A few years ago I was kicked out of a Zimbabwean court, my crime, wearing a pair of jeans instead of a formal pair of trousers.
So I was a little intrigued during the swearing in of the South African parliament, when members of the Economic Freedom Front appeared in their maids’ uniforms and overalls for their parliamentary debut.
What a spectacle!
I will not discuss the merits and demerits of their performative gesture, but I just imagined if that was Zimbabwe, we would have screamed “abomination” and kicked them out of parliament, but not before accusing them of bringing the august house into disrepute or some such crime.
What is more acceptable to us is a suit and a tie; that is what we call formal clothing and that is what every gentleman should wear, we pontificate.
While we claim to be independent and fighting all forms of neo-colonialism and imperialism, we still hold onto colonial norms of how we should dress, eat and conduct ourselves.
Zimbabweans pride themselves in being the most fluent speakers of English and the irony is completely lost on us that 34 years after the end of colonialism, we still take pride in a colonial language.
I understand that there are ethnic complexities in any country and sometimes English or any other foreign language, can be the only uniting factor. English can continue being an official language, but it did not have to take us 34 years to elevate our local languages to the same level as English, all languages deserve to be on an equal footing.
Oh and judges’ wigs. That must be the strangest piece of colonial heritage we hold onto. Judges look extraordinarily ludicrous in those wigs that are definitely out of place on their heads. If we were so desperate for our judges to wear wigs, at least let’s design our own and not hold onto some 18th or whatever century tradition that those wigs come from.
And the opening of parliament. If you were to ignore the black skins, you would swear you were in England or some European country. Soldiers on horseback, the president in an open top vintage car among other colonial hand-downs. Is this necessary, why do we go through all this trouble?
I could go on and on about how we hold onto the strangest of British heritage, I wonder why we cannot let go.
I am not saying we should dump everything that is colonial, if we want to hold onto something, let’s tailor it to suit our own Zimbabwean or African heritage.
Frantz Fanon was definitely onto something when he wrote black skin, white masks. We cannot continue living our experiences within a colonial frame, it’s high time we forged new realities.
Since we are post-colonial; that should be reflected in our culture, our dressing and our conduct. It doesn’t make sense for us to be hostages to a foreign culture, whose origins we do not know.