Southern: Nature/Community: Earth: Direct Democracy

Natural and communal grounding: constituting Africa

African American historian Chancellor Williams (12,13) took some 16 years in all, during the course of the 1960s and 1970s to explore African history, with a view to ultimately releasing, for him as for us, the genius of African societies.

In fact, for him, the traditional worldview of the African, as indeed to be echoed by Herman (see Chapter 15) contained the seeds within it for an ultimately integral perspective which, from his point of view, was contained within cooperative democracy. Such a society, as Williams discovered in Ghana:

• retained a highly civilized scheme of political and social organization;

• had a very definite form of education;

• had a religion that involved brotherhood and cooperation;

• had proverbs which were rich in philosophy of life, as well as poetry;

• prized character formation as the primary purpose of education;

• had a concept of universal brotherhood alongside its tribal values.

The recognition of such, today for him, would lead to the type of cooperative democracy Africa needs (see our Chinyika case in Chapter 6), which:

• receives its fullest expression not at a national level, but in the way people live day-byday in their farms, villages, and towns;

• is the way people locally develop closer human relations;

• is the way the ablest members of the group carry out their leadership responsibilities at a village, district or national level.

Yet inevitably, we cannot merely go back to our traditional past, but need also to find a way of linking such with our modern present and future.

Natural emergence: tradition and modernity: reflections on Africa

Kwame Gyekye (14), one of a significant band of contemporary Ghanaian philosophers, picks up from where Williams has historically left off. The conception of democracy, in Western political thought, for him indeed, places a premium on political rights, but has failed to elevate social and economic rights to the same level of concern. Hence the fulfilment of social and economic needs is left to the private sphere. Democracy, is therefore confined to protecting and furthering such political rights. This, for Gyekye, is a narrow approach to democracy that needs to be broadened.

What needs to be done, he says, in pursuit of democracy and political stability, is to find ingenious ways and means of hammering the indigenous democratic elements – together with exogenous ones – on the anvil of prudence, common sense, imagination, creative spirit and a sense of history in the setting of the modern world. African nature and culture – and experience for him – may yet bring much needed political salvation. Between the two, in fact, capitalist and socialist concepts, there is a division of emphasis between, on the one hand, individuality and, on the other, social equality. The two values should not be held as incompatible. In fact the core concept, which seemingly links the individual with the social, enterprise with community, is "auto-centricism".

Natural and communal navigation: democracy, development, auto-centricity

For Professor of African and African American Studies at Penn State University, Eritrean born Kidane Mengisteab (15), the absence of sustained progress in Africa's development today, and the continent's failure to stem the tide of its present crisis (even with reforms such as Structural Adjustment Programmes) raises questions about the appropriateness of political and economic development strategies and policies that the countries in the continent have pursued. External intervention by multilateral financial institutions (MFIs), the governments of the dominant powers, multinational corporations and a host of other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has also undermined the sovereignty and moral authority of the state. The African state has increasingly surrendered policymaking to external actors, especially the MFIs, the IMF and the World Bank.

With increased marginalization within the global economic system and the state's heavy-handed intervention, some segments of African economies, as a result, have withdrawn from the formal sector and taken refuge in the informal sector. In fact, the rise of the informal sector also signifies a return to a self-reliant auto-centric development. For Mengisteab the shift in the production of export crops to foodstuffs and the relative vigour of the small enterprises that are oriented toward meeting internal social needs are clear indications that an auto-centric approach to development needs to be taken seriously in Africa. The goal of such an "auto-centric" approach is to correct the neglect of internal dynamics in Africa's development effort.

We finally, and in the context of the above, with a view to developing a self-sufficient polity, including nature, culture, society and economy, turn to the case of Chinyika, as articulated by Lessem, Muchineripi and Kada (16) in their Integral Community: Political

Economy to Social Commons, in Zimbabwe with which Trans4m has been extensively involved over the past five years.

Natural and communal effect: food security AT Chinyika

When Zimbabweans Chidara Muchineripi and Steve Kada joined a Masters in Social and Economic Transformation programme run by Trans4m in South Africa, early in the new millennium, their people were starving in their rural communities. Introduced at the time to our so-called GENE cycle of transformation, the Chinyika journey, in rural Zimbabwe, with a view to self-sufficiency, began with Grounding and Activation of the indigenous soil. The ultimate effect of their individual and communal efforts, at first for 5,000 and ultimately for up to 300,000 villagers, mediated by the indigenous crop rapoko, was the realization of food security. All happened over the course of seven years.

The communal leadership in the meantime drew from, and further evolved, the villages' horizontal indigenous structures. Through a democratic process in now traditional- contemporary guise, the Chief, headman, counsellors, village development committees, and extension services personnel were all involved, consulted and contributed to the selection of the project leadership. The leadership, headed by Mai Tembo (Mrs Tembo), coordinator of the community council, clearly outlined its goals and strategy specifically to fight hunger through growing rapoko and in the long run eliminate poverty. Mothers had then awoken to take up their traditional role – the home stands because of the mother – “Musha ndimai". We now turn from naturally/communally-based self-sufficiency to a culturally/spiritually-based developmental polity, and thereby from Southern Africa to India, and ultimately, via an emergent "Eastern" part of both America (Northern California and Boulder, Colorado) and Europe (Central and Eastern Europe), to Sri Lanka.

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