an excerpt from ‘Bantu Serenade’ by Ntone Edjabe (featuring Naila Belvett)
me i think there’s symbolism in those white policemen killing biko’s brain first. going for his head. symbolism that natives currently running the show seem to miss. or maybe they’ve already been decapitated themselves. they see the symbolism of two towering dicks falling in the centre of NY. of circumcision on TV. of bush alternating delivery of bombs and food parcels in the afghan sky. of the rand at ground zero so visitors at WSSD can shop dead in jozi. of exporting everything ’proudly south african’ into the rest of africa except drugs for Aids. of ngema singing when he’s not a singer. of luyt dragging madiba to court. of madiba visiting the silence around mzwakhe. of soyinka kakking on about miss world. of mamphela at the world bank. so how could they miss the wounds on biko’s head: our brain is under attack! and i don’t know if plunging one’s head in the mud would save it from the wash. those in the know say its a strategy. they say one needs time in the belly to understand the diet of the beast. mugabe has other plans: he’s appointed a war cabinet: debts to pay…but who will pay apartheid’s debts? and ‘death’ is the password here coz if murder she wrote some visiting american student might ask ‘why?’ and that might just force too many of us to take our head out of the mud…to loosen the tie…beside im told it’s not good for nation building. me i say the orange broers are not queuing up for membership cards to enter this building site. who said the broederbond was gone? who pays for these guys khaki uniforms? and the foundation to remind us the core of his frank talk was ‘black is beautiful’! serious. but even if bantu’d appointed himself the official beautician for the people of the south surely he wouldn’t fail to point out all the uglyness that needs his services? coz i see a lot of ugly blacks around. still. and they too are shouting ‘black is beautiful’! me i think biko’s head’s been pushed so high up the establishment’s ass it hurts. and it’s not beautiful. and the establishment is growing so many heads: mtn, eskom and debeers are now acting as black beauty agents: graduates rolling down oxford rd tell you they too are fighting the establishment. fighting ‘global apartheid’. the south african dream is on & played out live in sandton: study hard, work hard and you’ll make it. ‘hard’, goes the ad. so all are queuing up all over again to enter the new SA. nouveau SA. neo-SA. freedom is the right to fuck who you want says the bill. so we line at the till paying for our individual struggles. and work ‘hard’ at it. like she, on a mission to organise a mass pro-ganja demonstration. buying votes so she can smoke. find your struggle and be free with e. like he, ’fighting back’ racism in rugby. me i think the liberals here don’t get enuf props for their assimilation programme. me i say they’ve outclassed the french: many many natives are jumping the queue for a part in the drama. watch us all stand in line for a slice of the devil’s pie. but of course all of this happens on an afro tip: the fake malangatana replaces the fake picasso on the wall and bob marley replaces bob dylan in the cd player. it’s the african century so ex-revolutionaries skipping furiously between crash courses in golf and crash courses in djembe drumming.
(c) Ntone Edjabe
I have often asked myself as well as put the question to people who are practicing Sangoma’s, Nyanga’s ( medicine folk), Abathandazi ( praying folk) and the many variations of indigenous healers; HOW Do We Heal Our Nations?
As a Azanian Afrikan living in Zimbabwe, I have had to ask people just how come we have not had Rains for most of the year when we have Rainmakers? How are people in such a rich country struggling for water, for food and for everything when they are so Spiritual ( religious, devout Christians and devout Traditionalists). Another parallel question is, ‘how-come so many healers live in squalid conditions’, ghettofied places and they seem to be part of the illnesses, addictions and abuses that plague their communities?
It has been demonstrated that capitalist social relations have shown a historical tendency towards crisis. This manifests itself in events such as the Great Depression, the 1970’s stagflation and the Great Recession. Capitalism is inherently crisis-prone as a system be cause of the nature of its competitive dynamics and the exploitation of working people inherent in these competitive dynamics.
How then do Afrikan leaders, governments and corporations plan to win ( compete successfully) in a system that not only excludes them but actually works against us?
There have been several solutions offered through books as well as revolutionary political movements. All such alternatives to corrosive and repressive capitalism often appear unrealistic to the audiences to which they are presented. People want what is tangible and they are focussed on personal material as well as social gains …We shall explain just what people centred interventions have been used effectively to highlight or illustrate just how fallible the capitalist system is.
One book offers: “Reflecting the books emphasis on the social constitution of the economy and society, it rejects top-down attempts to impose an alternative to capitalism by political means and argues that anti-capitalist action should take a bottom-up, which requires democratic and pluralistic experimentation with different models of soci0-economic organisation to expand the space in which non-capitalist activity takes place.” –
A new paper based on our work with young people in post-land land reform resettlement areas is out in the journal, Review of African Political Economy. You can read it in full here. It’s part of a great special issue on Zimbabwe edited by Grasian Mkodzongi and Peter Lawrence, which is well worth looking at.
While there has been an explosion of interest in the role of young people in rural development, most recently through a much-publicised (and mostly rather good) IFAD report, policy recommendations tend to focus on the economic opportunity questions, not the complex, practical, lived, emotional realities of young people in challenging environments. Our paper attempted to open these up, especially through learning from young people’s own testimonies.
The paper is based on research carried out in Mvurwi area in Mazowe district, north of Harare and Masvingo district in the southeast of the country…
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Someone writes in the Financial Mail, August 15 – August 21, 2019; “SA is sliding inexorably into a debt trap, with the government unable to make the hard political choices necessary to spark growth, or to prevent a steady rise in the country’s debt ratio. Though finance minister Tito Mboweni has warned that “we really and truly cannot go on like this”, there is every indication that this is exactly what will happen.”
Afrika is committing an acquired form of assisted-suicide at an unprecedented scale. This is happening at every level of society from the individual, the social to the economic as well as, most disturbingly, on a spiritual level. There are more ways to die than there are ways of living. Paradoxically, Afrika has a lot of intellectuals. The continent boasts thousands if not millions of individuals as well as institutions specializing in various disciplines ranging from cutting edge-science, engineering, architecture, applied mathematics and a myriad of technological fields of endeavor. Afrika is also most revered for its Creative economy, an ungovernable and wholly innovative and lucrative sector. Needless to mention that we have been known to produce artistic and entrepreneurial geniuses in vast numbers too. Afrikan genius has enriched the whole world since the dawn of recorded history. We are not short of human or intellectual capital.
The recent death of former Zimbabwean founding ‘Father’ Robert Gabriel Mugabe has brought this fact so sharply into our collective psyche. How can a highly educated, revolutionary and industrious people fare so poorly in the development spheres? To put it bluntly, how can such a rich people remain so impoverished? What is it that we, our former liberation heroes and general leadership have been doing so wrong that we fail so dismally to thrive and beat the usual threats to ours and future generations wellbeing?
Many Afrocentric scholars have offered that Afrika has to create its own path to economic and social development. Yes, we can an should play our part in this world of capitalist /neoliberal competition, but that part should be clearlly defined by Afrikans, united in purpose with definitive collective goals.
We have harped on and on about the practical value of Afrikan and Black people’s unity, but perhaps our voices are not audible enough to the powers that purport to be. Our voices are hoarse and our minds and hearts often grow weary, yet there are still so many untried avenues. Perhaps we have been going about it the wrong way. In the words of S.M.E. Bengu, we have been ‘Chasing Gods Not Our Own’. Is it not high-time we strive towards making Indigenous Knowledge Systems part of our training/education in the formal education circles? It is not enough to host numerous conferences and write thick volumes and actively pontificate on pulpits and social media. Yes, Afrika must wake up, but the awakening must not be towards contributing so gallantly to economies or systems that have not improved our wellbeing. Even the institutions that monitor and claim to promote our progress must be re-evaluated from an Afrikological perspective. We cannot continue to be appendages in a dying capitalist system. Former President R.G. Mugabe and the incumbent President E.D. Mnangagwa are clear examples of how power and opportunity are not enough to turn peoples lives around. Praise them or reject them, the point is not really about their individuality, it is about the fact that they represent a breed of Afrikans who are Christians and clones of their European foes. How can one honestly defeat the plans of an enemy they secretly admire and seek to become? There are so many examples of how many Afrikan leaders simply mimic the ways of their former masters in their daily living. They may speak their Mother-tongue and pay lip service to their respect for Afrikan traditions, but their general outlook is Eurocentric and verging on superstitious. It is power that is scared to dare to be different. Afrikan economies and the underdevelopment of the lives of Black folks are the direct result of detached and visionless leaders. We may react emotionally to the passing of these leaders, but until we question their roles or culpability in our mired existence, we shall repeat their costly mistakes. The institutions that our leaders depend on and preside over, are not our own creation, so are the borders and the monetary systems that we are fighting to control. They are out of control in-spite of us and our contributions. Let us no longer squander our gifts. Afrika must and can define itself. We can escape the double edged sword of contradictory economic growth figures. We can start by being clear that economic growth as well as technological advancement does not benefit Afrikans in any significant scale. We can also note that mineral resources have not benefited us neither. Then we can start answering the questions such as, when exactly will we rid ourselves of the parasitic corporations that make billions from the rest of the continent yet have not helped us to lead better lives? Again the onus is on our leaders, from the political, the business as well as the traditional levels. Afrikan leaders have failed dismally to protect its inhabitants from extractive and exploitative commercial farmers, minders and other speculators. Our intellectuals are merely playing musical chairs, writing about an economy in industries that WE DO NOT OWN.
Here is a brief look at some recent statistics from the African Development Bank:
This year’s African Economic Outlook from the African Development Bank shows that the continent’s general economic performance continues to improve. Gross domestic product reached an estimated 3.5 percent in 2018, about the same as in 2017 and up from 2.1 percent in 2016. Africa’s GDP growth is projected to accelerate to 4.0 percent in 2019 and 4.1 percent in 2020.
But even that growth is not fast enough to address persistent fiscal and current account deficits and unsustainable debt. Indeed, countries have to move to a higher growth path and increase the efficiency of growth in generating decent jobs. The 2019 Outlook shows that macroeconomic and employment outcomes are better when industry leads growth.
The special theme this year is regional integration for Africa’s economic prosperity—integration not just for trade and economic cooperation but also for the delivery of regional public goods.
New research for this Outlook shows that five trade policy actions could bring Africa’s total gains to 4.5 percent of its GDP, or $134 billion a year. First is eliminating all of today’s applied bilateral tariffs in Africa. Second is keeping rules of origin simple, flexible, and transparent. Third is removing all non-tariff barriers on goods and services trade on a most-favored-nation basis. Fourth is implementing the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement to reduce the time it takes to cross borders and the transaction costs tied to non-tariff measures. Fifth is negotiating with other developing countries to reduce by half their tariffs and nontariff barriers on a most-favored-nation basis.”
Lastly, David Manang, former Mines Minister and Second In Charge at the Exchequer in Botswana, had this to say in his book, Delusions of Grandeur: Paradoxies and Ambivalence in Botswana’s Macroeconomic Firmament:
“Botswana’s territory is a 582, 000 km affair. The population therein is a sparsely distributed 2 million. The proportion of unused land is practically infinite. Yet land acquisition both for citizens and investors is one hell of a headache. The hurdles in land acquisition are in fact one of the most commonly cited impediments to investment besides immigration permits. —Government, as the primary provider of serviced land, is guilty of failing investors big time. Puzzlingly, it is not aware that it is its own road-block to inward investment traffic in this regard.”
That sums it up.
As we say Rest in Peace to Robert Gabriel Mugabe aka Gushungo, let us make sure as younger Afrikans, to not repeat the gullible and arrogant mistakes of our ancestors. Afrika can still create its own path to prosperity and we do not have to do it in any one’s terms. Who ever seeks to do business with us can do it in our own way. But We Must Find The Way.
The Nigeria/South Africa Palava
I was recently visiting Lagos – the city of my birth – when I found myself feeling a sense of déjà vu as I watched South African mobs on television looting and attacking shops owned by Nigerians and other Africans. We have been here before. Nigerians were among those hurt in the horrific xenophobic attacks of 2008 when 62 people – mostly Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, and Malawians – were killed, and 100,000 displaced. More recently, in March 2017, South African vigilantes burned and looted scores of homes and businesses belonging to Nigerians in Rosettenville, Mamelodi, and Atteridgeville in Gauteng province, which they alleged were drug dens and brothels.
Having lived in South Africa for 16 years, one my biggest frustrations is the failure of so many of its citizens to embrace an African identity and of the government to attract more skilled Africans to its shores in order to create an “America in Africa”. America’s genius has, of course, been its ability to attract the best and brightest from the rest of the world – trained at huge expense by these countries – and to turn them into American citizens or green-card holders.
The United States thus skims off the cream of the best entrepreneurs, engineers, and economists for its own direct benefit. South Africa – with Africa’s most industrialised economy – is the only country in Africa that could provide the same Western lifestyle to African professionals living abroad. The country has, however, lacked the vision over the last two and a half decades to convert this advantage to the development of its economy and society, while simultaneously inculcating a Pan-African identity into its population.
The typical response to these attacks from South African officialdom – who themselves often fan the flames of Afrophobia – has been to engage in “xenophobia denialism”. Then Home Affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, sought in 2017 to portray rampaging mobs as mere “criminals”, while mouthing unhelpful platitudes about most South Africans not being xenophobic. Current police minister, Bheki Cele, similarly insisted the current attacks were a result of “criminality rather than xenophobia”, as if crime could not simultaneously be xenophobic, misogynistic, or homophobic. The prejudiced mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, has often demonstrated a crass nativism in equating foreigners to crime, as if South Africa did not have its own home-grown criminals. Even the usually sensible Gauteng premier, David Makhura, has recently joined in this “dog whistle” populism of linking foreigners to crime. The demonization and dehumanisation of migrants as drug-lords and pimps by opportunistic politicians makes it easier for self-hating pyromaniac mobs to attack them. Scapegoating foreigners also takes away attention from the failings of these politicians.
South African reactions to xenophobic attacks is often astonishing, as attempts are made to use “third forces” and “fifth columnists” to explain away the brutality or hiding behind phrases such as “black-on-black violence,” as if this in itself were some kind of insightful revelation. Others have tried to condone these attacks by portraying them as poor people killing other poor people. Yet, xenophobia is widespread in South African society from politics to business to academia. Still others have sought to explain how poor and violent South African society is. But there is poverty and violence in other African societies, some of which – like Nigeria – have also expelled foreign nationals. However, these frequent attacks on fellow Africans in South Africa, including maiming and burning people alive, seem – outside of civil war and domestic strife contexts – to represent an area of South African “exceptionalism” on the continent.
The recent attacks in Tembisa, Alexandria, Hillbrow, Cleveland, Jeppestown, Malvern, Germiston, and the Johannesburg and Tshwane central business districts, saw eight deaths (though no Nigerians), scores injured, and hundreds of Nigerian and other foreign-owned shops burned and looted. The South African government’s plan to combat xenophobic attacks decisively – unveiled only in March – did not survive the first contact with arsonist mobs.
Nigeria demanded compensation from the South African government for the damaged property, and cancelled its participation at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. Nigeria’s foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, accused the South African police of turning a blind eye to some of these attacks, and of failing to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. Its Consul-General, Godwin Adama, also noted the failure of South Africa’s criminal justice system to convict perpetrators of these attacks. For example, there were hardly any convictions for the murder of 62 foreigners in the 2008 attacks. The fact that people can literally get away with murder has made it easier for these acts to continue. An estimated 350 foreigners were killed between 2008 and 2015.
Ordinary Nigerians reacted to the recurring attacks on their citizens with seething anger. Social media has been abuzz with much disinformation and fake news inflaming passions on both sides. Many Nigerians already angered by what they see as president Muhammadu Buhari’s lackadaisical response to the attacks by Fulani herdsmen on local communities across the country, have used the failure to protect Nigerians abroad as another stick with which to beat the president. Parliamentarian, Orji Kalu, called for South African businesses in Nigeria to be shut down if Nigerians were not protected, while former culture minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, called for sanctioning South African companies, accusing Tshwane of treating Nigerians like “filth and killing them for sport.” Artistes like Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy announced boycotts of scheduled concerts in Johannesburg, while Wizkid lamented the failure of South Africans to demonstrate Pan-African solidarity. Nigerian mobs also attacked South African businesses in Nigeria such as Shoprite, Pep Stores and MTN, forcing some of these businesses to shut down their operations. South African Airways staff felt the need to use heavy security to transport their flight attendants to the airport in Lagos.
About 50,000 Nigerians annually visit South Africa, while over 120 South African businesses operate in Nigeria. While South Africans attack Nigerian citizens, Nigerians tend to attack South African companies. Both sides, however, have much to lose if the bilateral relationship continues to deteriorate. The Nigeria/South Africa relationship is essential for Africa’s socio-economic transformation. Both account for about a third of Africa’s economic might; bilateral trade was estimated at $4.5 billion in 2018; and Abuja and Tshwane have undertaken much of the continent’s major conflict management initiatives over the last two decades. The bilateral relationship has however deteriorated since the “golden age” of Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki between 1999 and 2007. Visa issues remain a major bone of contention. Despite the Binational Commission between both countries having been elevated from vice-presidential to presidential level in 2016, it has not met in six years, and elections in both countries earlier this year have taken up much of the political energy. It was not a good sign that neither president attended the other’s presidential inauguration.
President Buhari’s planned – but not confirmed – visit to South Africa next month should go ahead, as it would provide an early opportunity to reset this relationship. Four recommendations are critical to achieving success. First, Abuja and Tshwane must immediately revive the Binational Commission and ensure that regular meetings occur. Second, the early-warning and mediation systems – involving Nigerian and South African civil society and government representatives – agreed after the 2017 attacks against Nigerians, must be urgently established and made to function effectively by both sides. Third, “track-two” initiatives involving civil society, academia, and the business sectors of both countries must work with the two governments to improve people-to-people relationships and ensure ongoing dialogue between key actors on both sides. Finally, South African politicians must stop fanning the flames of xenophobia and show genuine leadership in promoting grassroots anti-xenophobic movements in local communities, as well as educating their population on the contributions that Nigeria and many other African countries made to the liberation of South Africa during the dark days of apartheid.
Professor Adekeye Adebajo is Director of the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation in South Africa.
Business Day (South Africa), 9 September 2019; Guardian (Nigeria), forthcoming
Professor Adekeye Adebajo
Director, Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation
University of Johannesburg
Robert Mugabe died on September 6th in Singapore after a long illness, and the press has been full of commentary about his legacy. There is a deep fascination with him in the UK. Despite the drama of Brexit, his death was top news across the papers and TV channels. I was taken aback when I saw his image on a massive news screen at King’s Cross station in London announcing his death. Once feted by the Queen, now almost universally reviled, what is it about the dramatic tragedy in the narrative of a transition from ‘hero’ to ‘villain’ that so captivates people, but also blinds us to the complexities of history?
This complexity, and the importance of a deeper history, comes across in some of the better reflections on his death. There is much that’s already been written, but there are a few articles that have stood out for…
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