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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Time to embrace an honest meaning of “Mayibuye iAfrika” in this Afrika Month

Africa Day - BEKUSINWA kanje ezitaladini zaseThekwini njengoba kade kugunjwa ubumbano ezizweni ezahlukene e-Afrika

Africa Day - BEKUSINWA kanje ezitaladini zaseThekwini njengoba kade kugunjwa ubumbano ezizweni ezahlukene e-Afrika

Published May 8, 2022


Africa Day - BEKUSINWA kanje ezitaladini zaseThekwini njengoba kade kugunjwa ubumbano ezizweni ezahlukene e-Afrika

David Letsoalo

The cry of “Mayibuye iAfrika” is a powerful and pointed expression of the ultimate objective of the struggles of the oppressed people in Afrika.

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This cry encapsulates the message of the ideal of the freedom struggle as nothing less than the total liberation of the people from the clutches of colonialism and apartheid. It’s important that we avoid reducing this poignant expression to the level of mere political sloganeering and rhetoric. We must give an honest meaning and content to it.

This is said in the context of the unofficial observance of May as Afrika Month. At a superficial level, one may say this is premised on the recognition of the historical reality of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. It is, further, a huge act of embarrassment and disappointment that even the day itself is not officially recognised as a holiday.

It’s thus opportune that we start reflecting deeply on the rationale and main reasons behind this historical event. My view is that Afrikan leaders, even in those early years of independence, had diagnosed the problem and worked out the solutions, as Afrikans.

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They, however, for various reasons, failed to see their set programme to its logical completion. I argue that most problems that continue to afflict this continent would be resolved if our leaders genuinely embraced or simply grounded themselves in the key objectives and programmes of the continental body, which has “transmogrified” itself into the present-day African Union (AU).

We are back to that cliché of the leadership that has all the magnificent plans and programmes, but fails dismally when it comes to the execution and implementation thereof.

The challenges that the Afrikan continent has faced since time immemorial are attributed to the ravaging consequences of colonisation, slavery, imperialism and, of course, (global) capitalism.

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Despite highly-spirited efforts by some of our leaders, post-independence, to arrest this problem, the “former” colonisers and imperial powers did not rest.

They, instead, persisted with their sinister and evil agenda, which resulted in new or disguised ways of colonisation and imperialism (read neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism respectively). The foreign forces used the old strategy of dividing and destabilising Afrika, and simply capturing its pliable leaders. This inevitably resulted in brother pitted against brother.

It should thus be understood that Afrikan states never had any respite since attaining their independence, as they were soon plunged in internal or civil strife emanating from externally induced conflicts and civil wars. So, we have never had consolidated time for good governance and economic development, as well as peace and security.

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The evil hand of imperialists ensured that grounded leaders who embraced the broader mission of the total liberation of Afrika were, over the years, eliminated by the neo-colonial and neo-imperialist forces with the obvious collusion of their Afrikan stooges. That’s how we lost Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and many others.

It’s worth stating that the formation of the OAU was inspired by the mission to push back the mess of colonisation, which included the mental, spiritual, cultural, education, linguistic, legal, economic and governance/political systems. It was inevitable that the execution of the mammoth task of decolonisation would depend on Afrikan unity in order to succeed.

It may thus be argued that the African Union, when it was formed in 2002, was a result of the appreciation of the dire need for Afrika to respond to this general decadence through the creation of effective home-grown systems, treaties, policies and programmes.

All these efforts were aimed at the reclamation, renewal and regeneration of the Afrikan continent by Afrikans themselves. The lodestar in this respect was the notion of the African Renaissance.

It’s important that as we continue sounding the “slogans” of Afrika Day or Afrika Month, we should understand that there is a historical context to the problems of poor governance, poverty, food insecurity, stifled trade and investment, poor economic development, as well as political and social instability on the continent. Whilst we are seized with these problems, the neo-imperialists, particularly through multi-national companies, continue to pillage our natural resources.

My gripe with post-independence and “post-apartheid” Afrikan states lies with the failure to dismantle the colonial template or systems. In other words, Afrikan leaders simply replaced the colonists in the colonial architecture, which essentially resulted in Afrika becoming a Neo-Colony.

It is my view, in this Afrika Month, we should take a moment to rethink our politics and reflect on the unfinished business in terms of which the total reclamation of Afrika can be executed. It’s about the repossession of our land and governance systems, as well as Afrikan customary laws and practices.

However, my observation is that our grasp of “Mayibuye iAfrika'' is subsumed and drowned by our indulgence in eurocentric systems, including foreign religions, cultures, economic systems and our obsession with electoral politics within the deceptive conception of “democracy”.

In other words, we should wake up to the reality that “democracy” itself is a colonial construct. For me, it’s like we have normalised and effectively deferred to the philosophical onslaught. Afrika seems to have regressed to point zero when it comes to engendering the spirit of Pan Afrikanism.

It’s heartbreaking that the failure of governance and absent leadership has created conditions that precipitate black-on-black confrontations, self-hate and civil strife, more than a century after the first Pan African Conference, and almost sixty years after the formation of the OAU.

It is interesting that this country, Azania, has had leaders who contributed immensely to the propagation of the ideals of African unity and prosperity in solidarity, which are the bedrock of Pan Afrikanism. These leaders figured out that the best weapon towards the total liberation of Afrika was unity of the oppressed peoples of this continent.

It is the work of the young Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the true ANC, that inspired the Pan Africanist movement on the continent. This spirit was also pursued by the likes of Anton Lembede, who insisted that “Afrika is for Afrikans”.

The intellectual acumen of Lembede inspired exceptional Afrikanist leaders such as Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe to vehemently propagate for Afrikan unity even against the forceful tide of other races, particularly white settlers, that had infiltrated and in essence taken over the ANC in the early 1950’s. Already in his inaugural speech as president of the newly-formed Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) in 1959, Sobukwe had emphatically stated that, “we regard it as the sacred duty of every state to strive ceaselessly and energetically for the creation of the United States of Afrika, stretching from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar''.

He therefore argued that, besides the sense of a common historical fate that we share with other countries of Afrika, it is imperative, for purely practical reasons, that the whole of Afrika be united into a single unit, centrally controlled. Only in that way can we solve the immense problems that face the continent’s people.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has recently been making calls, if not requests, for the neo-colonial or neo-apartheid “democratic” government to make this day (May 8) a holiday as a tribute to our ancestors.

The significance of this call (for Ancestors’ Day), in my view, lies in its conscientization of our people that the rainbow nation is a neo-colonial state in many respects, including our eurocentric calendar. There is absolutely nothing Afrikan to write home about it. As alluded to earlier, all we did after 1994 was to simply continue with the colonial or apartheid political and socio-economic architecture or systems.

It is so sad that, besides the holidays, our leaders have been scared to upset the settler community that even the settler-colonalist name of our country has not been changed to Azania, the Union Buildings remains intact, the name of our currency remains the “Rand” and the national anthem has sustained the apartheid “Die Stem”, and the education system remains eurocentric.

I recognise the hard fact that the encroachment of white settler colonialists happened on the land and Afrikan governance system of our kings and queens. This was centuries before the liberation movement was formed. In this respect, I think the best way to honour our ancestors should be the repossession of their stolen land and the reclamation of the Afrikan governance system.

In this lopsided situation, it is the foreign or Western system that “recognises” the indigenous system. The Western system, as per Section 211 of the Constitution, states that “the institution, status and role of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised, subject to the Constitution”.

To be crude, it should be the other way around. In this sense, the African system should actually be the one “recognising” the foreign or democratic system. Secondly, and very importantly, the whole calendar should be completely overhauled to reflect the heritage, knowledge systems and experiences of Afrikan people.

I remember that two years ago I commented on the bold remarks by Abathembu King, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, to the effect that he did not want to be “ruled by presidents and premiers". This speaks to the very notion of resistance to the recognition by politicians in this eurocentric political system. Consequently, it’s a conflict of cultures in terms of which an awkward situation has arisen whereby “commoners" may be in a powerful position of “recognising” and thus ruling over the traditional leaders.

The people of this land should therefore thoroughly re-engage on this critical question. It’s important, as we celebrate Afrika Month, that we sharply locate the call for “Mayibuye iAfrika '' in this broader revolutionary context.

David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and Law academic

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