Brutus, a character in William Shakespeareâ€™s must read play Julius Caesar, thought Romeâ€™s problems were product of the starsâ€”forces beyond Romeâ€™s control.
Well, Cassiusâ€”another character in the play, didnâ€™t agree.
â€œThe fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings,â€ he said.
Cassiusâ€™ wisdom blunts here that stars are not controllers of destiny. Humansâ€”or say nations, rather, are responsible for their actions.
How I wish Cassiusâ€™ wisdom percolated the corners of every African mind.
It is a continent with people, and they are many, that canâ€™t stop blaming othersâ€”especially the West, for its poverty.
From the 17th to the 19th century, we read that the West, through the slave trade, exploited the labour Africa needed to develop, and used it to develop their nations.
In the 20th century, we read that the West, through colonialism, exploited precious resources Africa need to develop, and used it to develop their nations.
Today, the 21th century we read that the Westâ€”through the IMF and World Bank and multinational corporations (agents of post colonialism)â€”is exploiting Africaâ€™s economies to their advantage.
And blaaa blaaa blaaa and blaaa blaaa blaaaaâ€¦â€¦!
As a keen reader of historyâ€”a field I majored in, and I teach and lecture itâ€”I donâ€™t completely dispute the â€˜exploitativeâ€™ relations Africa has had with the West over the centuries. But I have a question: why should we still be exploited by forces that began exploiting us in 17th century? Is the problem with the exploiter or the exploited?
I will tell you the story of Kayelekera.
As I write, communities in Karonga are steadfast in holding vigils at the mine to force Paladinâ€”a multinational corporation mining uranium at the siteâ€”to live up to the â€˜development promises it pledgedâ€™.
The vigils reflect the national feeling, as well, about Paladin. There are a number of Malawians who strongly believe that the mine is not benefiting the nation the way it should. This explains the reason Thyolo Thava MP Lifred Nawena has echoed MCP legislator Dzoole Mwaleâ€™s earlier call to have the Kayelekera deal renegotiated.
Renegotiate the deal? This is where the story starts.
You know what, everything Paladin does, as part of its corporate social responsibility, is just an extension of the Development Agreement it signed with the Malawi government in 2007. To mean, Paladin did not just fly from Australia and started mining our uranium. It sat down, we donâ€™t know where, with Malawi government officials, agreed on a deal and signed it.
Surely, before we begin to condemn Paladin a symbol of the Westâ€™s modern tactics of exploiting Africa, we must, in the first place, ask: what are the terms in the Development Agreement which Paladin and Malawiâ€™s government officials agree?
I can honestly report to you here that quite a handful Malawians have seen the Development Agreement. Most of them are top government officials. Most of usâ€”even those in Karonga pushing for vigilsâ€”are yet to see this document.
One MP, years ago, in Parliament challenged government to let the document public. He was denied. I interviewed Greg Walkerâ€”Paladinâ€™s general managerâ€” a month ago and he said most of the â€˜unfulfilled promisesâ€™ Karonga people are advancing are not even in the Development Agreement.
So, what basically is in this agreement? We might not know it, of course, but, at least, judging from its effects, we can tell that it was a bad deal. In fact, Perks Ligoya, former Reserve Bank governor, gave a glimpse of the deal when he was reportedly saying, â€œwe made a funny deal, gave out a number of concessions.â€
Against this, is our conscious really sworn to still call shots on the West? The story of Kayelekera reveals that we are never exploited without our consent. To mean, the greatest devil is not the West. Rather, the people we put into leadership.
Why do they fail to put the interests of their people when negotiating such big deals? Why do they enjoy negotiating in silence and keeping the terms of the agreement silent as well?
The leaders that agreed to that deal are not different from chiefs, who after being given a gift of a gun and a glass by the whites, sold Africaâ€™s labour to slavers during slave trade. Not different from the chiefs that, after a gift of a western dress, sold vast lands to settlers whose search for protection heralded colonialism.
In fact, they are not different from Joyce Bandaâ€™s government which wants to sign the Mozambican power interconnection deal in silence without involvement of the public! Swindlers.
Surely, I repeat: the fault, dear Malawians, is really in usâ€”we fail to hold these corrupt leaders to task.