On the 3rd June 2012, a columnist of the City Press newspaper wrote, “There are many ways of being African in South Africa.”
Are there many ways of being a British in Britain? Are there many ways of being a Chinese in China, many ways of being a German in Germany or many ways of being a Russian whose minority dictate to the majority population?
The misconception about national identity in South Africa stems from a falsified colonial history. It is exacerbated by the 1955 political manipulation by which a certain section of the leadership of colonised African people abandoned the anti-colonial struggle for a civil rights movement. They claimed that their country belongs equally to the colonisers and the colonised, the dispossessors and the dispossessed owners. This is tantamount to saying that stolen goods can equally belong to the armed thieves and their rightful owners. It is not magnanimity. It is betrayal of the dispossessed.
Where has this happened anywhere in the world, except where British imperialism seized this African country at gunpoint, consolidated its colonialism through the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and allocated its 349,837 colonial settlers 93% of the country and left five million Africans with 7% through the Native Land Act 1913 and additional 6% through the Native Trust Land Act 1936? This 13% has now been entrenched in section 25(7) of the present Eurocentric constitution misleadingly called “the best democratic constitution in the world.”
For people who are now equal partners to Africanness in their own ways; a British colonial official Earl Glen long made it clear that “The Africans are generally looked upon by Whites as an inferior race whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own, and should be governed to the advantage of the superior race….For this reason two things must be afforded to white colonists obtaining land…the Kaffirs should be made to furnish as large and cheap labour as possible.”
As long as there is still this colossal political fraud that “We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white…And we therefore, the people of South Africa black and white together, equals, countrymen and brothers adopt the Charter;” the land dispossessed Africans will wait for their authentic liberation to arrive until horses grow horns or there is a political explosion in this country.
If there is no Africanness, then there are no Africans. Fortunately, Africanness exists among Africans on all fundamental issues of their life. They have suffered the holocaust of the Slave Trade, Colonialism and ongoing racism. That is why many regard themselves as Africans first and their clan or country identities as secondary. They are anti-tribalism and have intermarried among themselves unlike in the past and unlike others who have kept to themselves. They regard those who owe their allegiance to Africa as African and respect the fundamental values of the African majority.
Africans belong together, whether they like it or not. Their survival and security depend very much on this togetherness, whatever problems they face in that togetherness. That is why they are all in the African Union. That is why the Organisation of African Unity was formed to decolonise the Continent. Pan Africanism itself is a manifestation of fraternal solidarity among Africans and people of African descent.
The recent Global Diaspora African Summit held in Johannesburg, on Africa Liberation Day 25 May 2012, is evidence that wherever Africans are, they share the same aspirations to restore Africa’s power to achieve the economic liberation of this continent and its technological advancement. So-called “New South Africa” cannot be an exception. Africanness is strongly related to Africanism, African Personality, Pan Africanism, African Nationalism, Afrocentricity and Africentric view of the world.
Let me now share briefly what some of Africa’s great leaders and visionaries have said about some of these concepts. On African personality Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said, “The desire of the African people to unite and to assert their personality in the context of the African community has made itself felt everywhere.” In March 1960 he added, “Ghana’s independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa and with the projection of African personality in the international community.”
On culture, Nkrumah said, “We are doing everything to revive our culture, but if this revival is to endure, it must be based on strong moral and spiritual foundation. Our moral and spiritual qualities should not lag behind the progress we are making in the economic field.”
This is very important when one considers what is happening with corrupt people who have gone to politics for self-enrichment at the expense of the poor they claim to “liberate.”
When looking at the colonially destroyed African civilisations and moral values, historian Arnold Tonybee wrote, “mankind may have to emulate Africans if world civilisation is to be saved.”
Africanness as Ubuntu/Botho is peculiarly African. It stems from a morality that teaches that people must do good and behave well towards one another. This is similar to Summum Bonum – doing the greatest good. It was a guide also to Africans in ancient Egypt that was ruled by the Black pharaohs such as Menes who united the upper and lower ancient Egypt.
That profound Pan Africanist scholar, Dr. Antony Muziwakhe Lembede observed that “Nationalism has been tested in the peoples’ struggles and fires and found to be the only effective weapon against foreign rule and imperialism….Africans are the natives of Africa from time immemorial. Africa belongs to them. Out of the heterogeneous tribes must emerge a homogeneous nation.”
In 1957 Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, the first President of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) addressed the annual conference of the Basutoland Congress Party in Lesotho. In pursuance of building this homogeneous African nation and discouraging tribalism, Sobukwe said:
“I wish, in opening this conference, to quote the caption which appears on ‘Mohlabani’ since it expresses so clearly the reason for our sustained struggle:
‘Ts’oara thebe e tiee oa Rasenate
Oa bona fats’e leno le ea ea’
(Hold firmly your shield, son of Rasenate.You see your fatherland is being taken away from you)….
Sobukwe continued, “The policy of divide and rule is pursued today….We see this policy pursued by the whites who keep on reminding us that this is a Zulu the proud descendant of Shaka, with a glorious military history and should have nothing to do with the cunning Basotho; that is told he is a Mosotho, a proud descendant of the wise Moshoeshoe, and the only people never conquered by either the black or white, and should not associate with the wild savage Zulus nor with the treacherous, thieving Xhosas. And yet they call us all ‘Kaffirs….’
The British Prime Minister Harold McMillan recognised Africanness or African Nationalism, when he spoke in the apartheid colonial parliament in Cape Town on 2nd February 1960. In his ‘wind of change’ speech, he said:
“The wind of change is blowing throughout Africa signalling to those temporarily in charge of affairs – we fleeting transient phantoms….The striking of all impressions I have formed since leaving London a month ago, is the strength of this African national consciousness. It may take different forms, but is blowing throughout Africa. Whether we like or not, this growth of African consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact. Our national policies must take account of it.”
Macmillan concluded, “Of course, you (European colonial settlers), must understand it, as well as anyone. You are sprung from Europe the home of nationalism.”
Africanness is related to Africanism and Pan African Nationalism. It is a reality. African Nationalism will not go away. It is the African weapon for attaining authentic liberation where Africans control the riches of Africa for the benefit of the presently economically brutalised and criminally oppressed African people of this country and continent.
African Nationalism or Pan African Nationalism is a nationalism of self-determination. It has never been a nationalism of armed robbery and stealing of other peoples’ countries and riches. Pan African Nationalism is a nationalism of self-defence against imperialism and genocide. This nationalism views the personhood and humanity of African people as equal to that of any other people on this planet. Pan African Nationalism rejects with contempt, the racist philosophy that Africans are destined to exist in servitude to other human beings, whatever their skin colour, shape of their noses or texture of their hair.
African Nationalism does not look down on other members of the human race. It is also not in conflict with genuine socialism that serves the interests of the poor and powerless. Pan African Nationalism is in conflict only with the superstition of “white supremacy” propagated by some pink or pale skinned people. These are the people who have practised vile systems such as slavery and colonialism. Pan African Nationalism is the privilege of the African people to love themselves and give their way of life preference.
Africans who are ambivalent about Africanness and see nothing wrong with the brutal economic suppression of the African majority in the new “rainbow nation” of “miracle” that has not happened in the African community shall indeed, remain torn away from their past, propelled into a universe fashioned from outside that suppresses their values. They will be kept dumbfounded by a cultural imperialism that marginalises them. They will continue to be deformed images of others. Here I am paraphrasing Edem Kodjo author of AFRICA TOMORROW.
The African experience is that the invaders of Africa have always relentlessly pushed for command position in Africa, no matter how small their numbers. This arrogant behaviour must be brought to a swift end.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
(The writer is author of several books such THE HIDEN SIDE OF SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICS and HOW FREEDOM CHARTER BETRAYED THE DISPOSSESSED. His latest book is TOWARDS AFRICA’S AUTHENTIC LIBERATION. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament)