It is such a pity and lamentable that the teaching of history in South Africa has been literally banished from schools by the ANC government to serve the narrow interests of its leaders. One wonders if there are government leaders in Africa or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, who are as myopic as those who have led the ANC since the adoption of the “Freedom Charter” in 1955. Do they really understand the importance of history?

In the book When We Ruled by Robin Walker, African-American scholar Professor Maulana Karenga teaches us that “History has clear social functions. It is a source of group understanding that enables a people to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. It is a source of understanding for an individual of his or her society and also the world at large. Furthermore, history imposes modesty, especially if the example under discussion surpasses one’s achievements. Finally, history is a source of useful models to emulate”.

Another noted African American scholar, Professor John Henrik Clarke, wrote that history is always relevant because “History is the clock that people use to tell them their time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The role of history is to tell a people what they have been, where they have been, what they are and where they are. The most important role that history plays is that it has the function of telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be”.

In my last article (published here on Mayihlome News under the title “Let’s Debunk the False Claims of White Civilization”) I responded to some white South Africans who claimed that when their forefathers came to this continent Africans were uncivilised, walked naked, could not write and knew nothing about religion and science. These white South Africans lack the modesty that Professor Karenga talks about because they either genuinely do not understand that Africans had achieved more than Europeans or they deliberately ignore that fact since the ANC government has banished the teaching of history in schools. These white people write this gobbledygook in newspapers such as the Business Day, for example, and many Africans including those who lead the ANC are not bothered by this falsification and distortion of African history because they believe the bunkum from some of these white folks.

Members of the Pan Africanist Congress who went to exile in the 1960’s sometimes regale themselves with stories of how their ANC compatriots, especially in London at that time, used to mock them when they greeted each other with the PAC salute of “fellow African” or “Son of the soil” or “Izwe lethu, iAfrika” meaning ‘Africa is our land’. PAC members still salute each other like that to this day. ANC members would ask PAC members why they were saluting each other as Africans and ask them if they ever heard Europeans greeting each other as “fellow Europeans”. Former PAC President and Robben Islander Dr. Stanley Mogoba tells this joke amusingly and laughs his lungs out as he is telling it. He visited London in the 1970’s when he experienced this joke.

This article is not about jokes but about the achievements of Africans in Southern Africa before the arrival of Europeans to refute the claims that Africa was a savage land prior to the arrival of Europeans. My point of departure would be Great Zimbabwe, an important ruined city in southern Africa. This city is described as a megalithic fortress-like structure of twelve buildings spread over three square miles (about 7.76 Sq. km). Its buildings were built of granite bricks that lock together without mortar, some of the walls are 53 feet high (10.6 metres) and 17 feet thick (about 5.1 metres) in places. There were numerous drains and dadoes. In the fourteenth century in the Common Era the city was as big as mediaeval London accommodating 18000 people.

There was also a Temple in Great Zimbabwe. It is needless to say the architecture and freemasonry involved in constructing this city, with its Temple, famous for its conical tower and a castle. In 1902 European treasure hunters found locally manufactured iron hoes, golden beads, bronze copper, gold and iron, some were twisted into bracelets.

Gold was not discovered by white people in the 1800’s, Africans have been mining gold, iron and copper for many years. In 1932, there were excavations at Mapungubwe burial which included a golden rhinoceros. The Mapungubwe burial site dates back to the twelfth century in the Common Era. The hoes indicate that the Africans were engaging in agriculture as well as pastoral farming since Great Zimbabwe was constructed in such a way that it accommodated domestic animals.

This Southern African culture stretched from central Africa to present day South Africa and Mozambique and spanned a period of seventeen centuries. It is stated in the book When We Ruled that the types of skeletons recovered show a gradual population change from the Khoisan type of Negro, typical of Southern Africa, to Negroes more typical of Central or West Africa. This archaeological evidence shows the slow and progressive assimilation of the northerners into the population, refuting the often made charge that the migrating “Bantus” from Central and West Africa exterminated the “Bushmen” of the South – typical of White South African pseudo-historical writing.

Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the Munhumutapa (Mwenemutapa) Empire which stretched as far as South Africa as illustrated in John Speed’s 1627 map of Africa. How could we have known civilisation because of Jan Van Riebeeck who came to South Africa in 1652, long after we had had been living in cities and towns? The first person to circumnavigate Africa in circa 600 Before the Common Era was an ancient Egyptian man by the name of Hanno.

A script of a hieroglyphic inscription was discovered on some rock at Tete in Mozambique next to the Zambezi River. It was discovered in 1896. Dr. Albert Churchward was informed that in one of the ruins in South Africa there is a stone-chamber with a vast quantity of Papyri, covered with old Egyptian hieroglyphics. A Boer hunter discovered this and used a large quantity to light a fire with and yet still a larger quantity remained there. They claim we had not seen the written word but when they find one they use it to light the fire.

In the book When We Ruled it is said that scholars have debated the possibility that the builders of Great Zimbabwe possessed highly sophisticated mathematical and astronomical knowledge in addition to their better known engineering skills. Furthermore, there are suggestions that the Temple contains structural features that display mathematical and/or astronomical alignments as has been claimed for the Great Pyramid of Giza.

By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a fellow at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).