Socks are what I think of when my mind turns to Martin. He was a typical Zimbabwean guy. Khaki shirt, shorts and ankle socks that came up to just below his knees. Very much looking like the colonial white. All that was missing was the Pith helmet. I haven’t seen Martin for years.
Socks is also the nickname of a guy I have met here in Zambia. Again he is Zimbabwean. His nickname is synonymous with the most noticeable part of his attire. His knee length khaki ankle socks.
So it was with some curiosity that I observed the elderly Zimbabwean guy in the shopping mall at Manda Hill in Lusaka. Khaki shorts, slightly scruffy, khaki shorts, open toed sandals and again the trademark knee length socks. He looked kind of out of place.
Surrounding him were the trendily dressed youth and workers of Zambia’s up and coming middle class. More GAP, Gucchi, Armani and Nike than ankle socks. The new and gleaming shops of the capital screamed modernity and development at him. The scene could have been repeated at any number of the new malls like Levy, Woodlands and Arcades.
Looking at him, it became apparent to me just how much parts of Africa have changed in recent times. The elderly guy looked like an old colonial relic, a symbol of an Africa in times gone by. Like the rails at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe that used to transport gentlemen and ladies to the falls on native pushed carts. They look a little rusted and out of date.
This new Africa certainly attracts attention, earns plaudits and does give a sense of hope for the future. However it too is caught in its own time warp. Just like socks and khaki that are more outdated these days, Africa is giving itself to a new materialism. For all of the bleating of the pan africanists that Africa knows best for Africa, the overwhelming evidence in the richer classes is a for a belief that it does not. They eagerly devour anything of western brand value, from Samsung, Barclays Premiership Football, Apple and Blackberry. Those brands are definitely not Africa. Obviously the corporations and conglomerates of this world together with Chinese investment know best?
“The result is the same, an Africa for the few, the rest have to eat the scraps from the table.”
In times gone by rich tribes exploited poorer ones, powerful tribes conquered those who were weaker. Colonial whites managed to get in on the act too, with rich and greedy chiefs complicit in giving their land away. Today it is those that are materially rich. The poor are still poor, sometimes more so. For some people to have much, others must have little.
Africa has not changed, just like the world hasn’t. The ‘haves’ are simply different, the ‘have nots’ are always at the bottom of the pile.