US: Family of One of Independent Africa’s Founding Fathers Relaunches Seminal ‘African Nationalism’ Book

ARIZONA: The family of Ndabaningi Sithole, one of independent Africa’s founding fathers and pre-eminent thinkers, is relaunching African Nationalism, Sithole’s seminal book that inspired a generation of freedom fighters in Africa to fight for liberty and freedom.

According to Simbaimuchimurenga “Simbai” Chizengeni (one of Sithole’s grandsons), “The relaunching of African Nationalism comes at a critical time for Africa, as it is at a crossroads and many millions of its citizens are looking for direction as to where to turn.

“They are asking poignant questions why Africa is the way it is today, and what needs to change for it to realize its full potential. However, to get to the answers Africans are searching for requires us to look back in time into the founding fathers’ blueprints and assess how, why and where we diverged.

“From thereon, Africans can proceed with a view to realigning with these blueprints to take the continent to where it logically ought to have been by now and beyond. African Nationalism, provides us with the foundations from which such introspection can begin.”

April 18th 2022 (Zimbabwe’s independence day) is the launch of the third edition of African Nationalism.

The book, which was first published in 1959, evokes deep emotions of the difficult journey traveled by Africa to gain its independence and the meaning and implications of this freedom and independence, once it was gained.

Last printed in 1968, while Sithole was imprisoned for his resistance against the Rhodesian government, African Nationalism is a text that is as relevant today as it was in yester-years.

Raila Odinga (former Prime Minister of Kenya) affirms in the foreword, that “In the 21st Century and with Africa agreed to be rising, this book must be a source of reflection on how we use experiences and expectations of the past to shape Africa’s future, to ensure Africa uses its new status to cement its place indelibly as an equal member of the community of nations in this century and beyond.”

Sithole was one of the founding fathers of the modern state of Zimbabwe. He was at the forefront of the liberation movement as founding president of the Zimbabwe African National Union (“ZANU”) and commander-in-chief of the armed liberation struggle.

He was also its ‘intellectual-philosopher’ and in this role led in evincing the endogenous African knowledge systems that played a foundational role in the attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence and guided freedom fighters to victory.

Sithole was one of the few amongst his contemporaries in Africa to have written prolifically pre- and post- independence. In his lifetime, he published 12 books and left unpublished handwritten manuscripts as well as many letters and personal notes. However, due to several unfortunate reasons his published works have not been widely known to the generality of Zimbabweans, nonetheless the utility of his work has been evident through its use in academic institutions globally.

Notwithstanding the above and thanks to a new trajectory taken by Zimbabwe’s power brokers towards restoring and preserving the legacy of the country’s liberation struggle, the opportunity presented itself for the teachings of Ndabaningi Sithole to resurface and as such be widely available to many within Zimbabwe, Africa and beyond. His teachings add to the rich body of knowledge that is re-emerging and providing Africans with the opportunity to re-evaluate their past in a bid to better understand where things went wrong, what can be salvaged and corrected, where Africa ought to be, and how it can get to where it should be.

It is within this context, and by chance that in 2016, Simbai (who is leading the family in the restoration and preservation of Sithole’s legacy) opened up Sithole’s archives which had largely been untouched since his passing in December 2000. In these archives, he stumbled upon a treasure trove of documents written by Sithole comprising of handwritten notes, letters, and pictures as well as books both published and unpublished on Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, culture, religion, and philosophy.

This discovery led to a reimaging of Simbai’s understanding of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and its place in Africa’s history, Sithole’s role in Africa’s history and the revelation that the materials he found would have a significant impact in helping his beloved Zimbabwe reawaken itself and claim its glory. Inspired by what he read, Simbai began his journey to restore Sithole’s legacy and to piece together the missing pages of Zimbabwe’s history. The destination of his journey – assisting his fellow citizens connect back to their past as a tool to help them collectively negotiate their present, and in so doing shaping the future with direction and a unity of purpose!

Guided by his family and elders, Simbai’s work to restore and preserve the legacy of Ndabaningi Sithole and the missing pages of Zimbabwe’s liberation history, led him to complete the first phase, which was to co-establish the Ndabaningi Sithole Foundation, which was officially launched on July 20th 2020 (the 100th year of Sithole’s birth), with a keynote speech delivered by H.E. Raila Odinga.

The second phase is currently in motion and comprises the production of the ChimvukelaTV docu-series (on YouTube) that has been interviewing former freedom fighters (who include businesspeople, church leaders, detainees, lawyers, soldiers, student activists, trade unionists, youths etc), who participated in the liberation struggle from as far back as the 1950s going all the way to the late 1970s.

The third phase comprises publishing the third edition of Sithole’s African Nationalism, Sithole’s 11 other previously published books and his other unpublished works, as well as publishing of memoirs of former freedom fighters.

Subsequent phases shall include the creation of a public memorial that will house all Sithole’s works. All the above projects are being done through the Ndabaningi Sithole Foundation.

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