“And they have made little of the wounds of my people, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.”
Jeremiah 6:14 (BBE)
Jeremiah writes as if he is South African, as if he lived through 1994, through the historic moments following Chris Hani’s death when “Peace in our Land” was a national chorus. Jeremiah writes as if he was there when the ANC embarked on the 1996 Class Project which was aimed at building a black middle class, followed by cheers for few who then became millionaires amidst gruesome poverty. Jeremiah writes as if he has lived in the streets of Diepsloot and Alexandra, to be surrounded by echoes of peace, echoes of prosperity even when you are engulfed in chaos and misery. The History of South Africa from Mandela’s release to date can be summed up in the words of Jeremiah as an attempt to make little of our wounds; to make our lived experience of white violence and dehumanization nothing but a phase that we need to forget and move on from, without consequence to the perpetrators and beneficiaries of apartheid.
The liberation movement in South Africa was, correctly so, a direct response to the violent apartheid regime’s attack on blackness as well as to the colonizers who came to the shores. At the heart of the liberation movement was the quest for restoration of the dignity of Africans who had suffered from the day the Europeans laid eyes on them. That restoration was going to come from asserting and reclaiming the ownership of land and the natural resources that for years had served only a few at the expense of the majority. Land was central to the liberation movement and the return of African land to African people was the ultimate goal.
Looking at 1976, it becomes obvious that the struggle to liberate an African child from a violent education, as Bantu Education was, was also at the core of the liberation movement. The extent of violence perpetuated through mis-education of a black child is immeasurable. A black child was taught to hate herself, hater her parents, dishonor her gods and look down upon blackness and her own cultures and traditions. Her culture and history were distorted to an extend that she also believed that she arrived on this land on the same day as Jan van Riebeeck. She was made to learn of her history and self from settlers who wished nothing but for her to forget the history of her greatness and the greatness of her people. So a liberation movement had to at least liberate the education and the educated mind of an African child in order for it to fully claim to have achieved what our forefathers died fighting for.
So in 1994 when we heard “Peace”, “Peace”, “Peace”, it was not because there was anything for Africans in that peace. We heard “Peace” even as Boipatong burned, “Peace” was the buzzword even as Hani laid on his blood. “Peace” was the cry even as our memories of the Sharpville and Langa massacres remained fresh; even as pictures of the lifeless Hector Peterson remained embedded in our conscience. In a way the call for peace, and sometimes camouflaged as reconciliation, was a claim to easy victory. How could we talk peace when we remained landless? How could we talk peace when the Defense Force continued to brutalize people in the townships? How could we talk reconciliation when the blood of those who fell in the Bisho Massacre was still trickling out of their lifeless bodies? How could we talk peace when De Klerk and his racist apartheid government continued arming Inkata to the teeth to fuel violence in the country? We had no business reconciling with anyone or talking peace when the Education of an African child remained colonized and unchanged from its apartheid make up.
Mandela and the ANC claimed an easy victory, a victory that perpetually guaranteed our landlessness, a victory that guaranteed white minorities economic power and dominance. In doing so they made little of our wounds and made the black pain inconsequential. This is why there was nothing surprising in white Afrikaner students assaulting black students in the full view of the nation on TV recently. The victory of 1994 didn’t dismantle their superiority complex and didn’t provide justice for their racism and inherited proceeds from Crimes against Humanity. The 1994 compromise legitimized the “ownership” of stolen property in the form of land and proceeds from an inhumane economy. It guaranteed the African child an education that denies her true history and her true potential by offering her as quick and cheap labour to white monopoly capital. If this was not the case we wouldn’t have to see a black child rise to fight for the decolonization of her education.
A lesson from the student movement is that we can no longer afford to let this big thick wool of a rainbow nation to be pulled over our eyes while we remain hungry, landless and living in squalid conditions. There is no other right time to fight for what is rightfully ours than now. We must own our history and trash the lies that seek to make us foreigners in our land; the lies that seek to separate Africans into tribal fragments. We must own our heritage and culture; and stop trying to fit in the lens of the white man’s perception. We must take back the land by any means necessary as it remains stolen goods. We must take over the economy even if it means it must crumble to the ground for us to rebuild an economy that puts the interest of Africans at the peak of its priority list and not an economy that benefits imperial powers and multinationals at our expense.
We must reject the lie that 1994 is and we must face the reality that 1994 changed nothing, the pig merely got a lipstick and a black face. We must say to those who sold us out, to those who continue to sell us out today to the highest bidder- by even feeding us cancer- “what peace?” What peace when we are still faced with fearful odds of landlessness, miseducation, crime, poverty, disease, economic disenfranchisement and massacres like the Marikana Massacre? How do you talk of reconciliation and peace to Andries Tatane’s children? How do you tell a young boy in Alexandra sleeping hungry under a table to smile and cheer for peace? How do you tell shack dwellers in Zandspruit about peace? What is peace to a landless person? What is peace to a hungry person? Both our protests and votes must make it clear that we are no longer letting anyone get away with making little of our wounds. Our wounds remain wide open until our dignity is fully restored and justice is served.
“There is no peace.”