Madagascar’s herbal cure and the African Solution

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A man gets his bottle filled with a herbal extract believed to protect from Covid-19, in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Photo by: AP Photo/Alexander Joe

Of course, I am not in a position to tell whether Madagascar has found a cure or not or to even condone the cure. But I’m always encouraged and fascinated by a call that Africa must have African Solutions for African Problems. But what I realise in most of the cases is that we are not ready for our own solutions even the hint or possibility of a solution coming from Africa could even shock us with disbelieve and mistrust. Africa has been recreated to mistrust itself and its own institutions. Africa believes in nothing. Africa is irreligious. 

We even forget that in the process of being recreated as untrusting the reality is that institutions facilitate and rewards the use of trust. We trust white institutions being it education, economic, political, social and religious. We trust European medicine. We trust banks and the IMF. We trust parliament. We trust universities. And we trust without questioning and if there are those Africans who questions they are considered mad or becomes a laughing stock. Africa, it seems, has been recreated as empty and believes in nothing or the alternative been believing in anything so long it is certified from outside of our own continent. 

The then President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, questioned the reliability and safety of AZT and was lashed not only because of the high rate of HIV/AIDS cases and need for medication but more so because he questioned the multinational pharmaceutical companies claims and reliability. Even worse, the question was from Africa by a black. It seems then, Africa can never offer a solution and even if there is a solution from outside, Africa must not question it. The disturbing reality with the African silence on Madagascar Cure reflects our consciousness (being it African or Black). Maybe the saying that we should wash our hands in this Covid-19 era has affected us even epistemologically then if that is the case I will respond in the words of Paulo Freire that “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”. There is another possibility that we have a false consciousness, or we are unconscious, but I will also not rule out the possibility of fear. African leaders are playing wait and see game. Africa is waiting for WHO and western countries to confirm or deny. I would not even rule out the possibility of mocking Madagascar. In fact, “such silence has an actual sound, the sound of disappearance” (Suzanne Finnamore).

Silence and disappearance lead to non-contribution and Anton Lembede believed on the contrary or even fiction that “each nation has thus its peculiar contribution to make towards the general progress and welfare of mankind.” Lembede was convinced and believed that “from Africa always comes something new”. I think he belonged to an era that believed in Africa and its capacity. I concur with Antonio Gramsci that “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”

We are living in Africa where nothing new is coming. Africa is rather a copy cat and consumes not only food but even knowledge. Africa has no view and even if it exists she waits for validation from the west. We cannot, therefore, escape that declaration by Confucius that “what the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others”. Africa in its view-lessness becomes the small man. The small man does not have any sense of dignity and pride. It was, for this reason, a call for an African and Black Consciousness was made because Black Consciousness “seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life”. A new-found pride is needed and necessary amid silence, fear and confusion. 

A newfound pride will allow Africa to make its own discoveries with an understanding that there are both successes and mistakes to find the new. The new becomes our solution. The new conquers fear. After all, the aims of African Consciousness are to recreate, to readdress, and to re-centre. Above all, it is to depart from and encourage African worldview and experience. In our recreation, readdressing and re-centring we can correct false perceptions, ideas, and images about Africa and its indigenous life and knowledge. Biko clarifies this arguing that: Further implications of Black Consciousness are to do with correcting false images of ourselves in terms of culture, Education, Religion, Economics. 

The importance of this also must not be understated. There is always an interplay between the history of a people i.e. the past and their faith in themselves and hopes for their future. We are aware of the terrible role played by our education and religion in creating amongst us a false understanding of ourselves. We must, therefore, work out schemes not only to correct this but further to be our own authorities rather than want to be interpreted by others. Is there anything good that can come from Africa? To be or not to be is a question which is circumstantial. But if I had to answer the question, I would answer it using the title of the book of the CEO of AUDA-NEPAD Ibrahim Mayaki saying it is Africa’s Critical Choices: A call for a Pan-African roadmap. 

Boitumelo Senokoane is an associate professor at the University of South Africa.