13 Dec, 2018

Political Commentary



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.



TRENDS in the South African socio-political space, always put a spotlight on racial tension among the country’s citizens. Bigots crept out their crevices, following news that William Nicole’s set to be renamed after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

“William Nicole opposed Bantu Education, translated the Bible into isiZulu and said blacks must go to school in their first language. Winnie put burning tyres around people’s necks. Renaming the road from him to that thing shows exactly what’s wrong with SA,” said Digibyte Africa on Twitter.

It’s one thing to disagree with a name change, but insulting the late and underrated Madikizela-Mandela and referring to her as ‘that thing’ is the stuff of extremists who were intimidated by the ANC stalwart. Not to suggest that there aren’t Africans who don’t endorse the name change, I’m just irked by the argument presented by most Caucasians who are incessantly infatuated with the radical Madikizela-Mandela.

One Gregory Harington went on to suggest that Madikizela-Mandela was the one who popularised necklacing during apartheid. “Winnie Mandela encouraged the practice of necklacing. I don’t know the name of anyone else who did. Her victims are silent,” said Harington. His reasoning reminded me of Desmond Tutu’s questioning of Madikizela-Mandela during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I was the only one in the ANC who was taken to the TRC by her own government,” said Madikizela-Mandela in a documentary.

Whether or not Madikizela-Mandela did popularise necklacing, why are her activities during the struggle still being questioned, over 20 years into democracy and months after her burial? A number of people were forced into violence during apartheid as a result of what the police and government was doing to black people, daily. Black men and women who are in parliament today or who are sitting cosy somewhere enjoying retirement, committed inhumane crimes in the name of furthering the struggle against an unjust system. Madikizela-Mandela kept the movement active on the ground while most of today’s celebrated politicians were in prison, exile or in diapers.

In an August Green song (on their NPR desk performance) female rapper Maimouna Youssef said being a female is like being black twice and even in her grave, Mam’Winnie remains a victim of the deadly tag-team of patriarchy and racism. Over 10 years ago the Johannesburg International Airport was changed to OR Tambo International and it too, received backlash from a number of people who were still in pains that the airport was no longer named Jan Smuts (the ANC insisted on changing the airport name when it came into power in 1994). But people’s reaction then, doesn’t match the current outraged over the suggestion of renaming a mere road after Madikizela-Mandela.

Complaints from white people about this come off as petty. Their lack of understanding that the country needs to be inclusive of everyone while simultaneously acknowledging that black people are the majority and everything in the country needs to reflect this. “White God is not recognised…please sit down with your white supremacy tendencies. William Nicole Road is coming to an end, making way to the dawn of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Road/Street/Avenue…let it sink in,” C-Ya Mshengu Tweeted.

A number of black people welcomed the idea of the name change, while others preferred to focus their energies on the R17 per litre petrol price hike which has rocketed Mzansi this week. “I thought I would be seeing a plan to stop this petrol increase trending, instead I see changing name like William Nicole etc. When are we attending to petrol mara…”tweeted Docmedia Mlambo.



TODAY marks 41 years since the sad passing of Steve Bantu Biko. He was beaten to a point of brain damage, leading to his death in a cell, naked and alone in shackles.

But despite his gruesome death, Biko shines through the history books as the founding father of Black Consciousness.

Black Consciousness stood against black self-hate, the eagerness to please white people, the inferiority of blacks in the presence of Caucasians and the inherent belief that everything white is right and that black is wrong. Among many other things.

In the past few years, there’s been a growing sense of pro-blackness among black people all over the world over.

Whether it’s through the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, the EFF bringing back the conversation around land in Mzansi, South Africans’ growing appreciation for fellow Africans on the continent and in the diaspora or even blacks being conscious of the importance of supporting each other. These goings-on are inspired directly or indirectly, by the words Biko spoke nearly 50 years ago, .

Black people are being fortified by his words. Words he uttered because he liked it, but also because it was and still is important that black people hear them. It’s really mind-bending that he was just 29 when he died.

Here are some of Biko’s finest quotes:

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.”

“I would like to remind the black ministry, and indeed all black people, that God is not in the habit of coming down from heaven to solve people’s problems on earth.”

“What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce real black people who do not regard themselves as appendages to white society. We do not need to apologise for this because it is true that the white systems have produced through the world a number of people who are not aware that they too are people.”

“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time.”

“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality.”

“It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.”

“You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.”

“People must not give in to hardships of life. People must develop hope.”

“I write what I like.”



KASI lama kasi can never be a hood’s nickname. Everyone rightfully punts their neighbourhood as the coolest black area. But each township in South Africa has a nickname, approved by its people, which sometimes ties to the history of the place.

I was chilling with a fella this past weekend who told me he was from Vutha. You know when you’ve heard something before, but don’t know exactly know what it is. I went blank and asked where that is. “It’s Daveyton,” he said.

“Because it was the first township in Gauteng to get electricity,” he said. I thought he was bullshitting me, really. I’ve met many people who’ll talk-up their hoods, to a point of which they get frustratingly economical with the truth. But after doing some research, I found that, what he said is true.

Established in 1952, after about 151,656 people were moved from Benoni, to what we know today as Vutha or Etwatwa. It was indeed, the first black area to access ugesi.

The president of the Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce (Galxcoc), Mpho Motsumi last year bemoaned to the media, while taking them around the construction site of the R500-million Alex Mall in Tsutsumani Village. What got the business man cranky, was that people still call Alex, Gomorrah- ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ a biblical reference of place linked to hell because of the prevalence of debauchery in the area.  Rappers like Flabba popularised the name in recent times, but it’s been a name associated with the township for decades now. There was a time when Alex had a high crime rate, a coupled with the lawless gangsterism that was in the area-despite political movements happening there.

Some nicknames aren’t linked to the township’s past, but are just tweaked so to make the place a tad bit cooler. I’m not certain whether it was a collective agreement but, shortening hood names seems to be the winning formula in most parts of Pretoria. For Mamelodi there’s Mams, Soshanguve which is situated on the north is commonly known as Sosha, even to us who don’t call it home. While the ‘Ga’ in Ga-Rankuwa seems a waste of two precious seconds, so Rankuwa is the more efficient one for residents.

Sowetans have also opted for something similar. Calling the south western townships Sotra. While the number of townships within that area, have nicknames of their own. Guguletu in Cape Town also just switched the swag and just called it, Gugs.

In KwaZulu-Natal, KwaMashu is nicknamed Es’nqawunqawini while Clermont is known as Es’komplazi. Ekurhuleni Township Tsakane, which is a Tsonga word for happiness and joy, is nicknamed Mashona.

If Tembisa was a gang, those thugs would tattoo 1632 on their bodies. What is it? Tembisa’s postal code my friend. Insipid as a postal code is, the youth in Tembisa, particularly those in the Hip Hop community, popularised it in the mid-90s. Tembisa’s older generation and also those who aren’t in the Hip Hop community,still prefer to call it Mambisa. Other hoods that have gone with the number are Kagiso with 1754, Thokoza 1421 or Vosloorus’s 1425. I’ve found that this is a trend, also adopted by Hip Hop heads in other hoods. A random person doesn’t say they are from 1563, they simply say they are from KwaThema, or just Thema.

The common thread in all these townships, sadly is that they were formed after black people were forcefully removed from some areas, to be crammed in one place right near their modern day fields of slavery. But black people have taken what was meant to trap and prison them, and found the beauty in it.



How does one begin to commemorate a giant such as the late Veronica Sobukwe?

A woman whose contribution and selfless sacrifices have been erased and hidden from the public eye, so much so that we know her only as a wife rather than the strong, resilient and fighting activist that she truly was.

Born on July 27 in 1972, Zondeni Veronica Mathe was born in Hlobane (now known as Kwa-Zulu natal).

Her contribution to the liberation struggle began in her youth, where she was at the forefront of championing a labour dispute between nurses and hospital management. At the time she was a trainee nurse at the hospital and due to this strike she was expelled from Lovedale College, the (Fort-hare) ANCYL deployed Veronica to go and deliver a letter to Walter Sisulu informing him of the unhappy nurses and their cries. It was at this time that she and Robert Sobukwe, built a close bond, and in June of 1954 Veronica became Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe as she and Robert Sobukwe got married.

Together Again: Mma Zondeni Veronica and husband Bab’ Robert Sobukwe.

From the days of her youth, it is evident that Veronica cared about people more than she cared about herself. She continued to be the backbone and strength of the community, as she selflessly served and gave hope to the hopeless black community. Like many other unsung heroines, she carried the burden of a fatherless community on her back, she was the embodiment of courage to the women whose husbands were in prison or dead somewhere in South Africa.

Whilst being the strength of the community, she was raising her children, alone as her husband was in prison on Robben Island.

She was consistent in fighting a white-racist apartheid regime, and evidently so when she would challenge the government under the leadership of Voster and his collective, demanding the release of her husband and other prisoners. She wrote endless letters to the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, her letters were not only rejected they were ignored. She fought to keep the name and legacy of Robert Sobukwe alive.

During the TRC in 1997, she again challenged the apartheid regime, questioning the death of her husband. She believed that the government had poisoned his food and as a result caused his untimely passing. She was determined to fight for her husband.

It is heart-breaking that the names of great women such as Veronica, Albertina Sisulu, and Winnie Mandela are erased, that the history books in schools mention them as wives and mothers-that their immense contribution the liberation movement and the liberation of South Africa is downplayed.

Mma Sobukwe never turned a blind eye on the needs of the black people, and selflessly ensured that she did what she could to ensure that they were met.

Today we see her images flooding social media and the media at large, because the society we live in recognizes people when they’ve passed on. If only people could take time to truly get to understand her immense role in the struggle and fall in love with her downplayed legacy. If only young people could take upon the heavy baton she has now left behind.

Mma Sobukwe had to live in the time where she witnessed the freedom she fought for being tainted. Where young people are imprisoned and deprived of an education for fighting for equal and free education, where young girls live in fear of men in their own country and where children still live in fatherless and motherless households.

Mma Sobukwe has been consistently isolated and neglected, from the time her husband was imprisoned, to the time he was announced dead all the way to when she was announced dead, on August 15 2018 at the age of 91.



The Baton passed over (A letter to Veronica Mathe)

Oh Mama Azania, Imbi Lendawo, when you die they flood your images on social media
but they failed to celebrate you when you were alive, they let your contribution and existence fade into thin air
They ignored your sacrifices
They feared the legacy you were to leave behind, the baton you would pass over to another generation of women

Your life teaches us to be women of courage, of fortitude, of resilience and of strength, to fight fire with fire, to fight fearless. uQinisile mbokodo

Mama Lendawo Imbi, you lived in a time where you witnessed the freedom you fought for bought at the price of gender based violence, and wrapped in patriarchy.
Mama you witnessed the freedom of your people tainted by corruption and self-seeking leaders
Mama you witnessed the black nation dying, the young people imprisoned for fighting for their educational rights, whilst rapists and criminals roam free.
They failed to put in words your immense contribution
The baton young women carry in their hands is heavy, but we will fight patriarchy, mama we will tackle, and champion gender based violence, we will expropriate the land.

May you stir up in us your courage, strength, selfless, compassionate and caring nature, to conquer, to challenge and to shake this world
We will not weep for you, we will ensure your feared legacy continues to shake tectonic plates, we will ensure the history books don’t forget your name.
Qhawekazi, siyaku bonga.- Boitumelo Thage


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