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Black Feminist Struggles Are Not Separate Struggles From Black Struggles


Human civilisation from its origins has been punctuated by epochs of unremitting intolerance and strife between nations, races, sexes, tribes and various groupings that define its continuing existence. The motive force behind such tensions has almost always been the quest for power, be it social, economic or political. Those who emerged victorious in those often gratuitous power struggles naturally imposed themselves upon others whom they sought to entrench hegemony, a consequence of which only served to breed resentment, mistrust, further intolerance and amplified the wide social, political and economic chasms.

Located within these struggles have been the struggles of the oppressed and brutalised black people for social, political and economic liberation; the struggles emanating from the time the first slave ships left African shores heading towards the sugar plantations in the West Indies; to the time of the arrival of the first white colonial ruffians and their missionaries in Africa (in particular), to the time of institutionalisation of racial discrimination through a savage system of apartheid in South Africa. Located within these black struggles for total emancipation, has always been the struggles of black women against the patriarchal system that sought to relegate them to the lower rungs of society.

The Haitian Revolution in 1791 which was propelled to its logical conclusion by the successful slave rebellion led by Toussaint L’Overture along with female slaves such as Marie-Jeanne Lamartiniére and Suzanne Belair, highlights the historical truth that the struggles for emancipation and the struggles of female slaves for women’s rights were never mutually exclusive. Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) is among many abolitionist-feminists like Angelina Grimke (1805-1879), Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Abbie Kelley (1810 – 1887) whose struggles for women’s rights did not exist in isolation to the struggles of black slaves for freedom and liberty.

Prominent male abolitionists like Frederick Douglass (1817 – 1895) who escaped from slavery in Maryland, championed the cause of women’s rights with equal valour, passion and determination as they did the cause for the emancipation of black slaves. Douglass was a regular speaker on issues of women’s rights during the time. He died in 1895 fighting for women’s rights. Following his address at the First Women’s Rights Convention in New York in 1848, Douglass shortly wrote:

“In respect to political rights, we hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man. We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women. All that distinguishes man as an intelligent and accountable being, is equally true of woman; and if that government is only just which governs by the free consent of the governed, there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in making and administering the laws of the land. Our doctrine is, that ‘Right is of no sex’.”

Abolitionists-Feminists understood that the struggles of black women and black slaves for freedom and liberty are intrinsically linked and could not be separated. They understood that without solidarity amongst the oppressed and brutalised black people their common goals as a people would be self-defeating.

Douglass was not the only prominent male abolitionist-feminist of his time. William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), editor of the paper the Liberator, was a vocal advocate of women’s rights who like progressive revolutionaries of his generation understood that the struggles of black folks against slavery were greater than merely securing rights of men but human rights in the main. Female abolitionists-feminists such as Grimke and Kelley too understood the power of black solidarity and to antagonise their male allies would have not only impaired the greater struggle for emancipation but their own feminist cause.

The abolition of slavery did not mean full social, political and economic emancipation of the  black people nor did it mean emancipation of women from the invisible chains of patriarchy. The unrelenting plight of the black man and the black woman carried through into the era of colonial savagery into which white supremacy mutated and continued to subvert the cause for total emancipation.

Pan-Africanism bears its origins from the black solidarity among abolitionists-feminists of the 1800s. Widely dispersed descendants of the freed slaves found themselves to have  physically lost their homeland through dispossession and slavery. Out of these trials and tribulations emerged peculiar race-consciousness amongst progenitors of the freed slaves in the Diaspora. They had been born and integrated into the post-slavery society dominated by white values and culture that had no respect for their blackness.

Poet Langston Hughes, who was of mixed race, was among the generation of Africans that had woken up to their blackness. He wrote:

“I am a Negro;
Black as the nights’s black;
Black alike the depth of my Africa.”

The decolonisation of the black mind was rooted in this race-consciousness. Colonialism not only robbed the black nation of its resources, wealth and its home but eroded black traditions and culture including the manipulation of the thinking of the black people through colonial education spread by missionaries in Africa and co-option of the African Diaspora into the colonial system they were born into. The struggles of the black woman through the  rise and spread of the Pan-Africanist philosophy remained. The race-conscious black man and black woman, united in their common struggles, became a solid opposition against colonial domination.

A Pan-Africanist and historian, Cheikh Anta Diop (1923 – 1986), wrote in the book Black Africa that among the steps to restore African unity, it is the indubitable task of black people, “to restore consciousness of our historic unity” and “work out an effective form of representation for the female sector of the nation.” Diop recognised the significance of the historic unity among the oppressed slaves who fought with equal measure and determination for abolition of slavery and for women’s rights.

As it happened throughout slavery, the suppression of rights of black people was through violence; and such violence aimed to maintain and sustain white supremacy and power over the oppressed black race. The civil rights movement rose to challenge racial violence against black Americans. Located within the civil rights movement was the black feminist movement whose struggles was conjoined to the civil rights struggles as it has been in history.

Unity amongst the oppressed black race pose a considerable threat to the hegemony of the ruling white elite. Instructive lessons from history to the oppressor are that with solidarity amongst the oppressed black people, they eventually triumph. They defeated slavery and threatened the colonial and imperialist hegemony. In the US when black feminism gained traction and prominence alongside the civil rights movement, the CIA intervened to subvert the struggles of black people through the manipulation of the black feminist struggles.

In 1958, the CIA hired a young white American student, Gloria Steinem, who rose to prominence in the 1960s to become a leading voice of what emerged as the antagonistic and virulent strain of feminism. Steinem’s rise to prominence was assisted by the CIA project called Project Mockingbird whose primary aim was the control and manipulation of the mainstream media. The CIA had co-opted journalists from renowned publications  such as Esquire, the New York Times, and others, and funded publications like Ms Magazine in order to reshape the feminist narrative in society. Steinem became the contributing editor of Ms Magazine where she propagated her antagonistic and vulgar feminism targeted at black feminists.

The CIA appreciated that, “there is no more fundamentally delicate relationship in society than that between men and women”; that by undermining the family structure, weakening the social fabric and relations between civil rights activists and black feminists, the civil rights movement in its entirety could be derailed. The CIA funnelled tons of money into the feminist movement through front non-profit organisations like Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and USAID throughout the 1960s and the 1970s.

Michele Wallace, a black feminist emerged from relative obscurity as a  devout disciple of the antagonistic and virulent branch of CIA-sponsored feminism. In 1978, her book The Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman was actively promoted by Gloria Steinem. Wallace wrote about “chauvinist macho pigs” and launched an unwarranted attack on heroic abolitionists-feminists like Harriet Tubman whom she called “stupid” for working with male abolitionists in promoting women’s rights. The CIA had succeeded capturing the likes of Wallace and producing a core of angry black feminists whose primary objective, often unwittingly so, was to subvert the very cause of feminism they claim to be advocating. Steinem with the promotion of Wallace’s book managed to trigger an avalanche of “Hate Black Men” books. The primary goal of socioeconomic equality which feminism sought to achieve got buried under the heavy fog of anti-men narrative that successfully hijacked black feminism.

These new angry and radical black feminists separate the struggle of black women from the struggle of black people. They hold a flawed and misguided belief that in the same manner that the white oppressor cannot be accommodated in the black consciousness movement, equally progressive men whom they view as the oppressor cannot be meaningful advocates of women’s rights. They identify their struggles as women to be separate from the struggles of black people as a racial group. They fail to distinguish between prejudice against women – patriarchy – and the cause for the realisation of their own aspirations – feminism. In their determination to vulgarise feminism, they continue in their failure to distinguish between struggle for decolonisation of the mind and attainment of the envisaged self – black consciousness – and this cause for the realisation of their own aspirations – feminism.

Steve Biko (1946 – 1977) explained the black consciousness philosophy in the book I Write What I Like as promoting, “strong solitary amongst blacks whom white racists seek to prey.” He defined blacks as, “those discriminated against politically, economically, socially as a group and identifying themselves as unit in the struggle towards the realisation of their aspirations.” Black consciousness is about, “the attainment of the envisaged self.” It makes perfect sense that whites who accumulated white privilege through discriminative laws and historic violence cannot be honest and reasonable advocates of black consciousness. They do not understand blackness and being black. They view blackness as a problem and a threat to their white privilege. They seek to co-opt amiable and gullible black person into white culture and values while acting as, “self appointed trustees of black interest.” Biko refers to this integration as, “integration in which  black man will have to prove himself in terms of white values before meriting acceptance and ultimate assimilation.” It is for that reason that black consciousness rejects integration with white liberals”.

In his book Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism, Kwame Ture (1941 – 1998), wrote that:

“Civil rights protest has not materially benefited Negroes, it has not materially benefitted the masses of Negroes; it has helped those who are already just a little ahead. The main result of that protest has been an opening up of the society to Negroes who had one of the criteria for upward mobility… In a sense, the Negroes helped by the protest have been those who never wanted to be Negroes.”

Biko wrote about ‘non-whites’ in reference to a section of black people who do not identify with blackness and the struggles of black people; those who have integrated with white liberals and assimilated to white culture and values. These are Negroes that Ture bemoan as beneficiaries of black civil right protest, which was infiltrated and subverted by the CIA.

The virulent strain of feminism which masquerade as radical black feminism, which seeks to betray black solidarity and exclude black men from the struggles of black women, has already had that negative consequence on the civil rights movement, which Kwame Ture notes as having not benefited the Negro but the “non-white”.

A black man and a black woman are born into each other’s immediate circumstances and presence; they are born into mutual blackness and thus born integrated. Their struggles, born of the historic burden of blackness are common struggles for pride in blackness, common struggles against dehumanisation and oppression. The struggles of a black woman are more intertwined with those of a black man than they ever would be with those of a white woman, who is less agitated by white patriarchy due to the congenital comforts of white privilege.

The respected black feminist Gloria Jean Watkins, known as “Bell Hooks”, and author of Feminism is for Everybody wrote:

Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.” 

It is black feminists like Gloria Watkins who understands the meaning and goals of feminism. It is these feminists who understand and espouse the significance and power of black solidarity in the struggle for the realisation of our common and unique aspirations. On the opposite side of black solidarity and black consciousness are angry and virulent black feminists like Michelle Wallace whose purpose is to betray the struggles of the black woman while undermining our collective struggles as a people.

In the same manner that as black people we exclude white liberals from black consciousness; it is upon radical black feminists to craft for themselves a female-gender consciousness philosophy that asserts black woman pride and and seeks to liberate the mind of the black woman; for the black woman to liberate herself from the social, political, economic, religious and cultural shackles of patriarchy. It is within such philosophy that men can be excluded. It is such a mentally liberated woman who would harbour no intolerance of the black male feminist.

It is the conscious black feminist who, for example, may be a devout Catholic will seek dismantle entrenched patriarchy in the church; a conscious black feminist who subscribes to Pan-Africanism who with equal zeal will seek to dismantle entrenched patriarchy within  the African culture that she defines herself by. It is the conscious black feminist who will espouse without reservation the gender-neutrality of feminism and the magnitude of black solidarity.

We must reject the antagonistic and virulent strain of feminism that permeate itself among the black struggle; among the black woman struggle. The freedom of the black race cannot be separated from the freedom of black women.

Let black women rise!

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African youth must fulfill their own mission


One of the founding fathers of the African National Congress, Pixley ka Seme, stood at Columbia University, in 1906, to deliver his speech: “the Regeneration of Africa”. He said:

“The brighter day is rising upon Africa…Yes the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period. The African people…possess a common fundamental sentiment which is everywhere manifest, crystallizing itself into one common controlling idea…The regeneration of Africa means that a new and unique civilization is soon to be added to the world.”

Many other eminent scholars and leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, W.E.B. Du Bois, Chiekh Anta Diop, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Kenneth Kaunda and Thabo Mbeki also called for the rebirth of Africa. A century has passed since ka Seme made an impassioned plea for the renewal of the continent. Despite the recurrent echoes of such ideals by aforementioned Africans, the lack of progress has been astounding.

Africa can no longer effectively use its colonial history as a plausible defence against lack of social and economic progress. That former colonial masters may continue to exert particular influence over their former subjects in one form or another is perhaps only a reflection on the deficiency of credible leadership in some parts of Africa. Kleptomania has largely been the curse afflicting large parts of mineral rich economies in the continent. African leaders live in obscene opulence while their people suffer.

What these African leaders, most of whom have been in power for decades, have incorrectly communicated to the world, was that Africans were incapable of governing themselves. Their rule has been commonly characterised by shameful plundering of resources, brutal suppression of democratic freedoms of their people; deepening poverty, shockingly high levels of unemployment and economic underdevelopment, while billions of dollars belonging to their people are stashed in Swiss accounts for personal indulgence.

The outburst of popular revolts in Arab countries is borne of general discontent that has been festering over a period of time. The Arab rulers, who have presided over these nations that are now being swept by the unstoppable wave of popular revolts, share common despotic characteristics. Like their African counterparts, they amassed obscene wealth during their authoritarian rule; while subjecting their people to brutal repression and failing to transform their economies for the benefit of their people. There is high unemployment among the youth and no immediate opportunities to meaningfully participate in the economy. It is therefore not surprising that the Arab Revolution has been led by discontented youth.

According to Frantz Fanon each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it. African youth have before them the arduous task of changing their course of destiny from an ignoble to a prosperous existence. It is not as though African leaders are not conscious of the imperatives for social and economic development, in particular the development of the youth. There is no will on their part to commit themselves to the development of the continent, let alone the development of the African youth; who are the future of Africa.

The 7th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), held in Banjul, The Gambia, in 2006 adopted the “African Youth Charter” (AYC) as the first legal framework of action for the African youth development. In 2009, in Addis Ababa, the Assembly of Heads of State and government of the AU declared the years 2009-2019 as the decade of youth development in Africa. The decade was declared to facilitate the implementation of the AYC after its ratification.

Chief among the objectives of the AYC are obligations of member states of the AU to promote freedoms of expression, association and youth development. The irony lies in the fact that heads of states who ratified the AYC are themselves authoritarian rulers who suppress, in their respective countries, the very same democratic principles they pretend to embrace when meeting for under the AU umbrella.

According to the World Bank’s “Youth and Unemployment in Africa: The Potential, The Problem, The Promise” report, 62% of Africa’s overall population fell below the age of 25. This is a contingent of over 200 million desperate African youth.

About 59.6% of African youth are unemployed and have an awfully dim prospect of finding job opportunities. In countries like Uganda, youth unemployment is as high as 83% and 68% in Zimbabwe. A significant population of these youth, over 70%, still live in rural areas under degrading conditions of poverty, with no access to quality education or any hope of future advancement. This is a recipe for disaster. Long-term economic prospects depend on active and meaningful participation of these young people in the mainstream economy.

Each year, those in power come with various programmes that are intended for youth development; but generally these appear only intended to create the perception of dealing with the problems confronting the youth, when in reality nothing tangible comes out of them.

The Arab youth have reached a boiling point and are gatvol with having authoritarian leaders whose primary purpose is self-enrichment and enrichment of close associates, while the rest of the population continue to exist in the sea of poverty and hopelessness. African youth should not allow their leaders to pacify them with pronouncements on meaningless policies and programmes. Their mission should be to reclaim political power from all these old men who have no sense of purpose and urgency to commit towards the renewal of Africa through implementation of political and economic reforms.

The Pan-African Youth Union (PAYU) while under the old banner of Pan-African Youth Movement was a platform to rally African youth behind the cause of the African liberation. The primary purpose of this Union should be to rally African youth behind the cause of economic emancipation. The Union has become an extension of the ineffective AU as its representation is largely of the youth leaders associated with such ruling parties of member states of the AU. This is an organ of the AU that African youth should be using to agitate African leaders towards realising African youth development.

The 200 million African youth have a burden of responsibility to fulfil the mission of the renaissance of Africa. If it requires these youth to revolt against their authoritarian leaders, whether through peaceful or violent means, in order that change is effected, then so be it. Liberation from authoritarian rule will not be handed out on a silver platter, but needs to be taken. The future of the African youth is dependent on their will to be the catalyst for change. That brighter day envisioned by Pixley ka Seme shall rise only when the African youth rise against the injustices visited upon their continent by their leaders.


Of Political Bees and Honeypots


Our naughty politicians with deviant sexual behaviour seem to possess collective propensity to readily imagine political conspiracies when caught with their pants down. In 2006, our virile Jacob of Nkandla was accused by a kanga-clad young woman of rape. The courts dismissed the rape charge and concluded that the sexual encounter between the young lady in question and our baby-oiled lothario from Nkandla was consensual. But during the court proceeding, Kemp J. Kemp, argued that there was a political plot against his client who aspired to become the President of the Republic. Kemp told the court that, “Her actions were calculated. A political plot to discredit the accused.” The claim of political mechanisations to bring some political figure down in such instances is always beyond absurd. Our Jacob of Nkandla stuck to his script that the universe was out to get him, in spite of overwhelming evidence that it was his own unbridled libido that conspired against him.

Now we have Zwelinzima Vavi, who had recently transformed himself as some moral evangelist, caught with his zip open. Coincidentally, Vavi was one of the most vociferous supporters of our Jacob of Nkandla during his troubles with the law. He remains a fugitive of justice. Vavi warned us against the wave of tsunami that Jacob was, in spite of corruption charges. He wanted a man of questionable character to be elected president of the ANC and ordinarily become the state president. Subsequently, our trade unionist morphed into a quasi-anti-corruption crusader. He wanted to portray himself as a morally upright individual who worked tirelessly to promote all that is good for the welfare of society and the working class in particular. Vavi went to great lengths of promoting himself as a committed family man on social networks. But charlatans who generally pretend to respectable virtues almost always fail to sustain their lie for much longer. There are corruption allegations that have been levelled against him by his Cosatu comrades, none of which to date have been proven. He has however admitted to improperly hiring a young woman with whom he developed some mutually beneficial sexual symbiosis. A brief one at that. Vavi who we have come to know as a defender of workers’ rights in the workplace, betrayed the very principles and values he had long pretended to stand for. His sexual relationship with her subordinate is improper, regardless of whether it was consensual or not. His lack of integrity is further evidenced by his decision to turn Cosatu House into some Coitus House where he savours carnal knowledge of his married colleague.

Like our Jacob of Nkandla, Vavi want to convince the public that there is some political conspiracy behind his deviant sexual behaviour. Not long ago, he told us that Iranians were out to get him. Could the young lady perhaps be working with the Iranians? It was Vavi who went to great lengths to ensure that the young lady in question is employed by Cosatu. The documentation released by Vavi reveals that he was paying some “social grants” to the improperly hired young lady during his cause to establish sexual relations with her. There is general suspicion that there existed some kind of a job-for-sex arrangement, whether explicitly agreed or not, is a matter between the two parties involved. It cannot be that when Vavi expressly established this improper sexual relation with his subordinate, he claims that his enemies are plotting against him. He unzipped his own pants in that office in full knowledge that his actions were inappropriate.

Our naughty politicians need to start taking responsibility for their actions. Accountability remains an arduous ideal that these public figures continues refuse to commit themselves to upholding. We the people have for a long time allowed to leaders to get away without being held accountable for their actions. We have been accessories in entrenching this behaviour. We have not punished our leaders at the ballot box nor have we remained resolute in our demand for them to vacate office when compromised. We place trust on leaders with questionable virtues and expect them to fulfil their promise to be incorruptible and upright public servants. We create charlatans like Vavi and hoist them as respectable leaders who will advance the good we aspire to as society. It is important that we begin to hold leaders true to the pledges they make when ascending to higher office; and immediately remove them when they fail to honour those pledges. The only conspiracy public figures should be that by the people conspiring to hold them accountable. That they fail to restrain their libido is no political conspiracy. We must not be side-tracked.


The Political Miseducation of Lindiwe Mazibuko


Lindiwe Mazibuko, DA spokesperson, was addressing the Cape Town Press Club during the week and made very astonishing remarks around the challenge of transformation in the country. In her speech, Mazibuko suggested that in redressing the historical imbalances in the country, Africans should not receive preferential treatment. Mazibuko appears to believe that whites in South Africa, who benefitted from the skewed and discriminatory system of apartheid, somehow, need some sort of redress as well.

It is difficult to establish whether Mazibuko was expressing her own personal views or was merely towing the party line. In either instance, it would be tragic that an African, regardless of their current circumstances, would want to equate the socio-economic challenges facing the majority who are poor with those of the privileged minority. It is this sort of misguided thinking that delays progress and compromises the transformation agenda in the country. It is clear from Mazibuko’s utterances that the DA seeks to preserve white privilege to the detriment of the majority who clamour for the rapid pace of tranformation.

Perhaps Mazibuko and her DA are ignorant of the sobering facts on the ground. The Commission for Employment Equity has reported that 73% of top management positions in the country are occupied by whites. Unemployment among whites is below 6% when among the historical disadvantaged majority it exceeds 26%. The economy after 17 years of democracy is still largely controlled by whites, as evidence by their direct ownership of the JSE. The majority who are poor in the country are Africans. Treating them as of equal circumstances to their privileged white South Africans will not assist nor advance their cause.

Mazibuko wants the country to pretend that our history is not a history that is defined by colour; and that we must ignore that the present circumstances of South Africans are a sad reflection of that history. To address these historical injustices we cannot over look race. It is in fact on the basis of race, as allowed by the Constitution, that we must proceed to redress those historical wrongs. Africans should stop being apologetic when confronting their own challenges and attempt to placade irrational fears of others who use such fear to hold the transformation agenda and progress to ransom.

Mazibuko, as a young African leader, must stop making excuses for the preservation of white privilege in order to appeal to her white constituency. The burden of responsibililty to advance transformation in the country rests on her DA shoulders too. Failure to redress the historical injustices is an indictment on her as well. The sooner African leaders in the DA, like herself, realise that they are part of the problem of lack of transformation, the sooner we can all begin to move forward in one direction.

The DA claims to be running the most efficient and least ‘corrupt’ province, yet such efficiencies do not significantly benefit the majority in the Western Cape who are African, Coloured and poor. We still hear of apartheid-style forced removals of shack dwellers in the Western Cape. Income inequality in the Western Cape is staggering in spite of how ‘efficient and least corrupt’ the DA is.

These are the sad realities that we cannot ignore nor can we pretend they do not exist. They are the consequence of racist policies of the past; and to address them, Mazibuko, should acknowledge that race is an important factor and begin to challenge the ‘pro-white privilege thinking’ within her own party. We cannot afford to have beautiful young minds like her championing counter-productive and anti-transformation agendas. The DA will remain steeped its pro-white privilege traditions if Afrcan leaders like Mazibuko do not become architects of change from within. The attitude and mindset of those in the DA needs to transform in order that the broader agenda of transformation registers in their political conscience.

Mazibuko needs to wake up and smell the coffee!


None but Africans can define themselves


African culture, religion and traditional practices have been altered significantly as a result of colonial rule. Colonial rulers interfered with the African way of life and worship. Africans were largely considered primitive. There was an unsolicited and desperate need for intruders in Africa to want to “modernise” Africans and indoctrinate them into a European way of life, thinking and worship. African cultures were gradually impoverished through neglect and deliberate suppression by colonial hooligans. There are some today who regard Euro-centricism as a measure of social advancement and modernity. Conversely, African values and principles are frowned upon.

The rise of African nationalism heralded campaigns by Africans to guard against external influences on their way of life. Culture is what defines society. A dilution of culture ordinarily means the loss of identity and uniqueness as a people. African culture is what defines Africans and distinguishes their humanity to others of different cultures.

A clear distinction needs to be drawn between “culture” and “tradition” as the two do not mean one and the same thing, though interconnected. Culture primarily refers to the value system and shared attitudes that characterise a group of people or society, their human expression and the way in which they perceive and interpret the nature of the world around them.

African cultural practices have a particular meaning that speaks to the values we embrace as Africans. The content and meaning of culture as projected through certain practices should never change nor be compromised but the tradition through which such cultural meaning or values find expression does evolve. Tradition is fluid. Tradition ensures continuity of culture and its transmission from one generation to the next and with each generation certain traditional practices which are considered archaic and irrelevant will ordinarily be abandoned.

With each generational change comes a new form of cultural expression, often to the horror of cultural extremists who are stuck on archaic practices that have not adapted to changing social circumstances. The cultural meaning remains the same even though the traditional practice may have been altered through the succession of generations.

To make a practical example of the above, let us look at the cultural practice of paying lobola. This is a traditional custom aimed at uniting two families together, those of the groom-to-be and bride-to-be. This is a form of expression of gratitude by the groom-to-be’s parents to their family for having presented them with a wonderful and beautiful future daughter-in-law while the groom-to-be communicates to his future parents-in-law that he is capable of supporting and taking care of their daughter.

Traditional lobola payment was in the form of cattle because in olden days, before the emergence of plastic money, cattle were the primary source of wealth. However, the dictates of modern times have rendered cattle as payment irrelevant to the extent that African families who have embraced social advancements and adapted accordingly would accept cash instead. Perhaps in future plastic money would also be an acceptable form of exchange between the two families. Despite these changes in traditional practices, the cultural significance of lobola has not changed. It remains the same.

Africans fully understand what informed their traditional practices and the meaning and relevance of such practices. That there may be so-called Westernised Africans who reject African culture in favour of Western values and religion, does not mean that African culture has no relevance and meaning.

African culture is reflected in music, food, art, language, jewellery, among other things. These are part of the distinguishing features among cultures of the world. There can be no universality among such salient features of culture. Their meaning and origins are not entirely understood by those on the outside, but are nevertheless beguiled by them. They are who we are and what makes us the people others can identify among the rest.

The contentious question, made contentious by emotional fragilities of some, is “who is an African?” Black people are Africans. Africans are black people. The significant meaning of the term “African” refers to racial identity of black people and goes beyond the sentimentality of geographical location of others of different races who appropriate the description to themselves. An African is defined by the culture described above. Being of a different race to Africans and embracing such African culture affords one a sense of belonging to that society in which one exists, but does not change the racial identity of a person of European descent, for example.

A person of European descent born and bred in Africa will ordinarily have a sense of belonging to Africa by claiming roots in the continent. However, such belonging by accident of birth does not make one an African in the true meaning of who an African is. That Africa is the cradle of humanity and therefore we are all Africans becomes an absurd proposition since the rest of the world does not refer to themselves as Africans. To use the term “African” in reference to one’s geographical location is of no consequence or meaning. It becomes a mere description that carries no weight and is futile. It becomes a convenient narrative by some to distance themselves from the unflattering history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid repression. There seems to exist an irrational notion that unity can be forged through revising history for social expediency.

Africans have in the past over-extended and compromised themselves in the pursuit of harmonious co-existence with others. Africans in South Africa have walked an extra mile since 1994 to extend a hand of reconciliation. This hand of reconciliation has often has been shunned by those who are historical offenders and who should be in the forefront of forging unity and reconciliation with those they have offended and wronged in the past. There has always existed a dismissive attitude against those Africans who are unapologetic about who they are and what being African means. There are some who feel threatened by African nationalism and perhaps see the collective pride among Africans as a threat to their privilege. The glaring difference in the culture of Africans and pseudo-Africans is the Afro-centric and Euro-centric nature of each. One cannot claim lineage with Africans when what defines who she/he is not rooted in Africa. We must reject this sort of cultural or racial arbitrage.

Africans need to reclaim their identity, religion and culture, and discard many of those which were imposed on them, by embracing Afrocentricism as the essential element of the African renaissance as popularised by the former President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki remarked: “an essential and necessary element of the African renaissance is that we all must take it as our task to encourage she [Africa] who carries this leaden weight to rebel, to assert the principality of her humanity — the fact that she, in the first instance, is not a beast of burden, but a human and African being.”

We cannot allow as Africans our identity to become easily dispensable for social expediency and to assuage irrational fears of some. Africans almost had their identity reduced to nothingness during the era of colonial thuggery. It cannot be that when Africans have liberated themselves from such historical thuggery and asserted their identity, they can today be blackmailed into watering down what defines them and who they are for the sake of inclusivity and accommodation of others.

Africans must reclaim and defend their identity, lest we revert to colonial days when the task of defining ourselves was the burden of others.

(First published in http://www.juicyafrica.com)


Of Western, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism


The Cold War between 1947 and 1991 was fought on ideological grounds. The imperial West sought to establish its dominance in world affairs to the defeat of the Soviet Union and its allies. In the aftermath of WWII, communist ideology had gained unprecedented popularity and was spreading across Europe. The US and Britain were terrified of the consequence of the spread of communism on the global political and economic landscape. At that time, Germany was learning towards communism and was going through post-war economic convulsions. That the European economy to a large extent depended on Germany’s industrial base, the US tabled the Marshall Plan as an attempt to extend influence on the political and economic direction of Europe.

The famous speech “Restatement of Policy on Germany” by former US secretary of state James Byrnes in Stuttgart September 6 1946 set the Cold War into motion. In his speech Byrnes sold “peace” as the reason for Germany to reject communism. He also said: “We [the US] have learned that peace and well-being are indivisible and that our peace and well-being cannot be purchased at the price of peace or the well-being of any other country.” What followed was the systematic campaign by the US to de-legitimise and undermine communism with consistent regularity and zeal. The protection and promotion of Western interest was paramount.

The end of the Cold War, which was precipitated by the fall of the Soviet Union and the wave of anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1991; somewhat coincided with the genesis of the military adventure of the West in the Arab world in 1990. Saddam Hussein’s armed forces had invaded Kuwait, which provoked “international” condemnation. The US led military efforts to prevent the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. During the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein’s support of anti-Israel groups was a source of discontent and disgust by the US. The Gulf War was not waged out of interest for the security of the people of Kuwait but for protection of interests of the West in the region and to safeguard the security of Israel.

The US had already fought a proxy war in the region, when it supported, financially and militarily, the mujahideen in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Soviet Union and the Marxist-Leninist government of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was part of the mujahideen who enjoyed support of the US during this war. He was useful for advancement of the US agenda against the communist onslaught at the time. The Afghan war with the Soviet Union was the rallying point for Islamic fundamentalists who deemed their cause a Jihad against invaders. The Afghan Jihad victory against the Soviet Union in 1988 led to the creation of al-Qaeda, a base movement that would lead the Jihad in future. The US must be proud to have contributed financially and militarily to the establishment of al-Qaeda.

It was this Gulf War of 1991 that established a fertile ground for the future “War on Terror” against al-Qaeda and its affiliate organisations. The US had sent its troops to Saudi Arabia and established military bases in that Muslim country in order to launch the war against Saddam Hussein’s armed forces. Post the Gulf War, US troops remained in Saudi Arabia, largely for the purpose of policing the region and protecting its own economic and political interests. The presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia provoked the same anger against the US among the mujahideen as was the case against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. A similar ideological battle between Western fundamentalism, which is rooted in principles of democracy and free-market system, and Islamic fundamentalism, premised on sharia, which rejects the free-market system.

It is now more apparent that the pretext for advancement of political and economic interests in the post-Cold War era is the invented “War on Terror”. A top military intelligence official in the UK, Major General Michael Laurie, told the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion that: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence.”

Further to this Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, in an MSNBC interview said: “You can be very cynical and say he [George W Bush] didn’t want to get him [Bin Laden] because once he got him the war was over and that left all the political advantage gone.”

The “War on Terror” is the war against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the propagation of Islamophobia, which has nothing to do with combating terrorism. The spread of terrorism is rooted on the expansion of the US and its allies in the Arab world. Islamic fundamentalism has been painted as the key driver for terrorism; that the establishment of Islamic states would be the precursor to the collapse of international peace and security. Unsurprisingly, a weak Islamic state of Afghanistan, under the Taliban, was swiftly overthrown and a puppet regime under Hamid Karzai installed.

The rise of Jewish fundamentalism (Zionism) and the pursuit of Jewish self-determination is seen as a force for good, as it closely aligns with the agenda of the West; whereas the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the pursuit of Muslim self-determination is seen as a force for evil. Jewish fundamentalism embraces the fundamental precepts of free-market system. Between the West and Israel, there exists a coalition of political and economic aggressors. Jewish fundamentalists respond with great vengeance against anyone who dares challenge Israel. A Jewish Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner, had been stripped of his honorary degree by a New York University because he committed the cardinal sin of criticising the apartheid state of Israel. Kushner is now portrayed by Jewish fundamentalists as the symbol of those closet “anti-Semites” or “self-hating Jews” who continuously bash apartheid Israel.

Organisations like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are seen as terrorist movements because of their unapologetic pursuit of Muslim self-determination. Hamas advocates for the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine, resulting in them being deemed a “terrorist organisation”. Iran, which became an Islamic state after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, is “the state sponsor of terrorism”.

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban embrace the fundamentals of Islam and advocate for establishment of Islamic states in the Arab world. Ordinarily, the two Islamic fundamentalist organisations would become the enemy against the imperial forces of the West, regardless of whether their means to an end is killing civilians or not. The West used “human rights” and “democracy” to discredit the spread of communism and a similar tactic is employed towards Islamic fundamentalism. The West, ironically, commits greater crimes against humanity than those so-called terrorist organisations. The world has become largely unsafe, precisely because of the actions of the West. The “War on Terror” could end tomorrow, if the murderous US and its allies pull their troops from occupied Arab states and mind their business.

When the phoney “War on Terror” ends, the West will find another reason to crush that which stands in the way of their imperialist interests. Unfortunately, international institutions such as the UN Security Council have become the instruments used to grant legitimacy to the perpetration of international crimes.

Let Islamic fundamentalists have their own Islamic states as Jewish fundamentalists have their Zionist state!