YOU CAN FALL OFF THE BIKE

 

Broken bicycle, from a blog by John Mountford, author of novel Kill Mandela, about African leadership.

                                               JUST DON’T BREAK IT TO PIECES!

This morning, during a break from writing, I listened to Cape Talk radio host Rhedi Hlabi interview Dr. Mtutuzele Nyoka about his new book:

A Hill of Fools, in John Mountford's blog on leaders in Africa.

I was impressed with his candour in criticising the corrupt despots of Africa. As I listened, however, I found myself in an uncustomary position for a white South African: that of wanting to defend the dictators he was accusing.

Why?

I felt that he was being too harsh on them. I know as a black South African he has greater moral authority than I do in this regard, and yet I felt that he was abusing that vantage point, somewhat. And so, when the time for call-ins came, I reached for the telephone and dialled the number:

I asked Dr. Nyoka:

‘Given the length of time it took for European leaders to develop into more enlightened rulers of their people, despite the civilizing effect of the Roman Empire, don’t you feel that we are expecting too much of African leaders? Surely colonization has forced them to civilize in a far shorter time period that they should have?’

I expected him to take the bait, and agree with me, at least to an extent. After all, I was giving him the opportunity, as an African, to find some justification within his heart for the misdemeanours of his contemporaries.

His response was prompt and decisive:

‘John, I cannot agree with you. Let me explain why by means of an analogy: If I am teaching you to ride a bicycle, I expect you to fall off it a few times. But what I do not expect is, when I return the next day, to find that the bike I gave you is now missing a wheel and the brakes are not working.’

 

What could I say? Seldom do I find myself so utterly, and instantaneously, removed from my original position in a debate by an answer.

You are a wise man, Dr. Nyoka. I believe your words will do more to heal Africa than all of the condemnation of its usual critics. I will buy your book tonight.