As January marks the first month when people share their new year resolutions and begin to think of their implementation tactics, so do we at the Brandhill Africa group. Although, like everybody else, we’re looking at the twelve months, the first six months are quite critical for me. The end of June is the end of our financial year for the companies in our group. Furthermore, for me the six months take me to exactly two years on this full-time entrepreneurial journey after having bravely dropped a mic having served a comfortable socio-economically-secured twenty years in the public sector as a brand architect and a diplomat. So this six month period to end June may best be described as the proverbial last mile for me.

Although I knew my immediate future was riddled with the landmines of adulting, I was beserk with great ideas, dreams and plans to take the road “less travelled” – as that American bard, Robert Frost (1874 to 1963), mused – because I believed it will “ma(k)e all the difference” to this continent that poet laureate, Ingoapele Madingoane (1940 to 1998), called: “Africa my beginning, Africa my ending.”

The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster for me – both socially and professionally. I have outlined our achievements in the previous Publisher’s Comment and most of you are familiar with them as you have been part of this journey – your support is highly appreciated and we will never betray your confidence in us.

By evoking the word achievements doesn’t mean there were no challenges, weaknesses, failures and even vile criticism we encountered on this journey. There were plenty. I have always known Africa’s integration project will never be easy. While we have to deal with afro-pessimism within the continent, we are aware other continental powers – our former colonisers, if I have to put it bluntly – will endeavour to derail Africa’s integration because their divide-and-rule principle has worked for them since the 1884/5 Berlin conference  Although we accepted that which was constructive as it helped us to better our performance, the toxic one intended to destroy us never distracted us from our mission as we remained, and will always be even henceforth, inspired by the 26th US President, Teddy Roosevelt, when in his speech, “citizenship in a republic”, given at the Sorbonne in 1910, said: 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat…” 

I can’t empahsise enough that all sectors of our society across the continent – particularly government and the private sector – have to avail resources for the authentic mediums such as the Brandhill Africa group’s platforms to communicate brand Africa. The UK government budgets over €600 million annually for appropriation by the BBC World Service and this medium reaches 96 million people in Africa – making the channel’s largest audience. Then France avails over €373 million on international advertising in three media platforms: €140 million on Radio France Internationale (with a listenership of over 40 million in Africa);  €80 million on France 24 (with a viewership of over 45 million people a week mostly in Africa);  and €63 million on TV 5 (which has over 55 million viewers per week weekly  and mostly in Africa).

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the bulk of the $1 billion budget ($300 million for each of the  financial years from 2022 to 2026) which will be released to the “Counter Chinese Influence Fund” by the United States will be used in their battlefield, Africa – as it is all about who controls this continent’s resources – both human and material. So this battle of ideas (for the continued “scramble for Africa”) is not about China, it is about the west fighting to maintain their parasitic hegemony over the continent.

So, ask yourself: What is the strategic response of all Africans – in the public, private and civil society sectors – to this attempted wave of colonial conquest? Or rather to be direct: What is your response as an individual? What role are you prepared to play in reversing this onslaught? 

Personally this takes me to 1990 immediately after the unbanning of the national liberation movements at a briefing of a few of us comrades by the advanced team of the African National Congress (ANC) that came for preliminary discussions (with the FW de Klerk government) in a lecture hall at the University of the Witwatersrand. Joe Slovo said to us: “Today while sitting in our discussion with government, I looked at the representatives of government across the table and thought the apartheid government had military budgets, a huge number of serving soldiers, advanced military artillery, Africa’s most sophisticated air force, and yet here they were forced to sit around the table to negotiate with us as their equals. Then the question I had in my mind as I looked at the comrades on the side of my table was: What do we have to deserve such respect? And the answer came: We have our people’s death-defying COMMITMENT to continue fighting to destroy apartheid. Our people’s will and determination were worth more than every resource at the disposal of the apartheid government.”

These are the words that inspire me every morning when I wake up to continue contributing to Africa’s integration. The Brandhill Africa group may not have the kind of resources that the British, American or French media conglomerates, marketing agencies and their entire propaganda machineries they may be endowed with, but I am confident that the humble contribution we are making will make a difference in our people’s lives. We remain vigilant as Steve Biko has advised: ′”The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Our platforms, though under-resourced, will continue exposing the dangers posed to Africa’s integration project by countries of the West. Indeed though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small, as the third century Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus mused.

Under the pretext of their self-appointed role to become Africa’s shepherds as they spew Sinophobia bile across the continent, we do know ultimately it is the very same shepherd that will ultimately slaughter the sheep and not the wolf that the latter was made to be obsessed with.

Yes, we do year for material support from our governments and the private sector for our sustainability. But again, their reluctance to support us will not deter us as we remain fired up by India’s Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941) inspirational poem:

“If no one responds to your call, go forward alone.

If no one talks to you, oh luckless one,

If everyone turns away from you in fear,

Reveal your thoughts and express your ideas to yourself.

If everyone leaves you while you are travelling a dangerous road,

If no one wants to look after you,

Walk on alone, on the road strewn with thorns, trampling on them with bleeding feet.

If no one shows a light, if in the dark stormy night everyone shuts their doors,

Use your rib as a torch, lit from the fire of thunder…”

Before signing off, this week we feature a young multidisciplinary artist, Bongani Mathebula. His works took me down memory lane to Italy where I was on a diplomatic posting as South Africa’s Consul-General based in Milan from March 2012 to end June 2016. In 2014 in celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela and 20thanniversary of freedom, I then decided to approach the City of Milan to name a street after our founding father, Nelson Mandela. After they explained though the loved the idea, the problem was that such a process would take ten years. I then proposed an easier project which they endorsed – painting a mural in Milan. The city administration decided to allocate a mural fencing their cultural centre and committed to installing lights. And I was to approach companies that had invested in South Africa to sponsor the project as the Consulate-General didn’t have a budget. 

A renewal energy company, Build Energy, loved the concept and committed to funding it. The city identified a group of young graffiti artists who could paint the mural dedicated to our global icon. Build Energy went further to say they were to sponsor the production of a video chronicling the making the mural. They were also to sponsor the media conference and the unveiling of the mural. Work began in earnest.

The Mayor, Guiliano Pisapisa, agreed to cut the ribbon with me. The mural made headlines. The young artists quoted Mandela when he said: “It looks impossible until it is done.” This potent line was translated into the Italian language. 

Today the mural serves as one of the tourist attractions in Milan. I always took my guests to go view this mural. When Sello Hatang, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation visited it, he said to: “I wish it was possible to uplift this and take it South Africa with me.” 

This was the first Nelson Mandela painted in Italy. The second Nelson Mandela mural was by artist Jorit Agoch in Florence in 2018 to mark the centenary of Tata Madiba.  

But the first mural to celebrate South Africa in Italy was of Ndebele patterns by the legendary Esther Mahlangu in Florence who was commissioned by the Nelson Mandela Forum, a non-governmental organisation with interest on our country. All three murals are still there despite the graffiti artists “defacing” many buildings across Italian cities.

So last week I asked Bongani why were the graffiti artists not spoiling those murals? I also asked him about the same with the mural on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg which has been there for over a year now without being tainted. He said to me it’s because graffiti artists have a code and abide by it: you don’t deface another artist’s work. 

Please do read Bongani’s inspiral story and do support him by undertaking a guided street art tour in Johannesburg through him.

In conclusion, I believe in a mantra that I believe my teams, our readers, all our stakeholders across all the sectors of our communities, and everybody else will join me in embracing this lines by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of “The Little Prince”, which he mused: “If you want to build a ship,don’t drum up the peopleto gather wood, divide the/ work, and give orders.Instead, teach them to yearn/ for the vast and endless sea…”

Enjoy your weekend.

Saul Molobi
Publisher: Jambo Africa Online

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