South Africa has been a seething cauldron of anger for many years from the time of apartheid which the African people in this country are now venting on their own brothers and sisters as well as children. What compounds the situation is that those in power don’t learn from history and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
The reason I say those in power don’t learn from history is that a few decades ago the erudite cultural historian, scientist and Pan Africanist, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop wrote a book titled Civilisation or Barbarism. In this book he raises, inter alia, social issues that affect the African continent and the world in general. Chapter 7 with the sub titled Race and Social Classes is more relevant for this article. Under the sub-title Laws of Ethic Relations in History, Dr Diop divided ethnic relations into four categories, namely, The Law of Percentage, The Law of Assimilability, The Law of Distance and The Law of the Phenotype.
Under the law of percentage, Dr Diop says that “an Eskimo in Copenhagen or a few Blacks in Paris trigger an amused curiosity and the outpouring of very sincere sympathy on the part of either of these cities. But just inject immigrant workers up to the fateful threshold of 4-8 percent, and you will have a racial situation comparable to that of New York City: the nature of social relationships changes, engendering ethnic tensions, global reflexes painful to describe. The more the percentage increases, the more the class struggle transforms itself into racial confrontation. In the nineteenth century in Denmark, the Gypsies were hunted down like foxes. Today, with the economic crisis, racial discrimination vis-à-vis immigrant workers appears, of all places, in Sweden. We now see that Sweden, the champion of antiracism, was ignoring the true nature of the racial problem and its implications in everyday life. The appearance of a small percentage of immigrant workers disclosed this; for it was sufficient to make racial discrimination appear spontaneously in these people who previously believed itself wholesome and devoid of any racist sentiment. “Sweden first” could be heard in a line of passengers waiting for the bus”.
Although in this country ethnic tensions were directed at fellow Africans in 2008 and the recent ones were directed at fellow Africans as well as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc., had the ANC government studied Dr Diop’s theory on the Laws of Ethnic Relations in History, they could have taken a leaf especially from the law of percentages and stemmed the tide of uncontrolled influx into the country by strict border controls from 1994. Some of us are Pan Africanists and don’t classify fellow Africans as foreigners, however, porous borders and unregulated movement of visitors (who are also undocumented) in and out of the country just doesn’t wash. I am still to hear of a home where family, relatives and guests do as they please. Every household has rules that even children who belonging to that family must obey.
Under the law of assimilability, Dr Diop says if the majority and minority belong to the same large ethnic group, and thus share the same culture, assimilation occurs progressively. He gave examples of the Spanish and Portuguese workers who were despised in France saying they would integrate themselves within the French population within the space of one generation as did the descendants of the Corsicans and the Poles in the Napoleonic era. The same would be true of the Bambara minority from Mali living in Senegal, who integrated after one generation. He says in cases where the ethnic and cultural gap is too great, tensions are exacerbated with time. Africans – Blacks and Arabs – found themselves in that situation in Europe. Coexistence then becomes possible only in a truly Socialist state, or a state that has adopted a high moral philosophy.
It boggles the mind that the Ndebele people from Zimbabwe were also victims of Afrophobic violence in Kwa Zulu Natal when they are the descendants of Mzilikazi who ran away from the iron rule of Shaka. Moreover, the Ndebele language spoken in Zimbabwe is similar to the Zulu language. I bet there are millions of South Africans who can’t distinguish between Ndebele and Zulu languages. Why haven’t the Ndebele and Zulu people coexisted in Kwa Zulu-Natal? The answer may lie in the fact that this country is not a Socialist state and has not adopted a high moral philosophy such as Pan Africanism.
It should be borne in mind that in the early 1990’s after Nelson Mandela toured a few Western countries he said that Africans should not have unrealistic expectations while at the same time openly saying that white people’s fears must be allayed. He adopted a policy of appeasing white people while ignoring factors that would unify the African people such as the Pan Africanist philosophy. African unity took a backseat and he only paid lip service to Pan Africanism, the consequences of which are manifesting themselves in an ignorant population which is being kept ignorant by successive ANC leaders in order to gain the upper hand in elections. Some of this ignorant population votes for contraptions such as the predominantly white party in the form of the Democratic Alliance (DA) while they ignore the PAC and Black Consciousness Movement – organizations that fought for their liberation and whose leaders paid dearly with their lives.
Towards the end of February 2011, I wrote an article in the Star published under the headline, “Intellectual with a vision for Africa”. In the article I stated that “Sobukwe was instrumental in formulating PAC policies….some of those policies are to unite and rally the African people around African nationalism and to espouse the African personality, which most members have hitherto not understood…the personality of a people can only refer to their cultural personality or cultural identity, which is made up of three interrelated factors: self-consciousness, the linguistic factor and the historical factor. All three are important…..the Black Consciousness Movement only emphasized self-consciousness. However, society has retrogressed to the pre-Black Consciousness era. There is so much self-hate, which manifests itself in the Afrophobic (not xenophobic) attacks against African immigrants and refugees.”
The media is now abuzz with news that the ANC wants to launch a campaign against self-hatred led by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. Sobukwe spoke about mental liberation in 1959, Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement spoke about issues of self-hate in the late 1960’s. The ANC has just woken up from its deep slumber in 2015. What time is it ANC? If you read the writings of ANC leaders such as Oliver Tambo, “Preparing for Power: Oliver Tambo Speaks” and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, they criticise the PAC and BCM as separatists and racialists because they didn’t understand Pan Africanism and Black Consciousness. That’s why after 21 years under the ANC government we are where we are with Africans in this country killing their own brothers, sisters and children. History has literally been banished from schools in South Africa and the history of the liberation struggle has been falsified, twisted and distorted out of shape so much that it has become unrecognisable.
The teachings of PAC founding President, Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe which can go a long way in resolving this country’s problems have been hidden from the youth, the same way they were banished during the apartheid era. The names of Sobukwe, Zeph Mothopeng, Jeff Masemola, Steve Biko and Onkgopotse Tiro have been expunged from history books to erase their contribution to our liberation struggle from the collective consciousness of the African people. And why are some APLA cadres still languishing in jail for fighting for the liberation of this country? Why? All this country’s Presidents from Mandela have kept them in jail and do not want to budge. The ANC began by marginalizing the other component of the liberation movement the – PAC and BCM – when they negotiated a bad deal with representatives of the Apartheid government and their imperialist backers in smoke-filled rooms where there was horse trading.
Some Western countries in league with De Beers and other multinational corporations persuaded Mandela to relax exchange control in order for them to move their money abroad. He acquiesced and money that accrued from our resources and the blood, tears and sweat of the brow of African workers (for the wealth of this country was not created by South Africans only but miners from all over Southern Africa for decades) was moved abroad. That money could have benefited the people of this country and some of the descendants of the people we are now hounding for the crumbs of bread that dropped from De Beers and other multinational corporation as scurried with their loot.
Western countries should also shoulder part of the blame for destabilising African governments through their proxies and Africom which was used to topple the government of Moammar Gaddafi and ultimately lynched and assassinated him. South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon voted in favour of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which led to the imposition of a No-Fly-Zone over Libya which led to the toppling of the government of Gaddafi and his ultimate lynching and assassination. Didn’t these three countries understand that in International Law, a No-Fly-Zone is a declaration of war? The government of Gaddafi was a bulwark against western imperialism and encroachment. After the fall of Gaddafi the northern part of the continent is a playground for the US, France, Britain and shady organizations and religious zealots and fanatics. African leaders who act as the West’s puppets are also to blame for allowing the West and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to dictate their social, political and economic policies which impoverish their countries and force their people to leave their countries in search for/of greener pastures, not knowing that the grass appears greener on the other side when it is not necessarily so or that distance is enchanting to the viewer.
Intelligence agencies and other organs of state in South Africa are not used to detect the seething cauldron of anger I described in the opening line but for petty factional squabbles and settling of scores. These state organs should be used for state security which encompasses border patrols. There is rampant corruption and drug dealing which devours society’s moral fabric. Victims of the recent violence were complaining that they didn’t get protection from the police. Strange enough, when some of these police officers are escorting deported illegal entrants they accept bribes and freed them. When they apprehend those who are coming illegally into the country they also let them free for a fee.
Let me revert to the laws under discussion. The third law is the law of distance which says two ethnic groups that are not fighting over the same leaving space or the same market, and that, instead of cohabiting in the same territory, occupy different territories separated by space, can enter into normal relations.
The last is the law of phenotype which states that in the historical and social relations among peoples, the only intervening factor at the outset is the phenotype, that is, the physical appearance, and consequently, differences that may exist at this level. Under this law Diop discusses bestial Darwinian struggles where barbarous conquerors exterminated or drove out the population of a country and either devastated or abandoned the productive forces that they did not know how to use. This category includes the Americas (North, South and Central), Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, a good part of Asia, the Pacific Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and many others. The Blacks of the Americas were brought over to work the land, while the indigenous races were being destroyed.
Dr. Diop reveals that in the course of history, when two groups of human being have argued over a vital economic space, the slightest ethnic difference can be magnified, temporarily serving as a pretext for social and political cleavage: differences in physical appearance, language, religions, morals, and customs.
When those in power are given advice they look at who is proffering the advice instead of looking at the soundness of the advice. South Africa has been set in a free-for-all mode by those in power. The country is in chaos. The foundation upon which this country was built is made of sand and would therefore not hold unless there is a radical paradigm shift in consciousness.
By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a fellow at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).