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It should be an inspiration to us that the new Bar association has categorically declared itself unapologetically black, writes Mcebo Dlamini.
The idea of Pan-Africanism
is no doubt one that refuses to die. It always manages to find expression
within the cracks of our society. It is an idea that was conceived many years
ago, yet its principles still remain relevant in our society even today.
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A group of black
and female advocates recently announced their intention to form their own
separate Bar association. Their Bar association, unlike other
Bars in South Africa, will not fall under the General Council of the Bar (GCB)
and will be called the Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (Pabasa).
association will consist of black and female advocates. The simple intention
behind its formation is to transform the legal field which is currently
dominated by white heterosexual males.
It is safe to say
that the founders believe that the GCB is largely untransformed. They
believe that it subjects black advocates to the indignity of always having
to beg or be subordinate to their white counterparts.
It is not
surprising that in a country with a tragic history such as ours racism
still finds a way to permeate our present. Here I am not speaking about racism
that presents itself in the spectacular kind of way that most people understand
racism to be.
Racism is not only
white people with sjamboks brutally kicking a black farm worker.
Racism, as Joel Modiri suggests, is an ingrained feature of the social order
which appears often in nuanced and subliminal ways. The ways can take the form
of a general Bar council that is still dominated by white people almost three
decades after the democratic dispensation.
Racism is when
black advocates do not get work even when they are equally as qualified as
their white colleagues. Racism is when black women have to work twice as
hard to prove that they are competent and equally qualified.
It is for
these reasons that a group of black advocates who were tired of being
marginalised decided to form their own association. These are no
doubt noble reasons.
It is also no
coincidence that they have decided to name the new Bar the Pan African Bar
Association of South Africa. The name makes it quite clear what their
guiding ideology is. This not surprising for pan-Africanism has at its
core the intention of uniting all Africans.
From Kwame Nkrumah
to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe the ideology of Pan-Africanism is
interested in how Africans can unite under one banner in order
to destroy all the chains that seek to shackle them. Pan-Africanism, in
the words of Nkrumah, seeks to re-establish the dignity of Africans in a world
that has hitherto considered them none.
Black people in
the GCB have been continuously stripped off their dignity by always having
to justify their existence in the space. It cannot be that we
continue to be subordinates of people who refuse to recognise us as equally
competent. What we ought to do in such situations is to unite on the basis of
our commonality and this is what Pan-Africanist ideology teaches us.
It should be an
inspiration to us that the new Bar association has categorically declared
itself unapologetically black. There is no shame in this. In fact, Biko in 1969
taught us that an exclusively black association should not be something
that is approached with hesitance. Whites have, for many years, been
deliberately working towards excluding us from their institutions. Why then
should it be a transgression when we unite on the basis of our blackness?
Those who oppress
or marginalise us cannot and should not be allowed to oppress us and
also dictate the ways and means in which we protest. As Biko suggested we
must stick together with a tenacity that will shock all those who wish to
What Pabasa has
done should be a lesson to all black people, even those who are outside of the
legal fraternity, that there is no shame in uniting with people who share the
same pain as you. If white people want to be in solidarity with us they should
do so on our terms and conditions.
Pabasa must be
supported by all black people and all other legal practitioners must join this
Bar if they are true to the ideal of helping South Africa move forward. The Bar
also has a responsibility towards society. It should not only exist to create
wealthy advocates or just be about black excellence.
It must understand that
its existence is not only for their enrichment but it ought to ensure that
legal services are accessible to the poor majority of this country. It must
contribute towards creating a corrupt free South Africa and advance our
threatened democracy. They must be advocates of change, of upliftment,
advocates of the people. In conclusion we see ourselves in the group of
black professionals who refused to dance to the tune of a white minority that
continues to undermine competent black people.
May the spirit that captured
them also find expression in other sectors of society such that we reach a
point where being black is not synonymous with being subordinate.
- Dlamini is a former Wits SRC President and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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