The African continent was under colonial rule except Ethiopia and Liberia. Then Ghana became independent in 1957, followed by many other countries in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s and the last was South Africa in 1994 although the writer is not oblivious of the fact that Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco is still pending.
Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, which most African leaders have read before they became leaders of their respective countries after the fight against colonialism but still repeated the mistakes Fanon warned against (I am not sure if Ian Khama and Jacob Zuma read it!).
This is what Fanon wrote: “The people of Africa have only recently come to know themselves. They have decided, in the name of the whole continent, to weigh in strongly against the colonial regime. Now the national bourgeoisies, who in region after region hasten to make their own fortunes and to set up a national system of exploitation, do their utmost to put obstacles in the path of this ‘Utopia’. The national bourgeoisies, who are quite clear as to what their objectives are, have decided to bar the way to that unity, to that coordinated effort on the part of two hundred and fifty million men to triumph over stupidity, hunger and inhumanity at one and the same time. That is why we must understand that African unity can only be achieved through the upward thrust of the people, and under the leadership of the people, that is to say, in defiance of the interests of the bourgeoisie”. (At the time of writing his book, The Wretched of the Earth, Africans were believed to be about 250,000,000).
In South Africa, Botswana and many other African countries the national bourgeoisie hastened to make their own fortunes through self-enrichment schemes such as Black Economic Empowerment. Former Robben Islanders especially from organizations other than the ANC have complained that Nelson Mandela went around the world fund-raising in their name and that he kept the money he collected, in their name, to himself.
The President of Botswana Ian Khama is always out of kilter with the rest of the continent on issues of continental importance. The people of Botswana do not necessarily agree with the bizarre positions he adopts. He adopts pro-Western positions which he never raises in their national parliament. The statement, “That is why we must understand that African unity can only be achieved through the upward thrust of the people, and under the leadership of the people, that is to say, in defiance of the interests of the bourgeoisie” rings true in the face of the wayward foreign policy positions Khama adopts.
As regards internal affairs in the sphere of institutions, the national bourgeoisie will give equal proof of its incapacity… the parliamentary game is faked from the beginning…powerless economically, unable to bring about the existence of coherent social relations, and standing on the principle of its dominations as a class, the bourgeoisie chooses the solution that seems to it the easiest, that of the single party.
The 1994 election results were rigged and were not a true reflection of the wishes of the people of South Africa. The PAC was swindled and once the ANC got into power through a rigged election, state apparatuses were used to further weaken and destroy the PAC. It is clear that the PAC has been infiltrated.
The ANC controls the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The ANC government funds the IEC and they say “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. The election results the ANC desires… it will get from the IEC as long as it is controlled and funded by the ANC government. A Russian scholar who visited South Africa recently hit the nail on the head when he said South Africa was to all intents and purposes a one party state.
Fanon says that the national bourgeoisie turns its back more and more on the interior and on the real facts of its underdeveloped country, and tends to look towards the former mother country and the foreign capitalists who count on its obliging compliance. As it does not share its profits with the people, and in no way allows them to enjoy any of the dues that are paid to it by the big foreign companies, it will discover the need for a popular leader to whom will fall the dual role of stabilizing the regime and of perpetuating the domination of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeois dictatorship of underdeveloped countries draws its strength from the existence of a leader. We know that in the well-developed countries the bourgeois dictatorship is the result of the economic power of the bourgeoisie. In the under-developed countries on the contrary the leader stands for moral power, in whose shelter the thin and poverty-stricken bourgeoisie of the young nation decides to get rich.
Fanon continues to say, “The people who for years on end have seen this leader and heard him speak, who from a distance in a kind of dream have followed his contests with the colonial power, spontaneously put trust in this patriot. Before independence, the leader generally embodies the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty and national dignity. But as soon as independence is declared, far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people in what touches bread, land and the restoration of the country to the sacred hands of the people, the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general President of that company of profiteers impatient for their returns which constitutes the national bourgeoisie”. Those who were old enough in the early 1990’s will remember that the leader alluded to here is none other than Nelson Mandela whose movie Long Walk to Freedom will be shown in cinemas across the country on the 28 November and is being advertised on Nedbank ATM’s. Mandela was the one who told the African people in the early 1990’s “not to have unreasonable expectations”. He stabilized the regime and perpetuated the domination of the bourgeoisie.
The Mandela movie by Anant Singh will not reveal these inconvenient truths. It is a movie meant to canonize Mandela. It is a movie that seeks to portray Mandela as if he was the only leader who fought for our struggle for liberation when his role was in fact minimal. The movie will not mention leaders like PAC founding President Robert Sobukwe, the principled and uncompromising leader who put South Africa on the international map and made it possible for the world to know about the atrocities perpetrated on the African people in racist South Africa. We need a movie that will tell the true story of South Africa’s struggle for liberation and not one that distorts and disfigures our past out of shape. As the people are being lulled to sleep through movies such as Long Walk to Freedom, let us remember THE LONGEST WALK SOBUKWE trudged.
By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a Senior Research fellow at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).