Pan Africanism that deifies oppressive African leaders is toxic to ordinary Africans

Not yet uhuru: An elderly man holds up the Zimbabwe flag at the 37th independence celebrations at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where, despite achieving political freedom the country is still far from achieving a better standard of living for all.

Reflecting on the cash crisis in Zimbabwe and the undeserved suffering of its people, Joyline Maenzanise is tired of black activists who idolise liberation movement leaders like Robert Mugabe, but don’t care enough to immerse themselves into the experiences of fellow black people.

Going to the bank in Zimbabwe has become a dread. Each month, I have a day or three when I wake up early and get ready to travel to town. By 5am, I make sure I am leaving home to catch a taxi to town. If it was not that it is harder to get a taxi before that time, I would be leaving my place earlier. In summer, the wait is bearable. By 5am, it is already light outside and I can see clearly and do not need to be as vigilant as I would have to be when it is dark.

The ride to town normally takes me around seven minutes. There are already queues at that time. Everyday seems like there is a run on the local banks as there are long lines of the ordinary Zimbabweans waiting to get their money from the banks. Even old folks, some even older than 60, brace themselves for the harsh weather and come to start an early day at the bank. Having gotten to the bank around 5am, I know I have – at least – two and a half hours of waiting in the queue before the banks open for business. Again, if it is in the summer season, this is bearable. With all that time, one looks for whatever ways to distract themselves and hope that the time flies. If I am in the mood, I strike up a conversation with other people there.

During one visit, I spoke with the security guard at the bank. Turns out some people are sleeping at the banks. The queues I see when I get to town start the previous night. Those fortunate enough to have cars can spend the night in their cars. For the rest, it is a different story. The guard said it ought not to be surprising that some of the people in the queues are robbers waiting for the opportune time to rob people. Much to my surprise, he said any such happenings in the queue were not his concern. It is the bank that needs security and not the people in the queue.

As someone who had been in South Africa for the past seven years, I was surprised to know that – some time, last year – people were able to withdraw as much as US$1 000 a day. One could come at any time and they would get their money. Just like what I had grown used to in South Africa. We all anticipated the introduction of the bond notes to set off a negative chain reaction. It did. People rushed to take out their money from the banks just to be sure it was safe. Everyone wanted to hold on to their greenback. Slowly but surely, it became harder to get cash at the banks. No deposits being made means the cash reserves are low and not many withdrawals can be made. Well, this is the picture the banks paint to the public. Now, banks have pegged the withdrawal limit at US$40 per day. Still, other banks have a weekly withdrawal limit. US$50 – imagine!

While one waits, one only hopes that there will be money on that day. The cash crisis in Zimbabwe seems to only be worsening and getting cash is becoming a matter of good luck. With the situation as it is, most people make sure to reserve a spot at several banks. In the case where one bank has no money, they can quickly check the other banks. One is also even luckier to get their cash the first time they travel to town to collect it. It looks like the rainy season is early. I hate to even think about waiting for hours outside the banks, in the rain.

I could go on about the hardships many are enduring. I don’t want to. I am disappointed, angry and I have had enough. I have had enough of this undeserved suffering. And I have had enough of the current wave of “Pan Africanism” that continues to deify African leaders who unflinchingly oppress the people whose interests they are meant to place above their own.

I have had enough of black activists who hate white people so much that they do not even care about the experiences of fellow blacks because “any leader who has had the audacity to put white folks in their place is a good leader – a champion of black liberation, a lion of Africa”. I have had enough of black activists who tend to blame “Western forces” when we should be holding black leaders to account for their failings. I have had enough of black activists who want us all to rally behind black leaders just because they are black and especially when they are the leaders giving white people “sleepless nights”.

I have had enough of black activists who place more value on history and the heroic role played by certain black leaders but conveniently overlook their current leadership and how it has impacted the lives of those they (are meant to) serve. I have had enough of black activists who chant “Black Lives Matter” but only refer to certain blacks of a certain class, certain gender, with certain educational background, from certain countries.

I have had enough of Black activists who know more about what Fanon or Biko said about black liberation but do not care enough to immerse themselves into the experiences of fellow black people – experiences which tell a story of oppression under black rule, a story of how black people have failed their own people – the people who believed in them.

I have had enough of pan Africanists who view Zimbabweans as a free people. We are NOT FREE!

Joyline Maenzanise is a queer, gender non-conforming writer and poet based in Zimbabwe.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.

Featured image  by Tendai Marima


  1. 👏 thank you for the courage to say this. Unfortunately the Daily Vox has few readers left after the barrage of fake news and Gupta propaganda it started punting in 2015.


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