By Koketso Marishane
- A prominent African Sociologist (Prof. Kwesi Prah) once said, “if everyone is an African, then nobody is an African”. Oh well, the question then is, what’s so African in South Africa? The land? The food? Any other means of production?
For the sake of generating a dialogue around these important and critical issues in our beloved country, South Africa, we have timelessly raised numerous sensitive and controversial matters through open platforms. Our opinions have amongst others, been interrogating the visibly slow pace of land reform in the country.
Respectfully, we have recognised that land ownership has for decades been central to the anti-colonial struggle, and that land dispossession is directly and indirectly linked to the persistent challenges of our triple problems: unemployment, poverty and inequality. Moreover, our verdict has been that the exaggerated claims of the success of South Africa’s reconciliation assignment be withheld at bay till the land question has been resolved.
We’ve also raised various motions and made numerous contributions to the arguments on transforming the educational system in our country. Why is it that students in SA are taught about CV writing whilst others in developing and developed countries are trained on entrepreneurship?
In this respect, we’ve been advocating for an African based curriculum at a time when our policy makers were seemingly obsessed with the western-based models and accents at the exclusion of African experience thus rendering Africanism null and void.
We’re mindful of the continuous argument re-ignited by our former president and now perpetuated by our deputy president on the African Renaissance, however, we dismissed and continue to do so that the sycophantic verdict that these two are ‘the god-fathers of African Renaissance” whereas we know that African challenges are not purely inspired by Africanism.
In the same vein, it’s worth mentioning that the role of neo-colonial regimes and super powers in fomenting conflicts in Africa weren’t bred in anywhere but Africa. Alas, to have suggested that the new conceptualization of who is African by the former president, while seductive, is not consistent with the historical and scholarly description of identities. We also noted that identities are not formed by mere conference declarations.
We’ve suggested that one’s geographical location should not be collapsed nor confused with one’s cultural identity or orientation. After all, if anyone can be an African, who then isn’t?
Amazingly, it’s been astonishingly noteworthy to hear former president recently alluding to the historical conceptualization of the African in the ANC’s statement and his intention for further engagement. We wonder if former president included white South Africans in his statement in relation to the 1900 Pan-African Congress since being vague has become stylish like our charismatic churches?
Let it be known that we commend former president for instilling a sense of urgency with regard to the delivery of services, especially in rural areas. We also noted that the government and parliament’s commitment to effecting transformation by passing an avalanche of new legislation and establishing of institutions of democracy as stipulated in the Constitution. We have also commended unambiguously that the government’s and parliament’s efforts in affording good accounts in discharging their responsibilities.
Learning from the files made by various members of the ruling party, it’s pleasing to witness such concerns being noted. We also note with utter disappointment that although concerns have been noted, they have however been shelved aside for another president, another speaker and so forth. The President and his ruling party are understandably irritated by the frequency with which these concerns are raised.
However, they are better advised that these concerns and related misconceptions are unlikely to disappear until and unless they are addressed. Should we chant viva to raise the flag?
It is quite unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, that the moment for executing a revolution rarely is one that is blessed with leisurely reflections. To this extent, the revolutionary, for all his zeal and purity of intent, will not uncommonly stumble in the course of his mission.
Learning from history, may we be reminded that many political systems the world over have very short moral memory in themselves. Thus, while endless authority has so often been granted to the father of the revolution in Africa and elsewhere, we’ve equally witnessed how the political system has so dramatically failed to uphold its avowed sacred duty of keeping a check on those it has entrusted with such power.
It is for this sole account that we fundamentally believe that one of the greatest challenges of political transition is the ability and willingness to affirm the human element in our leaders. Our observation is that there is no instrument for such affirmation better than an open and frank intellectual engagement.
Our periodical public submissions have been aimed at promoting a none-violence, none-harmful culture of democratic debate that offers material expression to freedoms of expression, thought and opinion. We deem this as constituting a civic responsibility, and in part responding to former president’s invitation for black intelligentsia to participate in the public discussions that move South Africa forward.
Otherwise to suggest that blacks as a singular class must ask themselves whether they’re implementing their mandate for themselves, for the country or the world begs of him the question of his moral and social conscious authority.
Our understanding of this mandate does not necessarily include chanting sycophantic praises to new regime; but neither does it exclude giving credit where credit is due. We deem this task as one of, among others, submitting probing questions for clarity of thought on a variety of matters and fostering an environment of critical thinking engagement on the basis of conviction.
In implementing our mandate, which at times takes the form of being critical of government’s policies, we have evidently exposed ourselves to some virulent, unscrupulous personal attacks. For instance, suggestions have advanced that our involvement is counter-revolutionary and typical of the pre-1994 revolutionary cum stooges who have suddenly “sprung from nowhere”.
The stated personal attacks ought to concern those who share the burden of thought in our society. It ought to concern also those among our leaders who truly dream of the masses of our people partaking in the rebirth of Africa. For one thing, no such rebirth will materialise without unleashing first the intellectual energy of the African majority.
Besides, the very nature of these personal attacks against us vividly go against the spirit of the call made by former president for black intellectuals to get into the arena of public discourse. On the face of it, it seems that the call for black intellectuals is one of ringing a false alarm.
How so, we may check, can South Africa engender a culture of true intellectual battle if there are signs that those whom history has blessed with political power have already delineated what subjects shall not be on the agenda?
The burden of intellectual and academic life is rarely seen in full measure, and express themselves in complex ways. For example, we have had aspersions cast on our educational competence for merely raising questions about political developments within the national governing party.
To some extend, questions such as “what kind of knowledge are we imparting on to our successors”. “Will we be content with the kind of content material we’re teaching our fellows”? Without belabouring the point, such insinuations tend to suggests that there is perhaps only one body of knowledge- truthful knowledge, that is- that awaits our begging from some venerable entity.
Our African ancestors’ angels dreamers and travellers traversing tide are fuming. Heaven knows that great minds in history like Martin Luther King, Bantu Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara among others, for example – knew intuitively that human advancement is only possible when the mind is freed from the shackles of geo-political, scientific, religious and socio-economic dogma. The question thus is, have Africans learnt anything from the teachings of these great pioneers so we can emulate them?
Koketso Marishane was on PowerFM this morning to talk about this. Click here
to listen to the conversation.