The out- of-court settlement reached between the ANC, AfriForum and the Transvaal Agricultural Union of SA, which states that Struggle songs such as Dubul’ iBhunu (shoot the boer) and many others will not be sung again if they are not remixed, is an abuse of the history of our armed Struggle.
It means that the documented and oral history must be distorted for us and future generations while biased Afrikaner historiography still remains intact. Afrikaner history books continue to propagate ultra-conservative Afrikaner myths in our democratic South Africa, books that present SA history in a bigoted and parochial manner. These books include Die evolusie van apartheid (The evolution of apartheid) and Wie en wat is die Afrikaner (Who and what is the Afrikaner?).
It was depressing to hear ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe saying: “Members should instead adjust some of the lyrics in order to go forward and not backward.”
If this is the kind of thinking that illuminates the way for South Africa then our brilliant future is already behind us; and we can only wonder about and wander through an epochal eclipse. The settlement is unfair and constitutes a rape of our historical rights. It is also an insult to our Struggle heroes and heroines who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It is imperative for our nation to understand that our Struggle songs are a sacred heritage that was constructed with solid revolutionary creativity, iron faith in the future and an unbreakable firmness of spirit. They are the barometer of revolutionary thought. They are the embodiment of great thinking and leadership. They mirror the sustained commitment and dedication of revolutionary martyrdom for the realisation of a great national ideal, democracy.
Yes, we value racial harmony and peaceful co-existence. But we should understand that the lyrics of the songs were inspired by oppressive circumstances. It should be remembered that the Struggle for political and economic emancipation was not a divided one. The songs that were sung for the attainment of both are the same. In 1994, we attained our political freedom.
Thereafter, we had high hopes that with political power we would soon liberate ourselves from economic chains. That was not to be. Economic freedom is still a dream. It stands to reason that we are not yet free of the chains of apartheid. The masses of our people are still living in poverty, inequality and unemployment. Our revolution is incomplete – we still need the original lyrics of our Struggle songs to inspire us to the realisation of our economic aspirations.
Let us keep in mind that accepting to remix the lyrics of these Struggle songs surely portrays us as apartheid apologists. We run the risk of creating bubblegum Struggle songs that are divorced from the colourful history of our heritage. We should always unapologetically recall that ours was a just war against an evil system. It would be the highest dishonour to them for us to connive in the distortion of the rich history they helped to create through blood, toil and tears.
Why should we sell our conscience in order to please our former masters? We don’t sing these songs to cultivate a spirit of racist hatred, we sing them to show our admiration for those who died so that we could be free. We sing them so that our chapters of the Struggle will never be forgotten. We sing these songs to learn and enjoy the armed Struggle philosophy with which they are imbued. We sing these songs to get inspiration whenever we are faced with obstacles in our lives.
The apartheid heritage was never mutilated like we want to do with our Struggle songs. It is safely preserved pure as it was in the Apartheid Museum in Joburg. No black person has complained about the existence of this museum because we understand that it is part of SA’s past. Instead of polluting them, we should opt for their preservation, translation and digitalisation for future generations. We need to erect a national Struggle heritage site.
It is surely our duty to raise the level of consciousness of those who feel that the songs are sung to generate hatred against them. It is through this higher level of consciousness and a different understanding in these different times that their irrational fears and empty suspicions can disappear.
l Abe Mokoena is a government employee in Limpopo. He writes in his personal capacity.