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As much a Black thing as it is White

05 January 2012, 14:52
Inequality and social injustice -- is as much a Black thing as it is White

In present day South Africa, and Zimbabwe for instance, it is blindingly obvious that there is widespread inclination to imagine that all the ills of the dispossessed/disadvantaged masses is explicable as a product of an imported White culture of inequality, with racism as its most pernicious form.

So it is instinctively imagined that, but for this import by White imperialists/colonialists, we would not really have a problem of inequality. In the result there is a huge tendency to see Black leaders as our saviours and reject White leaders as disqualified. Typically we are inflicted with articles such as  - “This great black hope is inaudible without white” by an otherwise very good journalist/editor Phylicia Oppelt.  The whole point of the article is to discredit Lindiwe Mazibuko, as a political leader, simply because she is in association with a White led political party.

Oppelt is not being deliberately dishonest or racist. The problem is founded in her imagination. She imagines that what she is putting down is fair comment and this is because, like so many, she imagines that the culture of inequality is a “White thing”, imported by Whites. In the result Whites are substantively and perceptually disqualified from leading anybody to true freedom, let alone the disadvantaged Black majority. So it is all too easy for her to even rate Julius “Whites are thieves” Malema as preferable to Mazibuko because, according to Oppelt, there are no White links in his stance and message.

So we really need to dispassionately examine the proposition that the concept/culture of inequality is a product of White mentality? Is it?

In my book “The Other – without fear, favour or prejudice” I relate how my Black grandmother, an Ndebele woman of the abeZansi class, accepted very few of the other ethnic groups, White or Black, as her equal.  Her behaviour was normal. That is the point. Her attitude and behaviour was perfectly normal for the times she was living in. That is an undeniable fact and cannot be gainsaid or wished away.

My grandmother was an Ndebele of the Mzilikazi clan. Mzilikazi, as is known, fled from Shaka Zulu and migrated to what is now Zimbabwe. Mzilikazi and his people took the prevailing Zulu culture with them. Equality was not part of the culture.

So this whole region was steeped in inequality; inequality of the most pernicious proportions. In South Africa Shaka’s kingdom was founded on and kept dominant in terms of a most brutal pogrom known as mfecane.

Mfecane is used primarily to refer to the period when Mzilikazi, a king of the Matabele, dominated the Transvaal. During his reign, roughly from 1826 to 1836, he ordered widespread killings and devastation to remove all opposition. He reorganized the territory to establish the new Ndebele order. The death toll has never been satisfactorily determined, but the whole region became nearly depopulated.

In addition the Zulu nation was defined and structured as unequal with the abeZansi class being ‘royalty”. The people were divided into three main sections: the Abezansi [who were the aristocrats], the Abenhla [middle class] and the Amaholi comprising folk who had been captured in raids on other tribes.The Amaholi or Holi were practically in the position of bondsmen and rarely allowed to possess cattle.  

In Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) all other tribes were raided, robbed and quite brutally subjugated to the rule and dominance of the newly arrived Ndebele from South Africa. So the Whites were not the first colonizers. Neither were they the first to import the culture of inequality.

It is a reality that the culture of inequality was something of an international pandemic internationally. From earliest time man was preoccupied with invading, raiding and subjugating his fellow men, all over the world. Alexander even got the name “Alexander The Great” for indulging in such thoroughly objectionable conduct. It is unnecessary to burden this post with the innumerable other examples such as the exploits of Genghis Khan.

What is far more pertinent is to point out that the concept/culture of equality was just about nowhere to be found in this world be it China, Britain (aristocracy), Russia, India (untouchables) or anywhere else. A “classless society” was never part of the ordinary approach of humanity throughout its existence. So Shaka and the Zulus, and Mzilikazi and the Ndebeles were simply part of an international norm that was no more “White” than it was any other complexion!

So where does all this lead us to? What is its significance? To answer these question we need to imagine one more thing. What would have been the norm had the White man not arrived? Do we imagine that we would all have been living as equals in a classless society?

Now be honest. The truth shall set you free.

And the truth is that whether it be Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille or anyone else, each has equal potential to be a good or a bad leader. Their race or ethnicity really has nothing to do with it!

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