In Africa, life is a tragicomedy

There have been days in my life when I have reached the deepest well of despair or highest peak of pain, or so I thought.
Abahlali residents attacked by rats and fires. (Net photo)
Abahlali residents attacked by rats and fires. (Net photo)

There have been days in my life when I have reached the deepest well of despair or highest peak of pain, or so I thought.

Like losing a dear one, especially from an easily preventable cause.

I muse about the purpose of life and my role in it, and really think it is a waste of time planning, toiling away, and generally living a fairly miserable life in order to save for the future, when I can afford a moderately softer life.

Then do I think of wild extremes, like getting saved, or just plain stop acting cautious or wise and start ‘enjoying’ myself, since whatever one does, they will eventually leave the world stage.

See how easy it is to become a philosopher?

And so this is the main thrust of my musings - that all Africans have learnt to philosophise about their existence, otherwise they would just crack up and the whole African populace becomes fit candidates for sanatoriums.

How else would one take the decision by the African Union to oppose the International Criminal Court’s proposed indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir over his inaction to arrest the Darfur killings, mass displacements and human suffering?

Owing to the gravity of the matter, the United Nations, in agreement with the African Union, formed a hybrid force to stem some of the most dastardly attacks against the civilian population of Darfur.

But the effectiveness of this peacekeeping force has been shackled by the Sudanese government itself, showing further how much its leader is really working towards peace in that region.

Amidst continuing chaos and even worse scenarios where the peacekeepers themselves are being attacked with impunity (and cannot defend themselves owing to the poor armament policies tightly controlled by Sudan), what peace deal is the African Union expecting from Bashir to alleviate Darfur’s suffering?

Ah ah, what about the condemnation of the ICC and support for Bashir that people in Southern Sudan, including a one Vice President Salva Kiir and the entire Government of Southern Sudan, have exhibited?

It is so heart-wrenching that if one does not cry their hearts out it is possible to break into hysterical laughter. The sheer hypocrisy of it all!

There is the lighter side, of course. Like Bashir’s running to President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda for protection against the monster ICC, when it is only recently that the said Museveni said he has not been fighting against Kony (rebel leader of the Lords’ Resistance Army fighting the Ugandan government), but the government of Sudan!

Politics becomes only chess, and the pawns are the unfortunate ordinary people, as the kings do battle across the chessboard. Whoever invented chess…!

We shall bypass the painful circus that is Kenya and Zimbabwe election politics.

Enough said about it; only a passing remark regarding Opposition leader Morgan Tsivangirai’s comment about President Robert Mugabe as reported in a BBC News article titled Mugabe Rival Satisfied At Talks:  “He is just as human as every one of us, that he has similar concerns, although, of course, I think he is ignorant, and/or chooses to be in a denial stage as far as violence is concerned.”  Similar concerns?

Himself bashed out of facial recognition, the countryside ravaged by Zanu-PF vigilantes, people kidnapped and killed and raped and living an economic nightmare every day of their lives, and all Honourable Tsivangirai can say is “he is just as human”! Bah!

But take heart, ye mortals. There are worse scenarios than your imagined woes. When Tanzanians become mournful about their inflation rate hiking to 9.6 per cent, what will the Zimbabweans do, drop dead with a super hyper (or whatever) inflation rate of 10 million per cent, officially at 2.2 million?

Other than reducing the weight and bulk of the bank notes, and reducing also the number of Zimbabwean zillionaires, will the cutting off of three zeros by the central bank’s issuance of a new currency this month improve life in any fundamental way?

It has to be deeper and revolutionary economic and political policies that can bring some meaningful change-around.

Meanwhile, think about the people of Zimbabwe and how they are trying to cope and count your blessings, as your heart bleeds for them.

Then along comes ANC president Jacob Zuma weeping over white poverty in South Africa. Why weep, Bwana Zuma? Ever heard of Kennedy Road settlement in Durban?

There, dear reader, in all the richness and grandeur of the Republic of South Africa, wealthiest economy on the continent, rats are attacking people, and actually killing them!

Early this year, Nkosingiphile Cwaka, a four-month-old baby, died after he was bitten on the head by a rat.

Last month in the same settlement, a two-month old baby, Wandile Cikwayo, was attacked by a rat that gnawed her fingers very badly.

According to Abahlali Press, “an ambulance was called but they refused to come and directed Wandile’s mother, Nonhlanhla, to the local clinic.

However, the security guards at the clinic were chasing people away saying that there were only two nurses on duty and that the people must come back another day.”

A peek into hell? Yes indeed, especially when one regards being refused medical assistance because of the painful reality of few and overworked staff, in a country that should really be a little bit better off than ‘ordinary’ African economies.

Then rats really, in a city like Durban, becoming so many as to endanger human lives and livelihood! All because the authorities cannot clear garbage from the shack settlement, which is the rats’ breeding grounds. What will come next?

Who will convince me against the thinking that it is all about sloppy priorities by the powers that be? Pushing, always pushing their convoluted agendas and nary a thought about the common people for whom they are leaders in trust!

Not even a Modest Proposal by a long shot, but the South African government could closet itself with the Ugandan government, and draw MoUs that will see hundreds of Karimojong transported to Durban, and in no time rats there will be history, as those imposing warriors have perfected the art of hunting down and making a juicy meal of the damned rodents.

Of course this is done to fight hunger, as many of Uganda’s outposts are threatened with famine despite that worthy country’s very impressive annual economic growth figures.

And lastly in this Africa’s grotesque comedy of grief, the same country’s great leaders went with a basket in hand and successfully “lobbied” for aid cash to buy drugs. They got the cash and bought the drugs.

But because Ugandans were so disappointingly healthy that they failed to get ill so as to use the said drugs, the shelf life of the drugs had to expire.

The most logical thing then was to look for ways of destroying the drugs that the people had so inconsiderately refused to utilise. 

But drugs cannot be destroyed just like that, as in burning them up, or dumping them in the outskirts of Kampala, as an unknown confectionery importer once did when part of their stock expired.

Now we are seriously “lobbying” some Good Samaritan to help us with Sh800 million to dispose of these drugs. And I am sure we shall get the money.

I want to dare the reader to get any administration that can beat that in the area of first-class service provision and efficient disposal of unwanted public assets.

And this is just a tiny wee bit of the blooming iceberg. Africa lurches from one great absurdity to another. As Francis Imbuga so aptly put it in the play Betrayal in the City, “When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say that the man is mad.”

The writer is a journalist

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