get “home”. My pulse was surprisingly steady. My breathing easy. I demonstrated none of the physical reactions of a person who missed home, was close to home and yet so far away. I exhibited none of the frustration and sadness of being kept at bay from a desired target. What was going on here? When did the sight of Accra inspire such little arousal in me?

I didn’t have time to examine my (lack of) perplexion further. A woman’s shouting had drawn me from my thoughts.


Continue Reading Here…

You're Moving to South Africa! Are you "Excited?"

Ever since our family announced the decision to move to South Africa in order to work in ministry and pursue a change in scenery, everyone (not just a few people…literally everyone) who’s caught wind of the news has had one, singular question.

“Are you excited?!!”

Initially, the easy answer was to reply with a hearty ‘Yes!’ and force a smile before answering the next series of uninspiring and now-expected questions: “What will you be doing when you get there?” and “When do you come back?”

These queries were predictable. In fact, there was one couple in our church who asked us these same three questions Sunday after Sunday until I paused and tilted my head mischievously one day and said “You know what? I’m not sure!” I quickly made it known that I was joking. The last time I made that sort of joke I was reported to the authorities in our church and it cost my family thousands of dollars in dunce taxes.

Moving is an arduous enough task. Moving to another country is a hellacious one. Had it not been for assistance of MX5, Rose, Tia, Karim, Amira, and a whole list people who helped us to the very last second of our departure, we would still be cleaning and prepping for departure today. Therefore I have no designs of packing my family up and returning to the United States without the assistance of an efficient relocation firm anytime soon. The recollection of cleaning toilets hoarder’s homes gives me more pleasure than considering this future task. It was so much easier to answer the question “So! When are you coming back?” before we’d packed our first box.

Behold! The barren shell of our empty home! (For sale now. Tell your friends!)
Behold! The barren shell of our empty home! (For sale now. Tell your friends!)


MOM Update

Did Malaka stop blogging?

What happened to M.O.M???

Did the BNI actually succeed in silencing Malaka forever???

Nah, dude. It’s all good. A LOT has happened since My last blog nearly THREE WEEKS ago. (That’s like an eternity to go without writing. Hei!) In view of this, I just wanted to drop you all a quick line to let you know we are happy and well and pretty much settled in… SOUTH AFRICA!

Your regular reading program commences Monday. There’s SO much to tell. 🙂


How South Africa’s Xenophobic Attacks Have Revealed Ghanaians Own Superior Attitudes

In a chorus there are many voices, and indeed there are millions of people speaking up both for and against the attacks on foreigners living in South Africa. There are numerous South Africans, frustrated youth primarily, who believe that all foreigners who have come to “steal” their jobs should leave the country immediately. Then there are those who recognize that the problem doesn’t lie with a foreign influx, but rather with the lack of education and opportunities that plague a large swathe of South African youth. In general, these disadvantages render them less desirable candidates for open positions from potential employers and have also failed to provide them with incentives (or knowledge) to begin businesses of their own. Education reform has been abysmally lacking in South Africa, and this is the great shame of the ruling ANC who instead of elevating education standards, recently lowered the threshold for student passing grades in order to artificially churn out more “qualified” graduates. How many of us want to be operated on by a doctor who only got a 30% passing grade in med school?

Of course in this chorus are those whose voices have been cut short, whose last utterances on this Earth were screams of anguish after having been burned by fire or hacked to death. While the images are real, and they are horrific, they are sadly nothing new. When I visited the township of Qolweni in 2011, I was introduced to a Ghanaian who had opened up a small hairdressing business in the township because there was none. Customers flocked, money rolled in, and jealousy blossomed. He showed me the stab wounds inflicted from angry young men who accused him of “stealing their jobs”. They burned down his shop and tried to kill him. Twice. He survived to tell the tale.

Mandela visits Ghana During the Rawlings regime.
Mandela visits Ghana During the Rawlings regime.

And then there are the sympathizers who see the madness in this all. We click our tongues and go on Google scavenger hunts to dig up long forgotten ideas and manifestos from African leaders now long dead, who gave blood, support, ammunition and funds to help South Africans in their fight to end Apartheid. How easily and quickly they’ve forgotten how it was other Ghanaians, Zimbabweans, etc that they kill today that helped them yesterday! In that refrain lies a more sinister group who have asked a question I’ve seen pop up in social media again and again. It chills me to my core.

“How would they like it if we did that to them?”

What an idea. So now we are to condemn the violence of others by proposing violence in return? What a singularly stupid idea! I have only heard this proposal from other Ghanaians, so I cannot say definitively that a Kenyan or a Somali has not said/thought the same. Right now, I can only speak for Ghana and hope to point out our own hypocrisy and minimal understanding of the South African plight.

South Africans – as we all know – experienced colonialism in a way that was unique from the rest of Africa. The English never came to South Africa with the intention of setting up permanent residence…but the Boers did. In a time when they were also escaping their own ethnic cleansing and religious persecution in Europe, South Africa represented their version of the “promised land”. They convinced themselves that the land belonged to them. To wrestle the land from the natives meant they had to employ the sort of subjugation tactics that we north of the Limpopo have never had to grapple with or imagine. While we dealt with the scourge of slavery – and even actively participated and profited from the sale of our brothers and sisters – native South Africans were massacred where they proved inconvenient, enslaved on their own land for convenience, and genetically modified to create a new caste system to further divide. They have never fully healed from that psychological and physical abuse. Coupled with an abysmal education where they have not been taught to see themselves as partners in a Pan African vision, it only makes sense that they would see another African thriving on their land as a throwback to an invasion. I’m not condoning their actions in the least. I pity these misguided souls who carry out these disgusting attacks. They are confused and crazed. But their confusion and insanity doesn’t make a Ghanaian better…and this is a sentiment I’ve seen frequently all over social media.

“At least a foreigner can come to Ghana and feel safe.”

“Our murder and crime rates are WAY lower in Ghana than in South Africa.”

“We in the rest of Africa are just BETTER HUMAN BEINGS than they are in South Africa.”

(These are actual quotes I’ve seen in Twitter. I’m not linking the accounts because I don’t want these guys trolled.)

Let’s first address the foreigner in Ghana. Foreigners feel “safe” in Ghana because we values foreign life far above our own. This plays out in many ways in everyday life. A foreigner will be served at a restaurant or entertainment attraction before a Ghanaian will. When my friends and I went to Fanta’s Folly in the Western Region, for example, the porters saw us approach with our luggage and let us walk to the front desk unaided. We were all Black women. An hour later when the boyfriend of one in our group met us there with only a backpack, two men leapt from their seats to help the scrawny white American man with his 10 lbs bag. We were shocked, but we shouldn’t have been. Look around Osu today for evidence of the same obsequious behavior and you will find it.

A Ghanaian would never dare attack a foreigner in Ghana because he knows (or thinks) that they foreigner is the key to his economic well-being. The foreigner brings jobs and investment. Just this morning, a user left a comment on Joy Online stating that “Ghanaians are good, and that is why the World Bank has come to help us!”

How can we compare our murder/crime rates to South Africans when we don’t even have the mechanisms to track those rates? Look at rape, for example. We can’t even decide as a nation what actions “qualify” as rape, let alone track it. Add to that, our crimes are horribly underreported in our country. Some tried to challenge me on this on Twitter. I asked him to name to official database that houses our crime statistics. He could not. Instead he hit back with “you think every crime in South Africa gets reported? SMH.” Of course not. But at least they have a baseline for projection and estimates. With our penchant for Fa ma Nyame (give it to God) and accepting GHC100 in recompense after a girl has been sexually assaulted by a neighbor or uncle, we can’t say with all honesty that we are “better” or “less violent” than the South African population. Instead, we are more diligent about concealing our lawlessness and offenses.

How then does that make us better human beings than our South African brothers and sisters? We’re better because we do our deeds in the dark, whereas they do theirs in broad daylight for the world to see? There is a reason that just 2 years ago, Ghana was West Africa’s golden boy, whereas today we are a pariah to our development partners. It’s because we are frauds, and our façade has crumbled. We have deluded ourselves and continue to think we can fool the world. We are not better. We are just as corrupt as the South African. Just as violent as the South African. Just as mentally enslaved as the South African. The only difference is that our chains rattle to a different tune.

My husband and I made friends with a Boer man named Henne in Plett a few years back. We had a potluck dinner and he regaled us with all sorts of tales. One of the stories he told me both fascinated and saddened me. It was about a movie he had watched, whose title has long escaped me.

It was about the Boer British War in 1899, where both sides committed horrific atrocities against each other. The war ended with British gaining administrative control over the Trasvaal, while provided several concessions to the Afrikaners.

“I tell you, I cried when I watched that film,” Henne said. “Two see those men fighting like that…ach! But at the end of the film, the two sides looked at each other and promised that no white man would ever fight each other like that again…and they never have since.”


Think about that.

As Henne tells it, to this day, English South Africans and Boers really don’t ‘like each other’, but they have learned to get along for the benefit of their common ambitions: to succeed in SA. What are we doing, people? What are we doing to ourselves? We have to unite as Africans, and these supercilious attitudes and false assumptions about our individual/national superiority is not going to foster that. We will continue to be defeated if we don’t extend our hands in cooperation right now.


Shouts Out to Cameroonian Coffee. It Changed My Life

I was going to blog about the noises Black women hear when their mates speak, but a little bag of coffee got in my way.

As a Ghanaian, I didn’t grow up with coffee culture. As British subjects, the mark of sophistication was to start one’s day drinking tea, and so we have a tea culture. Do we grow tea in Ghana? No! We import it from India and China, but that’s not the point. Successful white colonialists drink tea, and therefore so do we. If we DO drink coffee, it comes in the form of that swill better known as instant Nescafe. If you are even a slight coffee connoisseur, it would not be a stretch to consider it a cup of some of the worst stuff you will ever choke down your throat.

As the Ghanaian palate expands and develops with travel, migration and interracial relationships, coffee is becoming a more integral part of our appetite. Food makes up a huge part of culture, and as our culture shifts to one that is more capitalist in its existence, the business of what to drink takes center stage. A guest of any importance who walks into an office will be greeted by the secretary with a series of questions which often include what said guest would like to drink.

“Would you like coffee, tea or water?” she/he may ask.

If the guest replies “coffee”, how cool would it be to follow up that request with “Ethiopian or Cameroonian coffee?”

Ahhh, but you see, the Ghanaian mentality would be to continue to import Nescafe because it is “French” or to get coffee from Colombia…because well, it’s Colombia. How many of us on the continent know that some of the best coffee in the world is grown right on African soil? I knew this in theory – because I consider myself a part time champion of made in Africa goods – but I didn’t have a chance to confirm it until today. And now that I have, I am SO mad at Chantal Biya, her husband, and the entire nation of Cameroon. African Unity is about sharing, and they have been keeping the good stuff from us for all these years!

In 2013, Marshall and I went on vacation to South Africa, and I wanted to buy myself a souvenir outside of the typical mask, painting or jewelry. While in Cape Town, we went to a wonderful restaurant called Moyo that also sells a myriad of items in the stalls that encompass its grounds which included CDs, some art and coffee. My coffee purchase was a last minute decision, as I only had a few Rand left in my pocket after a day spent shopping and eating. The merchant allowed me to smell some pre-ground beans from different parts of Africa, and the Cameroonian variety appealed to me the most. It was a sweet, earthy scent. It clung to my senses like a long lost cousin. Part of the coffee drinking experience is not just how it tastes, but the aroma as you sip from your mug as well. I gave the man my last R49 (about $5) and took my bag back to America where I vowed to only drink it on the “most special occasions”.

And for two years, it sat in the back of my freezer, completely forgotten. Why do we treat “special” things in this way? Like good dishes. Why do we only use our best dishes on special occasions? Isn’t every day you draw breath a special occasion? Anyway.

This morning, I found myself out of my usual brand of “American” coffee (which always comes ground). That’s when I remembered the small bag I had purchased from SA. I fished it out of the back of the freezer, assuming it was “ready to prepare”. I was so excited that I live tweeted the process of making myself a cup.

coffee1 coffee2 coffee3 coffee4 coffee6 coffee7 coffee8

It changed my life, you guys. I don’t think I can ever go back to regular, pre-ground coffee. Geographical limitations will not allow me to get coffee from Africa (and I refuse to give the exploitative Borg that is Starbucks $22 for a bag of Ethiopian, no matter how good their marketing is supposed to make me feel), so I will make do with what I can get a hold of. But for the rest of my people on the Continent: Please. Let us stop all this suffering, eh?

Let us commit to partake in the goodness that the land has yielded for us. Let’s share our resources with each other. Boko Haram is sharing war and plunder with Cameroon and may expand to the whole west African region…why should we expect evil to spread and not love, ESPECIALLY the love that sits at the bottom of a great cup of coffee? I have seen the light. We need a summit on intra-African trade. We need Moroccan argan oil to be on every beauticians shelf in Africa. We need Malian cotton to cover our African beds at night. We need Ethiopian spices to flavor our African dishes. We need to trade within Africa at a higher level, because this is some bull! I can’t believe I lived this long without ever tasting a cup of Cameroon coffee. Jesus be a commodities trader and importer!

Fix it, Lawd… fix this!


Guest Post from Field Ruwe: Independence: African Lazy Day

By Field Ruwe

I could go to prison just for the title; for dampening the spirit of commemoration, and yet I would gladly go. This is a title that befits the occasion. Google the world and see what I am talking about. We are at the very bottom of the totem pole stuck neck-deep in the primordial mud. We are too languid to use our intellect and figure out how to clamber out of the “dark continent.” The world is saying indolence is our virtue. It has turned us into bloodsuckers. The world is right.

“Yes it is,” quipped a cynic Dole.

I bumped into John Dole at the American independence celebrations at the Esplanade by the Charles River in Boston. I spotted him out of the crowd because of the T-shirt he wore. It bore the map of Zambia with words “Northern Rhodesia Worldwide” running across. He was a six-footer Caucasian with an indelible African sun tan, more like Ian Douglas Smith.

“This looks familiar,” I said, as I approached him.

“Yeah, this is Zambia as I would like to remember it,” he said. “Are you from there?”

“Yes,” I gladly replied.

“I don’t think much of Zambians, I can tell you that,” he said rather discourteously. “That’s why I proudly wear this T-shirt. It is the difference between black and white, you and me.”

“Have you been to Zambia lately?” I calmly asked.

“I just came back,” he replied. “It was a heartbreaking pilgrimage. For years I had wanted to return to my birth place, Chingola. I grew up in Twin Rivers next to Kabundi East. Do you know where that is?”

“Of course,” I replied. “I lived there.”

He continued: “I worked as a Safety Engineer in the mines. Together with other basungus, with the help of blacks, of course, we dug the Nchanga open pit in the 1950s. We toiled day and night like ants and created the second largest open cast mine in the world. We also built what became known as the cleanest town in the country. I mean it was clean, even the black compounds were well kempt with lawns and hedges well maintained and manicured.”

I knew where he was heading, I could tell from the sudden tense hush. When he lowered his voice I readied myself for the assault.

“It makes me upset to talk about Zambia,” he said. “I lived in Zambia up to 1970. When I felt unwanted I went to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and eventually ended up here. For years I yearned to return to my childhood, to Nchanga Mine Hospital where I was born. Friends who had been there warned me, but in January this year I went anyway. When I got there I openly wept, right in the middle of the town center. The town in which I was born was a heap of rubble. You guys have destroyed all our work—buildings, roads, everything white is deplorable—Chingola Primary School, the Vestra Cinema, Tennis Club, Nchanga Swimming Pool, Racquets Club, the cricket fields, rugby, everything. You’ve added nothing new of significance.”

As he spoke, my mind gazed out beyond Boston, across the Atlantic, to my country. I saw not only Chingola, but Chililabombwe, Kitwe, Mufulira, Ndola, Kabwe, Lusaka, Livingstone…I saw them, dilapidated structures; I saw broken windows, stained bathtubs and toilets—I saw broken souls; hungry, diseased—I saw people used to poverty because “that’s what God meant it to be”—I saw graves; I saw my beloved Zambia. With teary eyes I looked at Dole and allowed him to hit me with the words—to whip me; to flog me as hard as he could.

“Nchanga mine is a catastrophe,” he said in a raised voice. “You’ve turned it into a pyramid and allowed treasure thieves to loot and ransack you. What’s going on there is daylight mine-robbing. What is wrong with you people? What planet are you from? Are you all so damn you can’t see ticks are sucking your lifeblood?” He paused and for a second held his breath. “What the heck, it’s a waste of time talking to you. I mean all of you Zambians. Anyway, I had planned to spend a week in Chingola, but I decided to leave that very day. I tell you, another day I would have been arrested for assault because I was as mad as hell.”

He continued: “There was one Zambian who really pissed me off. He gave me the usual bull about white civilization taking hundreds of years. I told him to shut his dirty mouth and keep dozing under the mango tree. You all must do that, keep eating those rotten mangos on the ground and get the diarrhea you deserve.”

He shook his head. “My God you guys are lazy. If we, white people had remained in Chingola, we would have pumped some of the profits from copper into modern infrastructure and build some skyscrapers. Roads would be excellent and Chingola would be adorable. That’s the difference between black and white. Give both of us the Sahara, I’ll turn it into a paradise and you’ll die like a rat.”

He looked me in the eye. “Let me tell you something, as I boarded the plane back home the following day, I felt proud to be white. When I got here, I had this T-shirt made, and I wear it without shame.”

Suddenly fireworks rang in my ears. The sky lit up to the brilliant marriage of thunder and music by the Boston Pops Orchestra. John watched with gratification. He wanted me to see him celebrate the achievements of his race. I, on the other hand was battered; deflated. What I had thought would be a night of fun, turned out to be a disaster. I was trying very hard to bear humiliation without losing heart, but couldn’t, the celebration was overwhelming. The colors in the sky—aquas, lemons, chartreuse, orange, pink were captivating. They left me with failure as my undertaker. When the last cracker went off there was an afterglow of satisfaction in John’s eyes and those of many.

“That’s how you celebrate independence,” he said, beaming. “The people here are not only remembering their founding fathers, but are proud of their sacrifices and achievements. They are proud they have not let their ancestors down.”

I had about enough. I extended my hand to say bye because it was futile to be in Dole’s company—too painful. I did not have any defense mechanism. There was nothing to cling on to—not a state-of-the art hospital; not a research or technical university; not a car, bus, tractor, plough, television set, computer; not even a razor; none of my inventiveness.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” I said.

As I walked away, I was thinking John Dole was lucky I was not King Cobra. He would have spat in his face: “You bulali (bloody) fool, you empty my pockets then you start saying fyo, fyo, fyo. How do you expect me to build with no money, eh? You imperialist, get out. Leave us alone to remember how we defeated you white people on October 24, 1964.”

Yes, it is on October 24 that freedom was attained, and laziness came naturally. No martyrs of sacrifice showed up; no daredevils or geniuses that could illuminate our country like Thomas Edison, and reveal its endless talent. Like poison ivy laziness warped our minds and condemned us to third-rate life. Yes, we sat under the Mango tree and let aliens pick our best fruit.

For all I care we might as well call October 24 the “National Lazy Day,” a day we take a rest from being lazy. What I am saying is that we do not deserve the Golden Jubilee; we have not earned it. Without achievement the world sees our Golden Jubilee as hailing laziness. On October 24, 2014, we shall be celebrating fifty years of free of responsibility and void of creativity. In other words, we shall be reveling irresponsibility and laziness.

Admittedly, freedom was hard work, but it is our accomplishments over time that we should be celebrating. The efforts of Kaunda, Nkumbula, Kapwepwe, and other freedom fighters should climax with contemporary achievements. That is what independence is all about. It is not only self-governance, but also self-sufficiency, and self-reliance.

To all energetic, gifted, intelligent, learned youthful Zambians reading this article, please hear me. Zambia with its abundant natural resources; with all its minerals, flowing rivers, fertile soil, and tourism potential has just been declared the poorest nation on earth with 86% of the population in poverty. If this does not hurt then there is something wrong with you.

Wherever you are, whatever you have achieved, whatever your ideology, pause for a moment and think about how you can salvage our country from shame. Start by taking this beautiful country away from old politicians. For fifty years they have suffered from chronic and contagious laziness and have been riding on other people’s backs like parasites. They are not in it for you, but for themselves. Many are thieves. Please take this country away from them and lead us on a Third World-to-first path.

I know I am flogging a dead horse, but it is worth trying. A few more strokes might just trigger a pulse at this very critical moment in our existence. Remember, it is in the next fifty years that you shall become extinct if you don’t get up and do something about it. Remove the wax in your ears and listen to your heart. Tap into your innate intelligence, the ingenuity that we all possess, and create an over-arching strategy that will save your relatives from dying of hunger and disease.

Reach out to your friends and peers in the country and form one body and one heart. Create a mosaic of talents and dare mighty things so you can taste and celebrate triumph every October 24. By doing so, you will be giving the color of your skin some glitter and respect.

You should have seen the sparkle in the eyes of the Americans as they the sung “God Bless America,” as a symbolic conclusion to their independence celebrations. They deserve it. It is in creative toiling that they have found the joy of achievement. Why not us? What have we done wrong? Why can’t we endure and enjoy hard work? God why? I can’t write any further, I just can’t…I can’t…


Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.


Open Letter to Nelson Mandela

*Disclaimer: One of the possible side effects of meningitis is temporary insanity. And yes, I am aware that Nelson Mandela cannot read this letter on the Internet. Unless… Wait! Is there Internet in the afterlife? I certainly hope so. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Hulu in Heaven?


Dear Nelson Mandela,

Molo! I trust the ancestors and the Lord of Hosts have greeted you all properly by now? Good, good. I remember when I heard the news of your passing, and how I felt. It was light off in Adenta, so I didn’t get the full pundit/commentary/analysis of your passing from TV news. All I got was a crude Facebook announcement that “Madiba has died!” What was that? I must confess, I was relieved when I heard the news. You had been sick a long time, and I don’t like it when people suffer for prolonged periods of time. After all, what else was there for you to do on this earth, after all the years of hard work? I hope it was peaceful and that you are resting comfortably on a cloud near you.

Do you remember earlier this year – just before your birthday – when the world was “praying for Madiba”? We were all encouraged to submit supplications to the Most High for your prolonged life. Your 95th birthday came and went and within a week there were no more “pray for Madiba” hashtags on Twitter. You should have seen how they spoiled your name.




Ah! I wanted to scream. What’s all this? Just say #NelsonMandela and be free!

I must apologize to you, Nelson. I have never written to you before, and I know that that is a great shame. A girl my age should have written to at least one of the heroes of her life time at least once, but I never have. I suppose I still have time to pen a greeting to Mugabe in the coming days. I swear that man will never die. And you know what else is strange? The older he gets, the less villainous he appears in my eyes! Imagine that. Robert Mugabe may have been right all along. Considering Bill O’Reilly’s recent tirade on Fox News proclaiming that YOU, Nelson were “A great man…but [he] was a Communist!”, and that American democracy was no real friend to Black Africa for centuries, I understand old Bob a bit better.

danny gloverIs it true what they say, Nelson? (You don’t mind if I call you by your first name, do you? You see, I never knew you as ‘Madiba’ until that movie Invictus came out. And prior to that, I thought you and Danny Glover were the same person.) Is it true that God downloads your transformed spirit with all the mysteries of the universe, unlocks them and instantly releases full wisdom and understanding? If so, there is something I’d like you to do for me, although I know you probably won’t.

Shogun_(TV)There was once a TV miniseries called Shogun that was released while you were still imprisoned. You would not have seen it. Anyway, in one of the opening scenes, the European explorers step off of their vessel and were met by the Japanese army. They were ordered to lay on the ground prostrate before the general. They complied. The Japanese general steps over to the captain of the ship, hovers above him, and promptly proceeds to piss on his head, much to the captain’s ire and dismay. Mr. Mandela, would you kindly ask God for a hall pass into Hell and piss on Hendrick Verwoerd’s head, Shogun style?

I know it’s a long shot, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You’re so down with forgiveness and reconciliation and all. No? Fine then.

Ei. Did you see the antics surrounding your funeral? My word. Over all, it was well organized and nicely done. There was an incident involving Mr. Obama and a cell phone camera that didn’t go over too well. That was contrived controversy, as it turns out. What was NOT contrived was that dolt they had standing behind 80% of the world’s leaders doing fake sign language. Eruade Yesu! I know you saw it. He said he was suffering from schizophrenia, and that’s what made his hands go crazy. I would have rather he told a better lie and said he was signing in Xhosa.

The real reason I’m writing to you is because I’m very upset about one thing in particular, now that you’ve passed. And that thing is the pervasive perception of your personhood. They are doing it again, Nelson, and it is vexing me. They are turning you into a Messiah.

They did the same thing to MLK, you know? Bundled the entire Civil Rights era into one man and buried it with him. It’s become all very mechanized now, this Black Messiah Manufacturing process. That way, they can neatly bring up the struggle on an appropriate/convenient day for celebration. Second Monday in January usually works well for the American government. Civil Rights gets a bank holiday and we are all supposed to eat our government rationed cheese and chicken. Now they are doing the same thing with the apartheid struggle. Western media has dubbed you “The Father of Freedom” or some such nonsense, and now they want to bury the struggle and all the impending issues with your body on a grassy hill in the Eastern Cape. Not so, I say!

Have you ever considered how liberation movements are treated in the West? The French Revolution, as was the American Revolution, was borne of the people.  There is no one individual that has been afforded the crown of singlehandedly bringing about the end of tyrannical bourgeois or colonial rule. It was an effort carried out by the masses, and we have all grown up understanding that. THAT idea unites the masses, and births the belief that change is affected as a collective. But with BLACK liberation and struggle, they want us to believe that we must have ONE leader, ONE head… and when those heroes emerge, our entire struggle must be bound up in their personhood. What happens then when they die?

Yeah. I know. You guessed it.

You as well as I know that YOU alone did not end apartheid in South Africa, but that is what they are selling us. The struggle against White minority rule began as far back as the Anglo-Zulu war. It has been a continuous fight, and you were a cog in the wheel of that machine, not the machine itself. This is what they are doing, Nelson! They have turned you into a tank!

Hei! Now come and see. They are now having stupid debates about “Who was Africa’s greatest liberator: Kwame Nkrumah or Nelson Mandela?” What kind of divisive nonsense is that? As I understand, President Nkrumah wasn’t too keen on the ANC. He considered your organization too “bourgeois”. They say he was more in league with the Pan African Congress , because PAC supported armed resistance. In short, he said you talked too much, your clothes were too nice and you were ineffective.  However I’m certain he changed his tune when you were caught returning into the country carrying weapons of mass destruction in the late 60’s. Perhaps he’d died by then, so maybe not. I’m a little fuzzy on the dates.

I’ve said a lot, and I still have so much more to say. However, my husband has accused me of being pedantic at times, so I don’t want to overburden you with my plenty thoughts. In closing, my hope is that the media will do better honor to you memory by encouraging us to read about and remember the masses who were involved in the liberation movement in South Africa:

The 67 children shot in Sharpesville.

Ahmed Kathrada.

Miriam Makeba.

Walter Sisulu.

Steve Biko.

Oliver Tambo.

Even your own once beloved Winnie.

Don’t let them turn the struggle against injustice into the life of one man, Nelson! I beg, tell God for me.


With respect,