WHO ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN AZANIA?
In the Black Consciousness Movement, we take nothing for granted. In the confusion generated by indoctrination, misinformation and fake news, it is not unlikely that Black people may have forgotten or don’t know that they are Black people.
The oppressors and colonisers of Black people are doing everything they can to control the minds of the oppressed. That is why Steve Biko warned us that “the potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. The white supremacists made it a point that they were the ones who defined the landless and oppressed people. They told us who we are; what is our fight; who are our friends and enemies; what is our religion; who is our God; what is beauty; what are our priorities; and what are our goals.
In line with the strategy of Divide and Rule, the European colonisers of our land sought to undermine the unity of the colonised people. They knew how dangerous the unity of the colonised people would be to their greedy project of colonialism. They soon divided the oppressed and exploited people and placed them into groups that had an appearance of one being better than the other. It is that “better-than-you” false appearance that contributed in keeping our divided people fighting each other in a bid to look better and therefore closer to the colonisers.
The colonisers, who were Europeans or white people, knew that they had to take charge of defining the colonised people. They therefore grouped them and gave them names like “Natives”, “Coloureds” and “Indians”. There were also other objectionable and unprintable names that were given to these groups by the colonisers. All this was done in the name of undermining their unity and fight against colonialism. The coloniser believed he could rule over the colonised people for as long as he kept them divided and believing that they were” Indians”, “Coloureds” and “Natives”.
The coloniser was clever in the way he defined the colonised people. He called one group “Indians” so that they could believe that they have nothing to do with Azania in terms of history, culture, nationalism and sovereignty. They were induced to be trapped in cocoons like “Indian indentured labourers” or “passenger Indians”. The other group was dubbed “Coloureds” because it was generally perceived to be light-skinned in closer resemblance to the colonisers. One more group was called a number of names including the one of “Natives”. If the other groups were made to believe they were economically better than this group, it was given a sentimental reward to believe that they were the aboriginal people of the land to the exclusion of the other groups. It is that “exclusive” aboriginal tag that makes the sub-groups in the “Coloured” group to rise and claim that they are the “original” aboriginals over and above the “Natives”.
Of interest is the fact that the oppressing colonisers found the group of “Natives” to be too big and cumbersome. It was therefore further divided into language sub-groups like VhaVenda, VaTsonga, BaTswana, amaNdebele, BaSotho, amaSwazi, BaPedi, amaXhosa, amaZulu, etc. In the segregated settlement camp for the “Natives”, the camp was further subdivided into these language sub-groups, which were also made to destructively compete and fight one another for false importance and superiority.
The political space of resistance did not help the situation. The political organisations of the people regrettably modelled themselves on the apartheid segregation. There was the South African National Native Congress, which later renamed itself into the ANC we know today. That organisation was supposed to be for the “Natives”, even though things changed in the march of time. Also, there was the South African Coloured People’s Congress for the “Coloureds”, as well as the South African Indian Congress of the “Indians”.
The BCM took the concept of Black Solidarity to a higher level, and in opposition to the apartheid ethnic segregation of the land dispossessed and colonised people. We believed we could not fight the system in the manner that it segmented the Azanian masses. Biko had observed that “not only have they kicked the black but they have also told him how to react to the kick”. The liberation struggle had to be reorganised on the terms of the Black people’s values and principles of Self-Determination, Self-Initiative, Self-Reliance and Self-Assertiveness. That was what the philosophy of Black Consciousness had demanded and commanded. No more fragmentation of the Black people.
The BCM settled this matter by appropriating the term “Black” and cleansed it of all the negatives, and assigned it a positive meaning and revolutionary energy. That term was used to define those dispossessed of their land and colonised in the Azanian context. It did not matter that some sections of the Black community were shipped from oversees to be slaves in Azania. To the extent that they did not come to Azania to collaborate with, and be part of the colonisers like the British and the Dutch and other European nations did, they were accepted as part of the colonised and oppressed people. In a positive attitude, these slaves and their generations had made Azania their country in unity with the indigenous people. That made them to qualify to fight for the repossession of the land and end to colonialism and slavery.
The BCM defined Black people “as those who are by law or tradition, politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in the South African society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realisation of their aspirations”. It was not enough that the defined people were negatively affected in the manner described, but what completed the definition was the need for the affected to identify with the struggle to fight all the forms of oppression against them. The application of the definition identified the so-called Natives, the so-called Coloureds and the so-called Indians as the Black people we talk about in the BCM and in Azania.
As the leading organisation of the BCM and the custodian of BC and Biko, AZAPO has sought, with all in its power, to conscientise Black people to understand that by “black” we do not mean the skin colour of a person. “Black” is the colour of our politics. “Black” is the unifying term for the oppressed and exploited people who have risen to break the shackles of slavery and landlessness in Azania.
AZAPO is aware that post-1994 the circumstances of the Black people have been negatively affected by misgovernance, which have driven our people to revert to identifying with the old ethnic concentration camps of apartheid. Our people have degenerated to wanting to sub-group themselves as either amaZulu, BaSotho, amaXhosa, Coloureds, or Indians. Some even think they are not Black but brown. This is an unfortunate regression and undoing of the achievements of the BCM and Biko in uniting Black people.
AZAPO reminds you that Black people in Azania are the so-called Indians, the so-called Coloureds and the so-called Natives. We are all Black and proud of our Blackness. Let us allow nobody to divide us.
WHY WE NEED A NEW AND STRONG GOVERNMENT
In order to understand the logic why we need a new and strong government, we first have to accept the reality that we live under a system of bourgeois democracy. This political system is run by the political elite. Members of the political elite acquire power on behalf of the masses. In other words, they use the votes of the population, mainly the poor, to gain power and then use the political power to advance their economic interests as the ruling class. They also use their power to undermine the interests of the poor. That is why the poor have to fight for basic rights such as quality education and health care.
Little wonder that under this system, the gap between rich and poor increases. It is because the ruling class designs schemes to enrich their class at the expense of the poor majority. For example, the ruling class would create an e-toll system that forces all motorists to pay. But the bulk of the money will go to private companies owned by a section of the ruling elite.
In other communities, the ruling elite would deliberately sabotage the State infrastructure to create work that will be done by private companies that are owned by the ruling elite. In several municipalities, those in positions of authority would not attend to infrastructural issues associated with water purification, thus creating a critical shortage of water supply. The same politicians, through their fronts and associates, would then supply water to the community, using water tanks at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
Then there is rampant corruption which goes unpunished at virtually all levels of the State. The script is the same. The elite are using their political power to access State resources in order to feather their own nests. Because resources can never be enough to satisfy the greed of rapacious politicians, the members of the ruling elite start fighting among themselves. In some areas such as KwaZulu-Natal, the fights over positions that would enable people to access State resources have resulted in killings of comrades by comrades.
Indeed, power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. So, if we as voters want an accountable government, we should ensure that the incumbents have insecurity of tenure. A system whereby the governing party is assured of victory even before votes are cast creates a fertile ground for the abuse of power. Rulers who are assured of victory become arrogant and abusive. They have no incentive to respond to the needs of the voters.
The only way to get these leaders to honour their election promises is to be accountable, to be transparent, to honestly work to advance the interests of the majority to reduce the power of the ruling elite and to ensure that those who are ruling are not guaranteed to remain in office. When that happens, the arrogance will be reduced; the lies will be less; the theft would be minimal; the corruption will be less. As voters, we get the government that we deserve. The power is in our hands.
ECONOMIC POWER IS THE MOST POTENT TOOL TO FIGHT RACISM
The response by our politicians, to the display of naked racism at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke, whereby 4 Black children sat at a desk in a corner far from the 18 white learners who occupied a big table in the same class, was predictable. It was the usual condemnation of racism, stating that this should not be tolerated 25 years after the dawn of democracy.
After the condemnation, the politicians would continue with their lives and wait for another racist incident to occur before they again condemn it “in the strongest terms possible”. They will again express shock and outrage that racism appears to be rearing its ugly head once more. Pathetic!
As AZAPO, we have maintained that the so-called Rainbow Nation is nothing but a flickering mirage. Our country is still divided according to race. Very little has changed in terms of power relations in the economy. Yes, Black people have political power. But without economic power and land ownership, political power is just not enough to change racial attitudes.
In the eyes of many white people, Black people are still the downtrodden. They are still the domestic “girls” and the garden “boys”. They are still the farm labourers. On the other end of the racial spectrum, white people are still the economically dominant class. They are the owners of wealth and the employers. They still have access to better schools and other facilities. That is why Black people still smuggle their children into predominantly white schools. These schools are better equipped than those in the townships and villages. The current government has done little to change what apartheid had designed, which is that Black people would get inferior education in inferior schools.
The developments in Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke remind us that those who are in political office have failed dismally to use their power to radically transform this country. If they had acted swiftly against racists in the past, those who are bent on humiliating us would have learnt that justice is on the side of those advocating for anti-racism. But racism is a lived experience of many Black people in this country. It is alive in the workplace, where the white tribe runs the show. Almost as an admission of the failure to use the Black majority status to push transformation, the government still has a policy of Affirmative Action, which is largely being ignored by corporate South Africa. This is the only country on Earth that seeks the minority to affirm the majority.
In order to deliver a telling blow to racism, Black people should get their land back and get ownership and control of the economy. Black people should also be in control of institutions of training such as schools and universities. But until we do that, we shall perfect the art of condemning racism, without any results.
To print and read the pdf version, please click here ⇒ AZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue Number 3
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ONE AZANIA ! ONE NATION !