The F-word: Happy political Valentine’s Day

2012-07-14 13:43

Mandela Day, the political equivalent of Valentine’s Day, is upon us, and I have made peace with that.

Like the conventional Valentine’s Day, it is everyone’s prerogative to commemorate any day they wish – as cheesy as it might be.

I do wonder, though, how many of those who will be queuing up to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day this week care to know that their saint is a product of the same ­African nationalism that has become a favourite punching bag for political opportunists.

The tirade against African nationalism and Africanism has become fashionable.

Radio talkshows and some commentators have taken the short cut of calling any black person, like Julius Malema, who uses the historical marginalisation to justify their racism or greed, “an Africanist” or African nationalist.

Latter-day converts to non-racialism have made themselves the chief interpreters of what African nationalism or Africanism is about. They waste no opportunity to distort African nationalism or brand Africanists as black supremacists and as opponents of non-racism.

It is altogether another matter that Africans in Africa must be defensive about being African nationalists or Africanists.

African nationalism is the antithesis of the backward tribalism that sees some leaders declare 100% allegiance to tribal groups 100 years after the founding fathers of their own movement realised that unless Africans saw themselves as one and not as little ethnic communities, white domination would persist unchallenged.

History will show it was the Africanists who introduced the concept of non-racism and that there is only one race – the human race.

Instead of embracing African nationalists’ and Africanists’ pledge to form a common nationhood, the distorters keep themselves relevant by spreading the falsehood that Africanists’ raison d’être is to “drive the whites to the sea”.

Africanists should not apologise for their contribution to African freedom and for continuing to help Africans see the world and their place in it through their own eyes.

Those who vilify African nationalism and Africanists point to the greedy, racist and fascist blacks as evidence of the backwardness of these two philosophies.

Instead of calling black racists and fascists what they are, they choose adjectives like “narrow” to kill two birds with one stone.

To deliberately misname the problem is to conveniently throw out the greed and racism bathwater with the liberating baby of African nationalism and Africanism. It is simply ahistorical.

Black racists, white supremacists and the greedy of all hues must not get away with their crimes.

Equally, noble concepts that helped set us free from European slavery of body and mind must be preserved from the poisoned pens of history rewriters.

The rant against Africanists and African nationalism must be understood from where it comes.

South Africa is in the grip of apartheid denialism and a distorted history.

Nobody alive seems to have ever supported apartheid. Even former president FW de Klerk thinks it was a minor misunderstanding between blacks and whites.

The kind of racism that is emerging everywhere today suggests we need more, not less, African nationalism – particularly what it says about self-assertion. The peculiar challenges that Africa contends with says there could never be too much Africanism.

A revived and confident African nationalism would ensure that attempts to create degrees of Africanness between the Khoisan and other Africans are nipped in the bud.

For the longest time, Africans have been written about as if they were extras in the drama of their own lives.

In freedom, if ­Africans cannot determine anything else, at least they should be able to decide when African nationalism or Africanism is “narrow” or “broad-minded”.

Those who ­divided and subjugated Africans cannot now also dictate how Africans respond to the oppression and disenfranchisement.

Africans must stop being coy and meet this assault on the memory of their gallant fight against white racism head on and not be shy to celebrate the ideological tools that won them freedom against this tyranny.

If they remain indifferent or find joy in ­being 100% this or the other tribe, theirs could be a generation that lost the freedom the Mandelas, Sobukwes and Bikos fought for. If this happened, it would be a great shame to the Nelson Mandela legacy.

»Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo


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