It has been almost ten years since I was traditionally initiated in Xhosa manhood and I remember it like it was yesterday. The blood, the gore, the endless days of pain mixed with sleep deprivation, wishing that this archaic shit would end so that I could get back to civilization and resume my life in modernity. Personally I was indifferent to the whole idea of ukwaluka but at the time I was living under my parents roof and they are rural to the bone, so a ghetto kid did what he had to do to survive.
The ritual is designed to be traumatic so that the knowledge imparted unto you by elderly ‘wise’ men is seared into your memory like a brand on a cow’s behind. Unfortunately most boys come out of the whole shebang with a solid grasp on the finer points of misogyny and alcoholism.
Xhosa initiation rites seem to no longer serve their intended purpose, which was to nurture loyalty in young man and instil a sense of pride in them for being tough enough to survive the entire brutal experience. This was necessary in a precolonial South Africa, where bitch-ass-niggerisms couldn’t be tolerated because as the saying goes ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link’. The tribe could not afford to be weak, with megalomaniacs like Shaka Zulu prowling the land for villages to conquer.
Traditions should only survive due to the pragmatic value they have to a society or a community. If that set value is no longer readily apparent, then modes of thought, attitudes and behaviours become toxic. Their preservation is generally due to sentiment. As an economically poor people who do not have a working knowledge of our culture before colonialism, we desperately hold on to pieces of ourselves. Like a tortured soul tightly holding on to a piece of a broken mirror hoping to get a full picture of the beauty they once had. I think the reason we do this is because we want to feel like haven’t assimilated the coloniser’s way of life, it is reactionary.
Tradition is a function of culture, along with language, fashion, art and belief to name a few of its elements. Its unadulterated practice in isolation does not make sense because its intended function out of context will not bear the anticipated results. For example, educating children in their mother tongues but public and private institutions of consequence communicate is English. Having worked in the retail sector as a cashier, I saw the inferiority complexes that my co-workers had when they had to deal with an unreasonable Caucasian customer because they did not have a proper grasp of the English language. The very same people would have no problem dealing with an African customer who spoke the same language and exhibited the same kind of unacceptable behaviour.
I can already hear the culture Nazi’s shouting “in order to know where you’re going, you must know where you come from”. In principle I agree with this idiom, but in life I’m not a prisoner to it. I understand the profound desire that we have, as Africans, to be masters of our own destiny but we should not let it blind us in our actions. We should look at the world for what it is, rather than looking at it as what we think it used to be. The reactionary tendency to romanticize precolonial African culture is doing us no favours in reclaiming our sense of identity and sense of being. Instead we should consciously and consistently repurpose elements of our culture so that they are useful in addressing present day challenges.
For instance I think the tradition of ukwaluka should be used to instil:
· A culture of brotherhood amongst Xhosa men
· Tolerance for other people’s point of view and cultures
· The value of discipline and perseverance
· A demonization of alcohol and drugs
· An internalized understanding of how to treat African people regardless of gender, tribe or class
There is a ninja of mine who is a tenderprenuer, his favourite catch phrase is “everybody speaks from the stomach”. He kept on repeating that annoying-ass phrase as we were vigorously arguing about the moral and social implications of corruption. The argument took place across the background of eNCA’s live broadcast of the inquiry into state capture.
On a lively Friday afternoon with open beers on the table emotions ran high, as the alcohol ensured that nobody would be pulling back punches in a titanic verbal clash between two know-it-all armchair generals who do not know when to stop. On multiple occasions in the heat of battle I was often struck by flashes of homicidal intent, incapable of processing the words I was hearing from a man whom I considered a friend and a good person.
I am completely convinced that there is a subliminally insidious campaign by Caucasians, Arabs, East Asians and Latin Americans, aimed at demoting the status of black people to that of less than human in the collective consciousness of humanity. The reason they do this, is to justify the criminal exploitation of African resources. While I might not have solid evidence to support my hypotheses, it is close to the truth. My certainty derived from reported and experienced actions of then coloniser. My ninja believes this to be utter nonsense, the paranoid delusions of a naïve idealist and even if I am correct in my assertions. It would not matter if I had “real money” in my bank account.
He is of the view that race is an unprogressive artificial construct, along which people should no longer organize. In the 21st century all that matters is the money. Instead of focusing one’s energy on religious, tribal and academic aspirations, those Africans who are strong enough, should focus on acquiring material wealth at whatever the cost. According to this treacherous shinobi, the ignorant black masses are a lost cause, whose sense of identity and purpose has been irreversibly perverted by centuries of colonisation. Thus when our political, religious, cultural and social leaders sacrifice the futures of black children for financial gain, they are simply saving themselves from an already sinking ship. In the future, my friend deduces, there will only be haves and the have nots, race will not be a factor. Thus it is each person for themselves and god for us all.
Admittedly I have considered embracing my ninja’s loss of faith in our people’s ability to escape the clutches of mass poverty. Which largely stems from the people’s failure to decolonise their minds because if we were to do so, the people would recognize that we do not need the West, nor the east for that matter, in a time where knowledge is readily available. A resource rich continent, such as ours, should not be the basket case that it is at this current moment in space and time. Through tribalism, greed, religious mysticism and hedonism, black people largely remain at the bottom of the pyramid scheme that is capitalist.
With all that taken into consideration, we simply cannot give up on each other. A Tribe Called Quest said it best there’s no space program for niggers.
The money pig’s quest to amass as much wealth as possible, is an act of pure evil. With evil being diametrically opposed to life, with its assertion relative to individual or social interest. The money pig’s hunger for opulence is changing mother Earth’s atmosphere at such an alarming rate, that soon it will become inhabitable for human beings. Simultaneously the money pig is searching for other planets to colonize, them motherfuckers are done with continents, they are levelling up to colonizing planets and you best believe motherfuckers aren’t planning to take any kaffirs with them. They will have artificially aware robots to tend to there every need. Obviously this is a hyperbolic metaphor of the coloniser’s intent but there is more than a grain of truth to it.
Thus I believe a black man’s participation in the corruption of private and public institutions, for whatever reason, is treachery of the highest order. Liberal individualism is not an option for the black person because its logical conclusion is the annihilation of black culture through appropriation and the vilification of black people in the annals of history, through propaganda.
My ninja was insulted by my rationalization but fortunately for our relationship my phone rang. The honies I had organized for the night’s club hopping were at the gate and somebody needed to pay the cab driver. So naturally we put aside the politics to deal with the more important issue of the day, turning up and getting laid.
IT was Kenyan author and philosopher John Mbiti who said “I am because we are and since we are, therefore I am.” It’s Ubuntu. I couldn’t think of anything else, as I heard the story behind the making of Cameroonian artist Blick Bassy’s music video, Ngwa.
“…it’s inspired by a Kenyan story and a South African freedom fighter, the whole album is about a Cameroonian guy…and somehow put all that in a pot and cook it and see what comes out. I think if there’s a future for African art that’s it,” said director Tebog ‘Tebza’ Malope speaking at Blik’s screening in Joburg. Hosted in a chic lower ground floor in Braamfontein, where African jazz oozes from speakers above us, under warm burgundy lights at the Untitled Basement, off kilter attendees converse in their huddles as they eagerly wait to see the video on a Thursday night.
The song Ngwa is from Blick’s upcoming album, 1958 which comes out in March. 1958 is an ode to Cameroonian trade unionist and France adversary, Ruben Um Nyobè and the heroes of the Cameroonian Independence-all in the hope of reconnecting Cameroonians with their true history. Um Nyobè was butchered in 1958 by the French government and buried in concrete to remove any remnant of his legacy in the memory of Cameroonians.
“…making this project and telling Um Nyobè’s story, it was really important for me to come to Africa, to make it here and with people from here. People don’t know my country, they just know this one view coming from one storyteller, coming from a Western country. But here you have a beautiful storyteller, this is storytelling through this video. We have to show things by ourselves,” Blick shares his thought on the Ngwa video.
“He was a fighter, a visionary…he was someone who wanted to build people, not just for freedom but he wanted everyone to be equal. Um Nyobè was fighting for this. If you look at Cameroon today, we’re just living everything he was talking about-we have a lot of tribalism in Cameroon today, he spoke about this. So if we really wana go forward, we have to be connected to the roots-that’s why trees are beautiful, because with no roots there’s no tree.”
To visually tell this story, Blick roped in South African director Tebza, who borrowed from African narratives, to tell the story of these uncelebrated heroes. “I was reading Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o’s book called Matigari and the first chapter is about a Mau Mau soldier, in East Africa in Kenya who, in the first chapter has his AK47…somebody runs up the mountain to tell him ‘yo, we don’t have to train anymore, we’re free now. So come down’…” said Tebza explaining the inspiration.
After burying his rifle and descending from the mountain, the soldier grows a sense of disenchantment with this new world, as it seems he was sold a dream only for him to lay down his arms. “Same narrative with South Africa, same narrative with Cameroon. So when I started chatting with Blick about Um Nyobè, I realised there’s some sorta intersection between East, West and Southern Africa…”
The video was shot on the mountains of Lesotho, in wet and icy temperatures. “This was probably my hardest shoot ever. The horror stories behind this; we lost a day because of someone who was stuck at the boarder gate, we lost half a day because of the rain, had some trouble finding the horses because they ran often and just one thing after another,” says Tebza, who last year won the Best Music Video for Kwesta’s Spirit.
Renowned television and movie director Roli Nikiwe, who was present on the night, drove the crew to Lesotho and upon getting there, he offered to help by being the first AD, looking for locations and even assisting with the catering. “Africans always come together to complain about the enemy, the coloniser, but put two Africans together and there’s beauty. To watch the two of you guys, get together and put your heads together, make something work, for me was a beautiful example of what we could do as a continent,” said Nikiwe.
The video has beautiful wide shots that display the beauty of the African landscape. “…There’s rarely a close-up, because I just want you to see it. We’re talking about Africa that was taken from us, so let’s show it and see what was taken,” said the director.
The video ends off with Blick being stabbed with a spear by pursuing imperialists on open land “…The last bit is actually taken from Solomon Mahlangu’s statement before they hung him, ‘my blood will nourish the tree of freedom’…so in death, in Ruben Um Nyobè’s death, Solomon Mahlangu’s death, in the death of so many of our struggle heroes, they didn’t really die, they multiply, they became trees and they live on forever,” shared Tebza.
IT is like the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. No, it’s similar to what that Idabala track did to people over the festive season. Actually, it’s a combination of the aforementioned plus the eagerness of an avid drinker at the site of an open bar. That’s what an election year does to politicians- it brings out their silly side.
We’ve only 10 days in the year but we’ve already seen and heard some ridiculous things spewing from candidates’ mouths. This article is not about the sound decisions you should make when you get to the ballot box come vote day. No. It’s to help you see through the bullshit that will be dished out, in the lead up to the country’s sixth democratic elections. The IEC hasn’t announced the date for this year’s voting, but it’s expected to be in May.
BELOW ARE FIVE RIDICULOUS THINGS YOU’LL SEE POLITICIANS DO TO GET YOUR VOTE:
THE EMERGENCE OF NEW POLITICAL PARTIES
Hludi Motsoeneng has big dreams of becoming president of this country one day. The discredited former SABC boss launched his party, the African Content Movement party last month. “The new animal, ACM, is [an] African first. Anything that we produce in South Africa will be 90% South African because it is very important to empower people of South Africa. We need to start here at home,” said Motsoeneng at the launch of ACM.
He has an interesting affinity with 90%. This is the same percentage he insisted on a couple of years ago while at the SABC, when he pushed for a quota for state radio stations to play substantial local music. There’s a common thread between these newly found political homes, besides the fact that they die out a year or so after an election, their party names usually sound like incomplete slogans or sentences.
Gupta-associate Mzwandile Manyi hinted at launching a political party too this year. But yesterday he announced that he’ll be joining the ATM-African Transformation Movement, a party formed by displeased Jacob Zuma supporters.
THE SHOW OF SUPERFICIAL AFFECTION TO THE PEOPLE
Yes, it’s that season where the lips of presidential candidates get busier than that of teen girls pouting for selfies. The kissing of babies while on a campaign trail is a US tradition which political contenders from around the world have adopted. Here in South Africa kissing babies isn’t the only way to show warmth and kindness to hopeful voters.
Smooching senior citizens and going to the homes of the impoverished is also a card that politicians play. As a way of being ‘in touch with the people’ some politicians will actually go out of their way and butcher people’s languages while addressing them. You should hear a Mmusi Maimane promising a better life for rural people in the KwaZulu-Natal, in the most uncomfortable isiZulu you’ll hear.
STUPENDOUS HAND OUTS OF POLITICAL REGALIA
Maybe it’s that track by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson, or that line from Kanye’s Good Life… but whatever it is, people sure do believe that the best things in life are free. Politicians take advantage of people because of that very fact. Citizens are always ready to get on a free bus ride to a stadium, where they’ll be handed free T-shirts just so the arena looks like it’s filled up by active members of that party. Caps and lanyards are also handed out at these mass gatherings.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ANNOYINGLY TRYING TO BE COOL
I cringed at the site of seeing former President Zuma rocking a straight cap dabbing with fellow comrades his age at a rally, campaigning for the 2016 Municipal elections all in a bid to lure young voters. Another trick they’ll pull, is of a celebrity’s endorsement. Photos of EFF Chief Julius Malema and rapper AKA at an event circulated social over the festive season. That was no coincidence.
The likes of AKA, Kwesta and Nasty C have millions of followers who some will be voting for the first or at least second time this year and politicians are very much aware of that. Just like any brand, political parties will lure artists with big cheques so that they encourage their fans to vote for a particular organization.
THE BIG PROMISES THEY MAKE AT MANIFESTOS
You know that friend who’ll randomly call you and suggest y’all go out. You get there and after the bill arrives, that person decides to tell you that they actually don’t have the money to pay because of personal issue. That’s how these political fellas will make you feel post-election.
It’s sad, the promises they make to desperate, destitute and gullible civilians who’ve religiously given their vote to them but have received nothing significant in return for their trust. It’s the major reason for young people’s disenchantment with the elections because history has taught them to never trust politicians’ hogwash.
The land issue, as it is commonly referred to, is one of the most emotive topics South Africa is yet to resolve. In a bid to be consistent with the values of democracy, parliament has facilitated a process of public participation to address the issue. Of the over 700 000 written submissions, that of AfriForum was the most polarizing.
It came at a time when US president Donald Trump echoed the lie that white farmers are facing genocide at the hands of the black majority in South Africa. That narrative predates Trump’s Tweet in American white supremacist circles. In 2012, the ADL Centre on Extremism reported that neo-Nazi and racist skinhead movements were preparing to protest against “genocide of whites in South Africa.”
AfriForum has a similar stance on what they term “farm murders” which when quantified, accounted for 74 of the 20366 murders reported by the SAPS from 1 April 2016 to 1 March 2017. The term “genocide” is an unnecessary hyperbole.
The written submission by Afriforum was a plethora of mistruths and lacked substantive solutions and suggestions. Afriforum isolated three methods through which white settlers acquired land. These modes were the settlement on unoccupied land, purchases from tribal leaders and conquest. In addition, they claim that conquest was the least significant of these modes of acquisition. Although they claim they sympathise with the plight of the landless African majority, they suggest land reform should be conducted in a “historically accurate” manner. We are yet to be enlightened on what the litmus test for the historical accuracy is.
Farm lobbying group, Agri SA states that 73.3% off agricultural land in SA is white owned. In 1994, government and “previously disadvantaged” individuals owned 14.9% of agricultural land and 26.7% in 2016. Government ownership of land accounts for 29.1% of the land value and 46.5% of the production value. This is disproportionate using any measure, even in the absence of a comprehensive land audit. In the same breath, it is short-sighted to place all our focus on agricultural land. Only 12% of the country’s land is suitable to cultivate rain-fed crops. The primary agricultural sector contributes 2% of GDP. The idea that food security will be compromised as a result of land expropriation is absurd.
South African farmers are dwarfed by Chinese farmers who, due to stable water sources, are able to “double crop.” This technique allows for rice to be cultivated in June/July and a less productive crop in October/November using the same size of land. Agriculture and geography will help debunk the first myth that whites occupied unoccupied land.
The nomadic lifestyle of precolonial South Africa was not a function of underdevelopment but rather, a function of Africa’s geography. Africa is three times the size of Europe so it is reasonable to assume that there are vast vacant areas. Africa is a large landmass and deserts like the Sahara and Kahari form easily inland 30 degrees from the equator. Rainforests form on the equator while savannas form between the rainforests and savannas.
Rainfall is unpredictable. Savannas starve when there is little rainfall while the soil in rainforests gets eroded when there are heavy rains. These dynamics make agriculture extremely challenging in Africa. Large static and urbanised communities can only be sustained by large-scale farming. There were exceptions to the nomadic societies. Great Zimbabwe and Kilwa Kisiwani are such exceptions. Since the border between Zimbabwe and SA is artificial, we can use the story of Cecil John Rhodes to debunk the second myth that land was acquired legally through sales.
Rhodes left his brother’s cotton plantation to join the diamond rush in Kimberly. The Rudd Concession was used to obtain the Royal Charter but it also granted De Beers exclusive mining rights in Lobengulo’s territory which would be restricted to 10 mines. This was in exchange for protection from Boer settlers.
Armed with maxim guns, he hired 1400 mercenaries, each promised 6000 acres of land and 16 claims to mine gold Rhodes killed 3000 of Lobengula’s warriors. As President of the British South Africa Company (BSAC), Rhodes managed to obtain a Royal Charter from the United Kingdom. The Royal Charter was granted under the guise that Rhodes would control parts of Mashonaland and Matebeleland that were “not in use” by the native Africans. The Royal Charter gave BSAC to establish a police force, create financial institutions and fly its own flag.
By 1895, BSAC had imposed a hut tax, native reservations and introduced passes to restrict the movements of the African majority. By 1914, the African majority (97% of the population) occupied 23% of the non-productive land. As Prime Minister of the British Cape Colony, he oversaw the implementation of the Glen Grey Act which sought to further dispossess blacks. This act ensured that blacks were not allowed to sell land without the consent of the governor and were barred from subletting land. To ensure that landlessness was a generational phenomenon for blacks, the act also stated that blacks were not allowed to give land as an inheritance to more than one heir.
Due to their insatiable hunger for African land and minerals, the Boers in the Transvaal and Rhodesians had a bloody war. The first concentration camps were as a result of this war. The rationale for Rhodes’ aggression towards the Boers was simple. The revenues from gold would make the Boers a threat. If they were to join forces with German colonists in the west (Namibia) they would disturb his grand plans to move north and ultimately colonize the entire African continent.
Afriforum needs to enlighten us on how such contracts could have been legally binding if Lobengula and many other African leaders did not have contractual capacity to enter such contracts as they did not understand the language these contracts were written in.
Conquest was the most barbaric tool used to attain land. The legal steps taken to dispossess Africans were equally unjust and the most effective because the status quo remains. Populist politicians would have us believe that land ownership equals prosperity.
This may very well be the case in a situation where blacks are backyard dwellers and townships are densely populated. “I prefer land to niggers” is a quote by Rhodes that would sum up Afriforum’s stance to land reform.