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 -
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
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
(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
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!