Friday, 13 February 2009

DR DAVID LIVINGSTONE’S MYTH

By Gershom Ndhlovu

 

Not that I care much about Dr David Livingstone, the man whom it is claimed was the first white man to see the Mosi-Oa-Tunya in Silozi or Shungu Namutitima in Toka-Leya--or the Victoria Falls, named after an English queen who reigned during the man’s travels in the central and southern parts of Africa.

The fact that only 2221 tourists have visited his death place somewhere in Serenje between 2001 and 2008, speaks volumes of how poor tourism marketing in Zambia is. A quick calculation shows that less than one person per day visited the place in seven years.

Before I turn to the positive aspects of Dr Livingstone’s travels, or better still, the lack of them, which were themselves a direct harbinger of the infamous scramble for Africa, in which European powers of the time, divided Africa like a piece of cake among themselves, I would like to address one or two issues that affect tourist accessibility to Chipundu, some 100 km from Serenje and about 20 km off Tuta road.

Dr Livingstone’s death place is not only poorly marketed if at all, the road to the area is just better than a footpath, and when you decide to branch off from Tuta road, you need to carry bottled water and snacks because there are none on sale there, not even souvenirs that tourists want to come back with from a significant place as that.

For Dr Livingstone, I do not know why he is so revered in that part of Africa because the only achievement that can be ascribed to him is the renaming of the Mosi-Oa-Tunya and we let him get away with it. Imagine if a Zambian travelled to the south west of England and came across some stones arranged in a geometric pattern which the owners call Stonehenge and rechristened it the Litunga Stones or even the Undi Stones, imagine what disdain and contempt the local people of Wiltshire in particular and the United Kingdom in general would subject that person to.

And yet we have allowed Dr Livingstone’s sacrilege to continue for close to two centuries. Apart from that, we have even named one of our cities after him. Would it not be better for us to call the falls by its original names? Would it not be better for us to call the City of Livingstone, Mukuni City, Shungu Namutitima, Mosi-Oa-Tunya or even Senkobo after the village just north of Livingstone?

South Africa which attained majority rule in 1994 changed names of cities, towns and other infrastructure associated with the brutal past while Zimbabwe in 1980, changed most of the names associated with the colonisers replacing them with relevant local names.

Contrary to what is widely known, the first white people to see the Victoria Falls where South African Boer travellers who did not document their discovery, if discovery is the word to use here.

Equally, Dr Livingstone did not necessarily stop slave trade where he travelled. The degrading trade in humans was truly on its way out as an economic activity because it had been outlawed in 1807, about six years before Livingstone was born into a poor Scottish family, and the US itself had followed suit at the time of his travels into the African hinterland. The trade was becoming unprofitable due to changed legal and economic circumstances. Worse is the fact that Dr Livingstone used to hide each time his party came across a slave caravan for fear of being attacked by the Arab slavers.

Generally speaking, Dr David Livingstone is given more credit than he deserves and this has been ingrained in our mindset that if Livingstone City and the Victoria Falls were called by any other names apart from these eponymous colonial relics, it would be difficult to market the place to tourists.

Far from it. Tourists still flock to Machu Pichu in Mexico, to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and to the great pyramids in Giza in Egypt. Very few non-Scottish Britons know a lot about Dr David Livingstone and the Victoria Falls to the extent that they would miss any changes in nomenclature. They will still visit the Mosi-Oa-Tunya or the Shungu Namutitima if they want to.

The truth of the matter is that Dr Livingstone achieved very little during his travels and that is why the British government recalled him during his second journey but was sponsored by the private sector for his third and final trip. It is his talks at the Royal Geographical Society in London that whetted the appetites of the imperial predators who fell on Africa in the scramble of the continent whose effects Africans are still feeling over a century and half later.

Dr Livingstone must be cast to the dustbin of history as events should be correctly re-written.

….

It is scary, isn’t it, to think that Members of Parliament are asking for the increment in Constituency Development Funds (CDF) from K400m which in itself is quite high, to an astronomical K1 Billion. May be it is because I am not a cadre of any party, but in the three constituencies I have lived in ever since the CDF was introduced, I have never benefited from it in any way.

I know for sure that the majority of people in the 150 constituencies of the country have never seen a single Ngwee of the CDF.

While this is not to say that all the MPs squander the money—there are a few diligent ones—constituents must demand budgets from the MPs and proof of expenditure for the projects the money is spent on.

It is difficult to appreciate PF Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili argument that that CDF should be increased because this is the money that benefits the grassroots and that it is also used “to improve among other things road infrastructure in constituencies.”

I do not remember the last time a grader passed through the roads of most constituencies even in big cities such as Kitwe, Ndola and Lusaka not to mention rural areas where roads a worse than the Martian landscape.

7 comments:

Frank said...

I am not for wholesome change of historical or colonial names. Let's face it the colonial authorities were never selfish in the manner they gave names to various settlements in Zambia. We still have Lusaka, Mongu, Ndola, Kitwe etc today because of these colonialists we love to hate. There used to be Roan and Broken Hill for a reason. I honestly dont know what Luanshya and Kabwe are all about. The history doesnt reasonate. You cannot strip a country or a city of its history and expect to market it as a tourist destination. After UNIP stripped Lusaka of all its so called colonial monuments Lusaka was by implication stripped of its history and soul. It is just a shell on which most bloggers who have visited Lusaka have commented on. Visit any serious city in the world and the local city guide will make you travel through its historical past, its invaders, the traditions and structures they left behind etc. History doesnt start at the point where one assumes power.

Gershom said...

I strongly believe that Dr David Livingstone is just better than a charlatan whose name should be expunged from Central and Southern African history. Europeans and other oppressors, have used history and geography to perpetuate their hold on the minds of the people they formerly colonised. The tourism agreement does not hold water, really.

Zedian said...

Frank,
I think the most important question here is, from whose perspective is history told? They say, history is written by victors, and so it follows that the 'official' history books suggest that Dr. Livingstone discovered the Mosi-o-tunya. This version of events is even taught in schools, which further perpetuates the myth.

These are the historical inaccuracies GN is referring to, I believe.

While I would not like to diminish what Dr. Livingstone's adventures achieved in terms of their place in history, (because his visit did somewhat change the course of our history forever, for better or worse), I am for putting the record straight.

If tourists keep away because Livingstone town has been renamed to Mosi-o-tunya or something, then so be it. For every one that keeps away, (if any), there will be many more open minded ones that will visit for what the place has to offer today as well as to appreciate our version of events in history.

Gershom said...

Point of correction: the last line of my comment should have read the tourism argument does not hold water, really and not the "agreement".

Zedian, I could not have expressed it any better than you have done: HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY VICTORS. How right you are, brother.

Our own history as Zambians, Africans and Blacks has been ignored to the extent that we think that our history starts with Barack Obama, Lewis Hamilton or Muhammad Ali.

People all over the world know William Wilberforce--I knew about him when I was in Grade 7 in 1978-- as the man who championed the abolition of slavery in Britain. Indeed, he did but the fire was ignited by a former slave, Olaudah Equiano who also has the distinction of having fought alongside Lord Nelson.

Obama is today occupying the White House as president, a black woman and gallant fighter for the emancipation of slaves, Sojourner Truth visited the White House over a century and half ago to press for the end of slavery. Do people know her? On the contrary, we are more knowledgeable about Otto Von Bismarck and his diplomatic exploits in the 1870s.

Our local heros and heroines such as Mpezeni Nsingu who was hanged by the colonialists in 1897 is all but forgotten. We remember Starr Leander Johnson for whom Chipata was named as Fort Jameson.

It is only when we teach our children what is correct and relevant from our point of view that we will truly liberate ourselves and not waiting for tourists who are themselves as ignorant about basic historic and geographic facts of the world surrounding them.

kush said...

@ Gershom,

i could not agree more with you, in our part of the world history is a dead subject only memorised in school to pass exams,little do we appreciate it's living power to motivate.
Imagine if kids understood that the pyramids were erected by people of a dark hue not white, that history didn't begin with slavery or missionaries combing the continent for resources, i tell you their esteem and atitude in life would be different.

http://www.zambiana.proboards86.com/index.cgi

Yakima said...

Gershom,

I like where you are coming from, and even in the english language, the Smoke that Thunders, is much more useful at motivating tourists here on the Pacific Rim than reference to some dead British monarch. Then again, to the extent that the winners get to write the history, perhaps Victoria's Tears would be popular. The local Native Americans tell me stories of early contact with western "explorers," who would often get into trouble with local languages. For example, a set of explorers would make contact with a Tribe and try to get information about the surrounding area, dutifully recording Native names for places, and sometimes neighboring peoples as well. They often did so with recognizing what local rivalry might have done to these names, which may have named a place, "where the filthy excrement eaters live," with the local inhabitants being the aforementioned FEEs. This sometimes led to awkward introductions when the explorers continued their journey into the neighboring territory and boldly proceeded to try and make friends with the FEEs. They laugh about it now, even though it didn't seem too funny at the time.

Sojourner Truth is better known here than Bismark (people think of the ship, not the man). Equiano and Wilberforce are taught as a single sub-unit of the end of slavery, like the Amistad incident, largely overshadowed by the American Civil War. In spite of the tokenism often displayed by the american media, or perhaps because of it, starting with tv shows like Star Trek, public information projects like Black History Month, and yes, the renaming of parks and boulevards after leaders like Dr. King, americans under 40 entirely expect to find African Americans in positions of power. That's a big reason why even states like Iowa with 2% African American populations still voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The division of votes here was much more about age than anything else, which has everything to do with what history they have learned and media images they have been exposed to.

If renaming the falls will get the next generation of Zambian voters to raise their aspirations and expectations of themselves and their leadership, then go for it! If it will give them the pride to insist on a national balance of trade that steadily enriches the nation rather than bleeding it dry, then go for it! If it will convince them to wear cloth woven on Zambian looms rather than cheap industrial imports, much as Gandhi urged his Indian countrymen to as a necessary step toward breaking the bonds of colonial exploitation, then go for it! Do it, but make sure that people know why it is being done, otherwise I doubt that the change would have much effect.

MrK said...

Hi Gershom,

I know for sure that the majority of people in the 150 constituencies of the country have never seen a single Ngwee of the CDF.

While this is not to say that all the MPs squander the money—there are a few diligent ones—constituents must demand budgets from the MPs and proof of expenditure for the projects the money is spent on.

It is difficult to appreciate PF Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili argument that that CDF should be increased because this is the money that benefits the grassroots and that it is also used “to improve among other things road infrastructure in constituencies.”


There is a way around the 'developmental role' of MPs, and the issue of constituency development funds.

Give 50% of national revenues directly to local government councils. Have all kinds of checks in place, such as publishing all expenditures and having financial officers keep track, with penalties for councils that do not keep track of their cash.

That would be a far better way to ensure that money is spent locally, that it is spent by someone who lives and maybe has grown up in the local council, and that local issues are heard in the spending of that money. It would also reduce the dependence by local councils on local taxes and levies. And as a bonus, it would keep money from getting stuck at the ministerial level and financing the already huge bureaucracy.

The money can be made available by reducing the ministries from 29 or so to 10-12, elimination duplicate functions and political positions, and generally streamlining central government.