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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

A Manifesto to End All Manifestos

A Manifesto to End All Manifestos – by Ncebakazi Manzi

Next to kwaito star Chomee, memorandums delivered by protesting blacks are probably the ANC government’s most prized gift. In a country that has seen more than 20 000 protests since liberal democracy declared its victory against the people, the memorandum is the black struggle’s suicide note to power; written with a fleeting passion and a heart heavy with defeat.

Enter: The People’s Manifesto. A student from Wits University trying to describe the manifesto, more to himself than to his attentive audience, really, landed gracefully on the word ukuchwentsa , a Zulu word that refers not just to madness but to rebellion at the same time. “Ah, I see…mad rebellion, just like Julius Malema”, someone might say. No. Julius is neither mad, nor rebellious, my friend; he is only a meticulous murderer of blacks’ truest dreams. A bloody agent of power.

Thomas Sankara knew in his bones what ukuchwentsa meant. For him it was a key ingredient. One couldn’t “dare to dream” of radical possibilities without it. Why else would a country’s president sit in a stuffy, non air conditioned room and write laws precluding his charges from riding luxurious, expensive cars, having chauffeurs or earning big fat salaries? Why else, if not because of pure rebellious madness?

Long before him, Suzanne Cèsaire revelled in the beauty of this rebellious madness. For her, “it nourishes an impatient strength within us, endlessly reinforcing the massive army of refusals”. And the reward for that is far more priceless than any sushi or flavour of champagne: “Millions of black hands will fling their terror across the furious skies of world war. Freed from a long benumbing slumber, the most disinherited of all peoples will rise up from plains of ashes”.

I can tell you now that if you approach the manifesto, red pen and ruler in hand, searching for the exact line or paragraph that best exhibits ukuchwentsa, you will not find it. Same way you wouldn’t point to the spirit of any man or woman, even if you tried. The best you can do is to imagine with me a young black man, new to Robben Island, being ordered by a prison guard to take his hat off and then without flinching or caring to conceal his disdain, simply asking, “Why?” Nelson Mandela saw this young man’s callous audacity but wouldn’t dare show his awe. So instead, he wore that soon-to-be-famous nigger smile and held his cap in his hand while the guard looked on, quietly stunned. The manifesto is just as likely to leave the guards of whiteness baffled by its lack of regard for authority.

What of those 20 000 protests we mentioned earlier, is it really fair to say that they have come to nought? Lenin, who was once agitated by the spontaneity of workers’ strikes in Russia, probably has the best response. Allow me to quote him at length:

“Even the primitive riots expressed the awakening of consciousness; to a certain extent the workers were losing their age-long faith in the permanence of the system that had long oppressed them. They began…I shall not say to understand, but to sense the necessity for collective resistance, and definitely abandoned their slavish submission to their superiors. But this was, nevertheless, more in the nature of outbursts of desperation and vengeance than of struggle”.

Our people have fought hard against the ANC government over the last 17 years, to the extent that places like Balfour have at some point been militarised in a concerted effort to crack down on protestors. But ten thousand more similar outbursts will not necessarily tinker with the framework of power that guarantees the continuation of the anti-black status quo. Mind you, neither will the manifesto. But the manifesto is an opportunity to begin to politicise the relationship between the neglected majority, the ANC government and white settler capital. Nothing could be more important than that.

Slavoj Zizek explains politicisation as the “moment in which a particular demand is not simply part of the negotiation of interests but aims at something more, and starts to function as the metaphoric condensation of the global restructuring of the entire space”. The manifesto aims at a whole lot more than seeing politicians living in the slums. In fact, its proponents have accepted wholeheartedly that the targets of the proposed law might simply laugh in our faces. But if by then, blacks are “conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system” , there’s no guessing who will have the last laugh. This is not to say that the manifesto is the paragon of post-94 resistance. No. It would be a grave error for us to put our energies into this document alone and ignore all other efforts by our people. But all of these efforts must be politicised. Expanding on Zizek, Jodi Dean says that “an act or practice of resistance, then, has to become political, it has to be reiterated in another register, a register beyond itself (even as there is no ‘itself’ absent this ‘beyond’). A community’s struggle for toilet enclosures, for example, must be articulated in a way that points to the necessity of a complete rupture from the current anti-black, capitalist order. So that even when a cunning politician, feeling the inevitable rumble of anger plumbed from the depths of black men and women, sends builders to Makhaza to build wall enclosures around toilets, our people welcome the intervention with a smile and then, as soon as the last brick is laid, in unison shout, “Off with the king’s head!”

Similarly, The People’s Manifesto must keep our eyes firmly on the structural forces that make the suffering of the majority possible otherwise it is no different to similar demands that are hollowed out of all political content in order to ensure the survival of the status quo. In other words, following Lenin, the demands of the manifesto have to be subordinated to the larger revolutionary struggle for liberty and black socialism . As Dean suggests, the manifesto must speak ‘beyond itself’ and so far all evidence suggests that it does exactly that.

There is yet another crucial opportunity that the manifesto presents to us. Black resistance in the past 17 years has been largely fragmented and localised. This is partly due to the fact that, up to this point, there has not been a revolutionary movement unifying all struggles and connecting the dots between them. Lenin again, analysing similar conditions in Russia read the situation thus:

“The upsurge of the masses proceeded and spread uninterruptedly and with continuity. Revolutionaries, however, lagged behind this upsurge both in their “theories” and in their activity; they failed to establish an uninterrupted organisation having continuity with the past and capable of leading the whole movement”.

This June 16, a group of no more than 120 protestors stood below the cold imposing stares of two buildings in Sandton, one of the richest suburbs on the African continent. They had walked from Alexandra, a rough ghetto that feeds the white area with cheap labour and a life of shameful privilege. At least five community organisations addressed the crowd and towards the end of the proceedings one of them, spoke of how we need to build a national movement. We cannot claim to be no longer lagging behind the upsurges led by the black poor but The People’s Manifesto certainly gives revolutionaries of our time an opportunity to be much more forceful than they have been, in charting a path towards black liberation.

Interestingly, at the “Alex to Sandton; Hell to Heaven” march there was neither a memorandum delivered nor a government official with a patronising smile waiting to receive it. It would seem then that the manifesto even inspires us to undermine the accepted rituals of protest.

And so, if The People’s Manifesto is used as one of many tools to build a radical national movement seeking true black liberation, then our rise from the “plains of ashes” is inevitable.

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We promise the politicians nothing! We demand that they deliver everything!

All the political parties have now published their manifestos; the empty ritual they buy our votes with. We say 17 years of elections without change are enough. Now we make our own manifesto:

We, the people of South Africa, hereby legislate a new law titled “POLITICIANS AND PUBLIC SERVANTS: USE PUBLIC SERVICES”. This law compels all politicians, from the president to the local councilor, and all public servants, from the Director General to the sweeper and their families to use public utilities: Starting with the following:

1. Hospitals
2. Schools
3. Transport
4. Housing (The same standard house given to citizens must be used by all politicians and public servants)

Our politicians and public servants have neglected public services for far too long because they know they can take their families to the private sector. We say, what’s good for you is good for us. Equality for all, for real!

Our hospitals are falling apart; doctors and nurses are overworked and underpaid. By and large our public hospitals are places of death. Simply put, no one is safe in our public hospitals. Our leaders, politicians, senior public servants and their families use private hospitals and that is why they don’t care about public hospitals which are used by the poor.

Our public schools are in bad condition, teachers are underpaid and the government is not investing in their training with the result that after 12 years of schooling most children from public schools can’t read, write or count. This leads to a high unemployment rate amongst the youth who are trapped in hopelessness. Politicians and senior civil servants take their children to private schools. This explains why public schools are not a priority for them.

Our public transport system is appalling. Every morning and night our people are packed into taxis, buses and trains like sardines. The queues are long and the fares are high. Our leaders, the rich and senior civil servants have big subsidies to get private transport. Some of our ministers can buy cars worth millions with tax payers’ money.

The townships are generally badly serviced. The houses are small and millions are forced to live in shacks. The RDP houses built by our black government are worse than the matchbox houses built during apartheid. Our leaders live in mansions, while the people are forced to live in rat-infested townships.

We hereby commit ourselves to struggle to realize this legislation to hold public representatives and servants accountable to the people!

Together let’s make this law a reality.

This campaign is undertaken in the memory of Andries Tatane who was killed by our government for demanding quality services for all!

Issued by the September National Imbizo (SNI)

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Pastor Skosana Invites Zuma and Zille to Hell


Dear President Zuma and Premier Zille

I am a 44 year old man who has lived for 25 years in the townships of South Africa, in the outskirts of Port Elizabeth to be precise. My experience of township dwelling includes New Brighton, Red Location, Site and Service etc. For the last 16 years though, I have been living in the suburbs of Cape Town, from the most lily white and leafiest suburb you can find, with the strongest body corporate, boom gates and all the rest of it, to the lowliest suburb with neighbours worrying about the value of their properties, next door to a rat infested, rotten, township. I am a pastor by profession and calling, serving Way of Life church in Khayelitsha for the last 14 years.

On the 23rd of April 2011, when the Christian community commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ, I will lead a 13.5km march from Gugulethu to Khayelitsha, under a strongly worded banner, “Welcome To Hell – S.A. Townships. Having seen the best and the worst of both worlds, suburbs and townships, that is, I am now fully persuaded, that the historic, evil intent and design that still permeates South African townships, is the blue print that under-girds and compounds the many challenges facing this country, from the over crowded classrooms, to unemployment, HIV and AIDS and crime, all these and more are exacerbated by the model for human settlement currently in place. Structurally it is no different to the notorious separate development of yesteryear.

Considering the immense political influence you both have as leaders of the two most dominant political parties in the country currently, I realize that if you will and have any empathy in you, you can change the materiel condition of three hundred families at QQ section, informal settlement in Khayelitsha who do not have toilets as we speak. On my last visit there, I made the mistake of blinking and dunked my foot in a pile of human faeces that decorates most part of the area because of the lack of toilets. I write to you because I am convinced that with enough political will, you can change the fate of men and women who are pressed like sardines in moving trains on their way to far-flung CBD’s, looking for work.

Why not write to the Minister for Human Settlement Mr Tokyo Sexwale, or the MEC for housing Mr. Bonginkosi Madikizela, in the case of Cape Town, you may ask. Well Mr President and Madam Zille, besides the fact that these gentlemen do not inspire enough confidence in me, I have already stated the obvious, that the two of you sit at the helm of the two most powerful political parties in the country right now, the ruling party and the strongest opposition party respectively.

Perhaps the not so obvious answer to the question has to do with the fact that the poor are at the mercy of a complex and sophisticated system of governance, the separation and balance of powers, the three spheres of government, and more bureaucratic jargon that does not mean anything to them. All this looks impressive on paper Mr President and Madam Zille, everybody looks busy, yet nothing meaningful gets accomplished. Goal posts get shifted every five years, national, provincial and local government get to blame each other for non delivery of services to our people, even when the court of law has judged in favor of a community, delay tactics come into play because South African administrative law is not fully developed and in instances where it is developed, it is not enforceable. So government is not held accountable ultimately.

South Africa needs an emergency task team whose sole purpose, in the short, medium and long term, is the eradication of informal settlements and an overhaul or reconfiguration of the current face of South African townships, backyard dwelling included. For such a task team to work amicably, it will have to enjoy the support of the executive, must be legislated and empowered by the courts. It is both degrading and demeaning to the dignity of South Africans, including my mother, who live in these glorified concentration camps.

On the 18th of May 2011, the majority of South Africans, including those trapped in abject poverty, will brave whatever weather of the day, proudly put on blue and yellow T. shirts with the logo of the DA and ANC respectively, with your faces Mr President and Madam Zille against their empty stomachs. They will come out in big numbers to put their trust in your organizations yet again. The least and yet profound thing you could do whilst you have a chance and political influence, though symbolical and ceremonial it may seem, is rising above party politics and pledge yourselves and your organizations by signing a commitment to eradicate the ugly face of South Africa, the informal settlements. To call upon your respective ministers for human settlement, to champion, together with credible community leaders, a process of rethinking and imagining a new model for housing people in South Africa, where a house is more than a shelter but one of the many facets of an enabling and empowering environment for people to self actualize.

The choice is yours Mr President and Premier Zille, to continue to play party politics of survival and name calling and hope that the poor will remain forever gullible and patient, to continue and hope that the prophets of doom who continue to prophesy about a pending “tsunami” will be proven false. Or you can open your eyes and see QQ section in Khayelitsha and many such places across the breath and length of this country as a clarion call to act with urgency.

I dare you Mr. President and Madam Zille, to take time off your busy schedules and from your election trails, and meet us at the end of our “Welcome To Hell-S.A Townships” march, and receive our petition for a squatter camp free South Africa


Pastor Xola Skosana

** The office of Helen Zille has confirmed that it would like to meet Pastor Skosana this Sunday 17 April.

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Ukuthwala, Lobolo and Lwaluko: a summation! – Unedited

Ukuthwala, Lobolo and Lwaluko/koma/lebolo: a summation!

Following three days of discussion on Andile Mngxitama’s Facebook wall about the place of cultural practices in the radical Black Consciousness programme of liberation that he subscribes to, Mngxitama submitted the summation below. The edited version will be published within the following week.

Firstly again thanks for those who took time to debate these difficult cultural trio. After reviewing the material yielded by the debate, I decided not to do a blow by blow account (who said what?) but to zero on the main arguments to try make sense of why the protagonists argue they way they do and also to evaluate these contribution on a standard I have set(arbitrarily, but im happy for others to improve on it or reject it with a more superior standard and argumentation). Also I think our labour should not be reduced to “winning” and “losing” but rather on whether the competing arguments gives clarity and assist us in the quest for total liberation. I will present each of the main arguments as I see them and then refer to some of the entries to illustrate the point im making.

I think it would help to try charecterise the two contending forces in the debate as: African Conservatives(what we have miscalled culturalists one the one hand and on the other black modernists (the black radicals- often seen as agents of Western/white culture by the conservers of African “culture”). What’s ironic about the two forces is that each claim to be fighting for the liberation of black people from white supremacy and colonialism. The one group does this by going back(reclaiming, reviving, protecting, respecting) the other is more focused on the NOW and is forward looking. Often backward looking has meant staying in a place we really have no access or even inadvertently defending colonial constructs as “African culture” at the same time moving forward does comes across as rejecting everything African, therefore re-inscribing the very rhythm of destruction of the colonialists. Often the conservatives have cried: you are helping them destroy African culture!

Going backward and enclosing one self in a historical darkroom or moving forward with no regard of the past are the blind spots of both arguments, if stretched them to their common denominators(lowest levels). Im aware of the nuances involved in both arguments. I hereby wish to emphasise the standard of judgement I have concocted which I think can help us evaluate each of the these argument better. I want to acknowledge that this standard of judgment is something which I myself have arrived at as a result of responding to some of the accusations provided by the conservatives in this debate (so for better of worse this innovation is one good thing that for me has emerged from this two days discussion).

A disclaimer: I write this summation fully aware that im a protagonist in the debate itself. Im a shameless black modernists with huge appetite for radical destruction to realize a new society. But im also an intellectual, this means im interested in evaluating all ideas including my own. Furthermore, I follow Sartre, I middle in other peoples’ affairs, I have no holly cows, nothing shall escape ruthless questioning. I hold very stubbornly to my views until a superior argument has been presented. This summation therefore is not summing up for its own sake it’s a further engagement with the whole debate!

Second point is that we need to all recognize that as we speak we are not standing outside culture. In fact we are in many ways constrained, influenced and shape by our cultures. Therefore, whilst we make claims(philosophical) often in practice we ourselves act like all cultural subjects do. Culture is too involved and domineering project. Often is shapes our souls. But as Fanon so eloquently warns “often what is called African soul is the artifact of the white man”.

Standard of evaluation:

The standard for evaluation I wish to propose is the following: all claims, evidence, experiences which constitute culture must be judged on two accounts ONLY (for the purpose of this discussion on culture)-

Firstly, are these practices helping to fight white supremacy? (Ideologically, philosophically and in practice).

Secondly, do these practices help us end all oppressions including those practiced by ourselves? (here im thinking patriarchy specifically).

I think if we can develop this standard of judgment in the quest for a combative culture, we may need to insert at its core a “bullshit detector”, which would work as a compass for ethical radical behavior at individual level. After a while such a “bd” my be internalized and we then behave as we believe! New blacks!

Having established this fairly “objective” standard of judgment we shall now focus on the arguments themselves. We shall see at the end that perhaps the problem is the expectation that this standard of evaluation should be imposed on the debate , it may well be that the conservatives are not interested in the two measures but are onto something else and then of course its unfair to judge them by this standard. The problem is that for now I read the conservative to say they are for liberation just like the modernists. We need to see if the different claims conform to this standard in reality.

The black modernist standard argument:

Ukuthwala, lobollo and lwaluko are outmoded practices which do not contribute to either fighting white supremacy or ending internal oppressions. In fact a case can be made that these practices are a corruption of colonialism by either being permitted or directly interfered with e.g the number of cattle to paid for in lobolo was determined by colonialists or that the signifiers around ulwaluko( brandy, clothes etc are all western). The modernists argue that White Supremacy(WS) is total and therefore has destroyed/disfigured/permitted all things including the thing we call african culture. From here they conclude that essentially: Blacks are slaves and therefore their culture is the culture of the master! The modernists are extreme existentialists, in the sense that they claim that every cultural expression and practice is merely made (or given) by people at the very specific time to solve a very specific problems. Therefore there is no “sacred” duty to simple honor by mindless repetition what those before us did. For example ukuthwala must have had been a “functional” practice 1000 years ago (consistent with low levels of cultural development- animal level existence)- by the way to say this is not to glorify western cultures, they have gone through the same stages by and large themselves(remember the cave man?). the point is that ukuthwala has no use in today’s society and must be discarded. The modernists have establish the principle of “discarding” what doesn’t work for us, more forcefully!

Another example to buttress the “dynamism of culture” and that cultural practices when they stop serving those who practice them must and can be discarded is the example of how in some African societies one of the twin children was killed back in the day. This I argue was not out stupidity or cruelty it was a functional requirement for the survival of the whole community where mobility was key to survival (its much more difficult to run carrying two little babies). So the intellectuals of the time invented an ideological justification for the material necessity of “culling” the extra child through all sorts of taboos (the extra child bring bad luck, the gods are angry and other such ideological nonsense(all ideology is by and large nonsense to help make sense of life). We do well to remember how king Shaka ended the practice of ulwaluko amongst the Zulu speaking people and use the time to build a great nation!The key principle here is that culture is made, secondly it can and must be discarded the minute it becomes a burden! But thirdly, black cultural practices were not only made by Africans they where later corrupted by whites- therefore the things we call black culture are in the most white creations!

So ukuthwala, lobollo and lwaluko are rejected on the grounds that they oppress women (there is no need to repeat the argument here or the evidence). The defenders of these practices in general do not claim that they don’t oppress women(the intojane example doesn’t work since it prepares women for role of being women in a patriarchal environment). Secondly there is no evidence that maintaining these cultural practices help us fight against white supremacy. There was further evidence that in fact the practice of ulwaluko not only does it promote masculinities of subjugation but also has a tendency to form tribal prejudices. There was no evidence whatsoever presented to show that any of these practices (actively oppose WS or Patriarchy).
On lobolo there was some attempt to say perhaps if women can be allowed to also pay lobolo this could square things up. This was a response to the probing question “why don’t women pay lobola?”. This question was never answered satisfactorily, I argue, because any attempt at answering it leads to exposing the absurdity and patriarchal nature of the lobolo itself. But it must be said that even if women were to pay lobolo for men there is no guarantee that this would change their situation (thinking about the hell women in Indian have to go through to raise the dowry money). Stripped of all frills lobolo has become to mean buying a wife! The conservatives are not going to answer the question- why aren’t women paying lobolo? And the reason is simply there is no non embarrassing answer to that question.

Ntombi’s entry seem to capture well the objection of the black modernist on lobolo:

“Lobola has become even more degrading as it was initially set out to be….if the woman did not graduate from any institution of higher learning the price goes down, if she had children prior to the union the lesser she becomes of value, if she does not have a well paying secure job she is worth even lesser and so on does it go forward degrading the woman her worth and pride! It has not just been limited to it being a capitalist system, but it has become the value scale for a good woman. Sure in society today women should be dependent on themselves, but no dowry payment should be the determining factor of how valuable a woman you are and will be to your partner. It should have been abolished some many years ago!”

On lwaluko it Nick gives in my view the most comprehensive retort which closes the debate, I realize that others may have different experiences, but the essence of the efficacy of the practice judged by the standard we have set is well ventilated here:

“I went through initiation some 10 years ago…the whole event did nothing to me really, other than spend a whole 8 weeks in some cave in Transkei with other initiates, smoking weed (which I never smoked before), teaching each other “bush li…ngo” and using traditional herbs and other methods of healing (which I wont disclose here).
I went there already disciplined, respectful and all that. But I went back to varsity all the xhosa “boys” were referring to me as Ta so and so or bhuti. However the white boys still called me by my first name, they didnt give a fuck!! Nor could I insist they refer to me as Boet so and so..
So was all this pain and suffering for me to be given a new name, and be given a False Elevated Sense of Respect by my immediate community? Even Zulu guys couldn’t be bothered really that I now came back from holidays wearing a jacket in 35 degrees CT heat!!!
I thought my sense of being was bigger than this!! In fact its a lie that Xhosa man or any other initiates come back better because of this Ulwaluko, otherwise we would be living in peace with our women and children without all these so called men committing hideous crimes and all that. This ulwaluko is just plain bullshit…I provide for my family, I mobilise community people’s struggles against this anti black system. I also live well and going to the bush had NOTHING to do with IT”.

Also see below Bafana’s anactotal proposition.

Bafana Mokoena

Lebollo is irrelevant and useless in this day and age,the circumstances and experiences of A young growing up today are not the same as those of his forefathers,so I ask those who practice it….has this culture evolved with changing time,I… would think why take A young modern and teach him about kak from 50 years ago?.go to the vaal and its outskirts and you will see the graduates of this culture,they come back from the mountain as rapists,gangsters and drug induced my hood we’ve even given them the name ontabeni and the community is scared of them.allegedly one of their practices is that when they come from the bush they must have sex to prove that they are men so kidnap and rape young girls to prove it to their peers!!!!

This challenge points to the difficulty of “objective” observable results of ulwaluko. For instance it has been argued that the EC and Limpopo in general doesn’t not show that there is vast differences in how men behave there as in elsewhere- they rape, they abuse, they are irresponsible, they are corrupt like anywhere else. Making the claim of “good” behavior as a result of being a “man” hard to sustain.

The response of the culturalists is that the practice must not fall on account of” isolated cases” of abuse and misrepresentation. However, more fundamentally, the conservatives have failed to answer two questions related to ulwaluko. Firstly, what is “manhood” and what values can be said to be uniquely for men and are not good for women?

I must conclude that the challenges put forward by the modernist and judging by the standard we have set out, there is no other conclusion we can arrive at than that all three practices simply add no value to the struggle for emancipation. Whilst there is some hesitation from the modernist about what to do with ulwaluko, my own view is that, if the black modernist are to consistent and not afraid of their conclusions, then they cant avoid the concluding that ulwaluko must go too! Otherwise they must present a case to show how it can be turned into an instrument of struggle and total liberation!

The Culturalists’: standard argument:

Ukuthwala is not African culture, its an “umkhuba”, bad habit, its illegal and immoral. Lobollo and ulwaluko are African authentic practices and must not be abolished, because they are African cultural expressions (see the tautology?). the culturalists also argue that colonialism was about destroying things African , therefore we cant afford to re-inscribe the colonial violence by attacking and calling for abolishing of our African cultural practices. At best these practices must be up dated. At its extreme version the argument even calls for going back to pre-colonial Africa. There is the added aspects of identity as “spiritual” or not existing in the realm of the understandable and therefore there is a deeper meaning to these things which is not available to rational questioning. Furthermore the traditionalists argue (I think not forcefully enough) that by merely practicing what is called African culture we are already in resistance mode, therefore any call for discarding any of these practices weakens this combative stance. The emphasis is in preserving, defending and even reviving.

Using our standard of judgment is seem the conservatives are arguing in bad faith on ukuthwala, they simply wash their hands of the practice (we cant defend it its not ours!). This is simply arbitrary and irresponsible. Ukuthwala is a practice that continues to day and has a whole series of cultural defenses to justify its perpetuation. The culturalist cant simply chose their cultures conviniently. It must therefore be assumed that the culturalists are faced with a conundrum. The modernists have no qualms with rejecting practices they see as out of sync with their modernist project, the problem with culturalists is that once they reject one practice how do they defend other practices on the basis of “its our culture and our cultures have been destroyed by colonialism”? There is a nervousness that once you agree to discard a practice seen as “African” you are endangering the whole African cultural expression and experience(you have crossed the floor as it were). If the conservatists took seriously their mantra of “culture is dynamic” then they should have no problem pronouncing that ukuthwala is simple bad because it oppresses women and its cruel and outmoded, but it is an African cultural practice nevertheless. As a Lawrence Khoza has shown the culturalist hold on the myth of pre colonial African as “perfect”, and therefore any negative evaluation go against this beautiful myth(im sympathetic to the over compensation after we have been told nothing good can ever come from Africa, but please now we talking amongst ourselves, we must leave the beautiful lies to moments of our encounters with the West, but we cant believe in our own propaganda). The position of culturalists on ukuthwala is a classical case of having your cake and eating it! If the culturalists are permitted to simply pick and chose their cultures then the modernists can also simple say well ulwaluko, lobolo are not African cultures yimikhuba! That would be silly.
Whilst not providing a motivation for denouncing ukuthwala even the culturalists have admitted to its barbarity. The point to make here is that whilst the culturalist have no mechanism to discards harmful aspects of culture(for fear that all of the culture may be fair game) in reality they have been able even through bad faith to distanced themselves from ukuthwala without taking responsibility for it or acknowledging that it’s an African practice. This is their burden they and their consciences will have to deal with.

On lobolo again the defense is that its an African culture. A simple question of why women don’t pay lobolo have not been answered. It’s a little entertaining to think “well no one is arguing that these aren’t African cultures, we only saying aspects of them are harmful and backwards). The question of manhood remains open, again for obvious reason- there is simply no non embarrassing explanation/description of manhood (it irritates “men” that they are being called to articulate what they feel in their souls, more so to discuss the thing that defines their very existence- trauma!). But this manhood has been created from without by very specific socialization process and rituals. This articulation is consistant with the idea of culture presented by the German nonpositivist sociologist, Georg Simmel: “the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history”. The key point here is the elements of creation by people of a whole ouotlook of life and practices that goes with it. Herein also lies the promise of recreation ourselves for the NOW!

Quite clearly from our standard of judgment the culturalist couldn’t past master. What has been fascinating is that the culturalist seem to say, by merely practicing what they believe to be African cultures somehow this is already a position of resistance. I wish they made this point more explicit and showed how? Also they would have to deal with issue of these cultural practices being corrupted, created, permitted and deformed by colonialism, for instance they haven’t attempted to deal with the undisputable historical fact that it was colonialists who determined the quantum of cattle to be paid for lobolo. This means when they say African culture they actually mean a cultural practice given to us by colonialist! How do we go around this?

There is a structural difficulty in the traditionalists argument and it goes like this: when African practices come under attack such as ukuthwala, lebolo and lwaluko, the standard defense is to question the motive of the critic (this is not a bad thing in itself because often if you aren’t aware of larger agendas at play you can inadvertently serve them, the modernists here can be accused of not paying attention to the western insatiable appetite to destroy things African and therefore in effect any call for destruction plays into the hands of WS). I just think the conservatives don’t make this point more clearly instead they question the motive of the questioner without attempting to answer the question (here the black modernist claim to be for black liberation and are acutely aware of WS so to question their motives is wasted energy- still I think for emotional effect, such accusation does sort of displace the modernists).

When pressed to account for their defense of these practises the Conservatives unwittingly or otherwise end up employing the following strategy: but when these practices where firstly practiced (pre colonial) they were not harmful or our ancestors could never initiate something to deliberately harm us. The argument then goes to say: if these practises have any harm its because of colonialism or its because some rouge elements within the community are now distorting them. The emphasis is always on how great they were and the good intention of the “originators”. See Kekeletso’s input is a classical representation of this strategy:

Kekeletso Khena explaining/defending ukuthwala:

“Andile this is somewhat intricate as an African feminist and to a large extent a traditionalist: I am tempted to say the act was virtual harmless emandulo because of the following factors 1) the girl othwaliwe would have gone through ukwemula making her old enough to marry. 2) once abducted she would be kept in a hut and the husband to be would not dare touch her until all formalities have been concluded with the family 3) during the negotiations her aunts, mothers, neqhikiza lakhe would have come to somehow convince her that marrying into that family would be beneficial. 4) marriage was natural progression so much as she could object there was not much else to do. But our traditional practices have been marred by colonialism and the place of purity from which they were founded has been replaced by oppressive patriarchy which is un African”.

Need I say more? What I find cruel beyond measure is the conservatives attitude towards contemporary suffering! They seem to think “culture” is more important than real people in the now. Kekeletso speaks on behalf of young women she has never met but knows they were prepared for abduction! Can you imagine? The silence on the current reality is what baffles me.
Check this, Bukiwe Gubu reported a terrible situation, she the first person to comment on the status up date on ukuthwala:

“ What’s your plan of action tata… This actually still happens in my mom’s home village and in a recent case when a girl’s uncle intervened he was ostracized by his family because he “thinks he’s better than us…”

Its interesting that this specific case with its clear indication that the practice occurs within a shared meaning system (cultural setting) was overlooked to discuss events of pre-colonial Africa.

Culture as a weapon!

I have tried to think about reconciling some aspects of conservatives with the modernists, im afraid in my meditations I couldn’t find a point of possible synthesis. i see that even in moments where culture was a big factor in fighting colonialism like in the Mau Mau rebellion and the Pondo revolt (see Mamdani’s Citizens and Subjects and also Govern Mbeki’s THE PONDO REVOLT). Even in these moments, culture was rapidly modified as it was being used, the pondos went even further by destroying their Tribal/Chiefly councils and in acted democratic mountain councils! The battle forced these changes and progress was enacted. Chiefs who collaborated where guillotined!

In my sociological studies in Mmaboi in Limpopo (looking at land occupations by the landless an interesting finding was that unmarried women who by culture were not to be allocated land, but since they participated in the land occupation most leading it, this cultural practice was undermined in and changed in reality, of course some traditionalists complained the young women laughed at them even calling them cowards because most didn’t take the risk of occupying land). Here we see that in reality where there is resistance culture alters in reality- or we can say struggle does produce a new culture!
It seem to me that in the literature for radical change there is little to support a backward cultural project. I concede that back to Africa movements are also there such as Credo Mutwa and Leopold Sengor (all dubious projects in my view, but can if appropriately used held ignite re-awakening).

Fanon, Cabral, Biko: in my view would support the position of the modernists. Let’s take some of their arguments to try illustrate the claim.


“The claim to a national culture in the past does not only rehabilitate that nation and serve as a justification for the hope of a future national culture. In the sphere of psycho-affective equilibrium it is responsible for an important change in the native. Perhaps we haven’t sufficiently demonstrated that colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it. This work of devaluing pre-colonial history takes on a dialectical significance today.”

Here I think we can say the traditionalist have a point, but only a half point, in the sense that they pay too much attention on the destruction of our culture by colonialist and end up in a theoretical and philosophical cul de sac. Their project suffers from lack of a “future national culture” and understanding how the de-valuation must be understood as a weapon for the now! There is a sense in which the traditionalist bracket culture from politics and struggle. Its interesting that Biko in “We Blacks” quotes this very paragraph from Fanon without acknowledging him(I suppose for obvious reasons of apartheid restrictions). But Biko whilst ambivalent at times he also end up talking about African culture as ‘Black Modern” culture, focusing on cosmopolitan forms such as jazz and soul which he says give expression better to the essence of African culture. Biko is contradictory on whether colonialism destroyed completely or not African cultural expressions, one point he says they haven’t succeeded another moment he says they have. But I think his warning against negative self perceptions ingrained from colonial attacks on things Africa is a point well taken. Also Biko emphasizes the liberatory aspect of African culture and the need to observe dynamism.

Cabral, who is credited for his call for “the return to the source”, is also futuristic in his mobilization of culture for resistance:
“Culture has to take its place at the heart of the struggle for liberation. Its not enough to talk about arising consciousness, what is important is the type of future we envisage, the kind of social relations we plan to set up and how we prepare for the future”.

Here Cabral echoes Fanon more closely who argued, “it is this that counts, everything else is mystification. It is around the people’s struggle that culture takes on substance, not around songs, poems or folklore”.

What’s interesting is that here we see Biko and Fanon at variance, Biko emphasis song as key in fact, but this must be seen again in the context of struggle, so the disagreement is in reality cosmetic! (I would like to explore this another time).

It seem to me that the conservatives need to do what Biko did in “Some African Cultural Concepts”, he tries very hard to name and isolate the practices worth preserving without being enslaved by the experience of “acculturation” we have gone through. I cant see who Biko would have supported the triad of cultural practices we have been discussing, using his own argument. (I do think that Biko has lapsed that need to be further engaged- I plan to do this soon in fact, focusing on “We Blacks and Some African Cultural Concepts”). I do believe that even with those lapses Biko is actually a black radical modernist! His strength, I think lies in his ability to name the cultural practiced that he sees as progressive and locating them within resistance for the future! He is not defending culture because its African culture! He is in some ways subordinating culture to the demands of struggle!

Psychoanalyzing the Culturalist!

Let us conclude with a little exercise in psychoanalysis. I have argued elsewhere that there may be good reasons why the traditionalist argue so hard for their culture even when there are no basis for such. My take is that this is the outcomes of a sad fact. The whites took and destroyed everything which is black. As a result we are put in a position where we blindly have to defend things African (they took everything now even this? The culturalists seem to say). This is not an unreasonable response from a people buttered so long and so brutally. Its only that we need to raise above this self sabotaging impulse. We blacks cant be men in slavery! But more now we need to obliterate the categories of man and woman as given to us by history. There is a silver lining on this dark cloud, history gives us a change to re-create ourselves on a new basis. Let’s agree here, no one is saying we must destroy all African systems, the modernist is saying articulate and isolate that which needs preserving and discard that which bring death and oppression. Name these practices and show how they help in the fight against WS and show how they help towards total liberation!
Fanon long time ago tried to explain this very same problem of the culturalists:
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

Im afraid my brothers and sistas in the culturalist group need to work through this observation. I think the charge of modernist being agents of western culture need better elaboration in the view of the exposition I have give. I do think that the tendency of modernist to bracket off intra black debate to provide an internal critic has to always start by acknowledging that our cultures have been abused and destroyed by western progroms and make it clear that ours is not part of that project but rather an attempt at providing a way out of contemporary oppression which is historically created. im saying the modernists take for granted that since they are fighting WS that is enough and don’t take enough care to acknowledge the past but never be detained by it like the conservatives. its no longer enough that we modernists say we fighting WS, we need to distance ourselves better from the white systems and make our project clearer if we seek not to be confused with agents of colonialism.

Some concluding remarks:

I hate proposals but im going to make some. Firstly, it would be great to see if the standard of judgment I have used here is justifiable, and then subject the modernists argument more rigorously to it and see if another conclusion is possible.
I think for now the conservatives can only save themselves by arguing more explicitly that their project is more metaphysical, spiritual and not of this world and therefore to insist that culture be judged on the standard set is not only unfair but misguided. In other words, we shall then say we are dealing with different categories and therefore cant insist in judging them on the same standard. To date this argument has not been made and hence the general negative conclusion seem justifiable.

I think we can say that there is total consensus on the need to end ukuthwala from both contending forces for reasons provided. I will not repeat the dilemmas the conservatives need to still deal with unless they concede bad faith on their part.

On lobollo, whilst there is no consensus, however when judged on the standard set it points to the same conclusion as as ukuthwala. There is room for possible modifications which would not re-enact the auction block types of exchanges. But the idea of paying lobolo in the current form cant be sustained judging by our standard. Im not going to speculate on what sorts of things we can do to celebrate “marriage” or union of two people (note I have not enternained a very important question raised by the lekwerekwere- that if we end the very institution of marriage then the debate on lobolo falls away- im partial to that suggestion but not sure if it has space here).
Ulwaluko also cant past master either. From a modernist view, it has to be brought to an end in its current form. Innovation can include seclusion for re-education. All young men and women could be taken out of society for an intensive education on radical black politics, radical history and weapons of war! The idea of pain and endurance to be a man must be scraped totally, the removal of the foreskin must become a voluntary process and as value free as piercing ones ear. No acknowledgment, deference, respect etc must be conferred on the basis of one having cut his foreskin. In fact a big move for “modernization” must be undertaken where the practice is steep, such a move must be ideological and philosophical. But we have to make it clear that the new rites of passage must be based on a total different conceptualization of the idea of a man and woman, and at its core must be about the liberation of our people from white supremacy.

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Tiro Challenged Black Graduates of His Time

In 1972 Onkgopotse Ramothibi Tiro, a Black Consciousness Movement leader, delivered the following bold speech at the University of the North, which precipitated his expulsion from the institution that same year. He was killed on 1 February 1974 while in exile in Botswana after opening a package that was clearly a parcel bomb.


Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to start off by borrowing language from our former Prime Minister, Mr. Vorster. Addressing an Afrikaner Student Bond (A.S.B) Congress in June last year, Mr. Vorster said: ” No Black man has landed in trouble for fighting for what is legally his”. Although I don’t know how far true this is, I make this statement my launch pad.

R.D. Briensmead, an American lay preacher says : He who withholds the truth or debars men form motives of its expediency, is either a coward, a criminal or both”. Therefore Mr. Chancellor, I will try as much as possible to say nothing else but the truth. And to me “truth” means “practical reality”.

Addressing us on the occasion of the formal opening of this university Mr. Phatudi, a Lebowa territorial authority officer, said that in as much as there is American Education, there had to be Bantu Education. Ladies and gentlemen, I am conscientiously bound to differ with him. In America there is nothing like Negro Education, Red Indian Education and White American Education. They have American Education common to all Americans. But in South Africa, we have Bantu Education, Indian Education, Colored Education and European Education. We do not have a system of education common to all South Africans. What is there in European education which is not good for the African ? We want a system of education which is common to all South Africans.

In theory Bantu Education gives our parents a say in our education but in practice the opposite is true. At this University, University Education Diploma (U.E.D) students are forced to study Philosophy of the Education through the medium of Afrikaans. When we want to know why, we are told that the Senate has decided so. Apparently this Senate is our parents.

Time and again I ask myself : How do Black lecturers contribute to the administration of this university ? For if you look at all committees, they are predominantly white if not completely white. Here and there one finds two or three Africans who, in the opinion of students are white Black men. We have a Students’ Dean without duties. We feel that it is in any way necessary to have a Students’ Dean, we must elect our own Dean. We know people who can represent us.

The Advisory Council is said to be representing our parents. How can it represent them when they have not elected it ? These people must of necessity please the man who appointed them. This council consists of chiefs who have never been to University. How can they know the needs of students when they have not been subjected to the same conditions. Those who have been to University have never studied under Bantu Education. What authentic opinion can they express when they don’t know how painful it is to study under a repugnant system of education?

I wonder if this Advisory Council knows that a Black man has been most unceremoniously kicked out of the bookshop. Apparently, this is reserved for whites. According to policy, van Schaiks has no right to run a bookshop here. A white member of the administration has been given the meat contract to supply the University – a Black University. Those who amorphously support the policy may say that there are no black people to supply it. My answer to them is : Why are they not able to supply the University ? What is the cause ? Is it not conveniently done that they are not in a position to supply these commodities ?

White students are given vacation jobs at this university when there are students who could not get their results due to outstanding fees. Why does the administration not give these jobs to these students ? These white students have eleven universities where they can get vacation jobs. Does the Administration expect me to get a vacation job at the University of Pretoria ?

Right now, our parents have come all the way from their homes only to be locked outside. We are told that the hall is full. I do not accept the argument that there is no accommodation for them. In 1970, when the Administration wanted everybody, a tent was put-up and a close circuit television was installed. Front seats are given to people who cannot even cheer us. My father is seated there at the back. My dear people, shall we ever get a fair deal in this land ? The land of our fathers.

The system is failing. It is failing because even those who recommended it strongly, as the only solution to racial problems in South Africa, fail to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the policy. According to the policy we expected Dr Eiselen to decline Chancellorship in favour of a Black man. My dear parents, these are the injustices no normal student can tolerate – no matter who he is and where he comes from.

In the light of what has been said above, the challenge to every Black graduate in this country lies in the fact that the guilt of all wrongful actions in South Africa, restriction without trial, repugnant legislation, expulsions from schools, rests on all those who do not actively dissociate themselves from and work for the eradication of the system breeding such evils. To those who whole heartedly support the policy of apartheid I say : Do you think that the white minority can willingly commit political suicide by creating numerous states which might turn out to be hostile in future ?

We Black graduates, by virtue of our age and academic standing, are being called upon to bear greater responsibilities in the liberation of our people. Our so-called leaders have become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation. We have to go back to them and educate them. Times are changing and we should change with them. The magic story of human achievement gives irrefutable proof that as soon as nationalism is awakened among the intelligentsia, it becomes the vanguard in the struggle against alien rule. Of what use will be your education if you can’t help your country in her hour of need ? If your education is not linked with the entire continent of Africa it is meaningless.

Remember what Mrs. Suzman said : ” There is one thing which the Minister cannot do : He cannot ban ideas from men’s minds”.

In conclusion Mr. Chancellor I say : Let the Lord be praised, for the day shall come, when all shall be free to breathe the air of freedom which is theirs to breathe and when that day shall have come, no man. No matter how many tanks he has, will reverse the course of events.

God bless you all.

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“Bush must be declared a war criminal!” says youth festival judge

The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students was held in South Africa in December 2010 amid media reports of the event being a disaster. A much less publicised component of the event was a mock trial against imperialism. Young people from all over the world presented evidence on the impact of imperialism on their lives to a court held especially for this purpose. Andile Mngxitama, the editor of New Frank Talk, was the Judge President. Below is his final judgment after two days of court proceedings.


The Youth of the World vs. Imperialism and its Agents

Presiding judges:

1. Mr Andile Mngxitama (Judge President)
2. Adv Kholeka Gcaleka (Deputy Judge President)
3. Mr Sipho Mafuyeka
4. Mr Jack Cooper
5. Ms Nyaradzo Muzah
6. Tran Dac Loi

Firstly, I wish to thank the judges who sat for two days listening to testimonies from witnesses and evaluated evidence to check, where possible, the veracity of allegations. We have listened to more than 40 testimonies from a range of witnesses who come from all different parts of the world. I thank those young people of the world who appeared before this court. I appreciate their dedication, diligence and the courage they have had to face difficult circumstances in their daily lives as a result of imperialism.

I also wish to thank the prosecution team which worked hard to prepare witnesses and lead evidence with professional conduct and dedication, as well as those who worked in the background including the clerks of the court. Thank you all for being here to witness this event.

The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students staged here on black African/Sub Saharan soil for the very first time, has been marred with negative publicity in our media. We came here amidst loud reports about “kissing competitions” and chaos on the organising front. We are in no position to pronounce on these negative perceptions and media reports (one of our papers had a headline that read: Cockroaches 1 – Imperialism 0).

As judge president of this court I find nothing wrong with young people kissing! I think the world needs less war, violence and aggression, therefore acts of love and affection amongst young people should not be condemned. After all, our entire world needs a little bit more love.
I wish to highlight the case of young people from Western Sahara who were arrested on their way to this very festival. We have been informed that the delegates from that country who escaped arrest may face state harassment when they return home. We have seen for ourselves how even at this very festival the harassment of Western Saharan delegates continues. Consequently court proceedings had to be delayed yesterday. This is disturbing given that the theme of this festival is peace.

I also wish to highlight the testimony from Vietnam for it gave us a concrete sense of the impact of imperialism on people’s lives and futures. We shall deal with these matters in some detail in the actual judgment.


Before proceeding I would like to note with concern the absence of African voices in these testimonies. We heard only two testimonies from the continent: Western Sahara and Namibia. Africa is perhaps one of the continents under shocking permanent attack from imperialism. Whole societies and economies are destroyed and people are plunged into permanent warfare because of imperialism on this continent. Africa has seen no end to the aggression and domination of imperialism.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen the most debilitating form of occupation by Belgium. Horrific acts of genocide were committed by King Leopold in a quest to build Belgium into a modern country. The comparatively high quality of life Belgian people enjoy today comes from rivers of blood from the people of the DRC. Yet when the revolutionary leader, Patrice Lumumba, emerged to say, “Stop!” the governments of the world conspired to murder him. Unclassified documentation shows that Belgium was assisted by the USA, UK and other western countries to kill Lumumba. Not too long ago an imperial war took more than 4 million lives in the DRC because that country is rich in mineral wealth that imperial powers believe belongs to them.

Our neighbouring country Zimbabwe is under constant attack from imperialism for returning land back to its rightful owners. Again there was total silence on this front. South Africa, the host country of the Youth Festival, did not think it necessary to testify. We hope in future the African voice shall be raised on these international forums. We cannot be active participants in kissing games but be absent in the greater act of love which is to tell stories about the impact of imperialism on our lives. Perhaps, the colonial and imperial impact is deep that we simply don’t care anymore.


Incidentally, it was Karl Marx who described most eloquently the nature of the global ruling class that emerged in modern times. He said that this class of rulers, which he called the bourgeoisie, “chases over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere. . . . It creates a world after its own image.”

Essentially, imperialism is about the global domination by one system of governance totally dedicated to turn the world into a personal possession of a global elite for its own interests. To “create the world after its own image”, the global elite undertakes expansionist campaigns. As the historian Michael Parenti says:

“The expansionists destroy whole societies. Self-sufficient peoples are forcibly transformed into disenfranchised wage workers. Indigenous communities and folk cultures are replaced by mass-market, mass-media, consumer societies. Cooperative lands are supplanted by agribusiness factory farms, villages by desolate shanty towns, autonomous regions by centralized autocracies”. For its own interest this global elite destroys and recreates.

Let it be emphasised: imperialism recreates our world. It determines what we eat and how, what we wear and how we talk, walk, love, live and die! It creates desires and wants, it forms ideas and habits. In a word therefore, imperialism creates culture. It creates a civilisation! All of this is in line with the one principle it obeys, that is, to satisfy the interests of a global elite that has conspired to rule the world by force and through cunning and evil means!

Africa was the first victim!

It is hard not to think of the first full-blown act of imperial aggression as a crime against humanity as the brutal enslavement of millions of Africans. The brutal enslavement of millions of Africans is easily identified as the first full-blown act of imperial aggression and therefore a crime against humanity. Millions perished and are buried deep in the belly of the Atlantic Ocean! Slavery must therefore be recognized as the first act of a massive, systematic violent and murderous campaign to dominate the world. The template of how far and what is permissible in the quest of amassing wealth and creating civilisation that destroys was established during slavery. Murder as an instrument of economic conquest and even development, can be traced back to the era of slavery.

Modern imperialism is certainly more than mere annexation of territory and occupation of people’s countries because effective imperialism is one that has local agents working for it! Where Washington, Brussels and 10 Downing Street, don’t have to send their own sons and daughters to enforce imperial occupation. It is even better if those implementing imperial policies are democratically elected by their own people! Michael Parenti tells us that:

“Rather than being directly colonised by the imperial power, the weaker countries have been granted the trappings of sovereignty, while Western finance capital retains control of the lion’s share of their profitable resources. This relationship has gone under various names: ’informal empire’’ colonialism without colonies’, ’neocolonialism, and “’neo-imperialism’”. I will later return to the idea of neo-colonialism as a key assistant of modern imperialism.

Imperialism is real!

Imperialism is not an abstract concept. Imperialism has planners, implementers, beneficiaries and victims! It is real living people who carry out the policies of imperialism and again, it is real people who, at the end, are its victims. This court heard testimonies from real people affected by imperialism. We also heard names of individuals, governments and corporations which carry out acts of imperialism. In this judgment we link the crime of imperialism to real actors in our contemporary world. It is only in this way that impunity can be stopped.

We also heard how our earth is bleeding! We have to speak for our planet which has come under attack from the same forces that have built an economic system based on aggression and greed. The fact of ecological catastrophe is no longer a preserve of the paranoid. Those who have no compunction to destroy lives have no shame or restrain in polluting our earth in search of yet more wealth and comfort for themselves. We must defend our planet! But to do so we must defend the people first.


Having established that Imperialism has planners, implementers, beneficiaries and its victims we must now we deal with the indictments. Three broad indictments were presented by the prosecution team.



Now follows my judgment:

1. Australia
We heard testimony of how the Australian government has, over the ages, assisted imperial forces in acts of aggression against the people of the world. It breaks international law in pursuit of imperialism.
We find therefore that Australian rulers be charged with acts of war against the people of the world and also pay reparations to the Aboriginal peoples and return their territories.

2. Ireland

We heard testimony that Sean Garland, a veteran anti-imperialism fighter, is being sought by the USA. In 2005 the USA issued a warrant for his arrest. This was for anti-imperial activities related to the Korea War. Garland fought against USA imperialism. It was said that he is infirm and old and has no prospect of a fair trial.

We find that the indictment against Sean Garland be withdrawn. In any case, there is little chance that he will receive a fair trial in the USA as an anti imperialist fighter!

3. Vietnam

We heard testimony from two witnesses assisted by video material. We heard how Agent Orange was a US campaign used to enforce the US’s domination upon the Vietnamese people through the use of chemical warfare against a defenseless people. We heard that as a result of this campaign, both human and ecological disaster has followed. We heard how the US court system has refused to hear the matter and bring justice to the people of Vietnam.

We therefore find that the USA has willingly committed these acts of imperialism against the people and soil of the Vietnam and recommend that full and adequate compensation be paid to the people of the Vietnam for the activities related to Agent Orange. The born and unborn who are affected are to be properly compensated so that they can live relatively comfortable lives. The whole of the USA population must put moral pressure on its government to do justice to the people of Vietnam.

4. Sri Lanka

We heard testimony of how the Sri Lankan government has, over time now, handed over the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan people to corporations under the guidance of the World Bank and the IMF. The testimony showed that increasingly the mineral wealth of the country has been parceled out to foreign multinationals. Here the actors seem to be elected representatives of the people who serve imperialism out of their own volition. We did not hear that there was any aggression. In a sense therefore Sri Lanka would fall within the rubric of a neo-colony where it is the home based leaders who are assisting and abetting imperialism.

We find that the people of Sri Lanka should organise themselves and challenge these acts of economic sabotage by their own elites in cahoots with global elites

5. Canada

The witness identified crimes against the environment and their connections to war and peace, the development and resulting pollution of the Alberta’s Tar Sands, sabotaging the post-Kyoto negotiations as well as promotion of dangerous and toxic mining practices in Latin America and Africa.

The witness identified the crimes of genocide: failure to honour and negotiate treaties with Aboriginal people’s including the Métis; failure to provide promised resources to reserves resulting in unsafe drinking water, mass unemployment, and racial discrimination in housing and other social programmes; the death of 500 missing or disappeared Aboriginal women in Western Canada; the aboriginal teen suicide rate being 4 times the national average.

We find as follows:
1. That there should be a withdrawal of the military from all foreign lands,
2. We call for the return of President Aristide of Haiti to finish his term in office as a democratically elected president of his country
3. Also his party the Lavalas be unbanned.
4. Canadian companies pay reparations for their role in the destruction of Haiti.
5. That President of Honduras be re-instated,
That territory be returned to the Aboriginal people of Canada and reparations paid to them.


1) Nepal

We heard testimony that in Nepal the British instituted a policy of recruiting soldiers called the Ghurka. We heard that these recruits dating back to the past 400 years of British imperialism are native Nepalese, who, at the beginning were recruited by force but later where recruited on a “voluntary basis”. It is hard to determine if without brute force, volunteering into this imperial army was not due to economic compulsion. If I take your means of survival and make joining an army of occupation attractive where there are few alternatives, then I have forced you to serve me.

It must be asked if under certain conditions people we would generally consider ‘mercenaries”, Askaris and soldiers of fortune, should not be judged on a different moral and even legal plain. I’m conflicted about this. For one thing Africa was destroyed by Askaris. The Mau Mau freedom fighters in Kenya were destroyed brutally by the Askaris. The question therefore seems to be: what responsibility should either Askaris or Gurkhas take in the colonisation process. It seems to me that they are simultaneously agents of imperialism and its victims!
This court can’t encourage the oppressed to join armies of occupation. We heard that these Ghurkas who were used and then dumped, now want reparations and equal treatment as part of the regular army of Great Britain., However they still consider themselves loyal soldiers of imperialism. A contentious issue is thus whether they can and should expect to be treated with dignity by their handlers given their participation in the colonial conquest.

However, as per the testimony, if indeed the Ghurkas are part of the British military establishment then it is unfair to discriminate against them. We therefore recommend that they be treated as all army personnel are treated by the UK.

We also recommend that the Gurkha and all Askaries ask for pardon from their people and denounce imperialism. We also recommend that they reveal all the acts of aggression and violence they were party to as agents of imperialism. Furthermore, they are to undertake education or awareness campaigns about what the consequences of being agents of imperialism can be. This court is critical of the fact that no Gurkhas have been known to have formed themselves into a movement for the liberation of its people even after such direct injustice of imperialism.

2) Honduras

Testimony was led that the president of Honduras, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was deposed by an illegal coup on 28 June 2009. It is said that this act was carried out on instruction and in the interest of the military, Honduras politicians and business elites in service of imperialism. We heard that Mr Zelaya, at the time of his ousting, was following and implementing anti- imperialist policy while also trying to democratise the economic benefits and improve the conditions of the working people of his country. It is clear that the USA as an imperial force has a hand in the events around Mr Zelaya. Testimony was led that the military base to which he was taken was under the influence of the USA. In any event, the USA has done nothing ever since the coup to suggest that it is either against it or that it was not involved in any way. The removal of a democratically elected president by a coup is a very serious matter. It also raises the matter of whether the highly popular USA president Mr Barack Obama is another participant in the scramble for global power whose mandate is geared towards imperialism.

It is of course disturbing to note that just like in the Haitian situation, the USA under Obama is supporting acts of imperialism against the innocent people of these countries!

We demand that Barack Obama ensures that president Jose Manuel Zelaya is returned to his office as president of Honduras with immediate effect! As president of the USA Mr Obama has the power to effect such a change.

3) Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

We heard testimony from Korea that it has been under constant imperial harassment since about 1945. We heard that various acts of provocations have been instituted against the people of Korea.
We recommend that the USA cease all activities of aggression and withdraw its troops and war arsenal from the Korean sphere of influence.

4) Cuba

We heard three witnesses from Cuba. We heard that many countries and even UN linked agencies such as Amnesty International have condemned the continued unjust incarceration of the persons now known as the Cuban Five. Testimony indicated these men’s activities in the USA were in no way threatening to the USA or its people. We heard that some families of the Cuban Five have been denied visas to see go see their family members. The witnesses told us boldly that the “Cuba Five are not spies but anti-terrorist fighters”.

We heard that policies of Mr Obama are not different from those of his predecessors when it comes to Cuba. That the blockade continues and that he has not made any moves to change this situation.
We hereby find as follows:

1. That the USA government immediately release the Cuban Five who have been in jail for 12 years now!
2. That the families of the two political prisoners be allowed access to their families and be given visas.
3. That the USA end the illegal blockade immediately

Tribute to Cuba

I wish to take this opportunity to salute the Cuban people for the gallant fight they have mounted over the years against imperialism. We can testify even from the bench that Cuba remains a shining example of the struggle for peace, honesty and life worth living. We say this fully aware of the realities and contradictions in that country including the need to end anti -black racism which continues today. We note that the relative freedom we in SA enjoy today was gained through the blood of the Cuban soldiers of liberation who fought and defeated the Apartheid monster on the plains of Angola!

5) Cyprus

We heard that Cyprus feels betrayed and that it’s under, foreign interventions and the chains of occupation. Our modern history began with a given and shackled independence established by the Zurich–London Agreement in 1960. Imperialism fought against the independence of Cyprus.

We recommend further negotiation and respect for the ideal of self rule and national sovereignty

6) New Zealand

We heard that New Zealand is a consistent supporter of imperialism and has supported the USA in many transgressions against the people of the world including, currently Afghanistan, Korea, and was also involved in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia. We heard NZ repressed workers in its country.

We recommend that NZ cease all acts of imperial aggression and give workers their rights in NZ.

7) USA

We heard testimony that the USA is the main imperial power even if it is not the only one. We have heard that the USA used massive violence against the peoples of the world to ensure elite reproduction of wealth accumulation. We heard that with the global crisis of accumulation manifested as the global financial and economic crisis, the USA has become more dangerous and treacherous.

We also heard that whilst slavery has formally ended black people in the USA are enslaved in the form of unjustified imprisonment. It was noted also that black people are over represented on death row meaning that lynching has now become legalised.

We heard that Mumia Abu Jamal has been on death row for over 30 years. It was said Jamal is a political prisoner and a victim of American anti-black racism. Mr Jamal is a symbol of the hundreds of political prisoners in the USA. Also we heard that Ms Assata Shakur has been a victim of the same anti-black programs of the USA against black people. She is now exiled in Cuba and the American government wants her extradited so that she can be captured and possibly placed on death row like the rest of the black liberation fighters.

George Bush

The name of George Bush and his assistants has come up many times during this trial as the main architect of imperial war at the end of the 20th century!

On this I find that the USA is implicated by many of the other witnesses who have come before this court. It’s hard not to find the USA as the most active and most influential imperial force on earth today. It’s impossible to imagine world peace with the USA continuing its policy of world domination. I therefore make the following recommendations:

1. That the USA withdraw, with immediate effect, its military forces in the different countries of the world.
2. That the USA end its Africommand military bases on the African continent.
3. Barack Obama, the president of the USA must now make a presidential intervention and free Mumia Abu Jamal.
4. I also recommend that president Obama withdraw the unjust indictment against Ms Assata Shakur who is now an exile in Cuba, and ensures that Ms Shakur is now a free citizen. I now take this opportunity to thank the government and people of Cuba for having hosted Ms Shakur who is a clear victim of the USA systematic program against black people in that country.
5. Finally, I also recommend George Bush be declared a war criminal. Furthermore, I recommend that young people of the world who stand for world peace make sure to affect a citizen’s arrest on George Bush so that he may be brought to justice. From this court let it be clear that George Bush is a wanted man for crimes against humanity and crimes of imperialism.

8) Iraq

We heard testimony on the illegal and brutal occupation of Iraq by the USA. We heard of the devastation this occupation has brought about including the destruction of infrastructure, cultural sites and massive loss of life. We heard that this occupation was not for democracy and that it is in fact about the interest of American corporations. The focus was on the natural resources of Iraq, especially oil. George Bush was identified as a war criminal.

We recommend that:

The USA withdraw from Iraq completely.
That the USA pay reparations for the damage caused and lives lost.
That George Bush be tried for war crimes.


1. Palestine

We listened to testimonies from six witnesses who have experienced various acts of oppression and repression against them. We were shown video evidence relating to the occupation of Palestinian territories and the resultant denial of rights, as well as the evasion of the application of international humanitarian law and the resolutions of the International Bill relevant to the Palestinian cause.
We recommended the following:

1. That the occupation of Palestinian land be ended immediately
2. That refugees be allowed to return to Palestine
3. Lasting peace, in which rights of people are respected irrespective of religion or racial identity, should be sought
4. Reparations for all the loss and suffering the Palestinian people have suffered must be paid
5. The USA should withdraw its support for the state of Israel, and it must be held responsible together with Israel for the continued suffering of the Palestinian people!

2) Puerto Rico

The court heard that there is a long history of imperial interference and oppression of the people of Puerto Rico and that the country is practically under occupation.

We recommend that Puerto Rico be given its full national independence and its right to sovereignty ought to be respected.

3) Brazil

We heard how Brazilian Amazonian biodiversity is being destroyed by imperialism. The Amazon belongs to specific countries! It must be protected. Amazon belongs to the Amazonian people.


That the rights of people who live in and have a right to the Amazonian biodiversity be protected.

4) Denmark

We heard that Denmark alongside other imperial countries is responsible for the destruction of our environment with grave consequences such as death, hunger, floods, malaria and other related negative consequences on people. The EU and the USA are the biggest polluters, yet the consequences are felt by the people of the world.

We recommended that the USA, EU and the state of Denmark be held responsible for their presentation.

5) Namibia

We heard that the first act of genocide in the 20th century was experienced by the Herero and Nama people of Namibia as a result of German colonisation. Between 80 000 – 100 000 people who constituted 60 -80% of the Herero and Nama population at the time were exterminated through brutal force. In 2004, 100 years after this genocide, Germany symbolically apologised but this is clearly not enough.

The court recommends:

1. That this genocide be recognized as such by the German government
2. That Germany pay reparations to the Herero and Nama people
3. The Namibian government should start negotiations with the affected people so as to begin the process of restitution
4. That the skulls of the Herero and Nama people stored in Germany be returned immediately.

6) Western Sahara

We heard testimony from four witnesses who have all had different experiences of torture, incarceration, denial of medical assistance and general repression. We heard of the 2000km long wall that has been built for the purposes of segregation complete with military personnel stationed at various points. We have also heard how the Western Sahara people demand and have struggled for many years for their independence from Morocco. Testimony was given that whilst the African Union recognises Western Sahara, the UN has dragged its feet or has shown no interest in implementing the segment of the agreement that would lead to the independence of Western Sahara. Testimony suggests that the UN system may be under the influence of powerful imperial interest such as France who are in cahoots with the rulers of Morocco and therefore are in no hurry to grant the people of Western Sahara their deserved liberation.

We heard how there is no media freedom in Morocco and that there is general repression of the Western Sahara people. We have no reason to doubt these damning testimonies.

We as a court are particularly disturbed by the testimony that 11 young people who were on their way to this festival are incarcerated as we speak. We condemn these acts of as intimidation, which are contrary to the letter and spirit of a world free of repression and suffering. This court feels especially aggrieved that such acts of state repression can happen against young people for merely attending a festival of young people.

We further note that there was a disturbance of this court yesterday morning. From the bench we made the appeal that both Morocco and Western Sahara present their case before us. In fact we went further to say Morocco has a right in this court to respond to the allegations put before us. Needless to say, the Moroccan delegation has not taken the opportunity to do so. We are therefore left to make the inference that Morocco has little regard for this court or how the people of the world feel about what’s going on in their country perpetrated by their government. This is indeed disturbing and unfortunate. Morocco behaves as an arrogant imperial force that refuses reason and relies on the might of arms to sustain its oppression over a people!

We therefore rule as follows:

1. That Morocco release with immediate effect the 11 young people arrested for attending this Festival!
2. That Morocco release all political prisoners in its jails
3. That the Moroccan government publicly gives the people of the world guarantees that the delegates attending this Festival who are here with us will not be terrorized in any way when they return home.
4. I’m perplexed by the South African government. We are signatories to the AU and many charters. We boast a constitution that claims to protect and promote human rights. Our government and ruling party declare in word and symbolically significant ways that it supports the cause of the Western Saharan people, but we have maintained diplomatic and trade relations with Morocco. I call this double speak.

This court therefore, recommends that South Africa withdraws all diplomatic and trade relations with Morocco until all the demands of the Western Saharan people are met. That means that South Africa must, with immediate effect, request the Moroccan government to demand that the Moroccan embassy leave South African soil!


Imperialism has planners, implementers, beneficiaries and victims. Imperialism is not only sustained by force of arms, even if predominantly it is sustained by its capacity for violence! It also sustains itself on the basis of hegemony over a people and their minds. This is perhaps what we call Cultural imperialism. It is about deeply ingrained ideas we have about ourselves and the world. Initially, this can be imposed by force, and then later we do it ourselves without any coercion.

The colonial and imperial iconography bears testimony to this: the appearances that give neo-colonial power legitimacy and respect which it does not deserve. We mask simple truths and deny people the right to make decisions and participate in their own lives thereby leaving it to the so-called experts to make decisions about our lives. We reproduce the heritage of colonialism and imperialism by protecting and promoting it daily. . We need a bit of resistance, changing how things are done! We need to be able to say no and act as such. This is a challenge that even cause offense to friends and colleagues, including family members. But in our times such risks must be taken in order to preserve the dignity of the oppressed peoples of the world. And it’s not just the politicians but the owners of corporations, the judiciary, our artists and poets who have upheld imperial actions, laws and morality.


In closing, let me talk a little bit about my own country, South Africa. South Africa got its independence in 1994. Our first democratic president as you all know was Nelson Mandela who was honored together with President Fidel Castro in this festival.

There is a case to be made that the absence of South Africa on this tribunal is indication that we have defeated imperialism in our country. However, reality seems to be at variance with this picture. For starters, this very important festival follows on the heels of another very successful international event, the Fifa World Cup where our government spent about R120 Billion!

This is a country where teachers, nurses and other public servants have had to go on month long strikes for very modest increases. Our public schools and hospitals are falling apart. Our people are not housed, or fed, 50% of the population is designated poor, and we have up to 40% unemployment.

16 years since the first democratic elections, only 6% of the land has been returned to the people because of the World Bank/IMF land policy – willing buyer willing seller – the same policy that has been imposed on the people of Namibia. Right now 1% of the population owns 80% of the land. We didn’t hear testimony on this but I can tell you that since 1994, more than a million farm workers have been evicted from land by white settler owners of the land (who are part of the abut 65 000 families that own more than 80% of the land)..
There is therefore, no surprise that this very festival has received very bad publicity from our media. While it can be said that our media is anti-government this does not necessarily mean that our government is anti-imperialist.

We have a situation here where 60% of young people have no means of income; they are badly educated and hopelessly trapped. Our government spent R69 million on this conference alone, a luxury we certainly cannot afford. As we speak, very mild rains have caused life threatening floods in townships such as Soweto and this is not because of a natural disaster but due to a criminal under housing of our people. I can’t say with a clear conscience that indeed this observation has no merit. We can’t host festivals and conferences when we haven’t served the people! We must take care of the people if we are serious about ending imperialism.

This brings me to a second important observation here. It is my view that to talk about imperialism whilst pursuing policies that do not benefit the people is hypocritical. To speak about imperialism whilst maintaining trade, and diplomatic relations with the main imperial countries is, to use a colloquial word, “dodgy”.

It means that our government is using the legitimate fight for justice against imperialism and reducing it to mere rhetoric This makes me wonder if countries that, in their policies support neocolonialism, imperialism and capitalism such as South Africa have any moral authority to condemn imperialism? We must remember imperialism is not out there in a distant world we do not inhabit. Imperialism is what we do, it’s our what our governments do, and this is the only basis to judge if a government is anti-imperialist or not.

The best indication of the love the true friends of South Africa have for us is to not look the other way or be seduced by proximity to power. True solidarity will come from ruthless, principled criticism from friends we trust. True solidarity must be based on asking difficult questions of us: if as is the case, 80% of the known deposits of platinum are in South Africa, how come our country is the world champion of inequality? Unlike most countries, South Africa is known to be one of the countries with the largest deposits of mineral rights on earth. We have been producing billionaires in an alarming rate, whilst the people suffer.

Poverty, suffering and structural marginalisation can be defeated and solved in our country. We certainly have the means!

And with that, I declare this court adjourned!

Thank you.

To order a copy of New Frank Talk, send an email to: OR visit your nearest Exclusive Books branch.

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Efforts to Extradite Black Panther Leader Intensify

Former political prisoner and member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, Assata Shakur is still being aggressively perused by her former captors, over three decades after her escape from prison.

In their newest attempt to imprison Assata Shakur, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes have announced that they will write to President Barack Obama to request Assata Shakur’s extradition. Milgram said President Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba is a perfect opportunity to push for the return of the state’s “most wanted fugitive.” Joining the call for Shakur’s capture is Jersey Senator Sean Kean (R-Monmouth), who asked the President to delay normalizing relations with Cuba until they agree to the extradition. “She’s your classic urban terrorist, and she should be in jail,” he said. “Anybody who tells you different is a liar.” To read the rest of this report go to:

Below is a review of Assata Shakur’s autobiography written by New Frank Talk publisher, Andile Mngxitama. It was first published in 2005.

About Life: A Review of the Autobiography of Assata Shakur
by Andile Mngxitama

In May 2005 the United States government placed a $1 million bounty for the abduction of Assata Shakur from Cuba, where she has been in exile since 1984. Who is Assata Shakur, and what is her crime? These questions are excellently answered in the brilliant and easy to read autobiography of Assata, written after being given a life sentence by an all white jury in 1977 for crimes she did not commit. This is not a life story of one Black woman in America, it’s a statement of what life has been like for Blacks in that country since their arrival there as slaves from the African continent. For most of the world, Hurricane Katrina shattered the lie of racial harmony and equality in the USA, and rapidly replaced the sanitized images of Black America which are peddled by bling-bling promoting MTV and Hollywood. The moment Hurricane Katrina struck, distinctions between Darfur and New Orleans were blurred, and many a commentator was left wondering: is this America?

Assata’s biography tells the story of America’s war against Black people since the time of chattel slavery. At the same time , the biography is a bold testament of the heroic feats of Blacks in America who were able to stay alive against all the odds. When America bombs Iraq for its oil, it is really just the externalization of the internal war it has waged against Black people for centuries, and this autobiography gives us a sense of what it really means to be Black and conscious in America.

Assata takes us through her stages of coming into “consciousness”, and as she does this, we can see the intestines of Black life under the jackboot of racist America after the formal end of slavery, and how Blacks constantly lived their lives with their backs against the wall. The opening chapter takes us to the night of Assata’s violent capture in May 1973 on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was shot, and as her comrade lay dying, fists and kicks rained down on her wounded body with hatred that can only be explained by a desire to eradicate her very being. When she and her companions were stopped that night, she was wanted by the police for numerous alleged crimes, none of which she was eventually convicted for. These arraignments, which could not stand even in loaded courts, pointed to the state-sanctioned harassment of Blacks but, more specifically, those who chose to speak out and fight back. The judicial harassment, which followed her arrest, forms part of the attack on Black resistance, which has led to the violent destruction of the Black Panther Party. Assata relates how the whole judicial machinery functions to deny Blacks any semblance of justice. She was there in six such circumstances. Reading her encounter with the criminal justice system explains two important aspects of Black lives in America. Firstly, the disproportionate number of Blacks in prison and on death row, and secondly, that prison is the continuation of slavery by other means. In fact, we learn from the autobiography that the American Constitution allows for slavery in prison.

When Assata describes prison conditions one immediately understands how prison has become a place to break the souls of Black people to ensure that no resistance ever occurs against the racist regime in America. Her sin was to face white racist America by joining the Black Panthers. As a result she was followed, shot and thrown into jail. The FBI declared her “the mother hen who kept them together, kept them moving, kept them shooting”. The subtext is clear, she must be destroyed, and this they tried to do through various means, including judicial lynching.

This book takes us through one of the most important moments of Black Pride – the rise of the Black Panther Party, which stood up against the violent oppression of Black people. Assata takes us through a journey of the beauty of resistance against death, which the Panthers introduced, but she does not gloss over the internal weaknesses of the resistance. The Panthers were destroyed because they dared to face the beast and declared: “We are a people ”! They were destroyed for the same reason Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and 2Pac Shakur were destroyed.

Assata writes as eloquently about life as she does about hope and despair in the presence of death. She never loses hope and through her love we are implored to never lose hope in the capacity of the oppressed to fight for justice. You will laugh at the levels of stupidity which come with racism; you will be angered by the wanton destruction of life to maintain an inhumane system built on arrogance and greed; and you will cry when she relates her story of how she got pregnant in jail and later gave birth to her daughter. The opportunity to bring new life was afforded, ironically, by the very evil spiteful intentions of the criminal justice system. In this case she was charged with another Panther named Kamau. The whole court procedure was such a blatant denial of any fair trial that they both decided not to have lawyers and to speak unguarded truths about their legal lynching. As punishment, they were locked up together in a freezing dark room for each court appearance. That was, she tells us, better than the bizarre goings- on in court. The pair, having grown romantically close, had to face the question of a possible pregnancy. At this point, Assata takes us to the depths of what it means to be Black in America. She had long decided not to have children, because she writes: “the world was too horrible to bring another human being into”. She struggles with her thoughts, enumerating the kinds of evil things which visit the life of the Black child. But finally she decides she is “about life”, and that she is not going to allow the racist system to make her kill her children in her mind, before they are even born. The struggle to keep her pregnancy and make sure that her daughter was born healthy in the face of the determination of the prison authorities to harm her unborn child, is heart wrenching. She had to resist to ensure that her child could exist.

Today, Assata Shakur lives under the protection and revolutionary generosity of the Cuban people and government, while the USA is hell-bent on returning her to the plantation as a run-away slave. It is heart-warming to know that some students of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg have started the Hands Off Assata Campaign in South Africa. It is Assata herself who writes, “The defeat of Apartheid in South Africa will bring Africans all over the planet closer to liberation”.

Andile Mngxitama is a patron of the Hands Off Assata Campaign in South Africa.


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Understanding the ANC alliance shadow sparring – it’s all a little game!

By Andile mngxitama

(this piece was first published by the Mail and Guardian)

We are again entering another circle of rituals for positions within the ruling party which are simply misunderstood by the media. Instead of pointing out how the ruling alliance functions to reproduce itself, the analysts, including university professors, are colonised by the discourses manufactured by the contending factions. We need to move beyond meaningless labels such as “the Left”, and “nationalists”.

The current public workers’ strike, the escalating “radical” rhetoric of Malema and Co including the belated call to freeze the salaries of senior public servants and ministers by the SACP are the latest tricks in an old tug-of-war of power that the ANC alliance plays year in and year out. Two central questions escape our analysts. The first is that the struggles within the ruling party are not about different ideologies or policy positions but about who will access state power to benefit which faction. Secondly, the battles within the alliance provide the best mechanism to give legitimacy for the ANC in the eyes of the voters. This second point of course is not always grasped even by the actors themselves.

What we have in the ANC Alliance is a neo-colonial elite proper as seen by Frantz Fanon in his Pitfalls of National Consciousness. Fanon warned that the post colonial elite that fought against white settler colonialists only take power to occupy the same positions as the defeated colonialists. Nigerian scholar, Dr Chinweizu, says that Black leaders in power become “Black Colonialists”. It’s hard to think of how the ANC in the past 16 years has been different from other Black colonialists on the African continent. In a sense what’s going on is a battle between black colonialists, for the share of colonial plunder, nothing more. They eat well whilst they build the poor RDP houses – if at all.

The road to Polokwane that led to the ousting of Thabo Mbeki’s faction was just another ritual to power. However, the contending forces for obvious reasons manufacture discourses that suggest that what is at stake is something noble and always for the benefit of the oppressed and excluded. In the case of Polokwane, the Mbeki faction was accused of driving the “1996 class project”, which apparently turned South Africa into a neo-liberal state that benefitted the elites and punished the poor through the GEAR policy. The new contenders to power coalesced around Zuma and formed what others called the coalition of the “wounded”, they claimed to be the best representatives of the interests of the poor, they sold Zuma to the masses as pro-workers and “a man of the people”. He danced and sang and it all looked convincing. To round it off they claimed to be for a “developmental state”. In the eyes of the media the “Left” had won!

Once the Polokwane victors ascended the Union Buildings, the spoils were shared. Blade Nzimande got away with a ministerial position, Fikile Mbalula a deputy minister’s post, Zizi Kodwa became a senior civil servant. Others in the media such as Jon Qwelane got nice postings in faraway lands. Over night Malema become a millionaire. But there was always a need to expand the accumulation path to maximize benefits for themselves. It must not be forgotten that the Mbeki faction also used the state quite effectively for its self-enrichment and at times was crudely defended for doing so, such as in the Jackie Selebi case.

To get a slice of the mineral energy complex which had benefitted the Mbeki faction handsomely, Malema threw the first salvo for nationalisation of the mines. This strategy had been tried before with huge success that led to the emergence of the first black mining moguls through BEE deals facilitated by the old white mining bosses. It’s blackmail writ large. Give us or we will take! Now Malema has returned from kissing the boere to wanting land expropriation without compensation and of course the nationalisation of mines is again part of that rhetoric. Vavi comes to the mix through flexing his muscle as a representative of the oppressed workers.

What appears at first as a super brawl to the death is actual a mere game. As a Soweto youth said the other day, the intra Alliance battles are an enactment of the television wrestling game WWW Smackdown. Of course there are real casualties, but the outcomes are predetermined, by and large, and the sanctity of the alliance remains intact. Only the uninitiated believes that the “Undertaker” really hates “Jon Cena” in the make belief world of wrestling.

What is important about the alliance battles is that it crowds out real questioning of how they collectively run the government. No one takes responsibility, what we get are new rounds of battles and promises. Sixteen years later the ANC alliance has not ended racism or made a real difference in the lives of the majority. The contenders are now hard pressed to raise the tempo of their rhetoric. These promises for “radical” change will be forgotten as soon as the winners enter the union buildings. The voting masses are rendered powerless, and their representatives live large at the expense of the state.

At the next elections the alliance will canvass for votes as one united front. Predictably, nothing of significance happens to alter the socio-economic condition of the people, and then they turn themselves into an internal opposition. A disaffected worker led by Cosatu, will in the next election again be asked to vote for the ANC alliance. The threats are meant to convince the voting public that, in fact, in Vavi and Malema we have the real representatives of the people. All that is required is to give them another chance.

What is often not understood is that without these internal battles, the ANC alliance will simply die; exposed for what it really is. It is these internal battles and manufactured discourses that keep it going. As long as these battles are contained as family feuds the hegemony of the ANC is guaranteed and real alternatives are crowded out. This is so because the epicentre of politics of governance, corruption, and opposition reside within the same entity.

At the end of the day there is no Left or nationalism in the ANC alliance, there are only losers and winners. The winners go on to run the ANC’s project of neo-colonialism. No land will be re-distributed, if nationalisation happens or whatever version of it, it will be about benefiting the politically connected. It’s about time we moved beyond ANC alliance rhetoric and see it for what it is. I doubt if analysts will have the intellectual creativity and rigor to pierce through the veil of meaningless labels.

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Ek, skheberesh: A letter to Andile Mngxitama – by Aryan Kaganof

Dear Andile,

As a kid I was taught to fear God, hate kaffirs and love money. I failed at all three. Instead I sacrificed all of my potential at the altar of non-participation in a world predicated on cant and the illusion of free will. This sacrifice was my gift to the god I don’t believe in. But no matter how outside of the system one pretends to be we’re all secretly, mutely, legitimizing that system until that great day when we take up arms and storm the barricades. Well at least that’s how I feel on my up days. On my down days I can’t imagine anything more ludicrous than taking up arms and perpetuating the same old rise-decline and inevitable fall that all revolutions merely play out. Which is partly why I’m at the launch of a pamphlet style publication called New Frank Talk 6, written by Andile Mngxitama in critique of the way the South African government sold its people out in order to be taken seriously by the “international community” (read: “the whites”).

Now the first thing one does at these revolutionary meetings is look around for the spies. Anybody who gets there on time is suspicious, anybody actually early is obviously with the CIA. That would be the two earnest white ladies in their mid-twenties to my left, one of whom is frantically taking notes in longhand (don’t see much of that these days), the other one taking photographs of everyone else in the room using a camera implanted in what used to be her right eye. Her name’s probably Bionic Woman. Then there are the three gents dressed in smart tailored black at the back, their necks rotating constantly, they’ve been trained not to miss a beat and consequently give themselves away almost before their recording wires are pushed “ON”.

The meeting commences with comrade Athi Mongezeleli Joja introducing comrade Reamogetse Jah’key Dichabe who introduces comrade Andile Mngxitama. The poor CIA lady on my left is struggling so hard to spell these unpronounceable names that the sweat beads from her forehead drop onto her page leaving ugly blotches that only serve to make those unpronounceable names unreadable as well.

In front of me a youngish man makes a poignant entry into the debate. “It’s hard to speak in this country. It’s hard to stand up and speak. We still talk a foreign language.” Comrade Andile winces, he’s got no time for this language stuff that tastes like nostalgia to him, he only wants to move on with what’s good for all black people now. But I can hear my mentor Bra’ Geoff Mphakathi’s strident voice intoning “Go fitlhela re bua maleme a rona ga go sepe se se tla re lokelang!” (Until we speak our own languages we are lost!) and a part of me wants to break down and weep. The meeting of course is conducted in English, in order to communicate across tribal divides but fundamentally this means that the content of the discussion is sieved into a colonial form. Black revolution is framed in white words. The tongues are all speaking in His Master’s Voice… and it really doesn’t matter what they are saying, the staging of the debate in a colonial language means that the black revolution will always be the property of whites.

But comrade Mngxitama is little interested in these philosophical nuances of language that he considers beside the point which is to galvanize black people into action now. He is not here to bury Biko nor to praise him. “We don’t care about the history of heroes.” A sister from Paarl who clearly stems from Poqo royalty stridently (and somewhat wryly) declares, “Black people have been queueing for so long for everything, now we gonna queue for revolution?” And she has a good point. How long? Gibson Kente wrote back in the seventies. In The Bus Queue was a choir standard back in the days of King Kong. Generations of South African blacks have been patiently standing in this metaphorical queue, occasionally slipping into symbolic disorder, but by and large (and contrary to the received white vision of them as unruly and anarchic) exhibiting an incomprehensible patience. It’s not that they have the patience of Job, the blacks exhibit the patience of stone.

When we drive convoy to Tagores in Obs Comrade Thabo lets slip to Comrade Mngxitama and I that he’s in a mystical mode tonight and that might explain why Comrade Joja did his best to keep Comrade Thabo away from the mic all through the meeting. Me I’m less inclined to fall for the spiritualism schtick and more inclined to believe my nose that tells me Comrade Thabo has been spliffing some mighty herb before during and after that political meeting and those of us with rastaman vibrations in our veins know that good weed and hard politics are two sauces that simply don’t mix.

At Tagores Tete’s Mbambisa’s Umthsakazi is playing; that’s the rousing opener from his 1976 classic Tete’s Big Sound. This is music that tells you you are in South Africa. Wherever that may be. Tells you that you are home. Whoever you might be. The barman from Jamaica is as unfriendly as unfriendly gets. Well that’s all right with me. I always feel compromised when people are friendly. What do they want? There’s inevitably an angle. I keep my trap shut and furiously try to figure it out before the fast one gets pulled. On me? Not a chance. I’m too wys for that. Not born yesterday. Born 46 years ago in fact. That’s a long time. Since before Pa fell off the bus.

Upstairs at Tagores the smell of skyf is thick and sweet but the comrades have forgotten to tell the whites they’re not welcome. It’s an amazing thing to watch. The whites always colonize any space they are in. It’s happening right now here in Tagores. There are only two of them but gradually the sound of black fire diminishes until it is only the cackling of the white hen in the middle of the room that can be heard. Everybody else is holding their breath. Is it politeness that damns the blacks? Or do they really deep in their hearts believe that whites have something interesting to say? Actually you can’t even hold this colonizing tendency against the whites. Would you hold it against a frog that it croaks?

Of course the white lady talking used to be a sangoma and that’s when I lose my pickle. I mean really, what language did her ancestors talk to her in? She lets rip with a howler: “It was isiXhosa. I didn’t understand a word they were saying…” Lunatics. These are the kind of people that would not find one single white person out there in the world of humans to take them seriously, but here in the heart of our Blackwash tribe there is a polite silence while this chick simply rabbits on and on. She’s delivering a litany of digressions. I wonder to myself, despairingly, will she ever get to the point? She grins, “Well I’m glad I gave you some material. How do I get in touch with my schizophrenic voices?” At least she knows she’s mad. Do any of the Blackwash comrades know how mad they are? I mean if they were sane they would have thrashed this white lady to within an inch of her life! Beaten her right here and now in Tagores with their belts and their shoes and their caps and their sticks! Instead it’s more zoned out politeness. Blacks zone out when whites talk. They zone out like they do when they are waiting for a bus. They have infinite patience because they’re not all there. Oh yes their black bodies occupy volume in space. But their black minds simply vanish. They go into that place where most of the universe is hiding. It’s called – and not by any accident let me tell you – dark matter. Yes it is true, most of the universe consists of black people waiting for some white person to shut up!

But I’m not going to!

I’m not finished yet!

(This by why of an auto-critique, you see, I’m no bladdy exception to the rule motherfuckers!)

Why do blacks even bother to engage with whites? Here opposite me in Tagores with Tete Mbambisa’s Stay Cool blazing out the speakers this white academic is lecturing comrade Athi about his oppression. As if Athi doesn’t know that, and how, he’s oppressed. The white always assumes that he’s got the real goods to offer. The white always holds the keys to the kingdom of true knowledge that is denied the black a priori because of his blackness. I have known white men to drive through a township once without stopping and come out on the other end EXPERTS ON TOWNSHIP BEHAVIOUR. Man they will write a 457 page book about their encounter with township life, they will appear on national television in talk shows discussing their “ENCOUNTER” with the blacks! A white who spends ten minutes with a black is an immediate expert on race relations. A black who has spent his or her entire life negotiating the white world is always and only a spectator at the trough of the real, at best able to nod mutely at his or her own exclusion from the Ta Ta Ma Chance glistening at the end of the white rainbow. But still they sit there quietly, lapping up this white verbal garbage that is pouring out of this lady’s mouth at twice the speed of light, let alone sound. I mean this lady is TALKING FAST. At some point she says “My father talks a lot” and I say “I’m very surprised” and she does not get it, she simply lacks any layer of self-reflection, there is no irony in this white, no interiority, it is all and only this monstrous colonizing exertion of verbal force outwards into the room. It is simply what she is, beyond her sympathies with the blacks, and even her literal kinship with them, she can do nothing else but COLONIZE. That is what whites are. Colonizers. If you are going to be with them you are going to accept that and be colonized. That’s it.

For the white radical, black desperate people are a captive audience. No whites would ever bother listening to his/her shrill ranting. So what and who’s not? Ultimately my interest is purely aesthetic. This smoky room upstairs at Tagores is pulsating with history. Tete Mbambisa’s 1976 classic Black Hero’s is playing. All around me the black heroes of now are playing out their tragic part in this great tragedy called South Africa. Everything is heightened now. It feels like how real life should. Comrade Mngxitama laughs deeply and points at the burly brudda Joja, “Comrade Athi is not disciplined. That’s why the comrades put him among the white people.” Then I get it. The whole thing’s a fucken comedy after all. Black suffering is a spiritual thing. Comrade Thabo was right after all. Whites are there as an ordeal to go through in order to get to the other side of the wide road of the soul where they will find… A CHICKEN. But not just any chicken, a chicken that speaks indigenous languages!!! “Go fitlhela re bua….” Bra’ geoff’s majestic voice roars at me from out of the dark soul of the night. It’s time to go home.

But back at my car I discover that Comrade Thabo has left all the New Frank Talks as well as his backpack filled with the molotov cocktails, the 5D and the 7D as well as all the ammunition underneath my 2 year old daughter’s portable car seat. I heft the backpack over my shoulder and lug the box full of anti-white propaganda back into the nicely crowded Tagores where Tete Mbambisa’s heroic Demdese is now playing. Drop all the goetes off with comrade Phumzile who frowns and asks “What are you doing with our books and our bombs?”

“Heish Phumz, Comrade Thabo forgot them in the car…”

“Oh right, well thanks boss.”

So it goes…

Finally back home and listening to the great Tete Mbambisa’s Unity – the final track on that classic 1976 album, I wonder, have you ever noticed how one white person’s personal tragedy is always more important than the entire black condition?


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“Wits University is the epitome of white supremacy” – Andile Mngxitama


The following is a transcribed version of a talk given by Andile Mngxitama at Wits University on an essay he wrote, titled “Blacks can’t be Racist”. He gave the talk to a full house in August 2010.

The university is a great example of how you want to think about the continuation of racism or the white-supremacist project…if you look at how the university is organised. I was thinking Wits is the epitome of white supremacy and I know that Black thinking is outlawed at Wits, by and large. If you look at any of the courses that you do, check the readings that they give you and try to make a study of how many of them, most of the time will be African thinkers or writers….very few. Now, I thought I should introduce to you…you don’t have to agree with what I say but I hope you can do this. There are two critical thinkers in this country that you know the university will not talk about. The first one is Lewis Nkosi. Lewis Nkosi comes from a writing sort of background. Check his writings, check his attitude to knowledge, check his attitude to the Black condition….the Black question and I want to dedicate this talk today to him and to the late Professor Archie Mafeje. Archie Mafeje single-handedly….by 34 he was a full professor…if you study anthropology I know that they haven’t told you about him because he single-handedly destroyed the science of anthropology and showed it to be colonial studies…single-handedly. And he was not like me, he was not howling, he did very detailed scientific studies and in fact if you want to go to Archie Mafeje online you will find his debates with other white scholars in that field but I know that Wits is not going to tell you about that, the white professors are not going to tell you about Archie Mafeje. So I want to dedicate this talk to both Lewis Nkosi who is very ill right now, he is a very sick man and he’s here in South Africa and to Archie Mafeje who has passed on. I think if you are serious about thinking and change you have to understand these people. There are many more but I thought today I should tell you about these two.

Now today I want to talk about “Black s can’t be Racist”. I’m told by some people who were giving out pamphlets for this talk that some brothers and sisters said, “No, you can’t say we’re not racist, I am racist, I hate white people”. (Laughter) And I was thinking how do you get around that point because that is the most natural response that Black people should have against white racism? We should hate people that oppress us. We should hate a system that oppresses us. But you see, we’ve been messed up so much that we can’t even say it. But hatred is not going to take you very far, you see? So I was thinking that to deal with this problem you have to think about Malcolm X, because Malcolm X helps us to organize our thinking. You know the whole thing about the house negro and the field negro. You see, and this is what democracy has done, you have your field negro and your house negro is the guy who responds to whiteness. Back then on the plantation, the house negro was given leftover food, given the clothes of the master and he loved the master and he spoke like the master and in fact when the house of the master was on fire he wanted to save it and when the master was sick he prayed to the Lord and said, “God, please save us”. He never even said “save the master”, he said, “save us”. The house negroes, one of the problems [with them] is that, even when they could hear the agony and cries of the field negroes being beaten they still did not accept that the whole institution of slavery was based on violence. They loved the house of the master so much that they wanted to save it. The field negroes, on the other hand, just like those sisters and brothers who were saying they hate white people, when the master was sick, they prayed to their Black God that the master must die. When the house of the master was on fire, they prayed to their Black God that more wind must come and burn down the whole place. So those are field negroes. At the end of the day, whatever we say, we are going to come back to this question: Are we field negroes or are we house negroes? That is the bottom line. If you understand democracy and if you understand the place of Black people…it’s going to come back to that question. Now, I’m quickly going to show us how we were created as Black people, [in order] to helps us deal with the issue of racism.

New Frank Talk number 3, this red one, says, “Black s can’t be Racist”. Now, the context is this that in 2008 something called the Forum for Black Journalists, they invited the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma into their forum to address them, in a closed meeting, it was not a press conference. White journalists decided to gatecrash this meeting and the Black journalists said, “You can’t do this, this is white arrogance”. And the white journalists went to the Human Rights Commission and complained that being excluded from that meeting is unconstitutional and also racist, so the Black journalists are racist by excluding white journalists. So we had hearings at the HRC and I made a submission, this reading is based on that. It surprised me a lot, that after 350 years of systematic oppression of Black people, by racism, which benefits white people, when Black people gather in their own meeting, white people can insist that they want to be part of that. And then, of course complain about that. By the way, after that whole process, the HRC came to the conclusion that in fact, it is indeed true, that our Constitution does not allow Black people to be amongst themselves without supervision from white people. (Laughter) It went further to say that the Forum for Black Journalists must amend its constitution to include white people, otherwise it must stop to exist. Those who study law amongst you, must know Moreane, Advocate Moreane is a senior council, he wrote the appeal, I thought it was watertight, I thought they would win the appeal, again, from reading our Constitution very closely, the HRC could not help but come to the same conclusion that as Black people we cannot meet amongst ourselves, we cannot fight racism as Black people. That worried me a lot. How is it possible that in a racist country, Black people cannot be allowed to organize on their Black ness? And I said we need to look at this racism question. And I’m arguing in the book that what we need is conceptual fidelity. In other words, a chair is not a table, to make sense, you have to name things and give them their properties. Racism is not xenophobia, even if they are both about discrimination. It is not patriarchy even if, in some ways, patriarchy is as bad as racism. Racism describes a process of Black people’s subjugation. If you don’t limit this definition then racism becomes everything and everyone can be a victim of racism and Black people, as a result, are unable to make claims for reparations for slavery, for colonialism, for apartheid and continuing discrimination of Black people. You have to understand that. If racism is everything, if you say white people can become victims of racism, what you have done right there, is to wipe off the historical slate clean of the specialized, unique ways in which Black people have been oppressed over the ages. We alone, only we were enslaved in the manner that we were enslaved. Us alone, were colonized in the manner that we were colonized. Capitalism today and white civilization, if you like, are created out of these sort of oppressions that us as Black people, that us alone have suffered. This is the point I was trying to make. And this is the point we try to make in “Black s can’t be Racist”. Steve Biko helps us a lot here because he says that racism is defined as the subjugation of one group by another for the purpose of exploitation. Now, we Black people, we don’t have the intention of subjugating anyone. I don’t think when we talk about Black liberation we talk about oppressing anyone. And normally in Black wash we say that all we want is to share in the wealth of our country. And I can tell you about sharing in the wealth of the country; I hope you guys know who owns the wealth of our country right now. I hope you know that when you look at the JSE, that even with the BEE Black capitalists, who are part of the white supremacist project, we don’t own, 10% of the JSE. Sixteen years later, the ANC has made sure that only 6% of land has been distributed to Black people and it means that more than 80% of the land is still in white hands. The ANC has ensured, that in the same period, more than 1 million Black people have been evicted from farms, by White farmers. I’m saying the ANC because the responsibility of transforming this society, must rest with the majority party that can, if it wants to change even the Constitution by getting a bit of support from [for example] the PAC. It hasn’t. You see, this business of us suffering racism, does not mean that we should not take responsibility for the continuation of the oppression of Black people. We need to be clear: White people are just 10% [of the population], they are not a problem. Think about it. White people are not a problem and we should not waste too much time with them. (Laughter) The problem is this, and it’s an unfortunate problem: the day Black people want to change this society to get the wealth, the gold, the platinum, the land, the people we are going to confront is the African National Congress as government. If you have not figured that out then you are in trouble.

Let me go back now to explain, in my view, the three related processes that create the Black person out of this white experience. You have to think of the Black as a creation of whiteness out of a very violent process. In South Africa it is three related dispossessions. The first dispossession is land dispossession, they dispossessed us of our land, it was a very violent process. The second dispossession is labour dispossession. They turned us into workers, servants. When they discovered gold and diamonds in the mid-1800s, they took land even when they did not need it. But because they wanted us to come and work…to work on their mines…because if we still have access to land then we don’t want to come work for the white man. So they come to your village and take your land and force you to come and work for them. And Marxists tell us that it’s a good thing to be a worker. Cecil John Rhodes said it back then, he said, we must tell these [Black ] people, we must make sure that they’re just going to become workers. Now people fight to become workers. You have to think about that. And every year they strike for about 10%, which is about R150. (Laughter) The third dispossession process is what I call the dispossession of the African being. The destruction of our Africanness was led by two processes: The one is their education, their white education and secondly their white God. Christinisation and education. When they give you their education and their God, when they are done with you, you can’t remember who you are. (Laughter) And we must also say this, that it was not a peaceful process. Those people who read history, for example, will know the story of Tiyo Soga’s father…how he surrendered his sons to white education. It was a painful process but he knew that if he did not surrender his sons to white education, then they would be destroyed. Their god was a very very violent god. If you did not surrender to their god of commerce, they would destroy your family and your communities. We must understand that. So when these three processes were concluded, we were sitting as we are now with a complex of inferiority and white people have a complex of superiority. But these things find expression in materiality. We know that Black people need to find jobs in order to live. When you finish at this university you are going to work for big companies owned by white people. Normally I say that if you think about the educational process of colonialism the first people they educated were the Xhosas, I call them the first coconuts. Nelson Mandela’s mannerisms and Thabo Mbeki’s mannerisms are part of that [colonial education]. They dress and speak like English gentlemen. They are Xhosa English gentlemen. And you know, in some ways, I really think they believe that they are. (Laughter) Chinweizu, the Nigerian scholar makes the point that, colonial education is almost like giving mice the education of cats. A mouse without an orientation and education of the cat, when it sees a cat it naturally runs away. That’s the natural response. But if you take a mouse and you bring it to Wits and give it a lot of education and it assimilates and it believes itself to be a cat. When it sees a cat, it sees a friend. (Laughter) And now the problem is that the friend which is the cat…sometimes, it is hungry (Laughter). This is a problem.

Let’s just go back then. I’ve just spoken about the creation of the Black out of this relationship of violence in our encounter with whiteness. I have not spoken about whiteness. I can simply say this: the benefits that accrue to whiteness, whether they are economic or social or political have become naturalised. Out of that whole violent process of marginalizing us Black people, marking us out in terms of our skin colour, for the sort of oppressions I have just mentioned, [white people] have accrued all these privileges. And in our thinking, in our thought processes, when you see a Black you can almost put together all those characteristics of Black ness – we are all these things which are not nice. When you see a white person, you don’t even have to think about it. Maybe I should just go back a bit, when I came here in February, there was a place…I think they called it the Accommodations Office. There were a lot of Black students there. Some students at Wits travel by train to come to school. A [Black ] student here fainted from lack of food. And do you know what the system does, what the education of the cat does to us? We are shameful. We take responsibility as if it’s our fault. So we are beginning to police the system ourselves. Instead of saying wait, “we are entitled to be at university to be well fed, to be well housed, because this is our country”. You don’t organize on that basis, you feel individually ashamed. But that is part of the ideological process.

Now, I feel we must not waste too much time on whiteness but whites will get the privileges you will never get. Even the white revolutionary will get the privileges you will never get. Even when Joe Slovo died…he’s buried right now in Soweto, you must go to his grave and you will see that he is the only person buried there identified by name amongst a lot of Black people who are sleeping there. I’m saying to you that even if a white person dies for you, you will be forgotten, they will not be forgotten. (Laughter) And I’m not saying you should not have white friends. It’s okay to have white friends and girlfriends and that sort of thing. But I’m saying it’s a lie to say that…you see at Wits they teach bad Sociology these days. They say race is a social construct therefore race has got no scientific basis. What is not socially constructed? Even God is socially constructed. Everything we know is socially constructed. Class and gender are also socially constructed. Why is it that race is socially constructed but has got no scientific basis? We as Black people we know that if you are aware and open your eyes, you can feel it. You know it. You know that you are Black when you walk into a room full of white people… you know it. (Laughter).

I’m going to round off by going back to a difficulty. Once you have established, and I think in some ways we have established the fact that we need to defend the discourse that says that, Black s can’t be racist. If you don’t do that then you are not giving yourself a chance to make claims to this society about the reparations that are due to us as Black people. Then nguvula zibuqe ngesiXhosa, it’s like open season for everyone (as the Xhosa would say). And what it means is that they are going to say that YOU are racist. The victim is going to be the perpetrator. And the best way to shut down a Black person who talks about racism is to say, “You are racist”. But you see, for Black people the trauma of accepting that we are victims of racism, is serious. It is better not to accept it. It is better to pretend around that. It is better to think that we are all equal. Despite the fact that your people live in squatter camps, your people live in RDP houses. And that brings me to the ANC. You have to ask yourself the question that: how did the ANC think that it’s okay to build an RDP house for Black people; a house which is worse that the house built by white people for Black people? How do you understand this? How do you understand this process? Now, I’m arguing, in conclusion that, the managers of white supremacy are Black people. In the 21st Century, whiteness needs a bit of melanin. A little bit of melanin to reproduce itself. So in South Africa in 1994 you have Nelson Mandela. In the United States of America today you have Obama, right? Has the Obama’s presidency changed the condition of Black people who remain in the death rows? If you go to the death rows of America, the people being killed are Black people. If you go to the jails of America, the majority of people there are Black people. Obama has not touched that system. He has given it respectability. George Bush was good because he was clear, and he was also stupid about it: “We are going to bomb the world in their interests of white capital”. Obama is bombing the world with a smile. Allowing our people to be killed with a smile. Now in South Africa it’s the same thing; the ANC are the managers of the white supremacist system and we vote for them year in and year out. I’m going to be cruel and say, in the same way, if you look at Wits, the Vice Chancellor is a Black man, one of us. However, if you look at the culture and the interests of this institution, it remains white. The fact that he is sitting at the top of this institution, does not change the truth of Wits. (Applause) It is true also that, it is not just Wits. UCT was given to Mamphele Ramphela to run for a few years, she made sure that the institution did not change….she could not change it, in fact. This is the important thing. They would not allow her to change it. Before Professor Nongxa (the current Wits Vice Chancellor), there was another Black professor, Makgoba, who is now a professor at the university of Kwa-Zulu natal. I was on campus at the time. Makgoba arrived here with very very strange ideas of wanting to Africanise Wits. Very very quickly that man was out of this university (Laughter). One of the most celebrated, and I don’t always agree with Mahmood Mamdani, but one of the celebrated social scientists who come from the African continent, contemporarily, is Mahmood Mamdani from Uganda. He went to UCT because he was becoming a celebrity intellectual, an academician, if you like, and when he arrived there he wanted to change the curriculum and to Africanise it. You can find this Mamdani controversy online, I think, and you can see what they did to him. The man did not stay there for two years, he had to be kicked out because he started saying, “You know, there are African scholars and thinkers that we can prescribe to these students”. So I’m saying you have to think very hard about how white supremacy reproduces itself. In fact, to conclude that part of my talk, I must just say that it’s not possible to have Obama as a Black president if you don’t have two other Black people before him – and that is Condolezza Rice and Collin Powel. It is important that when Collin Powel and Condolezza Rice were appointed by the Republicans, the most conservative but you see, they could see that these [Black ] people could serve the system…and very well. And so, Obama must be given a chance. More so because he is such a smart man, and he speaks so well and apparently he is handsome too. (Laughter)

I think I must stop there and maybe end by saying that the constitutional dispensation we have in South Africa is anti-Black itself and de Klerk…F.W. de Klerk, when he recalled…20 years after releasing Mandela, he said…and it’s available online as well…he said, “actually when we negotiated with the ANC, to tell you the truth, we won in those negotiations”. He said it. He said it with arrogance. He said it, I think earlier this year when 20 years of Mandela’s release was being celebrated. And then somebody asked him how he could say that and he said, “You see, what we have done is…we knew that there was going to be a majority in parliament, we made sure that they couldn’t make just ANY law that they wanted to make. So we guaranteed this by making a Constitutional court, which is informed by constitutional principles, which will make sure that these guys, even when they are in parliament and they make laws, those laws must become part of a constitutional review.” For instance, if the ANC tomorrow wanted to say that let’s have a law that will return the land to Black people without paying compensation, the constitutional court would strike that down as unconstitutional. You see? But I must also say that the ANC is not interested in testing even that (Laughter) because it has not tried to do that. It has not made any radical laws to return our land, to return our mineral resources and I would be very worried to give my mineral resources to the ANC under the current regime. Imagine what they will do when they can get access to these minerals. I mean, look at what they have done with Eskom, look at what they’ve done with everything else that we have given them to manage. All I’m saying is that even if they tried, the constitutional dispensation that they negotiated for and have accepted and are not testing, is anti-Black and let me stop there and let’s have a conversation amongst ourselves. (Applause)

At this point, questions were taken from the audience by the facilitator.


Question 1:

You talk about Black s not being racist, but we can also be…what is it…tribalistic? How does that venture into [the whole idea that] Black s can’t be racist because if I’m racist to my fellow brother, eventually it means that I can be racist towards white people.

Question 2:

I heard you speaking on SAfm, I wanted to know…what do you think we should do with the continued threat of organisations like AgriSA that…{inaudible} and what do you think about the entitlement amongst some of us who are Black .

Question 3:

I’m interested in the fact that…do they (the ANC) have any other option to make the Constitution other than to incorporate the National Party coz you say the constitution is written to protect white interests, you say it’s anti-Black . Did we have any other option or were we not going to go into some kind of civil war, if we did not go according to the route that we used, during the time that the [constitution was formulated].

Question 4:

I just want to engage you on the definition of racism…trying to understand the concept of conceptual fidelity. If racism is the subjugation of one group by another, why do we focus on one form of subjugation? Can’t the subjugation be attitudinal? If I have an attitude but lack the power to subjugate, why can’t I qualify as a racist? The only thing I seem to lack is the power, but if I had power then I would subjugate them. So I think conceptually that is something unhygienic. (Audience applauds)

Andile Mngxitama:

You see, the first brother spoke about tribalism. For me that’s what it is. The sort of intra-Black difficulties…that’s tribalism. We know what it is. It’s not racism. Even if it is a form of discrimination. You will not call tribalism patriarchy because that describes another form of [oppression]. You will not call anti-Semitism xenophobia. It seems to me a very straightforward question. Otherwise we don’t know what we’re talking about. Then…the black board is racist. It comes back to the issue of attitudes. I can have an attitude of…I don’t like tall people. So what? I see tall people and I don’t like them, but so what? But racism has material consequences. It comes back to your question about attitudes. It’s not about, “I don’t like weaves or I don’t like dreadlocks”. So what? Racism makes sure that there is Alexandra and there is Sandton. And in Alexandra there are Black people and in Sandton there are White people. The creation of Sandton is directly linked to the creation of Alexandra. Do you understand that logic? (Andile is addressing the fourth questioner directly).

Questioner: Shakes his head.

Andile Mngxitama:
No? I can’t help you. I can’t help you. White wealth is created out of the subjugation of Black people, historically. You must tell me if I’m wrong there…that there were not laws, systematic laws that made sure that Black people and White people benefited. You must tell me that, “No, this is not true, historically this is not the trajectory we have followed”. It seems to me that this is true so of course to lack attitude and lack power…my brother, if you lack the power to do this stuff that you imagine then we must stop the debate right there. I have the desire to kill you but I do not have the power to kill you. So what? You’re fine…you continue with your life and I continue with my desire to kill you which has no material benefits. (Applause) And I do think that Black people have desires to kill white people (Laughter) But you see, when we talk about xenophobia, we killed those people. And I mean, I don’t call it xenophobia, it is afrophobia. Because xenophobia means that you’re killing foreigners. White people are visitors, investors, tourists and so on. (Laughter) So even if we wanted to [kill white people] we don’t have the power. In this essay (Black s can’t be Racist), there is a very interesting passage where James Baldwin talks to this white woman….she was in Guinea at the time, and she says, “there were 200 wild wild Black men and I was the only white woman sometimes in that plantation but they knew that if they touched me, maybe 20 or more of them would be killed”. She says, “It was only white supremacy that ensured that I could control these very violent [Black ] fighters as a white woman…as a lone white woman in the jungle”. If you don’t believe me then you must ask Mugabe what white people and white supremacy can do to you if you touch them. You can ask him. Or you can ask another brother…who’s that brother who killed his white wife in the US? (Audience responds: OJ Simpson). Do you know where OJ Simpson is now? That man is in jail, hey? Serving 30 years or so for what? For taking his own stuff which was taken by some people and he went to take it back. They took him and they remembered…by the way, we must still sort this man out. Don’t play around with White people, my friend. (Laughter)

The other brother asked about the threat of white farmers and you know, this one white farmer cried on radio. She said, “These people, these [Black ] farm workers…we love them, how can you say that there are human rights abuses against them”? And she cried…on radio. And they say if we give farm workers any more rights, [White farmers] are going to go away and we’re going to die coz there are going to be food security problems so we must leave the situation as is and I don’t want to tell you what’s going on in farms. My brother, the point is a simple one: we must make a decision about whether we want to continue in this slavery path or we want to take our country back and maybe suffer some consequences but be like Zimbabwe. Give them another five years, and you’ll see that country is going to…Let me tell you right now, South Africa is 350 years behind Zimbabwe. You will never touch the Zimbabweans on their capacity to take back their land, their economy and being an independent country. You will not. (Applause) You can check online a study done by Professor Ben Cousin on Masvingo, where people have taken land. Check it, it’s there online. And I had stopped talking to Ben Cousin because he hated the Zimbabwean land reform process and I as supporting it at the time. He went there for three years to study, he came back and he said, he is shocked by the results. Those people who did occupy land live slightly better than those who didn’t. That’s number one. But even more, those White people who stayed behind…there are some people White people who stayed behind…their relationship with Black people in Zimbabwe has dramatically improved. You see? If you take away the power to be racist, White people become nice people. (Laughter)

Then the question about whether in 1994, if we did not negotiate our rights away, was there another possibility that we had. You see, even if I accept that there was no other option, we have already had three [general] elections. You have the ANC with a two-thirds majority with the possibility of changing those conditions. There is no threat of a civil war, right now. The ANC controls the army, it controls…and I’m sure amongst us there are some people from intelligence. (Laughter) The question is: Soyika ntoni? What are we so scared of? What stops us from changing our country? I don’t think there’s any particular reason.

Question 5:
I just wanted to ask: what’s your point? You know, people are always complaining, but what are you going to do about it? At this point in time, what constructive things can you do about it coz there’s no point in saying that we’re not supposed to be at varsity coz that’s what the white man wanted us to do. What do you want?

Question 6: In terms of land distribution, how do you trace the land? Do you trace it from say, the 1990s or the 1980s?

Andile Mngxitama: The sister says that we must stop complaining. I accept that point, that we must stop complaining but if we accept that this is a democratic plantation, if we accept that democracy does not serve us, I don’t know whether we can legitimately claim that people must stop complaining. What we CAN say is that we need to say the next thing, which is organizing. But you see, it is also true that, we have a problem. Most of us Black people do not believe that we own this country. And so, first we need to work on our minds and this is part of that of process of working our minds. And I know that I am pushing the boundaries because I want you to be uncomfortable and start thinking about these questions because we don’t think about these questions. We don’t think about these questions. You know, I always make this example about trains. You must see, our people are packed in those trains like sardines, hanging outside the trains and we have accepted it as normal. That’s what we call institutional violence. The fact that people go to bed without food in a country that exports most of its food, is something that should not be tolerated. But we’re tolerating it, right? So all I’m saying is that we need to complain and we are very open to come to your residence or anywhere else to continue this discussion because there’s a lot of discussion we need to have amongst ourselves.
I’m not saying we should not be at university…I was at university myself, and from time to time I try to register to do my PhD. The point is that: are you aware that you are getting the kind of education that wants to make you into a cat? You can take some of this education and use it to serve the Black cause. (Applause) I think we can turn these things around. The problem is when we accept them as natural, as a natural progression and then you stop thinking about the Black larger agenda.

The question about how we trace our land. The thing is I don’t care if you are from Rwanda or whether I arrived here in the 2nd Century, it doesn’t matter. The point is that this is an African continent. And the argument is a simple one, even the white people who are here; we are not saying they must go away. We are simply saying, can’t we just share, equally…all of us? This is the only thing we are saying. But these other guys don’t want to share. This is the problem. (Laughter) They don’t want to share the thing they took from us. That’s what makes things even worse. All we want is an equal share of the wealth, the land and all other profits. In fact, in Black wash we say that we want Black socialism and it’s different from these people talking about scientific socialism and workers. Workers will be liberated by us. Workers only want a salary, they will not go very far. We say Black socialism…Black socialism says that everyone of us sitting here should be a shareholder in the company that is called South Africa. All the wealth that is in this country…me and you at the end of the financial year should be able to say, it’s 10% that we are going to get of the trillions that (South Africa) is going to make. Some they’ll take to education, health, roads and then they will say okay, we will declare dividends. So me and you will have R2mil in our pockets. Why must Tokyo Sexwale and the Oppenheimers take all the billions and me and you not benefit from gold and the diamonds of this country? That is what we call Black socialism.

Andile Mngxitama is the publisher of New Frank Talk of which Black s can’t be Racist, is one of many volumes. To order copies of New Frank Talk send an email to:
You can also book Andile for a talk in your community, university etc. Send an email to the address above.

New Frank Talk is available in the following stores:


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