Motorcades And Bodabodas: The Green Saviour Complex?

One of the things that really annoys me when watching almost any film about Africa, be it Blood Diamonds, Biko, or movies about Rwanda, is the white saviour complex. You cannot have Africans doing it for themselves, doing it on their own, succeeding on their own. 

There must always be some funky white guy who makes the difference between success and failure. Sure, the whites may be around, and some may even support, but are they really the deciding factor between success and failure? It maintains a false or lying narrative, which impacts our consciousness.

However, more recently, we have seen the rise of a new phenomenon, the green saviour complex currently epitomised by the travels of a man whose motorcade is even longer than his official title and who distributes largesse to a lucky few who happen to get to the front of the queue. 

How many people could solve their problems with the money used in motoring around the country with an entourage to gladden the heart of any king or queen? Thousands of litres and poshos, or allowances, to save one child and hold one minister to account.

And that is it. It was always one of the preferred methodologies of kings and queens. High-profile distribution of money to the needy –a few of them– by themselves or their servants and summary judgements on their errant administrators, whom they had appointed in the first place, was just what was needed to justify their enormous expenditures on themselves, which could have gone to a more systematic approach.

Mr Seven Days

But now the colour of the complex has changed, and in its latest version, even the manner of the complex has changed too. Old fogies like myself remember Mr Seven Days, who, as a minister, went around to solve all intractable problems by demanding a report within seven days. 

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Of course, he later discovered that intractable problems are not subject to the law of Genesis, and there was evening, and there was morning, and the problems disappeared. He also discovered, to his shock, that people were telling him lies. Instant judgements are a recipe for being told lies. 

Then, later on, you realise that the judgement was incorrect, but it is usually too late to rectify anything. Mr Seven Days lapsed into silence. The then-president also tried to do the same, opening the doors of Lumumba and his ears to the cries of the mistreated and the exploited. It is the same issue, and, of course, above all, removing the salt from one drop of water does not make the ocean drinkable.

Kurwa na Doto tried a different method. They actually went to work with the people and got themselves filmed doing so. The opposition mocked such hypocrisy, but they failed to realise the power of the symbolism. While they mocked, Kurwa na Doto restored the image of the green giant, which its own actions had severely damaged.

Interestingly, too, they did not resort to the distribution of money to the lucky few; one drop does not make an ocean, but rather raised issues and chastised ministers whose actions or non-actions were harming the people. 

I guess, in a way, they imitated Mwalimu himself, who used to go off and farm for a week or more with the people in different villages from time to time. In that way, he not only got a clearer picture of real life but could separate the wheat from the chaff over that time. He preferred not to make headlines about each bean he ate or the cassava plant he fertilised, but the result was the same.

A secretarial motorcade

However, in recent times, the hoe has been replaced by the motorcade trailing in the wake of ‘Bongoman.’ It started with our late beloved, and now it has been resurrected in an even more potent form. After all, we are a little inured to presidential motorcades even if not enamoured. But a secretarial motorcade is something else. Yes, cases have come to light and have been addressed, but at what cost?

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But how would we know that all these people needed to have their problems solved I hear people cry. Ay, there’s the rub, as Hamlet said. The magnificent motorcades of our mighty M have truly succeeded, not just in contributing to the self-aggrandisement of the mighty man himself but also in bringing to light just how many things are not being brought to light by our systems. Whether the opposition mocks or not, the voyage has done exactly what previous voyages have done.

Convince the masses that they are loved and cared for. Just like our collective betting mania, even if the money did not fall on my head, one day, yes, I will finally be heard and compensated. Really brought to light so many cases that are more than shocking and need to be addressed.

These cases can be divided into two: One, people seriously in need of financial support given the difficulties of their circumstances. And we should not be fooled. While helping this person or that person is wonderful for them, there are thousands with problems of similar or greater magnitude.

Two, abuses of power. Mwalimu Nyerere said somewhere, I think, in his seminal essay on Progress in Rural Areas, that power abhors a vacuum. It will be filled. He was talking about villages, but it could be applied to districts or even regions that are out of the limelight. 

Standing up

If people cannot or do not stand up to those with minimal power and systems of accountability are in the ICU, they will increase and misuse that power, especially when they know that they can act with impunity. 

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These tales of torture, neglect, exploitation, and even murder cast a brief spotlight on what is happening in these power vacuums without any lighting that seems to have become an integral part of our systems.

So kudos to the mighty M for bringing these few to light, but they will remain a drop in the ocean of suffering, as happened with his predecessors. 

It may redound to the popularity of his party but not to redress the serious abuses of power that continue to take place as it is only in movies that one man can slay all the dragons and restore justice and peace to the earth.

And Bongomen should be aware that such ‘superpowers’ can so easily lead to arrogance and the fall. We already see that massive motorcades of the mighty M are the answer to the people’s plight, not even the justice system, for all its flaws. What next?
Richard Mabala is an educator, poet, and author. He is available at rmabala@yahoo.com or on X (Twitter) as @MabalaMakengeza. These are the writer’s own opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further inquiries.

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