Friday, March 14, 2008

Africans Lack a Missionary Culture to Influence

By Kufara Gwenzi

Published on November 29, 2006

The article in the Herald (28th November 2006) implored wealthy Africans in general and Zimbabweans in particular, to create private and corporate charitable trusts and foundations for worthy general causes.

Agreed, Africans have a tradition of giving. While we have such a strong tradition that has made each professional African to take care of a lot dependants within the extended family, unfortuantely the giving does not go beyond basic needs – groceries, school fees and clothing.

Such a tradition of philanthropy is so minimal outside the family unit or structure, unless its a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity for the purposes of public relations.

Just like the Chinese, Africans are driven by filial piety – means to take care of one's parents; not be rebellious; show love, respect and support; display courtesy; uphold fraternity among brothers and siblings; wisely advise one's parents; conceal their mistakes; and display sorrow for their sickness and death.

In contrast, Caucasians have a weak family unit and yet their philanthropy is largely for the benefit of 'strangers'. Why do they do so? It is not because they are very humane and caring more than Africans. Its because they are 'ideological missionaries'. Its because their civilization has a missionary instinct. Its because they have ideas to propagate, advance and promote.

A missionary is a person strongly in favour of a programme, set of principles, ideas, standards, values, etc., who attempts to persuade or influence others. Imperialism is a form of militant missionarism, which heavily relied on the role played by the pacifist approach of Christianity.

Missionary Christianity appeals to the soft side of life and therefore easily acceptable without noticing the generational consequences. Religious crusades' intention is to alienate converts from their indigenous spirituality. This explains why imperialism and Christianity are seen as two extreme ends of the same – Eurocentricism. Pacifist Christian missionarism turned converts into docile adherents who did not question the new religion.

Philanthropy is like missionary Christianity. It has particular ideals and ideas it promotes. The issue about our wealthy people is that they are the least idelogically influential people in our societies. They do not want to be 'missionaries' in their private capacities. They lack their own IDEAS and IDEALS. There is simply lack of the personal drive and cultural passion to influence, the instinct to become missionaries of our own worldview, ideas, values and principles. This further explains why we are quick and swift to see a 'Bill Gates' amongst us as having political ambitions.

The nature of African politics is highly distorted because the political side is too superior to the economic one. Imagine a CEO (Sylvester Nguni) of a highly successful conglomerate, Cottco, leaves the comfort of corporate life to become an MP and a mere Deputy Minister. Yet it is the economic side that produces while the political side is inherently distributive and sometimes reckless with resources.

How many 'academic chairs' have been established at any of the local universities as endowed by our wealthy people? How many viable and well institutionalized scholarships and grants have been established by our wealthy people to cater for primary, secondary, graduate and post graduate education? How many research projects or books have been funded by our wealthy people? The road always leads to white-owned foundations like Rockefeller.

That is why Dr. Solomon Guramatunhu said 'Rhodes is still alive'. I am confident that he was not only celebrating the life of Rhodes but also provoking wealthy Africans of what they are doing to create personal legacies.

Established by the Will of Cecil John Rhodes, the Rhodes Scholarship was created to bind together the elite of the former British colonies by bringing promising young men to Oxford University (Britain) to "imbibe the English imperial ethos". Rhodes had told his friend William Thomas Stead that scholars should possess the following traits: "smugness, brutality, unctuous rectitude, and tact."

Webster's dictionary defines "unctuous" as "oily in speech or manner; plastic; mouldable; characterized by a smug, smooth pretence of spiritual feeling, fervour, or earnestness, as in seeking to persuade."

To be capable of implementing Rhodes' plan and attaining his English imperial ethos vision, one should meet the following standards:
  • 30% for "literary and scholastic attainments."
  • 20% for "fondness of and success in manly outdoor sports such as cricket, football and the like." 30% for "quality of manhood, truth, courage, devotion to duty sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness, and fellowship."
  • 20% for "exhibition during schooldays of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his schoolmates."
Rhodes stipulated in his Will that his Scholars “shall not be merely bookworms''. He wanted people interested in leadership. As he put it in his Will, he wanted those elected as Scholars to come “to esteem the performance of public duties” as their highest aim. Far-sightedly for his time, Rhodes expressly stipulated that “no student shall be qualified or disqualified for election to a Scholarship on account of his race or religious opinions”.

The Rhodes Scholarships were established in the year Rhodes died in 1902 is the last three of the wealthy Cecil Rhodes' seven wills, the scholarships were to be given without regard to race or creed. But they were limited to men until the British Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 that caused the Rhodes Scholarship Trust to change the will. The first women Scholars were selected in 1977.
The Rhodes Scholarship Trust provides at least two years of study at England's Oxford University in any field of the scholar's choice, are, arguably, the most prestigious and coveted prizes in all of academe.

Graduates under the Rhodes Scholarship and Beit Trust are ideologically Fabians i.e. they are deliberately middle-class in composition and appeal. They were and are not for building any mass movements at all. They are a small group who work in the existing institutions of society, influence the real leaders in all spheres, and guide social development.

Approximately 85 Scholars have been selected worldwide each year. Currently scholars selected are from the United States of America (32 Scholarships); Australia (11); Canada (11); South Africa (9); India (6); Germany (4); New Zealand (3); Commonwealth Caribbean (2); Kenya (2); Pakistan (2); Zambia (2); Zimbabwe (2); Bermuda (1); Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland (1); Hong Kong (1); Jamaica (1).

There were originally 52 scholarships. During the ensuing 100 years, the Trustees added at one time or another approximately another 40 scholarships, though not all have continued. There have been over 7,000 Rhodes Scholars since the inception of the Scholarship Trust in 1903. Over 4,000 are still living.

The Beit Trust was established under the Will of Alfred Beit, a close friend of Rhodes. Beit died in 1906. The Trust is engaged in making grants within its "Beneficial Area" - namely Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe for health, education, social welfare and environmental projects.

In addition to sponsoring postgraduates, the Beit Trust provides grants to secondary and tertiary education. Because of the vast expansion taking place at all education levels in the three countries, any Beit Trust involvement with secondary schools is ordinarily restricted to help with construction projects.

Alfred Beit was considered Rhodes' business conscience, financial encyclopaedia and his ready reckoner. It was him, who made it possible for Rhodes to be funded by Nathaniel Rothschild since he had good connections with the House of Rothschild in London.

In his Will, Beit created what was originally known as The Beit Railway Trust, the primary purpose of which was to promote the development of communications in the region. Under the original terms of reference, the Trust was able to provide the funds to build most of the great bridges of Central Africa - over the Limpopo at Beitbridge on the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa; over the Save in Zimbabwe; over the Kafue in Zambia; over the Luangwa on the Great East Road from Zambia to Malawi, and (left) the Otto Beit Bridge, opened in 1939, which spans the River Zambezi between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Chirundu.

Out of cultural injunctions to protect the poor, orphans, widows and strangers, as Africans, we have not developed and created any institutional infrastructure, supported by voluntary and private philanthropy. What a pity!

John Gardner, founder of Independent Sector (USA), described it as follows when he was speaking about Jewish philanthropy, "Wealth is not new. Neither is charity. But the idea of using private wealth imaginatively, constructively, and systematically to attack the fundamental problems of mankind is new."

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