There are few persons who deserve to be pitied more than the fellow who tries to raise the esteem in which others hold him than he who boasts to them that he has just had lunch with some celebrity, for example, or spent a private hour or two with some great man or woman of popular renown, as though the experience had in some manner made him somebody to be admired.
Equally pathetic is the person who does the opposite but with the same motive, the mean-spirited little man who would pull another man down, particularly a person of historical importance, by insulting his memory by denigrating him, railing against perceived flaws in his character, and his misdeeds, real or imagined, yet never crediting him with any good he might have done, even going to the extent of demeaning himself by urinating on the great man’s grave!
In his article “Zim @ 35” (the Zimbabwe Independent, April 17 2015), Ibbo Mandaza gives us an insight into the shabbier corners of his character by smirkingly describing how twice he ritually urinated on Cecil Rhodes’ grave in the Matopo Hills, and induced 43 schoolboys to do the same, as though to punish Rhodes for his misdeeds, and express his dislike of the man. One wonders whether Mandaza indulges in such other puerile behaviour as peering through the keyhole in the door of the girls’ changing room or sniffing their bicycle saddles?
The irony, which seems to have escaped Mandaza is, of course, that by indulging in such school-boyish pranks as relieving himself on Rhodes’ grave, he unwittingly paid Rhodes the compliment of acknowledging the man’s greatness, for if Rhodes had been a mere nonentity, Mandaza would have derived no infantile satisfaction from indulging in such fatuous behaviour.
I am sure that if Rhodes’ spirit had witnessed these incidents, rather than be outraged or feel insulted by them, he would have shaken his head pityingly at the sight of a mature man of high intelligence making a public fool of himself, particularly in front of youngsters to whom he had a duty to set a good example, who probably wondered whether he was quite normal.
Nobody will deny that there was a lot that was bad about colonialism, and that, as in Rhodes’ case, not all great men of history were wholly good, for greatness is not synonymous with goodness, and indeed many such men did things which were very bad, which might truly be said of Rhodes and his fellow colonisers, but whether Mandaza likes to admit it or not, colonialism brought some things which were good, and is an indispensable part of life in Africa today, as in other parts of the world.
Mandaza and others like him need to be reminded that when the colonisers came to Africa, the people here were living in the Garden of Eden, with mild winters and plenty of food. They had no motive to change. There was no intellectual curiosity in them. They went from generation to generation doing the same things over and over again.