The facts will expose the fiction

2012-02-25 12:16

Mulder purveys a stale, worn-out historical argument that was called the no-man’s-land theory Pieter Mulder is quoted as having said: “Africans never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa.

The Bantu-speaking people moved down from the equator while the whites moved up from the Cape to meet each other at the Kei River.

There is sufficient proof that there were no Bantu-speaking people in the Western Cape and North Western Cape.

“These parts form 40% of South Africa’s land surface,” he says, purveying a stale, worn-out historical argument that was called the no-man’s-land theory.

It is lamentable that people who are supposed to hold doctorates, whether honorary or achieved through study, can sink to such low levels of factual ignorance.

This no-man’s-land debate was long buried in the 1950s when it constituted the fulcrum and bedrock of Bantu Education history.

It is now being revived with renewed gusto and passionate agitation by its leading disciple, the historically (dis)Honourable Mulder.

Discussing the untenability of the fallacy of the no-man’s-land theory, historian TO Maggs argued: “It may no longer be proclaimed in quite such unambiguous simplicity.

Nevertheless, more sophisticated variants of this myth still permeate history...books.”

Evidently, these are the books that Mulder relies on. He seem to have revised the original no-man’s-land theory, which argued that when Africans crossed the Limpopo River from the Congo Basin, the white people were arriving in the Cape.

There is a need to unpack Mulder’s contention in order to discern what he actually means by his assertion.

One, he argues that there is sufficient proof for his contention and yet he makes little or no effort to proffer such evidence.

Two, he precludes the Africans right to their territory and asserts the right of Europeans in South Africa based on the coincidental timing of their meeting or arrival.

Owing to this “simultaneous arrival”, no one can lay claim to the area in question.

Mulder does not even venture to elucidate that the Trekboers who left the Cape to arrive in no-man’s-land did so owing to objections to the manumission of slaves.

Mulder conveniently omits to mention that at the heart of the Trekboers’ adventure was racism.

Mulder tacitly suggests that according to this theory, a new homeland should be set aside for coloureds and whites.

Lastly, Mulder forgets to mention that all African land lost to colonialists was the result of brutal conquest and not consent. It is this conquest and looting of territory that he wishes to legitimise.

A brief history lesson will suffice.

Fact: Bantu Iron Age settlement patterns were found by archeologists in the Tugela Basin by 66 AD.

Fact: Africans produced beautiful ceramic and pottery ornaments in present-day Louis Trichardt, Transkei and Tugela, which were dated using the carbon dating method.

Fact: Iron smelting mines existed in the 8th century in areas such as Phalaborwa, mined by Africans.

Fact: In 1450 Africans spread through the entire southern Highveld.

Fact: In 1220 the kingdom of Mapungubwe was established in Limpopo by Africans.

Fact: Chief Mohlomi of the Basotho people travelled up to Namibia and Zimbabwe in the 1700s.

Fiction: Mulder’s assertion that we arrived at the same time as his people. We never arrived, nor came. We are of Africa and every inch of her corner is ours.

Mulder is indifferent to the internal movement and trade that existed in southern Africa. Africans lay claim to every square inch of the African continent.

What is saddening is the fact that Mulder takes us as a people for a cheap ride.

His jaundiced view of history is laced with the stench of racism and white supremacy.

The denialism of Mulder and his cohorts is legendary. Soon we will be told that no white person supported apartheid.

When challenged and exposed for its crude and callous character, denialism reverts to its famous pastime: careful and selective remembrance.

Africans were denied their humanity as a prelude to their oppression and enslavement.

This denialism is also manifest in a select reading of the Bible with texts that support and justify a narrow Calvinistic doctrine that propagates the existence of two types of people – the Elect of God, and the rest.

The Western supremacist narrative of history was based on the argument that on arrival whites encountered brute savages, which they civilised.

When that argument was no longer fashionable, they argued that there was no one on the land and they had to import external labour to build a country from scratch.

History is constantly used to aid and abet, legitimise and sanctify colonial conquest. It is given meanings that uphold the supremacy of whiteness and the “inherent” inferiority of Africanness or blackness.

Currently, there are strenuous efforts to delink and disassociate Nelson Mandela from his political organisation.

He is cast as being outside the very movement that he led. This is just another form of denialism.

» Ka Plaatjie is a director of the Pan African Foundation

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