Cry, the beloved Africa – a tale of two experiences

As we ponder celebrating Africa Day on Monday, from an African bifocal perspective, we need to think about a day when the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is a nightmare of yesterday.

We need to do that so that we can look back into all our surroundings through the dialectical lens of the seminal introduction of a non-African tome in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

For those in the townships, it will become a tale of two townships; for those in the villages, it will certainly become a tale of two villages.

Without fearing contradiction, we will be able to say: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”

We would gladly say it was the best of times because we were given a break from the capitalist rat race to spend quality time with our families and confidantes, an experience through which we discovered more about ourselves and the tapestry of our close relationships.

In this process, those who had plenty began to share with the poor, and we saw NGOs coming on board from all corners of this continent to donate essentials to the less privileged in the true spirit of Oliver Tambo’s ubuntu and Mwalimu Nyerere’s ujamaa.

Conversely, we would hasten to suggest that it was also the worst of times because, for a moment, we thought we were all dying of this virus that did not discriminate against any class.

For a moment, there was an illusion of a classless society as money could not guarantee survival. The problem here was the “illusion”, not the beautiful experience of temporary equality.

Read: Africans should unite in their diversity

We would go further to say that it was the age of wisdom because we started listening to our sagacious elders who dug deep into African knowledge systems and told us to consider African herbs such as Lengana to keep us going in this difficult time as we awaited those who were legalised to find comprehensive solutions to bring them forth.

We would remember that as different countries competed to find a vaccine, rumours came flying that the embattled Italians broke the World Health Organisation’s protocols by conducting their autopsy-based research and concluding that the pandemic was caused, as contended by some before, by a bacterium that is amplified by 5G electromagnetic radiation.

This rumour suggested that the bacteria produce to inflammation and hypoxia, conditions can be cured by the usage of mere aspirin and paracetamol. The theory vindicated our Lengana herb solution once proven correct or incorrect depending on your school of thought.

Dialectically, we would insist that it was the age of foolishness because we saw scientists fighting for positions and recognition from various governments and health institutions in petty ways.

We saw parochial African scholars dismissing indigenous knowledge systems, opting instead to wait for Western vaccines and solutions.

We saw the world melting to the megalomania of US President Donald Trump and his foolish approach to combating the virus and not prosecuting him for the genocide against his subjects, some of whom are of African descent.

We would say it was the epoch of belief because we rallied behind our leadership in our different African states across party political spectrums, because we believed the likes of President Paul Kagame in Rwanda, President Andry Rajoelina in Madagascar and President Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa could save us through their benevolence as they focused on using their state power to combat the deadly pandemic in the best ways they saw possible and plausible.

In the same vein, we would say it was the epoch of incredulity because we saw the second largest island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa contending that a home-made plant-based drink was a miracle cure for Covid-19, which turned Rajoelina into our modern-day Nongqawuse as his pronouncement on the drink divided solution seekers into his believers and nonbelievers.

All of this would not stop us from believing it was the season of light because those of us who feared technology began to embrace it.

In line with the fourth industrial revolution, we began to replace our mass meetings with online ones.

This reminded us that it is time for Africa to rise and occupy its rightful place at the table of the preponderant nations of the world and not rely on big brothers to protect its people.

Thato wa Magogodi.

We also discovered that our children did not have to be in a physical school to continue learning because they could do their lessons online, which equally forced us as parents to pay more attention to the education of our offspring.

In the same fashion, we would contend that it was the season of darkness because we decided to embrace e-commerce and saw social networks such as TikTok and Facebook compete for our attention, but lost a golden opportunity create trade platforms that will craft a sustainable intra-Africa trade system.

It was also a season of darkness because we saw liberals redefine the notion of social distance as physical space between individuals as opposed to the revolutionary political definition denoting class distinction – as dynamic Marxists felt it would appear academic to correct them amid a health calamity that rivals the Spanish Flu of 1918.

We would equally suggest that it was the spring of hope because it was a purifying moment for alcoholics and smokers. After all, their poisons were no longer in open and legal supply everywhere.

Those who tasted the hope embraced the idea of quitting smoking and alcohol in this regard.

In the process, we were reminded that what kills people in cigarettes is the tar and not the nicotine, and thus started thinking of mechanisms of manufacturing African cigarettes that are free of this toxic tar as a healthier vice for those who refuse to quit this bad habit.

Similarly, we would not hesitate to also suggest that it was the winter of despair because we lost priceless loved ones, valuable friends and spiritual guides along the way. Africologists lost the Great Sanusi, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, who taught us never to get angry over shadows.

Despairing the most was that we could not even lay to rest our fallen heroes and heroines in the way we are used to as Africans – parading our crowd rituals and the many of song we are.

On the same note, we would not be shy to the belief that we had everything before us because our families and friends were there for us during this time of need, and so we had love and technology at our disposal.

We had mineral and many other natural African endowments to tap into as long as we knew what to do with them to fortify our independent wealth without begging for anything from the West or the East.

As Paul Kagame once said, these days, “we are even begging for things we already have. That is absolutely a failure of mind-set.”

For a moment, there was an illusion of a classless society as money could not guarantee survival. The problem here was the “illusion”, not the beautiful experience of temporary equality

Thato wa Magogodi

At the same time knowing that we had nothing before us because we discovered that those we had thought to be our historic friends showed us their true colours.

Beyond personal experiences, we saw our historical allies in the struggle to decolonise Africa expose themselves to be our potential future oppressors in the likes of China.

Instead of celebrating with them that the US’s single superpower status in a unipolar world is crumbling to allow for their newly found global hegemony, we had to develop new spectacles of suspicion against the children of Mao Zedong in a multipolar world.

This reminded us that it is time for Africa to rise and occupy its rightful place at the table of the preponderant nations of the world and not rely on big brothers to protect its people.

With all of this in mind, no other superior logic would supersede ours when we echo the words of Dickens when he said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”

Such that one day, just one day, all of these dialectical thoughts in hindsight will melt into a real tale of two experiences in one.

Magogodi is former ANC head of political education in North West and author of the Scam-talk-tionary. He writes in his personal capacity


Cry, the beloved Africa – a tale of two experiences