It has become somewhat of a political playground; especially for ANC politicians, to scare the masses of our people about the potential anger that will be visited upon them from the ancestors should they fail to vote for the ANC. This started with Jacob Zuma in the lead up to the 2009 elections, in which he also declared that ANC will rule ‘until Jesus comes back’.
I grew up in a typical African home which acknowledged the existence of God, and the existence of ancestors as mediators. Growing up I heard and witnessed my grandmother praying to both God and our ancestors for help and protection. She occasionally took us to the graves of our late relatives, to clean around them, place flowers and then pray for their help and protection. Well, I personally don’t believe in ancestors, but that is really irrelevant in the context of this piece because millions of South Africans do, and they take it very seriously.
The aim of this piece is not really to test the rationality or lack thereof of believing in ancestors, but to test the ANC logic that they will really be angry with us should we not vote for them. Therefore, the main issue is not whether it is rational to believe in ancestors or not, millions of Africans and African households in South Africa do. Politicians are shrewd creatures because they know this fact and will exploit it to their heart’s content, whether they themselves believe or not. So let’s play a little game now and test their logic.
Prior to the cultural and religious colonisation of the African natives, they always acknowledged the existence of a supernatural entity (say God for argument sake). They believed that this entity was responsible for the creation of all that existed, and was also active in sustaining both us (humans) and the material universe. Africans also believed that our loved ones who departed from the physical world went to be with God, and there they played a role as mediators for us. As those who were once with us, and loved us and understood our struggles, they would then intercede on our behalf for our help, guidance, and protection.
Our relationship with our ancestors is such that we are always expected to do what is pleasing in their eyes, so that we can maintain their favour. This is to our advantage because if they are happy with us then they can help us when we are in need, they can happily give us guidance when we are lost, and they can also provide protection for us. On the other hand, if we displease them they will be very angry with us and they will not hear our prayers.
The ANC seems to understand the African’s relationship with ancestors very well; this is why they can easily manipulate us by ‘playing the ancestral card’. But exactly why do they think we will be compelled with their argument?
You see, the ANC knows that every African individual knows and at least acknowledges the big role of the ANC in the liberation struggle of the African people. The ANC was established solely to defend the rights of the African people against the colonial forces, against the oppression and dispossession of the African masses. They know that every African individual knows the role of the ANC in helping collapse apartheid and handing to an African child political freedom, somehow reclaiming an African’s citizenship in the land of their forefathers.
Therefore to most Africans, the ANC is this great liberator of our ancestors, and the emotional tie to this movement runs very deep. As our ancestors saw this great movement as the great hope of our people, it would seem against their will for us to go against a movement they put all their hopes in. Could the ANC leaders actually be right about this?
I would like to argue that NO, our ancestors (even those that founded this great movement) would actually be angry with us for continuing to vote it today. And this is why.
The history of South Africa since 1652 is such that the successive colonial administrations had systematically dispossessed African communities of their land. The loss of this precious and crucial resource has over the years lead to the impoverishment of African communities all across the breadth of our beautiful country, and it is the primary and most important reason for the African organised resistance from the beginning of the 20th century.
Therefore, land dispossession lies at the heart of South Africa's history and heritage of inequity, and this organised African resistance came against the backdrop of massive deprivation of Africans' right to own land.
From the formation of the (white) Union of South African in 1910, which was basically the formalisation and crowning of the defeat of Africans, successive deprivation laws against Africans were passed, culminating in 1913 with the Native’s Land Act, and then Africans were officially made foreigners in South Africa.
This is the context in which the ANC was formed. The South African Native National Congress (later renamed African National Congress) was formed as an African protest movement against this white union and the impending proclamation of the Native’s Land Act which basically prohibited Africans from owning or leasing land.
Remember that this law was passed following over two centuries of African land (both productive and residential) expropriation without any compensation by successive colonial administrations, at many instances by forceful removal. Therefore the ANC was a protest movement against African dispossession, and its primary aim was to restore the land into the hands of the natives.
The very flag of this former great African giant also bear testimony to this truth. The flag is composed of three stripes - Black, Green and Gold. Black symbolises the native people of South Africa, Green symbolises the land mass of South Africa, and Gold represents the mineral and other natural wealth of South Africa.
In order words, when our ancestors (more specifically those who lived during the 20th century) saw the ANC, they saw hope of a whole country (politically and economically) restored into the hands of the natives of the land.
The current ANC has been given a mandate by the masses of our people since 1994, by repeatedly giving it an overwhelming majority, to fulfil the dream of our forefathers (our ancestors) to restore the dignity of the native by returning the land and it has failed to do so. Not only has it failed, it has shown no willingness to fulfil the dreams, aspirations and will of our ancestors.
Putting all this into proper consideration, I put it to all Africans that NO, our ancestors will actually be angry with us for continuing to vote for a party that is totally disregarding their wishes. Don’t be fooled by these posers who have abandoned the struggle of our forefathers (our ancestors).
As Frantz Fanon puts it, “For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
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