Friday, July 16, 2010

Fools - an analogy of the distortion of history in a postwar era

Professor Njabulo Ndebele once boldly declared when victims spit upon victims, shouldn’t they be called fools? Well this has happened not far from my nose, in my own country. I have seen victims of a humanly degrading system called apartheid spit on other victims of a worse system. Apartheid victims who were stripped of their dignity as a people due to the colour of their skin have turned against victims of colonialism and are now seeing them as worthless, scavenging, illegal immigrants. This, the educated ilk termed xenophobia, hatred of one by another in its worst kind.

What has got my attention and made me hate the post apartheid South Africa power grabbing fiasco, is seeing victims of apartheid spitting upon other victims of apartheid in this South Africa. I guess this country being a child of the African continent is not immune to some of the hereditary ills of the continent. Most African countries, post colonialism or tyranny, have a tendency of taking three steps forward and two steps back.

My point here is the following, and I am not going to apologise for it, Nelson Mandela is not the only liberator of South Africa. ANC cadres are not the only liberators of South Africa.

It is a pity that South Africans have come to accept that half a truth is better than no truth at all. It is for this reason many of my countrymen have come to understand and accept Madiba and/or the ANC as the only liberator. That there my countrymen is absolute bull dust.

Before we begin a debate and you wanting to engage me on politics and political ideologies and credentials let me declare that I am not into one-sided politics. I never joined any political party neither did my mentor who happens to be my father. One thing though, I was taught to respect all political views especially those that spoke to the liberation of blacks and the abolishment of apartheid. I was taught not to follow anyone nor pledge my legions to any man blindly. I grew up with the philosophy that any black party fighting for the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa has got my attention and support, a view that I still hold dearly.

What has come in post apartheid era is rather disturbing. When we seek to reclaim the land of our forefathers, when we seek to rename municipalities, institutions, towns and streets, when we seek to tell stories of our liberators we have developed a tendency to stick to one movement. Rather I say we tend to dish half a plate instead of the full meal.

In as much as the June 16 protest is synonymous with Tsietsi Mashinini, we are yet to see a street named after him or a monument. The ruling party has gone out to financially and institutionally highjack the commemoration of the event. An event of national importance is now party branded and speakers will always come from the ruling party. This is the case with other events and individuals. While Solomon Mahlangu, Matthews Goniwe and others are celebrated, largely due to their affiliation with the ruling ANC, Tsietsi Mashinini, Steve Biko and Onkgopotse Tiro and others are cast to the political dustbin due to their affiliation with other political parties. It is in this light that I, being an African and a South African reject the notion that the ANC is the only liberator of the people and that Nelson Mandela is the chief liberator.

Robert Sobukwe had the apartheid system put in place the “Sobukwe clause” just to be able to keep him in jail. Japhta Masemola spent twenty nine years in Robben Island effectively making him the longest serving political prisoner in that gaol. Steve Biko, Onkgopotse Tiro and Tsietsi Mashinini inter alia contributed immensely to revolutionize young people many of whom left the country to join the armed struggle which was one of the tools used by the ANC to fight the apartheid regime. The memory of these and other struggle icons has been reduced to stories that their comrades, families and the media archives tell us. Other than that nothing would be heard of them and their contribution to the struggle for a democratic South Africa. These and other sons and daughters of the soil have their memory erased and sadly it is done by countrymen whom they fought alongside in the struggle. This has been a trend in some African states that achieved freedom long before South Africa. In Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU was obliterated and Nkomo himself became a persona non grata. In the former Zaire (now DRC), Patrice Lumumba was sold to the Belgian authorities by people he fought side by side with.

As we embark on process of re-writing our history for the sake of our children let’s not make the blatant ‘mistake’ of the former regime and only tell a distorted version. Let us boldly tell all the stories of our heroes and heroines so that our children and their children will cherish everyone’s contribution to the struggle for a better South Africa.

When we distort our history, when we seek to write off the contribution our fellow countrymen made against apartheid, when we as victims of apartheid seek to ignore the contribution of other victims of apartheid, we should be careful in that history will judge us as fools.

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