Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ta- Lakata by Zindaba Nyirenda - A contra positive to Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid.

Book Review - Part 1

In this book Ta Lakata (we are dying) Zindaba Nyirenda expresses at times painfully, what many Africans belabor, the quest for self-identity, personal conflicts with modernity and our collective anguish and inability to prevent the loss of so many lives to disease and poverty.
Using her native tongue Tumbuka, where English fails to give full meaning, she explains her lineage and personalizes Zambia’s fate under both colonial and post independence governance. What emerges is picture endemic in all of Africa, that the colonizers, as do multi national investors now, only needed the collusion of a few rulers to gain unfettered access to Africa’s wealth of natural resources.
But rather than outline Zambia’s decent through the prism of poor Zambians in urban settings, she unlike Dambisa Moyo (Zindaba’s cousin, contemporary- author of Dead aid) takes the reader to rural Zambia, remembering her roots and her past in a village setting. She paints a graphic mosaic of life in Lundazi, a poor part of the eastern province where she and Dambisa Moyo trace their family trees; it is representative of most of rural Zambia. Now as then, it lacks in clean water, basic shelter, adequate health centers, schools, and roads.
The lives of rural Zambians have in large part been the melting pot of  the conflict between western ideals and local interests; dating back to a time when colonial masters imposed head taxes on poor villagers, to force them into mining labor.

The central question now, as then is -
What is the best way to bring their daily lives within the norms of 21st century livelihood?

That is at the heart of this book and “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo -  is the answer simply curbing exploitation by western entities or a complete stemming of theft and waste of public funds by corrupt governments?

Zindaba would like to start from the genesis of western involvement in Africa, she wants a meeting or indaba with agents of the principals from the 1884 Berlin meeting.  The outcome of that meeting  set in motion the colonization of Africa. She would like to call back the hand of time and  reset the terms of western engagements in Africa ; demand restitution for plundered resources. 
She takes particular aim, at the Rhodes scholarship, which was started with proceeds from Cecil Rhodes estate, yet less than a hundred  Zambians  have been granted scholarships since it was started in 1902.
She contends that, since the Rhodes scholarship fund consists of proceeds from mineral resource exploitation from Northern Rhodesia (named after Cecil Rhodes), it should therefore benefit more Zambians. By contrast, more than a hundred Americans have received Rhodes scholarships. Though Cecil Rhodes intended recipients to meet the highest academic requirements, applicants from southern Africa should have a comparative advantage over other regions whose resources were spared by his untimely death; Cecil Rhodes is said to have once remarked. 

“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race...If there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible...”

In regard to current Western entities in Zambia's mining sector, Zindaba  bemoans the poisoning of rivers and the pollution of air as a result of poorly regulated mining activity since the 1920’s. She attributes the high incidence of respiratory diseases on the copper belt to polluted air and poisonous metals dumped into the Kafue River. To redress this, she calls upon educated Zambians to return from Diaspora, to oversee environmental intervention programs, monitoring and restoration of water systems.  To help the Zambian government develop an effective regulatory framework to enforce environmental protections and monitor pollution  of public resources like water and air.