Speech by Milan Djordjevic at the launch of A Casualty of Power

A Casualty of Power

By Mukuka Chipanta

Launched by Milan Djordjevic

Honorary Consul of Austria

 


Tuesday, 29th November, 2016

                                                               

To paraphrase Wendell Berry: The air, the water, the earth and what we dig out from it makes us rich. But these are gifts. ‘We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn't make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn't live without them.’ Remarkably, however, the economic system we have constructed, regards such gifts as resources or assets to be exploited. Fair enough, maybe, as it gives them an essential value, but it also allows governments and politicians to lease out such assets to businesses in the name of the people. The result of this simplified trade-off is often not only the destruction of our environment, but also a disruption of socio-economic relationships, which often result in further degradation and poverty.

Recently there’s been a shift in our understanding of these relationships, and we have come to realize the truth of Wendell Berry’s statement that, ‘Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do’; and that, ‘an economy that is genuinely local will offer a measure of security superior to that controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment’.

Highly industrialised societies have learned these truths the hard way. The monetary paradigm is being openly criticized and debated, and measures are taken to negotiate and balance out systemic faults. All participants in these economies are involved. This new awareness arguably and in a radical way, translates to the recent quite surprising changes in voting patterns across Europe and the US.

Clearly this thinking is global and cannot circumvent Africa. With the development of communications, Africa can now see that blaming governments which in turn shift the blame onto the usual suspects – former colonial powers or, more recently, China – which in their turn bounce the blame back to governments, creates a vicious cycle which essentially avoids all responsibility. Thus the aphorism ‘Think globally, act locally’ is a reality which can no longer be ignored. Local communities have come to appreciate that they are also party to this deal, which includes both a share of the gains and a share of the responsibility. A few of the more responsible corporates have already come to terms with this, and the rest will be compelled to follow…

In this regard, I am honoured by Weaver Press to present a novel that addresses these quite complex relationships.  Zimbabwe should be proud to have a voice which can challenge the public to engage in a process of critical thinking. These are publishers who have the courage and energy to spark a civilized intellectual debate, and are committed to represent Africa in all its glory, and contradictions. For example, Becoming Zimbabwe, a history of the country, has been translated into Mandarin, thus offering a significant contribution to deepening the understanding between Zimbabwe and China. This in some way applies to the novel we are launching tonight, A Casualty of Power.

It offers a story of BIG MONEY and BIG BUSINESS and its influence on society. This is a universal story, and is applicable to many communities worldwide: Bolivia, Ethiopia, West Virginia, Hubei province for instance. Unfortunately, in human striving for progress there are casualties, and obviously certain sacrifices are unavoidable…

The author, Mukuka Chipanta, skillfully manages to piece together a story which is relevant to this part of Africa, and which addresses complex yet pertinent issues, including HIV, gender relations, cultural heritage, colonial heritage, freedom fighters, Chinese business expansion, war in the DRC, class contradictions, cultural differences and prejudice – to name just a few. Indeed, it is truly amazing to me how all of these issues are touched upon in only 200 pages of a book, one which is easily digested within a weekend.

I have to point out, however, that you have to be immersed in this part of the world in order to perceive all the intricacies subtly woven into the structure of the novel. Injustice is a key ingredient in this story. It is a driving force that has the capacity to motivate or to destroy. Moreover, despite harsh words being spoken, and evil deeds done, this book does not place the blame squarely on anyone ,but rather invites and opens a dialogue. All the main characters involved in this story are casualties of power. All involved are just mere victims of circumstance. And so it often happens in real life. The author, Mukuka Chipanta, pushes us into reflecting upon our role in our community.

In my view: We rush through life believing in concepts and ideals which defy the natural hierarchy; oblivious of our precious surroundings; not even noticing the good people that helped us on our way in pursuit of our selfish interests.

Well, it seems that the prism through which we see this world has shifted. This novel, A Casualty of Power, proves it, and is an African beacon of hope; that maybe in times to come, we might develop a sense of environmental and social awareness that will indeed rid our planet of degradation and injustice. In conclusion: I ask you not just to read the book, but to reflect upon it, and discuss it.