In A South African newspaper, THE STAR of the 8th 0ctober 2012, Prof. Themba Sono raised his concern about referring to South Africa as ‘Mzansi.’ Mzansi means South in Zulu. What is historically clear and politically correct is that free men and women name themselves. Only slaves and dogs are named by their masters. That is why not long ago, there was Gold Coast, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, British Bechuanaland, Upper Volta and of course, South Africa. But now, free men and women named their countries, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Burkina Faso respectively.
“South Africa” is the name that British imperialism and its colonial settlers gave to this African country on the 20th September 1909. This colonial statute was called “An Act To Constitute The Union of South Africa 1909.” It was implemented in 1910.
What were the reasons for this Union of South Africa? Constitutional lawyers Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert have written, “Long before the Union was brought about, many recognised that the colour question in all its aspects had to be dealt with, not piecemeal by separate governments, but as one complex whole. The Cape had one native policy and Natal another entirely different, the Transvaal a third one, the Orange River Colony a fourth one.
Different remedies were being applied to the same disease. Soon the gulf might be too wide to bridge. Apart from this, there was always the danger of a Black native rising. The white population if united under one government would be strong enough to deal with the danger of that kind, but under four governments not one of them, especially, Natal was safe from danger.”
Historians Fowler and Smith have also given the reason why colonial settlers formed the Union of South Africa. They have recorded, “Peace in South Africa depended to a large extent on a sound relationship between the colonies and the native tribes…. (indigenous Africa majority).
The Transvaal was concerned with the Bapedi and Swazis, Natal with the powerful Zulus and the Orange Free State with the Basuto. The Cape Colony was to deal with the warlike Xhosa tribes on its frontier. It was common knowledge to the governments concerned that when one tribe was involved in war, peace was also endangered in other parts of South Africa. Unified control of natives in South Africa through some form of federation would minimize the danger of costly Native wars and maintain peaceful conditions.”
At the time of the formation of the Union of South Africa there were 349,837 settlers and five million Africans. Section 44 of the Union of South Africa Act 1909 clearly stated that “The qualifications of a member of the House of Assembly shall be as follows: He must…be a British subject of European descent.”
In 1913 through the Native Land Act of that year, five million African people were allocated 7% of their own country. The remaining 93% was given to the 349,837 colonial settlers. Later through the Native Trust Land Act 1936, an additional 6% of land was allocated to the African people. The land dispossession of the African people has continued to the present.
In 1996, the constitution of so-called “New South Africa” made it clear in Section 25(7) that Africans were not allowed to make any claims of land colonially seized from them before June 1913. “New South Africa” is today more economically European than African. Opposition by some African leaders against the sale of land to foreigners and demand of equitable redistribution of land has been brushed aside as the work of “extremists”.
On the name of the country, the settlers have pushed for their colonial name “South Africa” while in fact this country is AZANIA. The contestation about “New South Africa” and Azania is about the control of the country’s riches. Before Azania was colonised Africans controlled all the riches of their country from fertile land to mineral wealth. The fundamental objective of the liberation struggle was about equitable redistribution of land and resources according to population numbers. This is what Azania is about.
Azania like ancient names such as Egypt, Kush, Mizraim, Kemet has always meant Blackman’s country, just as Britain is a white man’s country, and there is nothing sinister about this. “South Africa” as dispossessed from Africans by imperialist forces was not only colonial, but racist. South Africa’s policy of apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. It is not therefore, an appropriate name for a liberated people. Those who want to call it “Mzansi” are simply mimicking their colonial masters.
Azania has always been Naha ya batho ba batsho, Izwe labantu abamnyama, Shango la vhathu vhatswu, Tiko ra vanhu mtima, ivhu revatema, Vana vevhu in Sotho, Nguni, Venda, Tsonga and Shona respectively.
The Khoi King, Hendrik Witbooi was right when he told Major Curt von Francis of the German army after the European Berlin Conference in 1885, that “Africa belongs to us. Both through the hue of our skin and our way of life, we belong together….The fact that we possess a variety of diverse LANDS and a variety of kingships does not mean any secondary division and does not server our solidarity. The Emperor of Germany has no business in Africa.”
Imperialism usurped Azania from Azanians by the gun. This act provoked Thomas Farewell Brixton, a British leader of the Anti-Slavery Society to tell his own British government, “The natives (Africans) have a right to their own land. My attention has been drawn to the wickedness of our proceedings as a nation towards the natives of the countries we seize. We have usurped their lands, kidnapped, enslaved and murdered them. Their greatest crime is the land of their forefathers.”
South Africa is a colonial name. Mentally colonised people love masters’ colonial names and values. South Africa is a name by which Africans have suffered genocide, holocaust and unprecedented national humiliation.
Retaining the name associated with apartheid which has been declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations is participation in that crime. This also manifests the pathological colonial mentality of those who resist the name Azania.
The name Azania has enough historical respectability and impeccable credentials. Starting as it does with the first alphabet, it will get the people of this country up on the roll-call at the United Nations and other international forums. But above all, it would remove the shame of our country perpetually carrying the colonial baggage from the past; and tarnishing its image as a truly free African country. South Africa has too much colonial mud on its face. It is constantly dragging Africans into its decadent moral and cultural values, let alone its economic enslavement of the 80% African majority.
Historically, Azania is known for its Azanian civilisation which stretched from Eastern Africa to the southern tip of Africa. It is known for its mines which were operating long before the White colonialists landed here. The archaeological excavations in Mapungubwe in the 1930’s, revealed skeletal remains of what archaeologist called “ancient Azanians” or the descendants of Kush. About the advanced Azanian civilisation J.M. Roberts author of World History has written, “It is characterised by a high level of culture…mine workings, rock paintings … these were products of a technology which archaeologists called Azanian. It was the achievement of an Iron Age culture. Agriculture had been practised in the region since the beginning of the Christian era.”
Colonialists stole not only the lands of African people and renamed them. They stole also their knowledge, so that they would know nothing about themselves. For instance “The Indian” Ocean was known as the Azanian Sea as late as 1526, “The Atlantic Ocean” was called the Ethiopian Sea. In fact, Pliny the Elder mentioned the Azanian Sea as early as 60 A.D. Pliny has been described as a Roman author, naturalist, philosopher as well as the naval commander of the Roman Empire.
Africans must abandon all colonial names. Free men and women control their destiny unhampered by colonial and neo-colonial forces. AZANIA MUST BE FREE.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is a former Member of the South African Parliament and author of several books such as TOWARDS AFRICA’S AUTHENTIC LIBERATION, THE HIDDEN SIDE OF SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICS and I AM AZANIA. He is a former representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
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