Schizophrenia as Mandela’s Final Caution

05 Jan

Mandela Interpreter 1

A petrified world watched as Thamsanqa Jantjie jabbed incoherent fists in the air by way of signing to deaf viewers during the Nelson Mandela Memorial. Signing with a countenance molded out of Plaster-of-Paris, deaf people and all conversant with sign language knew – within five seconds – that the man was grossly out of line. Mr. Jantjie would later blame schizophrenia for his bewildering behavior. He insists he is very well qualified for what he does for a living and has interpreted in many high profile international conferences with world leaders in attendance. His schizophrenic attack came upon him suddenly on that day, he stated; as soon as he mounted the podium, he began to hear voices inside his head.

In his formal apology to deaf associations across the world, Mr. Jantjie said, “I am on treatment for schizophrenia… Sometimes I will see things chasing me”. Mr. Jantjie’s sudden attack of schizophrenia might as well be said to be a final word from Madiba on the last remaining hurdle for Africa to overcome toward setting itself on the path to authentic and sustained advancement. In Africa’s parliaments, presidential palaces, classrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms, Africans hear voices of other peoples, nations and continents telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Mandela Interpreter 4

Just like Mr. Janjtjie stood in front of millions of people all over the world and acted out his schizophrenia, so do African governments, intellectuals, business people, students, teachers and parents stand before a petrified world and do the bidding of the United States, Europe, China, the World Bank, IMF and others. The world looks at Africa and wonders what is wrong with the continent, why Africa can’t stand up and act for itself, and do the right thing. But Africa appears to be compelled by the will and wish of others to act out of tune with what is expected of it. The World Bank and IMF, oftentimes poorly informed about the continent’s realities, draft ill-fitting economic policies, which African governments implement as is.  European countries especially the former colonial powers remain strongly in charge of much of the economic situation of their former colonies. China arrived Africa with a bang. It has so far built a ‘befitting’ headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa and several presidential palaces for African presidents, in exchange for near-unhindered access to the continent’s natural resources and manufactured goods markets.

Mandela Interpreter3Many years after colonialism, several Africans still hear the voices of the colonial masters in their head, urging them to dislike their neighboring ethnic groups.  Schizophrenia makes the African continue to look at his African neighbor from another ethnic nationality with disdain and hatred, magnifying his weaknesses and minimizing his strengths. The exact same way the colonial governments wanted it to be, in order to ensure that the ethnic groups did not unite to topple the colonial order. The embers of the colonial voices are presently fanned by corrupt politicians who need to build on ethnic solidarity to fill their empty political tanks.  Many Africans who have not had meaningful interactions with other ethnicities within their countries voice deep-seated and deep-felt  disregard for these other groups. That is schizophrenia. The voices that speak in the heads of Africans against their neighbors date years back and continue till today. That is why it is the easiest thing for other continents to enter Africa and exploit the people. The energy that Africans should invest in building up is invested in tearing down one another.

It is schizophrenia that makes the African cheat himself, his fellow citizens and his nation through bribery and corruption. In his head, he still believes that the government belongs to the white people and it is not his personal business to ensure its progress. Indeed, in several African languages, civil or public service is still literally translated as “white man’s job”. Africans hear the voices of the former colonial masters in their heads, forcing them to work for Her or His Imperial Majesty. It is therefore, very easy for a Halliburton to connive with Nigerian government workers to deprive the country of billions of dollars in tax revenue. The country, in the head of the Nigerian, still does not belong to him.

Schizophrenia has stopped African governments from overhauling the academic curricula across Africa’s primary, post-primary and tertiary institutions to better reflect Africa’s challenges. More than 50 years after several African countries obtained their Independence, most of the big industries and mineral exploring companies in Africa are still owned by non-Africans. What are African children learning in school if not to manage their own resources?

Mandela Interpreter 5It is schizophrenia that makes the most mineral rich continent dependent on the world for its daily sustenance. The colonial masters ensured that the continent did not imbibe the principles of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. That education in Africa prepared the African to serve as clerk, secretary or at best personal assistant to the colonial chief executive. Many years after the end of colonialism, even at the informal and non-formal levels, academic conversations and curriculum do not reflect the need to create something new or build up on the existing. Incomprehensible ethnic divisions still plague Africa’s social space, but very few students in Africa are taught Social Psychology, a course that is well equipped to address social differences through explaining its origins and how it should be handled for every body’s benefits. Unfortunately, from kindergarten to the Ph.D. level, education in Africa is mostly founded on utopia, a chasing after other people’s ideals and aspirations to the detriment of the continent’s own needs. How schizophrenic.

It is schizophrenia that makes the African want to copy as much western culture as possible without understanding the philosophy behind it. That is why an African is quick to show that he speaks with a western accent, but pleads African time with the same western accent. What is there to be proud of about not keeping to one’s word or keeping to time? If one is proud of speaking with western accent and identifying with western culture then s/he ought to be proud to identify with such positive western values as well.

south-africa-mandela-interpreterSchizophrenia makes present day Africans rob their children of their mother-tongue in the name of progress. While Indians, Chinese and the rest of the non-English speaking world export Africa’s resources with only a smattering of English language, the African perpetuates self-hatred and a disdain for everything African in his child by restricting him to a language that is not generated from his environmental realities.


In his lifetime, Nelson Mandela sought to free South Africa from the clutches of those who spoke words in the ears of his African brethren. Those who forcefully, and using the state and diplomatic machinery sought to overtly direct the African’s thoughts, words and actions. When apartheid finally ended, the bureaucratic machinery supporting the voices ceased, but the voices did not stop speaking in the heads of South Africans, just like in the heads of other colonized Africans. Since colonial times, when the butt of a gun for mild rebellions, and bullets for the serious ones, were used to mentally reprogram Africans into submissiveness, succeeding generations through their parents and grand-parents continue to hear the commanding voices of all pale skinned mortals in their sub-conscious. If it comes from pale skin and straight hair, then it must be obeyed. The skin and hair can come from the East or from the West, it can speak any language, it matters not. The Marikana killings, the corruption that is the ANC led government and the sharp division between the rich and poor South Africans speaks to this. The continued struggle for speedy growth and advancement across Africa bears witness. The voices speaking in the ears of South Africans and Africans are no longer overt but now covert. It has been disrobed of its legitimate use of physical force, but its emotional and mental force over the actions of Africans still persists

Madiba4Nelson Mandela did his best by giving his life to break down the last strongholds of legitimate oppression in Africa. It is now in the hand of every informed African, who desires to honor the memory of Madiba to begin to take urgent steps to wean himself of schizophrenia, of hearing the voices of the erstwhile colonial masters and apartheid regime from deciding his thoughts, words and actions.  Africans themselves, as individuals and within their individual capacities in the continent are the real and authentic vehicle for the continent’s advancement. In the words of Nelson Mandela’s comrade Steve Biko, whose life was cut short in his prime by the apartheid regime, “The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.” (We Blacks, I Write What I Like, 1978). Mahatma Ghandi’s famous saying, be the change you want to see in the world is most apt for every African who wishes to rid himself or herself of the voices that plague the continent. In medical sciences, schizophrenia can only be treated with the active participation of the patient, its treatment is not an outside-in approach, neither is it a sickness that lends itself to a top-down treatment method. It is the same with Africa and Africans. The continent can only advance when Africans decide and learn how to shun external voices and distractions, and instead focus on building up themselves based on what is endogenously African. If Africans truly want to immortalize Madiba, then the continent must henceforth begin to imbibe his greatest attributes which is freedom from external and internal oppression, peace with one’s innermost self and neighbors, and progress in every imaginable area of life.


Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Essays


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15 responses to “Schizophrenia as Mandela’s Final Caution

  1. Sister's keeperTheresa

    January 6, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Well written food-for-thought article. Well done Chika!

    • chikaforafrica

      January 6, 2014 at 5:38 am

      Much thanks, sister Theresa. Best.

  2. Eulalie Deganus L.

    January 6, 2014 at 2:27 am

    You write so well my sister…


    • chikaforafrica

      January 6, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Much thanks. Eulalie.

  3. chuzzy

    January 6, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Your article packs some punch and touches on the most alarming concerns about african leadership.

    However, I daresay it has glossed over one key factor leading to lack of patriotism in African leaders .. that of the gross (calculated ?) error of europeans in aggregating disparate nation-states into single countries, after centuries of sowing seeds of discord amongst them .. Thus we end up with a situation where we have national leaders who see themselves as tribal leaders in a hostile national government. I see the resultant tribalism as the biggest contributor to the lack of patriotism amongst African leaders.

    Well, there is also general inferiority complex that we all suffer from centuries of mis-education and the current bombardment of propaganda in the news we imbibe daily ..

    Using schizophrenia as a refernce point could water down and distract from the message in your post .. but that is another matter all together

    • chikaforafrica

      January 6, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Interesting comment, Chuzzy. Thanks. Perhaps my reference to the disdain and perpetual suspicion that exist between ethnic groups in African states allude to your point on ethno-nationalism. There is very weak loyalty to nation states in Africa because of its colonial antecedents, the fact that the colonialists established the nation states on a foundation of mutual distrust and strictly for their own benefit. However, many nations across the globe came about as a result of conquests and counter-conquests, African states are the most recent, but definitely not the only ones. As the world economy becomes more dependent on nations with large population – think China, India, Brazil – dare one say that Africans, for their own good, should rise above ethno-nationalism and focus on building the continent up in order to make progress? I would hasten to add that this is not an either/or stance. One can and should still understand his/her origins and explore his unique background, but not in a way that ridicules, belittles or fault-finds other nationalities. The emphasis, I think, should be on trying to understand one’s local environment, and to understand others environment (as much as possible). Above all, greater African unity should be taught and upheld across the continent – we have so much in common, especially south of the Sahara.

  4. bukolaokedara

    January 6, 2014 at 9:21 am

    We will someday be able to realise that slavery is still in existence. The strong, the agile, and the able were pulled to work for industrialization; the best of the professionals are still voluntarily getting visas to live as Security Men, Rehabilitation Support Workers, Store Associates, Janitors and yet they got the Western curriculum certification that matters nothing, when they get to Western Nations. All they learn is put their own down and uplift the preposterous happen-stance in their host homes wherever the colour is different from that of the Schizo signer. They buy choice cars on financing and homes as many as they can be qualified to buy on mortgage and become trapped. They do three jobs and work all day and night at the expense of their family harmony. “Wasted” is the baptismal name of their offspring who are left home alone until child services merchandise them via their foster network. How many Homes still remain intact, how many children are still sane in the strange lands where every thing is owed to system? Schizos is the system where our voices are never allowed to be sounded. Schizo, are the children who the system spare the rod and pronounce ADHD, FASD, fearful and lots more. They recommend pills that they get hooked on once they are diagnosed of such ailments as parentally abused, once parents yell or spank. They are made to work at age 13 to get credits in schools because their labour market will hire work experienced youths. WE do not see these things as global abuse because the skin is superior to that of the schizo signer. What a revelation in the schizo episode. We lie within our hearts that home is not safe. We go to movies and someone’s child decides to do Aurora. We go to schools and one of their children decides to do Sandy Hook. Yet our claim is that our home is not safe. The insecurity that did not claim our wives, husbands and children until we are able to put money together and fly out. The insecurity that does not stop us from coming back home to retire after our exodus, with children left behind in their jails for minor offences. The rest of our children have become morally weakened and owe every up and down to depression and find it easy to commit suicide like the children of their host. Blacks are known for their thick skins to weather the storm, but no, our children have acclamatized like their Schizo parents. Madiba did his bit, Schizo did his. Which one are you Africans, every where? Madiba or Schizo signer?

    • chikaforafrica

      January 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Deeply moving and beautifully poetic, Bukola. Not a word of what you have written can be lightly contested. How to educate Africans at the formal, informal and non-formal levels to think otherwise, is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the continent today. Thanks for your comment.

  5. kwamepiankhi

    March 27, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Chika, What can we in the diaspora do to implement African-Centered education continent-wide so we no longer worship other cultures before ours?

    • chikaforafrica

      March 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Deep and thoughtful question, Kwame. I think Africans in the diaspora would do well to start by educating themselves on what actually is indigenous African knowledge and on authentic expressions of what is positively African. The more the diaspora can understand this phenomenon, the more the mind-eye of the individual involved will be opened to see what s/he is already equipped in his/her individual capacity and sphere of influence to do. Thanks.

      • Bukola

        March 28, 2014 at 11:35 am

        I vividly believe that we should include civic studies and patriotism in our curriculum. If there can be a course title too, that can capture how we can remove going abroad from our mentality. This is because, all our leaders loot and hide their loot abroad, they go abroad for holidays. They send their children abroad too to have abroad education and they do not want to have anything to do with home countries. All the perception they have is that, home is jungle. Even a poor man will do anything, I men anything to be able to go abroad.

  6. bukolaokedara

    March 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

    We can also start African International Schools abroad. Every nation has customized international schools in almost all African Nations.

    • chikaforafrica

      March 28, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      You are absolutely right, Bukola. Africans need to articulate the authentic African philosophy and use that as a foundation for drafting curricula across schools and colleges in the continent. The success of the philosophy in graduating men and women of character, integrity, innovation and creativity will sell African schools around the world. Way to go.

      • bukolaokedara

        March 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm

        You and I can make the initiative become dream come true. I suggest that we begin the curriculum now. Let us have an online forum to discuss more about the curriculum.
        The civilization of Africa before contact, after contact, Question the mapping, restructure the mode of our international trade, the value of our monies, our migration laws, political restructuring and educate Africans on how to vote aright etc. May God deliver our generations unborn.

  7. bukolaokedara

    March 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Africans should also endeavor to bring something unique in their professional from host nations to their dear continent. Isn’t that the essence of traveling?


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