Could Mulder be right?

2012-03-07 00:00

THE recent utterances by leader of the Freedom Front Pieter Mulder have inflamed and agitated the majority race and most progressive-thinking individuals. Yet, this article takes an altogether different view of Mulder's historical revisionism (storytelling).

To begin with, this article to a large degree agrees with Mulder's theoretical argument, which really hinges on the fact that South Africa is a contested terrain intellectually and until the African understands this truth, his or her story will forever take a back seat to the white story.

Yet, Mulder blurred the line bet­ween reality and storytelling by stating that "Africans in particular never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa". And even though his revision of history was incorrect, the real debate should be about his insinuations and held truths. Furthermore, the anger shown at Mulder is really misplaced, and should rather be channelled towards wrestling this land's resources back towards the African.

Mulder's theoretical argument should be welcomed and dealt with analytically. For in welcoming his false assumptions, people can actually gain insight into the thinking of people like him who aren't necessarily white. Saint Augustine said: "Don't you believe that there is in man a deep [truth] so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is? Mulder's argument rests on three assumptions.

Truth is white

When Mulder explained his argument, he based it on a book he proudly waved around, which presented skewed interpretations of history. This wasn't actually the cornerstone of his argument. The main thrust was that blacks and Africans in particular haven't presented any acceptable academic argument to challenge "our white" history. Emotions aside, could he be right? After all, how many Africans in the National Assembly stood up to debate him, based on available literature, except on the following day and in subsequent written articles.

However, responses coming through haven't been enough and most disappointingly in a few weeks' time this debate will disappear from the national consciousness, but the thinking of people like Mulder won't. The defining silence that will ultimately arrive won't be because the majority population doesn't care, but because post-1994 Africans and blacks haven't invested time and resources in educating their children and themselves about their own history and their role in becoming knowledge makers.

The most startling fact concerning this issue of truth and academic proof is the fact that members of the African majority are the chief culprits in not taking up their rightful place as equal academics and leaders. Proof of this is seen in the lack of interest in literature such as The Second Coming: The Life and Times of Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, the Founder of the ANC by Moss Mashamaite and books by first-generation African intellectuals such as Magema Fuze, who wrote Abantu Abamnyama Lapa Bavela Ngakona. Or the fact that leaders like Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Kaizer Motaung and Kalamazoo Mokone aren't being unpacked. And perhaps most disappointing is the fact that Africans and blacks have allowed white academics, foreign or local, to narrate their own history.

Negotiated Settlement:

Minority Rule

Mulder's second insinuation that the white population "compromised" and as such should be readily accommodated for its sacrifice. Well, nothing else can really explain Mulder's emboldened stance in the face of well-documented history. Conversely, could one imagine going to the German Reichstagsgebäude (parliament) and hearing a pro-Nazi sympathiser state: "Adolf Hitler wasn't that bad. He was just misunderstood for killing Jews." Such a scenario wouldn't happen, yet in the year of the ANC centenary we heard Mulder's shocking sentiments. A deeper analysis shows that they are the building blocks for resistance to policies like Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment. Clearly, this highlights just how exaggerated our Constitution is.

African and black people's neglect of their history has led to a situation described best by anti-colonist intellectual Frantz Fanon: "The colonial world is a world cut in two … In a capitalist society the educational system, whether lay or clerical, the structure of moral reflexes handed down … all these aesthetic expressions of respect for the established order serve to create around the exploited person an atmosphere of submission and of inhibition …" Eighteen years after 1994, Fanon's words seem to capture perfectly the African person's situation in South Africa — not sure whether to revolt, vote or just not care and live for self (which ultimately kills what the struggle was about).

What the struggle was about

Finally, Mulder and his ilk could be correct, for one reason. The issue of what the struggle was about. No issue is as heated as land in Mzansi, because no other issue exposes our false victory as Africans and blacks. So when Mulder made his statements it whispered (loudly) to us that for all the BBBEE deals, government positions, tenders and constitutional frugality, Steve Biko's words still ring true: "Black man you are on your own". With no land, no economics, no family, no pride, no home — just homelessness in the land of your ancestors.

• Kagiso Pooe holds a Master's degree in public policy from UKZN. He is the former head tutor for UKZN's School of Politics.

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