Why would South African in the first twenty one years of the new political dispensation fail to see things for what they are? A new nation cannot live in denial for long. Consider the examples below.
Each April month the Rand Show is held at the Nasrec show grounds near Soweto as an annual trade exhibition laced with celebratory fanfare as a special occasion to honour the arrival of Jan Van Ribeeck on these shores on April 6, 1652. This also means the history of southern Africa is only beginning with the advent of colonialists. This is a phenomenal lie not worth celebrating.
The Rand Show has always been anchored by the Union Defense Force, the South African Defense Force and now the integrated South African National Defense Force. Commercial entities that show their wares at the exhibition may do this for the profit motive, but they are also cementing the lie that colonialism is good for Africa. It’s a shame that visitors to the show are mostly black people and their children.
Good morning, new South Africa.
The Union Building in Pretoria or in the City of Tshwane if you like, is a relic of the unity of British and Boer forces after the war between them in 1902. It is a symbolic outcome of the 1909 Act of Union that led to the militarily conquered indigenous people being turned into ‘pariahs in the land of their forefathers’. Southern Africa was being made a special dominion of the European settlers, at the expense of the dispossessed indigenous people of the land. Tshekiso Solomon Plaatje rode around the country in a bicycle to witness and verify the hardships that were visited to the African people, and he thankfully recorded this in his seminal book entitled “Native Life in South Africa”. The resistance movement came together as a counter measure to the establishment of the racist settler Union of South Africa, and established the Native National Congress in 1912. It is hard to imagine that the liberation movement was meant to step into the seats and comforts of the Union Building – to pursue the same agenda the structure symbolizes but with few ramifications.
The incumbent administration knows deep down that neo-colonialism in form and content is not kosher. Their self-sabotaging behavior – learnt from their history with getting critical things done for them by others with superior skills than them – sends a meta-message to young people of the new age that they are congenitally incapable of transformation and change. By sustaining what was regarded as sacrosanct during apartheid and settler-colonialism, they unwittingly and subliminally hold what was then the status quo as still true now. They therefore erode the self-confidence of African people and render them perpetual slaves and third class citizens.
Good morning, national democratic struggle.
Similarly, the National Arts Festival held in July in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province was first sponsored by the 1820 Settlers Foundation and their financial institution the Standard Bank. The festival was upholding the British Empire’s worldview and way of life, and celebrating Western civilization through poetry readings, art exhibitions, music performances, theatre and literature that prevailed as a higher order above the natives. Grahamstown is situated in landscape and environment that reminds the 1820 settlers of their home in the mother country, and they set up Rhodes University to carry the values, norms and mores of the British.
In 1992 Barbara Masekela and others in the aristocracy of the exceptional national building, declared the National Arts Festival a cultural heritage and platform of unity in diversity for the new South Africa. They waxed lyrical about the need to let bygones be bygones and the need to embrace the same common values despite master and servant differences of the past. The festival continues to uphold the values of the original founders and it is exclusively sponsored by Standard Bank. New artists are measured and recognized on the standards for art and literature inherited from the British Empire.
Good morning, transformation and change.
Even more puzzling, in the high density sprawl of Tembisa Township, young people referred to as the born free generation entertain themselves regularly at a posh nightclub called Caprivi. What’s in a name, you may ask. The name Caprivi is a throwback to the senseless but staged massacres of African people. Are these young people aware that a bloodbath that started with the slaughter of innocent women, aged people and children in KwaMakutha in the KZN province in 1985 and later led to the internecine violence on the East Rand where Tembisa is situated was part of the SADF’s operation code-named marionette? This Operation Marion revolved around 200 liberation army defectors and other puppets trained at a military base in the Caprivi Strip in occupied Namibia in 1985, as part of low intensity warfare – called black on black violence – fueled by the SADF. Thinking youth and patrons of the Caprivi nightclub would have approached the owner of the entity and asked that they consider renaming this entertainment spot. To celebrate under the neon lights of Caprivi disco club is akin to spitting on the graves of their relatives and family members who died at the hands of the Caprivi trained assassins.
As they say in isiZulu, “Ifa leziwula lidliwa izihlakaniphi”. If we do not mobilize the youth to come alive to their surroundings, their history and heritage, and to take their pride of place in the workings of their motherland, they will then forever be exploited by the fiddle of their deceitful compatriots.
Good morning to you, young people.
All of these bizarre symbols mentioned above come up as a result of the failure to discuss and resolve the national question for a free Azania. The genuine aspirations of the people to uplift themselves from dehumanization, degradation and despair are trampled upon by these settler colonial symbols. These trade exhibitions, arts festivals, nightclubs and many other such events are a constant reminder that the African people and their history of the national liberation struggle are placed in the gutter with sewer rats.
There is nix said about the antagonistic contradictions between settler colonialism and the right to self-determination of the African people. A democratic dispensation – no matter how bourgeois the dispensation is skewed – should attend in dialogue to the issues that matter to the masses.
We Pan Africanists stand for reparations after the wholesale Atlantic slave trade and the death of captives during the middle passage. We uphold the pre-colonial Azania civilization as a welcome heritage of Africa’s new generations, to restore the collective national African personality. We deplore the falsification of history and we condemn the suppression of victories and achievements made by valiant sons and daughters of the soil in the narrative that holds swing in academic circles.
By Jaki Seroke
The writer is a PAC stalwart, Chairperson of the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI) and a member of the National Executive Committee of the SA National Military Veterans Association.