The long-standing leading reggae group Steel Pulse has a track called Black and white oppressors on its 2019 album, Mass Manipulation.
August 12 was just commemorated as the 11th anniversary of the Marikana miners’ massacre, a lasting legacy of horror considering that the current president of South Africa, ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, was on the board of Lonrho, one of the owners of the Marikana platinum mine, who gave the go-ahead for the violent shooting of 43 miners who were protesting for decent income and work conditions in the mines.
The Marikana miners’ massacre calls for a national day of commemoration, considering its historic role in the struggle against “black and white oppressors”.
Black is signified by the role of Ramaphosa and other corporate black mining shareholders, and white by mining capital that has always raped South Africa’s land and people, especially the miners, to the present day in Africa and all over the world.
Just as with virtually every major incident of violence that black and other people of colour face in many parts of the world, especially in the US empire and particularly involving trigger-happy police and brutality, the Marikana massacre horror once again evoked an investigation and commission of inquiry into police violence.
Such are the tactics of colonialism in which the coloniser responsible for the very structures of violence in the first place, attempts to adorn a mask of legitimacy and veneer of morality by launching a supposed investigation.
The objective, of course, is always, we are told, to prevent such catastrophes in the future. The fact of the matter is that not only do such events routinely occur, but they escalate particularly in harsh economic times as we have lived through for the past 40 years when people engaged in struggle and protest to get the attention of the respective ruling authorities as to their plight of suffering and deprivation.
South Africa’s unemployment according to the Associated Press today is shamefully and disgustingly the highest in the world, at 43%, and is actually higher considering those who are not officially classified as unemployed. For youth, the same rate is over 60%! All of this persists even as the country fades each day with ongoing and avoidable electricity cuts.
Even more ironic, many in the entertainment world celebrated the crowning of Miss South Africa 2023 over the weekend. No mention or hint of Marikana. Such is the ugly colonial-capitalist legacy that lingers. Spectacular distractions abound while tens of millions of black people experience hunger, impoverishment, depression, and frustration each day, all the while fuelling the profit-maximising system and its partners.
And we are told that the beauty pageant is about empowering women!
How about another way in which black women in particular are economically empowered and productively employed to care for their struggling families?
The point here is that the colonial system, particularly in South Africa/ Azania, Africa, the Americas, Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Palestine, and other parts of the world, is illegitimate by virtue of its historical invasions and occupation of these indigenous lands. We have all been either repressed, silenced, or conditioned into accepting that such occupation and displacement of indigenous lands, languages, economies, cultures, and lives, is legitimate.
The recent events in West Africa recall us to the imperative resistance to colonialism, neo-colonialism, and capitalist hegemony and the incessant struggle to break the shackles of oppression. Just like the miners of Marikana sacrificed lives, family, food, and shelter to demand justice and liberation from corporate mining savage greed and exploitation for weeks (since miners and all workers essentially keep the South African economy afloat!), so too the people of Niger are sacrificing their lives for a new day free from the tutelage and terror of ongoing relentless French colonialism and militarism.
French colonialism, along with the West, especially the US empire, has bled and continues to bleed Niger, Africa, and other parts of the indigenous world in Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas of what rightfully belongs to us. People are generally unaware principally because the truth rarely makes it to the so-called mainstream media (the Cape Times is doing better, hopefully!) controlled by the western colonialist and capitalist establishment, including in South Africa that is a minion and puppet of the West. France’s predatory colonialist inhumanity is symbolised by the unbridled extraction and looting of Nigerien uranium that keeps much of France’s lights on and is sold for lucrative profits, part of its $3 billion earned annually in revenues. Meanwhile, over 90% of rural Nigeriens and 80% of urban places lack electricity.
France has not seen fit to provide such to the very people it rapes and rips off, intrinsic to its colonialist inhumanity. Few know that the French uranium mining company, Orano, left over 20 million tons of radioactive nuclear waste at Cominak, north-west Niger, after closing in 2021, that lasts millions of years and is a deadly threat to the lives of all Niger’s 25.25 million people, according to Iran’s Presstv.
The threat to cut off “aid” to Niger by the US empire and France (what we call “Aids” because it ensures colonised people are dependent on colonisers for economic sustenance) adds insult to injury.
Predatory extractors hold their subjugated victim hostage, demanding of them: “Either you do what we tell you, or you starve.” The heroic and courageous African people of Niger have sacrificially accepted the pain of eating and having so much less than the little they have, in the determined struggle to be liberated from France’s colonialist yoke.
Colonialism is the ideology and practice, and neo-colonialism continues the pattern. The West assumes over 531 years later that Africans, like all indigenous peoples of colour, are children, are pawns to be used for the sole enrichment and benefit of European people, and that we lack complete humanity. Only accepting European models of life will make us fully human, according to this ideology.
Niger is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, like the Congo, like Mama Africa as a whole, on Earth.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has $24 trillion of mineral deposits that include 80% of the world’s coltan for use in computers, cellphones, nuclear-powered ships, and electronic equipment and gadgets, along with gold, oil, coal, copper, diamonds, platinum, uranium, cassiterite (for tin), silver, manganese, iron ore,ba uxite, beryl, gold, cadmium, methane, nitrogen natural gases, and other industrial-dependent minerals. Yet the Congo is the most impoverished country on Earth, not poor, but made impoverished by her ceaseless rape and plunder by the Western capitalist and colonialist regimes over the past century and a half.
The Giant of Africa has finally awakened. Ibrahim Traore, the revolutionary Burkina Faso leader now reclaiming the policies, practices, and legacy of assassinated leader Thomas Sankara from the late 1980s, who revolutionised the country’s literacy rate from 17% to 73%, elevated women to key cabinet positions, redistributed land, and forged social justice practices throughout the country, has raised the question. He asked at the Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg recently: “Representing the youth, Burkina Faso has much water, land, resources, etc., but we are impoverished. Why?”
Niger’s leaders have immense popularity with the millions of impoverished people there, demonstrated in the thousands attending rallies in support of the Tiani regime and demanding the departure of French troops and liberation from economic exploitation.
Mali has banned the French language as lingua franca of the country.
These are all very important indicators that colonised peoples in West Africa, like the martyred miners of Marikana, are exhausted from being slaves to exploitative systems and are willing to pay the ultimate price for the liberation of their lands and peoples.
The “democratic free elections” system imposed by the west on Africa and the world has failed principally because the system is patterned on Western capitalism and is essentially corrupt and exploitative like colonialism itself, evident in South Africa’s so-called democratic dispensation since 1994.
The question is: When will South Africa arise? Her unemployment and pervasive entrenched poverty is a ticking time bomb. Only time will tell.
Miners at Marikana, Mayibuye!
Kunnie is an internationally-renowned activist and educator in the struggle to decolonise Africa, the Americas, and the world. He is a professor and author of four books. His fifth book forthcoming in 2024 is ‘The Earth Mother and the Collapse of Capitalism in the 21st Century’.