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Africa Day: Valuable lessons from home grown legends

Award winning academic and creative writer Dr Lebogang Lance Nawa delivered the 2022 lecture at the Sol Plaatje University under the topic: CELEBRATING TEEMANENG’S LIVING SPIRITS: VALUABLE LESSONS FROM HOME-GROWN LEGENDS

This is an edited version of his address:

WE are told that this Month, we are celebrating Africa. Why? It was 59 years ago on this day, 25 May 1963, that leaders of several African states assembled at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The names of the leaders who attended this auspicious occasion are, to but a few: Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Leopold Senghor, and Sekou Touré. The name of the Organisation of African Unity by itself spells its main objectives and the underlying. This address is not to appraise the OAU, but rather to sift some points on the notion of Africa Month that is celebrated annually since then by African countries to remind themselves of pledges to the continent’s advancement.

South Africa became the 53rd member to join the AU on 23 May 1994; following the application for acceptance on behalf of the country by Former Minister Alfred Nzo: the former Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC. As you know, the OAU changed its name to Africa Union (AU) 20 years ago on 9 July 2002 in Durban. This date does not escape my attention and this question: shouldn’t South Africa also celebrate this historic occasion not only in May but during this period (9 July) as well? I pose this question for two reasons. One, to demonstrate the seriousness about the 25th May which Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared a holiday – since 2002 in the case of Namibia and 2020 for Zimbabwe. Second, by doing the first, we entrench the significance of the day in our individual and collective psyches as a day of reflection in our national patriotic consciousness and commitment to African ideals as opposed to the commercial gimmicks of being convenient one-day Africans on specific days draped in specular ethnic garments straight out of the pages and screens of the National Geographic. It is only during this month of the 25th specifically when some among us relish pap cooked from white maize and entrails/tripe/mala mogodu seshebo as African cuisine in spite of the fact that white maize is an import from Europe and that a slaughtered animal is skinned for meat before the innards. As a matter of fact, where I grew up, on such occasions, we children were given these as cast-aways to play house with. Now, has the poverty level gone to an extent whereby only the meat goes to non-Africans and the leftovers to Africans? On this count, we must interrogate the praxis of Africa Day for pomp and ceremony vs Africa Day for liberation against mental slavery, economic degradation and political apostacy.

I lean towards the Africa liberation celebration dictum because, as you know, it is not yet uhuru even for countries who were freed from their colonial political shackles as earlier as the 1960s. The independence of these countries has always been characterised by turmoil, political instability, wars, famine and so forth which conceal Adam Smith’s figurative hidden hand of the very oppressors who feigned departure from African territories, yet supply armour to fuel the carnage. These faceless people now rule the continent through, amongst others, agents decorated with impressive corporate titles like Board Member, Chief Executive Officer and – worst – Economists who literally don’t even have dimes in their pockets. Some of the bearers of these titles wear the same melanised skins as us. These puppets are as insidious as the brutality of their masters. Just so as to be cautious not to tar everyone with the same brush, let me compromise but saying not all of them are like that.

Through some of these agencies, the western oligarchy release reports that elucidate, through incalculable statistics, Africa’s poverty levels and then by the same stroke offer it loans to cure dependency from them. This is like a computer wizard creating a virus and then an antidote,simultaneously. Just have a look for instance at the situation in Ethiopia, while not forgetting South Africa, to see exactly what I mean.It is against this backdrop that by joining the AU, South Africa was baptised by fire through the appointment of President Thabo Mbeki to Chair the organisatio’s Peace and Security Council. Mbeki traversed the continent trying to quell the conflicts with a peace pipe. As he did this, Mbeki was acutely aware that sometimes the sources of conflict are ignorance, fear of the unknown, chauvinism and knowledge impoverishment especially about own conditions and that of the others. To this extent, Mbeki even committed his own country’s financial budget to try to preserve ancient Timbuktu manuscripts.

Regrettably, the peace and wisdom smoke from Mbeki’s pipe was soon extinguished by some of his own comrades so that they could dance or ride their ways on coins in order to be bestowed Honorary Chiefs of some villages in West Africa. Now back to Kimberly. I use the name Teemaneng in the title of this address because I subscribe to self-determination. I hope the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) Minister are eavesdropping. Anyway, this city is renowned for many firsts. It is said to be the first in the southern Hemisphere to be electrified. By southern hemisphere, I am referring to areas covering five continents and oceans with territories consisting of southern African countries as well as New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and so forth. Kimberley is also credited for being the first to have a railway infrastructure linking it to Cape Town, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The then British military strategically referred to the infrastructure as ‘communication line’ which are now being vandalised under the watch of government without crime spies – the word ‘intelligence’ is too generous for them. There are many other first accolades to count, suffice to add that Kimberley is located in a region whereby anthropologists claim to have uncovered the Taung Skull as fossil evidence of early human presence here. If indeed this area is deemed to be one of the repository of the cradle of human kind, shouldn’t we look up to its wisdom to solve vexing questions about its existence? Before we get carried away and pad ourselves on our shoulders, let’s pause for a while and imagine concomitant tragedies that accompanied these firsts, namely: the first mine disasters, exploitation, and environment degradation. Everyone who still spreads the fake garbage history that South Africa was an empty land except for San and Khoe so-called “First Nations” when the Europeans arrived should take time to watch this video [Search for The Lost Kingdom of Mapungubwe…] on the first great African Kingdom of Mapungubwe in 950 AD and its making from around 150 AD via the evolution from Bambata cultures; Kalundu, Nkope, Kwale cultures, and the emergence of Khoe, Ziwa, Zizho and Kalanga cultures over 800 years alongside the original Tshua and Khwe cultures in what I call the “Thoathoa Circle” covering Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa and spreading out to include Namibia, Angola, Mozambique. By 800 AD, South African people were trading via interlocuters with other continents while the Europeans were in the dark ages.

The evolution of societies across South Africa right down to the Western Cape from 150 AD to 1100 AD is the true story of the peopling of South Africa and it is not a story of single ethnic societies. The history of Southern Africa over the last 2500 years is no different to the evolution of societies in Europe, Asia or the Americas and is as multi-ethnic here as in any other place in the world. Cousin connections criss-cross Southern Africa. We were fed a pack of lies instead of African social history. These lies propagated that all the many ethnicities in South Africa never mixed, never had children together and lived in separate silos. Lots of people still believe this empty land nonsense and “Firstism” nonsense. Our social history is a lot more complex and the peopling evolution was no different to other parts of the world. The Europeans were also late-comers to Southern Africa which was engaging in trade with parts of the world which Western Europeans only engaged much later.

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