“I wish to thank the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office, for the invitation to contribute to this important debate.
When I was here last year in July, sharing a platform with my brother from Namibia, Job Amupanda of the Affirmative Repossession, we discussed the difficult issue of land occupations. I had then for the first time called for the establishment of a Land First movement in SA.
Im happy to report that in August the same year we published a call officially to start our movement, Black First Land First (BLF).
This Talk is Dedicated to the class of 1976!
I wish to dedicate this talk to the black youth of our country on this 40th year of the 1976, June 16 uprising.
Forty years ago the black youth of this country launched the struggle against white supremacy. Incidentally that struggle was ignited by the language question and white arrogance – the same issues that stalks our university system today.
I want to insist that the university today is the laboratory of decolonisation. It’s the microcosm of what our nation is headed to – just like 1976 was the precursor of the 1980s and finally forcing the apartheid regime to consider a new strategy to holding onto power.
We do well to remember that the struggle led by Tsietsi Mashinini and Khotso Seatlholo was about the establishment of Black Power! 1994 didn’t realize this objective and therefore the black youth today are carrying out this unfinished business. Since we are today talking to an institution of the church, it may be good to learn from the scriptures about what is may be saying about today.
This is important because, what is going on in our campuses is not an intellectual debate, but a concrete, blood, flesh and fire expression of white racism on the one hand and the resistance to it on the other.
Black students want a decolonised anti-racist future. White students and the university adminstrators fight to maintain the status qou. it’s the classical case of two forces meeting.
Black academics are generally caught in a post-colonial disability. They want just enough strife to get into the system. They don’t want the end of the current order and they generally want integration into it. It is not decolonisation but a neo-colonial solution they seek – they want revolution without revolution!
At both UCT and Wits they first aligned with students so that they could get their full professorships. Once they got professorships they then denounced the students as violent.
Up to now there has not been any intellectual defence of the methods of struggle of students by black academics. What we see is going back to the outmoded liberal Blacksash silent protest. Blacks are meeting the apartheid monster through rocks. Whites are involved in silent protest. Black academics condemn the violence of all involved (the oppressed and the oppressor). This objectively puts them on the side of the status qou. This is typical behaviour of the post colonial comprador that Fanon and Cabral spoke about. Fighting the colonialist to take his position, not to end colonialism.
Back to the black students and the holy scriptures. Reading Matthew 3:11 – as a lay man I find lots of prophetic resonance with it but also from my own personal experience with being a black consciousness activist all my adult life (I have been preaching like John about the need for repentance). Allow me to read the passage John the Baptist preached:
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
This passage resonates well with the teaching of Fanon on decolonisation. Fanon tells us that:
“Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder”.
These students are doing the work of God. They are fulfilling Fanon’s adage of
“each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
Current State of Affairs: The Return Of Sobukwe and Biko
First lets recognise a positive development, which is that popular opinion is decisively shifting to the perspectives of Pan Africanism (Sobukwe) and Black Consciousness (Biko) on the race question after 22 years of the failure of non-racialism/intergration (Mandela).
Biko resting on the shoulders of Sobukwe had clearly defined what the main contradiction was in SA and how to resolve this. His Hegelian schema remains relevant: Thesis (White Racism), Anti thesis (Black Solidarity) and the synthesis (non racialism). Which we have over time called anti racism.
You don’t declare yourself non-racialist, you don’t work for non-racialism. Non-racialism as a true reflection of anti-racism is the outcome of the initial dialectical conflict which must be decidedly resolved on the side of the black majority. Biko is instructive:
“One does not need to plan for or actively encourage real integration. Once the various groups within a given community have asserted themselves to the point that mutual respect has to be shown then you have the ingredients for a true and meaningful integration.”
This is the basis of any real solution to the national grievance. The ANC chose integration instead of obliteration. That is why President Zuma can honestly say that racism was ended in 1994. They mistake integration with ending racism.
Let’s now deal with some basic but popular misunderstandings of racism, which have found their way into the current debate of racism:
1. Racism is not a misunderstanding between friends (lets dialogue and forgive)
2. Racism is not just prejudice or bad attitude.
3. Racism is not what individuals think or do ( stop racism, it starts with me)
Racism is about the oppression of black people by white people!
“If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it’s a question of power.”- Stokely Carmichael.
Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart, the UFS white students are speaking/acting from within power!
This definition is in synch with Biko’s notion hat racism is, “the discrimination of one group by the other for the purposes of oppression”. In historic terms this has been whites discriminating against blacks for the purpose of subjugation.
Its important to recognise that individual acts of racism are made possible by institutional racism, which is foundational to white supremacy. This goes back to slavery, colonialism and land theft!
Slavery created the white as the human and the black as the sub-human. This permits all the possible horrors that can be visited upon the black because the black is just property.
The slavery idiom has not ended. Black lives CAN’T matter in racism. Black rights don’t exist in racist societies. That’s why, Andries Tatane, like Biko, like the the Marikana workers, like black people in the USA can be murdered without anyone being held accountable.
White supremacy has established these truths. In SA the constitution ensures the survival and continuation of White Racism. The laws do so: Gareth Cliff says, Penny has freedom of expression to call us monkeys. His employer couldn’t fire him because the law doesn’t recognise black pain or transgressions against blacks (I say nothing about those black lawyers who have no problem to advance this defence – that anyone has freedom of expression to call blacks monkeys).
SO WHERE TO?
Black First Land First (BLF) recognises that part of the solution is to grasp better what racism is and what it’s not – to recognise the foundations of racism which are both slavery, and colonialism (land dispossession and colonial hegemony from the symbolic to the intellectual). There is a need to acknowledge SA as an unethical entity which is fundamentally anti black.
Also we must demand accounting for both colonial and apartheid transgressions (economic and political).More than 560 billion was stolen during the last decade of apartheid and few years into post 1994. Of this amount some R26 billion is recoverable tomorrow (its ok to chase after Nkandla, but can the Public Protector also help us get white monopoly capital to account?)
I call upon the Church, political parties and Society to support the campaign called ANTI RACISM ACTION FORUM (ARAF), and:
1. Demand the arrest of both FW De Klerk and Adrian Vlok (22 charges laid. 370 blacks murdered directly under their guard and still counting. They didn’t go to the TRC as required so they have no amnesty from prosecution). We are encouraged by the NPA deciding to prosecute the police for the disappearance and murder of Nokuthula Simelane (MK operative).
2. Educate the public about what racism is (especially black people)!
3. Demand the provision of free education for all and the transformation of the curriculum to reflect the Black/African reality. There is this question: can we have a decolonised university in a colonial society? I speak on this topic on Monday at the Stellenbosch University Medical School.
4. ARAF’s principles to defeat racism are:
4.1 Land return as the first pre-condition to end racism.
4.2 Criminalisation of racism is important but must occur under the principle BLACKS CAN’T BE RACIST!
It’s the irony of history that we blacks have to end a problem we didn’t create. It a challenge we have to take on with great energy! An anti racist world is possible!”
Issued By BLF NCC
26 February 2016