I had the privilege of meeting Rosemary Nyerere on Friday night as part of the Haiti Solidarity Day. Crossroads Women’s Center held a reception for Rosemary who is a beautiful gentle woman with a great inner strength and wisdom. She was on her way with Selma James (widow of CLR James and a member of Crossroads) to Venezuela to speak about the concept of Ujamaa and to relaunch the principles of the “Arusha Declaration”
“… a statement that placed the common welfare of the people above individual interest; it underlined the role that leaders have to assume, to serve those that lead”. [The Arusha Declaration: Rediscovering Nyerere’s Tanzania. Crossroads Books]
I had never read the Arusha Declaration and only have superficial knowledge of Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere in terms of his role in the struggle for independence in Africa and as a Pan Africanist along with Nkrumah. But reading it now I realise what a revolutionary document the Arusha Declaration (AD) was and still is. One example of the AD which has since been dismantled in Tanzania was the removal in 1992 of all restrictions that had previously prevented Tanzanian leaders from participating in business activities. Nyerere believed it was not possible for those in leadership positions to serve both the public interests and their own private commercial interests and to do so would lead to corruption.
A close examination of Nyerere reveals his position on the status and role of women in Tanzanian society. A position that our present political and religious leaders have failed to develop in any meaningful way. Speaking to a group of Tanzanian women he states
“I have said more than once that women are indeed the workers of Tanzania. In the village women have no holidays and no working hours.”
Nyerere expands on this statement in the AD itself…
“It would be appropriate to ask our farmers, especially the men, how many hours a week and how many weeks a year they work. Many do not even work for half as many hours as the wage-earner does. The truth is that in the villages the women work very hard. At times they work for 12 or 14 hours a day. They even work on Sundays and public holidays. Women who live in the villages work harder than anyone else in Tanzania. But the men who live in villages (and some of the women in towns) are on leave for half their life.”
“The energies of millions of men in the villages and thousands of women in the towns which are at present wasted in gossip, dancing and drinking, are a great treasure which could contribute more towards the development of our country than anything we could get from rich nations”.
Anyone interested in searching for an alternative socio-economic-political system in Africa should read the Arusha Declaration and the principles behind the concept of Ujamaa. Yes, there has been much criticism of Ujamaa especially in the Western media not least because of Nyerere’s own criticism and condemnation of Western governments which was relentless and uncompromising. Other African leaders who chose to challenge neo-colonialism and Western domination in Africa by trying to implement alternative socioeconomic political systems such as with Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara ended up assassinated. A policy which remains today in for example, the attempted assassination and coup attempts against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the nearly 50 years of economic blockade against Cuba by the US.
In the spirit of Mwalimu Nyerere and Pan Africanism, the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement, issued the following important statement in solidarity with the Haitian people.
As we are going to sleep today, most of us who have watched the vidio of the suffering of the people of Haiti as strong as we are, can not enjoy the food that we are lucky to eat, not to mention our inner peace. Abahlali as a Movement would be guilt of a serious offence if today it can not think critcal about what needs to be done to stand in Solidarity with the people of Haiti. As today the World enters the 3rd International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People.
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA. is the World on its own. Hence our members are made out of all four aspects of life that is the phyisical, mental, emotional and spiritual, the Movement is so concern about the struggle in Haiti. I have tried to capture some of the comments in that deep discussion after the vidio show on the questions such as what did people feel about the situation in Haiti? what can human beings do about this? What can the Movement do? What can SA as a country do?, What needs to be done? Suppose this was our own sceneriou, what can we do? A lot of discussion was generated some of the responses were as follow:
Zodwa ” we are concern as a Movement, can’t we write letters to the Haitian government and sectretary general of the UN and express our deepest concerns about this inhumanity. This is so painful that we can keep quite about it.” ”Motha it sounds that this situation will finally coming to SA, but why is our country quite about this. It is said that our own peace icons like Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and others are not saying anything, the SA media does not say anything”. System” this is so touching if we can hear direct from them, what form of support or help will they want from us. May be we should hear direct from them what is their constitution like, does it allow them to march or not, then we can assist and advice them on our own experience”. Mazwi” I do not see the people of Haiti I see my sisters, my brothers, my mother and my father. I can not be silenced because this vidio is not seen in SA. I am sure it started slowly and softly like How Senior Superintended Glen Nayager of Sydenham SA Police brutalize Abahlali. It may be coming to us”. Fanwell ” I think we should consider contacting the Haitian Embasy in SA and invite him/her to Abahlali meetings and have a discussion with him/her, so that we tell him or her how concern Abahlali are with UN/US invasion of Haiti without the will of its citizens. Let us share this vidio with this embasy. It is clear that the UN is controlled by the US. We should tackle this issue with the highest possible level, let us approach International Court of Justice and see how far we can go in support and deffence of democracy in Haiti”. Mafelubala ” We need to set up a mass prayer and mobilize our communities and pray in our individual space. This is so touching. We still believe to the Only God of the Universe that one day things will change”. Mzi ” I feel so bad about this vidio, let us not see this pain as an isolated evidence of an attack against the poor. We do not know how it got started, may be it is the same battle that we are waging. I feel we should raise funds for them each cent count to support them”.
Each member vows to write some solidarity message for the support of the oppressed, each member vows to take this picture and information to their churches to share it to all members of the church and ask every one to pray. Some will take it to their schools and those studying at the UKZN will do like wise. On the 21 March Abahlali vows to mourn the violation of Human Right in Haiti as SA celebrates its Human Right Day. The Movement will conciontise the people of SA about the slaughtering of the Haitian by UN/US forces. Its is so disturbing having seen murdering of babies, young children and women in a war of this nature. The world is not doing enough to condemn the killing of innocents. Who gain out of this blood shed? Who feels proud of governing a country of pain, sloughtering and death? may be none from the indeginous people of Haiti, someone from outside Haiti. Haiti please wake up, be careful of the third force. Members felt they do not have so much to fight for peace but at least each member is so reach spiritual, clean in hands, commited to peace and justice.
With all our hearts, love, strength, ears. eyes, prayer etc we will do what ever we can to contribute to peace and justice to all who suffers the brute of injustices in Haiti, Kenya, Zimbabwe and else where in the world. Amandla is still yours to overcome the evil oppression. We want to further salute those who are working hard taking pictures, information, sending the vidio over and keep the world informed,”
Compiled by S’bu. Zikode
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA.