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The Mazibuye African Forum is a social movement which seeks upliftment for indigenous African people, writes Phumlani Mfeka.

Given the recent publicity in response to the issues raised by the Mazibuye African Forum (MAF), including by your columnist Imraan Buccus (“Grassroots groups need to counter Mfeka racism”, The Star Africa, January 23, 2014), we find the negative labels assigned to the forum predictable.

What is typical of critics of the MAF is that they do not engage the issues raised by the forum.

Let me clarify what the MAF is. It is a social movement that aims to address the question of African indigenous priority in South Africa, with the indigenous people being Africans and mixed-race Africans, also termed coloured. It aims to have socio-economic issues affecting Africans across party political lines swiftly addressed, as their challenges are across political affiliation. Hence its multiparty membership profile.

For centuries, indigenous Africans in most parts of the continent have been subjected to various forms of injustice such as slavery, colonialism, genocide, violation of property rights, racial segregation etc. Given these realities, there clearly have been few platforms for the affected people to raise their issues. Given the above historical context, the MAF aims to have the issues of the atrocities committed against African people resolved.

A case in point in the issue of reparations is that the Germans were obliged to repay the Jewish community. Even Asian countries that were colonised implemented programmes to reverse the effects of colonialism.

When it comes to the issue of African redress, there is a tendency to treat it with indifference by the powers that be. Africans are repeatedly told to “get over it and move on”. I believe as Africans we can move on provided we embark on the following:

* The return of land to Africans with no preconditions.

* We strive to ensure Africans get quality education and health care.

* The implementation of an economic empowerment policy clearly aimed at uplifting dispossessed indigenous Africans.

* We ensure a process that will see Africans represented in at least their demographic proportions in all sectors of the South African economy.

* The amendment of the property clause (section 25 of the constitution) as this is in direct conflict with transformation.

* We ensure Africans are allowed to accumulate capital by means of ring-fenced procurement directed at African-founded, owned and controlled businesses.

* We ensure that the financial services sector is transformed so as to achieve meaningful participation of indigenous Africans.

According to the 2012 Employment Equity report by the Department of Labour, there is overwhelming evidence that Indians are over-represented in the private and public sectors of the South African economy. Given the purpose of affirmative action, the forum maintains its call that Indians should henceforth be removed as needing affirmative action because they have exceeded their demographic targets of representation.

Africans are a dispossessed indigenous people with little to no support from outside the continent. The Indian community on the other hand arrived in South Africa as immigrants and still has ties as well as political and cultural support from India. The two can therefore not be assumed to be the same in terms of historical background. For that reason, the plight of the African people cannot be conflated with that of the Indian community. We have also observed how some members of the Indian community, primarily the upper class, tend to boast about their charity initiatives within African communities. As commendable as it may be, we as Africans strive to be a people that can exist independent of charity. We want to be self-sufficient.

Organisations like Afriforum and the SA Minority Rights Equality Movement are allowed to operate without being labelled racist, nor do they experience hostile attacks on their activities from indigenous people. We expect the same courtesy.

Africans are a vital component to the success of this democracy, hence it is of paramount importance that we deal with the glaring issues instead of resorting to diversionary tactics. Even the African upper-class that treats the plight of the broader African community with indifference, can achieve nothing but an uncertain future.

* Phumlani Mfeka is a member of the Mazibuye African Forum.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star