Putting your thoughts into writing


I was thinking about you the other day,

thinking its years since I heard from you.

And maybe you had forgotten me

and moved on with your new lover and family.

 

Yesterday I logged into my old email account,

the one I hardly ever use,

intent on deleting every email in my inbox

when I stumbled on an email with your name… Image of a guy in a white shirt sitting by the computer, his face is not visible, only part of his chin can be seen

My insides clammed up,

but I thought it was one of those junk emails

forwarded by scammers using your email address.

I opened it to be sure,

my hand trembling over the mouse.

But I was wrong. It was not junk.

 

The knot at the base of my belly untied itself.

A feeling of warmth erupted at its core,

and I felt warm fingers crawling over my limbs,

spreading across my body

and tugging the edges where my lips meet.

 

You didn’t say much in your email.

But you never did say a lot face to face,

and you never needed to say a lot

to put a smile on my face or make my day.

 

In fact, you were always the shy type.

And I can remember: your darting big,

beautiful brown eyes escaping my gaze

whenever I caught you by chance watching me,

and the stifled giggle and hand over your mouth

that betrayed your guilt.

Picture of a black guy with a black headwrap, dark sunglasses and white shirt staring at the computer screen in an office.

When I looked at the date and time in your email,

I wondered if it was a mere coincidence:

the time I was thinking of you,

you were also thinking of me

and putting your thoughts into writing.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Poetry, Reflections

Amilcar Cabral (37) Quotes from Revolution in Guinea


Amilcar Cabral‘s 37 quotes appear at the end of this article. Therefore, if you are familiar with his work and accomplishments, please feel free to skip this introduction to the legend. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the life and work of Amilcar Cabral, I have put this intro together to contextualise his words and thoughts.

His full name was Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral. His nom de guerre was Abel Djassi. Some of the names sound Portuguese. That was the case. Cabral rose to prominence in the liberation struggle against Portugal’s colonisation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

Picture of Amilcar Cabral with the quote,

The people of Portuguese colonised Guinea took up arms to free their country from colonial domination in 1963 under the leadership of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde [PAIGC].

At the time Cabral was both the founder and the Secretary-General of the PAIGC, including the small group that formed the original core of the Party.

Cabral became aware and conscious of the wretched conditions his people were living in while working as an agricultural engineer for the government of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands.

His job involved travelling around the country and meeting people. From 1952 – 54, Amilcar Cabral had visited every corner of his country, preparing an agricultural census for the colonial administration.

This gave him unprecedented contact with the people and provided him with the opportunity to understand the problems the people faced and an intimate knowledge of the local terrain.

The detailed knowledge he acquired of his people and their situation provided the basis for the PAIGC’s revolutionary strategy.

Guinea did not have the necessary elements on which revolutionary movements in Europe and Asia had based their respective revolutions.

They didn’t have a large proletariat. There was no developed working class. There was no large peasant class deprived of land ownership: colonial exploitation in Guinea was executed via price mechanism rather than by land ownership.

Therefore, a successful revolutionary struggle could not be based on any wholesale adoption of other revolutionary experiences or strategies.

Picture of AmilcarCabral in contemplation. The superimposed quote reads, “Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.”

They needed a strategy based on African conditions; more specifically, on conditions within Guinea and Cape Verde.

Cabral was central to the creation of these revolutionary elements, creating the theory and articulating it to Party members, locals and others outside the borders of Guinea and Cape Verde.

Cabral weighed up the revolutionary potential of each group within his society. Thus the PAIGC began its long, patient process of clandestine political preparation in 1959.

The gravity of Cabral’s political theory grew way out of proportion to the size of Guinea when compared to Africa and its influence on the liberation movements on the continent.

Cabral’s political and revolutionary analyses extended way beyond the borders of Guinea and Cape Verde.

The clear, down to earth terms in which the terms were articulated and were put to use influenced many revolutionary movements all over the world. This includes revolutionary movements in Europe and Asia.

His theory and political analysis illustrate the importance of the need to study one’s own concrete conditions and to make the revolution according to those particular conditions, rather than relying on the experience of others, as valuable as it may be.

In addition, his revolutionary strategy was centred around the mobilisation of the people around practical material issues rather than indulging in vainglorious theoretical and ideological ideals.

It is absurd therefore to find African revolutionary movements or revolutionaries who swear blindly that they are Marxists, Maoists, Leninist‘s, Sankarists, etc. or a blend of all the aforementioned schools of thought.Picture of Amilcar Cabral with his comrades in military fatigues and carrying rifles. The quote by Amilcar cabral superimposed on the picture reads, “We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our Party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies wherever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”

Cabral was deeply influenced by Marxism but he was not a Marxist. However, he became an inspiration to national liberation movements and revolutionary socialists worldwide.

This was partly due to his brilliant scholastic ability to reinvent a new ideological school of thought, that took the works of Lenin and Marx and made them relevant to the realities Africa was facing at that time.

Probably, his latter day equivalent was the late Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara.

He was also influenced by Marxism and was a committed revolutionary, Pan Africanist theorist, feminist, revolutionary icon, anti-imperialist activist and the former leader of Burkina Faso.

Cabral’s legacy today is undisputed. He is revered as one of the greatest anti-colonial and anti-imperialist leaders of the twentieth century. He is remembered as a brilliant, devoted and fearless revolutionary.

He is acknowledged as the architect and mastermind behind the drive to liberate Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde from the inequity of Portuguese colonialism.

It is fitting though that today we keep the flame burning for one of Africa’s greatest revolutionary theorist,  guerrilla fighters, an inspiring agitator, and an uncompromising internationalist.

We have a lot to learn from his methods and theory because the ideas set out in Revolution in Guinea transcend time and geographical boundaries or locations.

His ideas are probably more relevant to us Africans than Marxism is today because his ideas grew out of an analysis of the African situation and conditions in comparison to Marx whose analysis was based exclusively on Europe.

Amilcar Cabral’s legacy continues to inform the global struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism while advocating for socialism.

His words, thoughts and ideas remain relevant in the struggle to eliminate oppression and exploitation and restoring humanity to all dehumanised people worldwide.

I have no intention of providing an in-depth analysis of this great visionary here today. That is the stuff for another day and article. In the meantime, enjoy his words, thoughts and ideas.

Closeup picture of Amilcar Cabral in a suit, seated and reading with his glasses on his forehead. He is in a hall. The superimposed text fron his quote reads ‘An African saying very popular in our country says: “When your house is burning, it’s no use beating the tom-toms.” On a Tricontinental level, this means that we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it. For us, the best or worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight. This is what we are doing, and this is what we will go on doing until all foreign domination of our African homelands has been totally eliminated.’ Taken from the book Revolution in Guinea by Amilcar Cabral.

  1. Let us be precise: for us, African revolution means the transformation of our present life in the direction of progress. The prerequisite for this is the elimination of foreign economic domination, on which every other type of domination is dependent.
  2. We are for African unity, on a regional or continental scale, inasfar as it is necessary for the progress of the African peoples, and in order to guarantee their security and the continuity of this progress.
  3. In relation to Africa, we are for fraternal collaboration between the African peoples, against narrow nationalisms which do not serve the true interests of the people.
  4. We are sure of the solidarity of all the African peoples in our struggle. We conscious of the fact that our struggle for national liberation does not only serve our own peoples: it also serves the fundamental interests of all peoples of Africa and of the world.
  5. Our struggle has lost its national character and has moved onto an international level. The struggle taking place in our country today is the struggle of progress against misery and suffering, of freedom against oppression.
  6. It is on basis of this universal principle that we would like to express our firm conviction that our struggle is for peaceful coexistence and peace.
  7. To coexist one must first of all exist, so the imperialists and the colonialists must be forced to retreat so that we can make a contribution to human civilization, based on the work, the dynamic personality and culture of our peoples.
  8. To make this contribution in independence, fraternity and equality with all peoples, it does not seem to us to be necessary to get involved in the ideological disputes and conflicts which are splitting the world. Picture of Amilcar cabral staring into space. Amilcar Cabral's quote in the picture reads, “Educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered. Convince little by little, in particular the militants of the Party, that we shall end by conquering fear of nature, and that man is the strongest force in nature.”
  9. We do not need to follow any line: our position must be and remain based on the fundamental aspirations of our people.
  10. We consider that when imperialism arrived in Guinea it made us leave history – our history.
  11. For a revolution to take place depends on the nature of the party (and its size), the character of the struggle which led up to liberation, whether there was an armed struggle, what the nature of this armed struggle was and how it developed and, of course, on the nature of the state.
  12. As you can see, it is the struggle in the underdeveloped countries which endows the petty bourgeoisie with a function; in the capitalist countries the petty bourgeoisie is only a stratum which serves, it does not determine the historical orientation of the country; it merely allies itself with one group or another.
  13. So that to hope that the petty bourgeoisie will just carry out a revolution when it comes to power in an underdeveloped country is to hope for a miracle, although it is true that it could do this.
  14. I think one thing that can be said is this: the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie is honest; ie in spite of all the hostile conditions, it remains identified with the fundamental interests of the popular masses. To do this it may have to commit suicide, but it will not lose; by sacrificing itself it can reincarnate itself, but in the conditions of workers or peasants. In speaking of honesty I am not trying to establish moral criteria for judging the role of the petty bourgeoisie when it is in power; what I mean by honesty, is total commitment and total identification with the toiling masses.
  15. Neocolonialism is at work on two fronts – in Europe as well as in the underdeveloped countries. Its current framework in the underdeveloped countries is the policy of aid, and one of the essential aims of this policy is to create a false bourgeoisie to put brakes on the revolution and to enlarge the possibilities of the petty bourgeoisie as a neutraliser of the revolution.
  16. You must analyse and study these movements and combat in Europe, by all possible means, everything which can be used to further the repression against our peoples. I refer especially to the sale of arms. Picture of Amilcar cabral smiling and wearing glasses and a hat. The quote in the picture reads, “For us, there is always armed struggle. There are two kinds of armed struggle: the armed struggle in which the people fight empty handed, unarmed, while the imperialists or colonialists are armed and kill our people; and the armed struggle in which we prove we are not crazy by taking up arms to fight back against the criminal arms of the imperialists.”
  17. Moreover, you must unmask courageously all the national liberation movements which are under the thumb of imperialism.
  18. If we are fighting together, then I think the main aspect of our solidarity is extremely simple: it is to fight – I don’t think there is any need to discuss this very much.
  19. In any struggle it is of fundamental importance to define clearly who we are, and who is the enemy.
  20. We are from the part of Africa which the imperialists call Black Africa. Yes, we are Black. But we are men like all other men. Our countries are economically backward. Our people are at a specific historical stage characterised by this backward condition of our economy. We must be conscious of this. We are African peoples, we have not invented many things, we do not possess today the special weapons which others possess, we have no big factories, we don’t even have for our children the toys which other children have, but we do have our own hearts, our own heads, our own history. It is this history the colonialists have taken from us. The colonialists usually say that it was they who brought us into history: today we show that this is not so. They made us leave our history, our history, to follow them, right at the back, to follow the progress of their history. Today, in taking up arms to liberate ourselves, in following the examples of other peoples to liberate themselves, we want to return to our history, on our own feet, by our own means and through our own sacrifices.
  21. Our national liberation struggle has a great significance both for Africa and for the world. We are in the process of proving that peoples such as ours – economically backward, living sometimes almost near naked in the bush, not knowing how to read or write, not having even the most elementary knowledge of modern technology – are capable, by means of their sacrifices and efforts, of beating an enemy who is not only more advanced from a technological point of view but also supported by the powerful forces of world imperialism.
  22. We should consider ourselves as soldiers, often anonymous, but soldiers of humanity in the vast front of struggle in Africa today.
  23. We are fighting for the complete liberation of our peoples, but we are not fighting to simply hoist a flag in our countries and to have a national anthem.
  24. We do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men’s skins; we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by black people… Picture of Amilcar Cabra in a suit and glasses. There are several quotes on the page. The main one reads,
  25. In Africa we are all for the complete liberation of the African continent from the colonial yoke, for we know that colonialism is an instrument of imperialism. So we want to see all manifestations of imperialism totally wiped out on the soil of Africa…
  26. In Africa, we are all for African unity, but we are for African unity in favour of African peoples. We consider unity to be a means, not an end. Unity can reinforce and accelerate the reaching of ends, but we must not betray the end. This is why we are not in a hurry to achieve African unity. We know that it will come, step by step, as a result of the fruitful efforts of the African peoples. It will come at the service of Africa and of humanity.
  27. In the CONCP we are firmly convinced that making full use of the riches of our continent, of its human, moral and cultural capacities, will contribute to creating a rich human species, which on turn will make a considerable contribution to humanity. But we do not want the dream of this end to betray in its achievement the interests of each African people.
  28. We are willing to join any African people, with one condition: that the gains made by our people in the liberation struggle, the economic and social gains and the justice which we seek and are achieving little by little, should not be compromised by unity with other peoples. That is our only condition for unity.
  29. In Africa, we are for an African policy which seeks to defend first and foremost the interests of African peoples, of each African country, but also for a policy which does not, at any time, forget the interests of the world, of all humanity. We are for a policy of peace in Africa and of fraternal collaboration with all peoples of the world.
  30. We reserve the right to make our own decisions, and if by chance our choices and decisions coincide with others, that is not our fault.
  31. You understand that we are struggling first and foremost for our own peoples. That is our task in this front of struggle.
  32. We are with the Blacks of North America, we are with them in the streets of Los Angeles, and when they are deprived of all possibility of life, we suffer with them. An illustration of Amilcar cabral with the quote “But let us prepare ourselves too, each day, and be vigilant, so as not to allow a new form of colonialism to be established in our countries, so as not to allow in our countries any form of imperialism, so as not to allow neo-colonialism, already a cancerous growth in certain parts of Africa and of the world, to reach our own countries.”
  33. We strongly support all just causes in the world, but we are reinforced by the support of others.
  34. We know that all the African peoples are our brothers. Our struggle is their struggle. Every drop of blood that falls in our countries falls also from the body and heart of our brothers, these African peoples.
  35. It is our peoples who guarantee the future and certainty of our victory.
  36. It is the struggle which makes comrades which makes companions, for the present and for the future.
  37. The enemies of the African peoples are powerful and cunning and can always count on a few faithful lackeys in our country, since quislings are not a European privilege.

I hope you enjoyed Amilcar Cabral’s quotes above and learned something that will enrich you in many ways. You can check out quotes here by Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara.

In conclusion, keep an eye open for the review of Revolution in Guinea by Amilcar Cabral coming soon.

Aluta Continua! Revolutionary Love!

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Filed under Amilcar Cabral, Famous Qoutes, Great African Leaders

Greeks’ Defiance an inspiration to other movements across the world


The Greeks have spoken and defied the sceptics and scaremongers from the EU and reactionaries within their own ranks plus the IMF. The people of Greece rejected the European Bailout Terms.

The No Campaign scored a resounding victory. With 61% voting NO, the Yes campaign had the wind knocked out of its stomach.

Image of Greek revellers partying and celebrating outside Parliament in Greece.

Greeks celebrate outside parliament once they heard news that the No Campaign had taken the lead and their were on route to a resounding victory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French leader Francis Hollander  have their work cut out and they can’t ignore the results of the referendum.

The resounding message from the mandate laid out by the Greeks has strengthened the hand of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he meets with the leaders of the EU and the IMF.

The EU is divided and the number of voices supporting Greece within the EU is also growing.

Thousands gathered outside Parliament on Monday, waving Greek flags and celebrating, holding up signs written OXI which means No!

History was written then. The Greeks pushed the ball back into the court of Greece’s international creditors.

It is now up to them to decide what to do but one thing is clear: their scaremongering and threats have not deterred the people of Greece from daring to dream and change the world.

One thing is certain: Greece decided to take its future into its own hands in a shocking result that astounded sceptics, pundits, reactionaries and international creditors.

It is a surprising result because the traditional major parties and the media; especially, private media and major businesses were in favour of austerity.

Their pro-austerity stance is shocking because austerity has never been proven to work.

Quite to the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that austerity does not work. It only works for the rich people and the corporations but not the average person or the middle class.

There are numerous examples that austerity doesn’t work. For example, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt initiated policies to put people back to work and pump money back into the economy; that worked.

Iceland is a recent example of a country that refused to pay its debts: it invested money in programs to put people back to work. They also put on trial some of the bankers that caused the problems.

This not only boosted the morale and confidence of the people but it also turned around their economic fortunes.

There are numerous examples in South America that prove austerity is a rich man’s bluff and doesn’t work. Austerity is nothing but a class war masquerading as a measure of good and sound governance. In reality, it is like a bomb made of paper, that silently devastates whole communities and nations. It’s impact and after-effects will be felt decades after it first hit just like the bombs dropped in Hiroshima are still affecting people today.

Business tends to be very reactive in situations like this. It ignores the fact that austerity serves nobody’s interest in the long term because the middle class is the market.

If the middle class declines business will pay the ultimate price. They won’t have any business in the long run to buy their products.

The message by the people of Greece to stand up strengthened their prime minister’s position because he was appearing to be very vulnerable.

A hand is held up in front of a blue and white Greek flack in the background and a night sky. The inside of the palm is written in black in OXi which means NO!

This has rejuvenated his negotiating power because he is backed by the mandate handed to him by the nation.

Tsipras and the people of Greece are in a difficult situation. They are been held hostage and issued with threats to honour debts they had nothing to do with. They are been blamed for a situation they never created.

All the blame rests on the financial community and traditional political parties that encouraged Greece to go down the austerity route.

This route has not paid any dividends and it has hurt the Greek economy, the middle class and those who are worse off at the bottom end of the economic and social ladder.

Those people who were been blamed for the mistakes made by their leaders who were in cahoots with big banks and international monetary corporations illustrated that the power in any nation lies with the poor people and the middle class. They are the true revolutionary force in any society.

If the people stand united, international creditors, IMF and business cannot force them to act against their own interests regardless of the scaremongering and threats.

They cannot be terrorised to tow the line and burden themselves with unnecessary debt which will reduce them to slaves.

image of a woman with red hair, wearing dark sunglasses, waving a Greek white and blue flag and punching the air with a clenched fist.

There is little doubt that Greece like many other countries was targeted by the economic hitmen and presented with fancy financial set-ups to take on debts that would hurt their economy.

These debts were never received by the people of Greece but now they are being asked to foot a tab they never ran up which is absurd.

This is how these financial creditors work. They lend countries money but the middle class and the average person never physically see that money.

The financial creditors use the money which goes back to their corporations to enrich themselves, but leave the middle class and the poor with debts that will take generations to pay off if that is even possible.

This video below briefly explains how the game is played and it is worth taking two minutes to watch this short animated clip.

The insistence by the financial creditors for Greece to adopt policies dictated by them to enable them to pay the debt makes a mockery of democracy.

This obligation removes the people’s duty to make their own decisions because they are forced to do as the creditor’s demand because that puts the corporations in charge.

True democracy was illustrated in the decision made by the people; i.e. refusing the terms of the bailout tabled by the EU.

It is a different scenario from the African “democratic” model which is an illusion because the people in Africa have no say in how their counties are run because the countries are actually run by the IMF.

The IMF determines where their money is going to spend, how much is going to spent on social welfare, how much will be spent on maintaining or building infrastructure, etc. No one group in Africa has more say on spending than the IMF does.

In fact, debt is used as a tool to control Africa and keep it underdeveloped.

If Greece are kicked out of the EU, it might hurt in the short term. However, the benefits long term are beneficial. It puts them back in charge of their destiny.

They can focus on building up the middle class, sorting out employment issues to generate a disposable income for the average person which is the lifeline of a viable economy.

What does this result mean for countries in the same boat?

They can learn that it is not impossible to stand up to the financial creditors and say no to austerity because it does not develop an economy. Africa in particular can take a leaf out of the Greek’s strategy.

Countries can take their destiny back into their own hands and decide which route works best for them. It might not be easy but it is possible because there is hope in despair.

Other countries and movements in similar circumstances will be watching to see what lessons can be learnt from the Greek decision.

A nation united in the face of enormous challenges can overcome all the scaremongering, threats and propaganda thrown at them to act against their own interests.

You can dare to dream and change the world.

Africa can learn that new and younger leadership is well equipped to face the challenges brought on by an ever changing world.

The new guard is the antidote to the old order. They are prepared to take risks and challenge the old order.

Youthful leaders are the real revolutionaries and they have the right spirit and mentality to face the challenges their generation is faced with.

The old guard tends to be more conservative to protect their entrenched positions and the status quo hence their pay lip service to socialism while lapping up the trappings of capitalism.

I think the result from Greece illustrates that the middle class and the average person are the real revolutionary forces in any society, and united they can charter a truly revolutionary path. One cannot do without the other.

They are the real power brokers in society but they are unaware of the power they yield. They let a small unholy trinity or cabal of politicians and corporations control them like a circus elephant is controlled by a string.

If the people said enough is enough, they would end the circus, pull the whole charade down, trample the circus underfoot and run that political cabal out of town before sundown.

In conclusion, if the vanguard party acts with clarity and trusts the people and communicates clearly to the people, the people will support it in all its endeavours.

There is still a lot more to learn from Greece because they still have a lot of challenges to overcome.

One thing is certain: they have made history and they will be remembered by generations to come.

Their decision will become a case study that will be referenced by scholars, intellectuals and many others for years to come.

A friend I was chatting to earlier said, “The big issue domestically is actually not the EU but what Alexis is going to do about capital controls”. That is the biggest challenge for the Greeks right now. But there is no doubt that they are an inspiration to all the small movements out there fighting the big boys for their dignity and make this world a more humane place for everyone. They can see that you can take the big boys on and win.

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Filed under Reflections, Under The Spotlight

Be a postage stamp…


I came across the words from Napoleon Hill below and they inspired me to piece this article together.

“The most interesting thing about a postage stamp is the persistence with which it sticks to its job.” – Napoleon Hill

Think about it. If we are all persistent to our goals and jobs in life like the postage stamp is, we can achieve every single goal or task we start.

Image of Malcolm X on a stamp written Black Heritage USA

Sometimes we fail because we are not persistent enough. We give up long before the end is in sight because we get bored.

We get tired. We lose interest or we simply don’t have the willpower to see what we are doing to the end.

We get demotivated because the end is sometimes harder than the start and we just don’t have the mettle to keep going.

How many times have you started a project with great enthusiasm and dropped it the minute it got that bit harder? We can all start projects with gusto.

However, it takes a pretty determined and persistent person to see it through to its logical end.

In many cases, that is the difference between success and failure: who can finish what they start and who can’t.

But we can all learn from the humble postage stamp and be as persistent as it is, having one focus, getting the job done.

Sometimes we have to be blind to be successful. That means we have to close our eyes to all the distractions that catch our eyes and beckon us to abandon what we are doing or pursuing.

Whenever you are pursuing your dreams, your goals, your career, etc. and you find the going tough, just think of the postage stamp.

A postafe stamp with the image of Amilcar Cabral from 1979 and the dates 1924 - 1979.

Be a postage stamp my friend. Stick to your job, be persistent at it, and run the full course of whatever it is you are pursuing.

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30 Kwame Nkrumah’s Quotes from Class Struggle In Africa: Saluting An African Revolutionary


Kwame Nkrumah was a Ghanaian nationalist leader who led Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, to independence from Britain. This post explores Kwame Nkrumah quotes I pulled from one of sixteen books, Class Struggle in Africa, he wrote.

You can skip the pursuing paragraphs which place Nkrumah in context to access the quotes below.

Nkrumah first became Prime Minister of the Gold Coast in 1951; he  led it to independence in 1957 when he also became the first Prime Minister of an independent Ghana. In 1960, the country became a republic and he became the president.

On a state visit to Hanoi in February 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown by a coup led by the reactionary forces within Ghana. They were assisted by their imperialist and neo-colonialist masters pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Nkrumah was later to write in Class Struggle in Africa, “Imperialist aggression has expressed itself not only in coups d’état, but in the assassination of revolutionary leaders, and the setting up of new intelligence organisations”.

Front cover of the book Class Struggle in Africa written by Kwame Nkrumah

His experience taught him a lot of things that ordinary people were unaware of. His experience permeates the texts he writes and this is what makes his testimonies so powerful.

His words would became true in the assassination and murder of revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara from Burkina Faso in 1987 and Samora Machel, leader of Mozambique in 1986 to mention a few.

Patrice Lumumba from the Democratic Republic of Congo was long gone by then, killed like the latter two for his anti-imperialist views, and will to uphold the will of his countrymen while refusing to be a puppet of the agents of imperialism.

Fleet Street and the western media and other media outlets demonised Nkrumah, creating fictions that he was a dictator and his rule was becoming authoritarian to justify the coup in support of his political enemies, the reactionaries, who were nothing more than mere puppets in the whole charade.

Nkrumah was a threat to their interests and cut a lonely figure, a voice crying in the wilderness, denouncing neocolonialism and imperialism and calling for the expulsion of the European powers from Africa, and the Unification of Africa into a single state under a socialist government as he spells out in the video clip below.

He was a threat to the neo-colonialist and imperialist ambitions and interests of the west; especially, as he was turning more and more towards the east, China, Russia and other socialist countries.

The western powers couldn’t afford to lose their lucrative share of Ghana’s diamonds, gold and cocoa. They couldn’t let Nkrumah influence other African countries to follow his lead.

The European powers were at war trying to maintain their stranglehold on Africa’s resources. America was using the United Nations to force the European powers to release their stranglehold on Africa so it could get a slice of the cake.

Therefore, he was a threat to their colonial, neocolonial and imperialist ambitions and interests. Nkrumah was a dangerous man. His ideas were dangerous.

The Americans were not happy with him for trying to create a government that was against their interests. They were even more afraid of other African governments which might have been encouraged to follow Nkrumah’s lead.

In addition, Nkrumah’s material and financial support for liberation movements fighting the white minority and colonial regimes in Africa made him a figure who had to go.

Therefore, they used the reactionary forces to get him out of power and continue their monopoly of Ghana’s valuable resources.

Nkrumah spent the last six years of his life as co-president of Guinea where his friend Sekou Toure invited him to partner him.

He also spent time writing books such as Class Struggle in Africa published in 1970 and others.

During that time, he also founded PANAF BOOKS. It came about after the two publishers who had previously published his work refused to publish his books after his fall from grace.

The political motivation was evident: Nkrumah understood better that this was an attempt to silence him and his ideology. He was also able to buy the previous books before they were turned into pulp and all his ideas killed.

Fortunately for us, these books and Panaf Books are still around continuing where he left off.

Nkrumah published about 16 books during his life. Only two of these: Revolutionary Path and Rhodesia File were published posthumously in 1972 by the company he set up. All sixteen books are available through Panaf Books.

I am sure there are numerous other books out there, volumes about Nkrumah’s speeches, and many others inspired by the great man.

Nkrumah died in exile and he never set foot in his Ghana again. There are many around, those close to him, who maintain that Nkrumah was murdered: his death was unnatural as the speech below, Cancer of Betrayal, by Amilcar Cabral spells out.

However, time has been kind to him. Time has absolved him of all the accusations made by his detractors.

Time has restored him as the great man he was. He is remembered as the firebrand of African liberation.  Today, those people who overthrew him hail him as the greatest man in Ghana.

They in turn have since sunk into oblivion. Across Africa he is revered as an international symbol for freedom. His ideology for a United Africa lives in the hearts and minds of true African Revolutionaries.

Nkrumah was central to the founding of the Organisation of African Unity and his support for the liberation movements striving to free themselves from the colonial powers during the decolonisation of the continent made him a hero right across Africa and the Black Diaspora.

Those who have tried to push his visions for a United Africa like Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or Robert Mugabe are either murdered by the imperialist powers or demonised.

Nkrumah’s ideology continues to live in young and old across Africa and the Black Diaspora.

His words remain relevant to an awakening generation of revolutionaries. This is why I have taken the time to share 30 of his quotes below from Class Struggle in Africa. Enjoy.

  1. Workers are workers, and nationality, race, tribe and religion are irrelevancies in the struggle to achieve socialism.
  2. In Africa there should be no African “alien”. All are Africans. The enemy-wall to be brought down and crushed is not the African “alien” worker but Balkanisation and the artificial territorial boundaries created by imperialism.
  3. It is the task of the African urban proletariat to win the peasantry to revolution by taking the revolution to the countryside.
  4. It is the indigenous bourgeoisie who provide the main means by which international monopoly finance continues to plunder and to frustrate the purposes of the African Revolution.
  5. The exposure and the defeat of the African bourgeoisie, therefore, provides the key to the successful accomplishment of the worker-peasant struggle to achieve total liberation and socialism, and to advance the cause of the entire world socialist revolution.
  6. Colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism are expressions of capitalism and of bourgeois economic and political aspirations.
  7. There is not one country in Africa today where the political consciousness of the worker-peasant class has resulted in the establishment of of a socialist state.
  8. The worker-peasant class even though it has assisted in the winning of independence, has not yet assumed leadership in Africa as a conscious class. Closeup picture of Kwame Nkrumah and his book entitled I Speak Of Freedom. The quote superimposed over his face reads,
  9. Imperialist aggression has expressed itself not only in coups d’état, but in the assassination of revolutionary leaders, and the setting up of new intelligence organisations.
  10. As long as African States continue to be dependent in any degree for training, and for arms and supplies on capitalist sources, the African Revolution is in jeopardy.
  11. Historically, professional armies of the capitalist world have a tradition of suppression of socialist and revolutionary movements. They are the instruments of the ruling class or classes for maintaining bourgeois power.
  12. There is little justification for the enormous sums of money spent on the armies of Africa. Africa is not threatened territorially by any outside power. The border disputes which exist between certain African States, most of them legacies from the colonial period, are all capable of peaceful resolution.
  13. Inequality can only be ended by the abolition of classes.
  14. Ideologies reflect class interests and class consciousness. Liberalism, individualism, elitism, and bourgeois “democracy” – which is an illusion – are examples of bourgeois ideology. Fascism, imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism are also expressions of bourgeois thinking and of bourgeois political and economic aspirations.
  15. Those who for political reasons pay lip service to socialism, while aiding and abetting imperialism and neocolonialism, serve bourgeois interests. Workers and peasants may be misled for a time, but as class consciousness develops the bogus socialists are exposed, and genuine socialist revolution is made possible.
  16. The principles of scientific socialism are universal and abiding, and involve the genuine socialisation of productive and distributive processes. Picture of Kwame Nkrumah waving at the masses at a stadium. The quote superimposed on the picture reads “And my last warning to you is that you are to  stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody!”
  17. For race is inextricably linked with class exploitation, in a racist-capitalist power structure, capitalist exploitation and race oppression are complementary; the removal of one ensures the removal of the other.
  18. A non-racial society can only be achieved by socialist revolutionary action of the masses. It will never come as a gift of the minority ruling class.
  19. Elitism is an ideology tailor-made to fit capitalism and bourgeois de facto domination in the capitalist society. Furthermore, it intensifies racism, since it can be used to subscribe to the myth of racial superiority and inferiority.
  20. In general, intellectuals with working class origins tend to be more radical than those from the privileged sectors of society.
  21. Intelligentsia and intellectuals, if they are to play a part in the African Revolution, must become conscious of the class struggle in Africa, and align themselves with the oppressed masses. This involves the difficult, but not impossible, task of cutting themselves free from bourgeois attitudes and ideologies imbibed as a result of colonialist education and propaganda.
  22. Socialist revolutionary struggle, whether in the form of political, economic or military action, can be ultimately effective if it is organised, and it has its roots in the class struggle of workers and peasants.
  23. The total liberation and the unification of Africa under an All-African socialist government must be the objective of all Black revolutionaries throughout the world.
  24. The core of the Black Revolution is in Africa, and until Africa is united under a socialist government, the Black man throughout the world lacks a national home. Picture of a portrait of Kwame Nkrumah on the front cover of Time Magazine. A quote beside the picture reads,
  25. It is around the African peoples’ struggles for liberation and unification that African or Black culture will take shape and substance.
  26. The African Revolution is not an isolated one. It not only forms part of the world socialist revolution, but must be seen in the context of the Black Revolution as a whole.
  27. Socialism can only be achieved through class struggle.
  28. In Africa, the internal enemy – the reactionary bourgeoisie – must be exposed as exploiters and parasites, and as collaborators with imperialists and neo-colonialists on whom they largely depend for the maintenance of their positions of power and privilege.
  29. The rural proletariat are workers in the Marxist sense of the word. They are part of the working class and the most revolutionary of the African rural strata.
  30. The basis of a revolution is created when the organic structure and conditions within a given society have aroused mass consent and mass desire for positive action to change or transform that society.

I hope you enjoyed those quotes and found them not only interesting but enlightening and they inspire you to know more about Kwame Nkrumah. Keep your eyes open for my book review of Class Struggle in Africa by Kwame Nkrumah coming soon.

If you want your copy of the books or others by him, you can order from Panaf Books. Follow the link.

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June 26, 2015 · 4:25 pm

Sometimes, I write poetry…


Sometimes, I write poetry that I never get to share. I was a poet before I was a blogger.

I wrote poetry that was published in a few anthologies. I even put together a collection of poetry I was keen on publishing but looking back today, a lot of it makes me cringe.

I performed on the London Spoken Word Scene for a few years before I went to university to study writing or find inspiration for a novel.

Between then and now, I have written less and less poetry although it was poetry that got me going for years when I had no outlet for my ideas or I was struggling with prose.

I think part of it has to do with the academic approach to writing poetry which I found too scientific and akin to skinning and dissecting corpses.

It put me off writing poetry for a while. By the time I was through with my studies, the poetry that had once bubbled effervescently from my mind was a dry well.

However, that period of dissecting corpses did throw up some interesting projects that I worked on for my poetry modules.

I recently came across some spoken word poetry I created for one of my modules as I was clearing my computer because the start disk was too full.

I thought I would share it with you guys. The picture quality is not that great but the sound is cool. It is not very original but I had fun putting it together.

It was inspired by This Poem I heard been read by Mutabaruka at Def Poetry on Youtube or you can watch it below. Enjoy.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Poetry

Thomas Sankara’s remains to be exhumed: Revisiting The Upright Man’s Legacy



Last year, I signed a petition calling for the remains of Thomas Sankara, popularly known as The Upright Man and the former leader of Burkina Faso, anti-imperialist activist and revolutionary, to be exhumed. Now, his remains or what are believed to be his remains are in the process of been exhumed.

Medium closeup picture of Captain Thomas Sankara wearing military fatigues. The quote “We are not against progress, but we do not want progress that is anarchic and criminally neglects the rights of others.” appears in the picture.

I am not sure if the petition I signed had anything to do with it or if his widow and her family’s calls for his remains to be exhumed are the catalyst. It is immaterial.

The good news is that an injustice can be corrected and the late revolutionary, feminist, anti-imperialist activist and one of the best leaders to emerge from Africa can receive a dignified burial befitting a legend of his stature.

It is more important that this is done not only to provide closure for the family but for Thomas Sankara’s story to be told in full.

The truth is something we all want to hear. We want to know who killed him. We want to know about the alleged involvement of external imperialist and neo-colonialist forces. We want those who took him out to be brought to justice.

The exhumation of Sankara’s remains reopens a chapter of African history that those who assassinated him hoped would never be revisited.

His assassination echoes the murder of other great African leaders like Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Herbert Chitepo, Dr Samuel Tichafa Parirenyatwa, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Khalid Abdul Muhammad and many other revolutionaries too many to mention here.

Revisiting Sankara’s legacy will provide us with the opportunity to understand the modus operandi of those forces that trot the globe preaching democracy on the world stage, but use proxy wars and propaganda to silence and remove leaders who are critical of their unorthodox methods and install puppet regimes sympathetic to their interests.

The assassination of African leaders who have upheld the interests of their people’s and selflessly defended their sovereignty is beyond tragic.

It has arrested the development of the continent and in many cases set Africa back decades, and provided a platform for corrupt dictators and despots to flourish with the support of many Western nations.

The support of these despots has been a vain attempt to maintain the cultural, socio economic and political hegemony of the more powerful nations over the weaker nations and maintain their stranglehold on the resources of Africa for their exclusive use.

These are the ills Sankara diagnosed through a Marxist critique and offered remedies to cure Africa of its ailments. He reached out to and spoke on behalf of all the oppressed and exploited people’s of the world who refused to accept the economic subjugation of classified societies and their consequences.

He condemned ecological devastation, African genocides and wars, racism, wars of conquest and plunder brought on by the workings of capitalism. He understood that those conditions were unnatural but a by-product of the modern imperialist order.

Closeup picture of Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara in military fatigues and a red beret with a star on his head. The subtitles on the screen read

For 28 years, what happened on that fateful day in October 1987 has been shrouded in mystery. Now, the opportunity to find out the truth has become a reality.

Nowhere is this need to know greater than within Burkina Faso. Hundreds of Burkinabe went to the graveyard where the exhumation was taking place in Ouagadougou. However, the security forces kept them out.

Blaise Compaore who is largely believed to have been instrumental in the assassination of Sankara, has always denied involvement but while he was in office, the courts denied a request by the family for Sankara’s exhumation.

His ousting during the riots in October last year paved the way for this historic occasion.

The assassination of Sankara made him a martyr not only in Burkina Faso, but across Africa and internationally. His star continues to rise and many people are embracing his ideas, reinforcing his belief that, “You cannot kill ideas. Ideas do not die”.

Picture of a smiling Thomas Sankara with the quote, “It’s true You cannot kill ideas. Ideas DO NOT DIE.”

His most popular quote, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”, has proved that the assassination of Sankara did not kill his ideas, and that they continue to influence new generations 28 years later.

His mission to confront imperialism, colonialism, social inequality, socioeconomic and political transformation and the subjugation of women has not diminished with time.

More and more movements are sprouting internationally, continuing the work Sankara started and he has become a figurehead of many of these social movements.

The riots last year that led to the ousting of Compaore were attributed to the lingering influence of Sankara.

The spirit of Sankara lives on in the downtrodden, oppressed and exploited people’s of the world. His calls for a more humane world where people live with dignity resonates with most people: this is why Sankara’s ideas continue to inspire new and old followers alike.

A quote of Thomas Sankara which reads,

Books like We Are Heirs of the World’s Revolutions, Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle, and Thomas Sankara Speaks which are books that contain Sankara’s speeches are powerful weapons to those fighting oppression and exploitation and trying to gain a better understanding of the man and what he represented.

The books mentioned above are important resources that make Sankara’s ideas more accessible but most importantly, they illustrate what he stood for as well as show that he was an excellent theoretician who could break down complex ideas and reproduce them in a form palatable to the layman.

They reveal his accomplishment as an orator but also set out his plans for Burkina Faso and his achievements within the four years he transformed his country from a nation dependent on France to a self reliant people.

His growing popularity is a direct result of his selfless task to speak on behalf of “‘the great disinherited of the world’, those who belong to the world so ironically christened the Third World. And to state, though I may not succeed in making them understood, the reasons for our revolt.”

Probably Sankara’s most endearing quality was his total trust in the people providing answers to their own challenges and transforming their own society and governing it.

His extraordinary confidence in the revolutionary capacity of human beings set him apart from all other leaders and politicians who tend to preach that the role of governance and maintaining order is the sacred duty of only the enlightened in society. That means only the “elite”!

He played a role as a leader of African people and as the unofficial spokesperson for the oppressed, and exploited in the semi colonial world, plus he provided leadership to working people in the imperialist world: it is this internationalist appeal and perspective of his that many people identify with and embrace.

Many have no idea who he is. But once they see his videos or read his books, they are converted almost instantaneously, attracted by Sankara’s charisma, confidence and honesty.

Image of Captain Thomas Sankara dressed in a red beret with a starand military fatigues. The subtitles on the screen read

Sankara’s legacy has many facets I cannot cover here. In principle, his life’s work provides us with the blueprint of what an African leader can, could and should be.

His honesty and integrity and political will are qualities we should seek in those who we elect to power.

In addition, the way he lived his life with compassion, empathy, in reverence of nature, cognisant of the struggles of women and all oppressed people should inspire us to live a more meaningful life with purpose, and think and act like those mad men who dare to dream and change the world.

The Upright Man, Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, gave us hope when we had all but lost it. He gave us the confidence to believe that we can create a world built on different economic and  social foundations and not by technocrats, financial wizards or politicians.

He inspired us to acknowledge that we, ordinary human beings, can transform ourselves by becoming active, conscious forces, transforming our conditions in life.

Most importantly, the Burkinabe Revolution is a blueprint to freedom that he left to inspire us to dare to dream and change the world. It enlightened us and left us with many valuable lessons in the same way Sankara was inspired by those revolutions that came before him.

In his own words, he said we are “open to all the winds of the will of the people’s of the world and their revolutions, having also learned from some of their terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights. We wish to retain only the core of the purity from each revolution. This prevents us from becoming subservient to the realities of others”.

Like Sankara, “we are heirs of the world’s revolutions” and we too can learn from the “terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights” and the loss of The Upright Man’s life to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future.

Revisiting Sankara’s legacy is necessary to understand our potential as revolutionaries and our role in determining the future of a liberated Africa. No developed nation, no matter how benevolent, can provide us with solutions to develop our continent. Let the spirit and ideas of Sankara be our guide to the Promised Land.

Thomas Sankara was a soldier, not only in the literal sense, and even from beyond the grave, he continues to fight for justice and inspire a new generation of fearless warriors, soldiers and revolutionaries. As long as we are breathing, we will continue to uphold Sankara’s legacy and spread it internationally. Sankara Lives!

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Filed under Great African Leaders, Revolutionaries, Under The Spotlight

Thank You


When I started writing my very first post, Yeah, I Think A Lot About Shit, I had no idea anyone would ever read my blog. Nevertheless, I persevered and continued to write without any expectations but simply as an outlet for my thoughts and as a means to sharpen my writing skills.

Seven thousand five hundred plus visitors and over ten thousand views later, I am pleasantly surprised by the traffic to my blog. I know these figures are a grain of sand in the desert to other accomplished bloggers.

However, considering my innocuous start, I find these figures are encouraging because I had no idea I would reach this milestone. Picture of a tarred road stretching to the blue sky flanked by blossom trees and well manicured green turf. Thank You For Reading Thegatvolblogger

Therefore, I would like to thank you personally for taking the time to visit my humble blog and view the articles I write. You make it worthwhile and I would be ungrateful if I didn’t show my appreciation for your kindness.

I am not a prolific blogger. I am not disciplined. I may go for months without writing or sharing anything, but there is never a day when you do not visit and read my posts, including the stuff I wrote when I first started.

There are some posts which you read diligently such as the stuff on Thomas Sankara, Steve Bantu Biko, Miriam Makeba, Samora Machel, Malcolm X and others.

Picture is an artists impression of the late Captain Thomas Sankara in military fatigues and a beret with a star.

An artists rendering of the late Captain Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso who came to power through a popular coup and within four years made the country self reliant. The image is taken from the book Thomas Sankara Speaks.

I kind of have a good idea what you like now. It never ceases to surprise me that you appreciate the work that I have done otherwise you would not be reading these posts. I have come to realise that the articles I have written have a very long shelf life beyond the time I wrote them. They remain relevant to new readers and visitors.

Lessons Learnt From Blogging

Firstly, never underestimate what you have to write, say, think or share. There are people who appreciate what you have to say. Your voice matters. Your perspective adds something that is missing in the mainstream media.

Secondly, have faith in whatever task you undertake. And when you commit yourself to any activity, do your best.

Thirdly, when you devote yourself to an activity, you build an expertise on that field and develop your competency in that field. I started off as an amateur and now I also blog professionally for other institutions and sites. It is why I am not always able to write and post as much I would like. Without the experience I gained from here, I would never have had the competency to blog professionally. Opportunities like these, open up doors to others.

Follow your heart

Fourthly, if you do something you love, you are more likely to be successful doing what you love. You will find it rewarding and you are more likely to be fulfilled it by it. My advice, therefore, is follow your heart and live the dream. Even if you don’t become wealthy pursuing your passions, you will be rich in satisfaction. An you will be happy. You can’t put a price on that.

Fifthly, gimmicks like SEO and the likes can only do so much. I don’t understand them very much, I have the faintest idea therefore I never use them, but I know that sincerity, passion and love can achieve much more than SEO; especially, if you value organic growth, slowly and steadily to learn as you grow.

In addition, it takes time to do something properly and see the growth. You have to learn a lot along the way as the video below illustrates. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. If you have any endeavour you wish to pursue, take the time to build your dream but don’t expect instant results. There are few overnight successes. What you see, is often the results of years, if not decades, of hard work before the “overnight success”.

I can go on and on but maybe that is the substance for another article or post. Right now, I just want to thank you for your support and love. I am grateful to you for having my back. Your visits and investing your precious time to read my posts is the greatest encouragement you could have ever offered me. I am eternally grateful for your support.

Thank You.

Thegatvolblogger

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Filed under About Writing, Blogging, Creative Writing

Thoughts about my motherland


Sometimes I wonder when I see the fat cats looting the coffers of our nations to line up their greasy pockets, using their struggle credentials to monopolise and misappropriate national resources for their bloodlines, what is the future  for my motherland.

Sometimes I wonder when I see the future of Africa drowning in the ocean off the coasts of Europe, fleeing the motherland to lands unknown, in search of a better life far from the dehumanising poverty many have been reduced to, what is the future  for my motherland.

It strikes me then that some animals, not in the Animal Farm sense, but literally that some animals in Africa enjoy better living standards than human beings. They have better access to health. They have better access to housing. They have better access to water and sanitation.

They have better access to security and protection. They have passports and don’t have to walk thousands of miles across arid deserts, risking their lives crossing treacherous oceans in search of greener pastures.

How is it that an animal can have more rights and protection than man? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe animals shouldn’t be protected or have some rights, but I don’t believe they should enjoy better privileges than human beings.

Sometimes I wonder when I see the violence and terrorism unleashed on my people by those with their twisted holy wars, crusades and xenophobic impulses snuff out fruitful lives casually like a man putting out a candle flame between his fingers, what is the future for my motherland.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote which reads “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

Sometimes I wonder, I dream, about what heights Africa would have risen to if Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Herbert Chitepo, Dr. Samuel Parirenyatwa, and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere were steering this mighty vessel, The Motherland, towards The Promised Land – the United States of Africa.

It’s at times like this I realise that there is a dearth of leadership. Everytime we talk about African leaders, we don’t talk about the living because we cannot find one leader living today worth talking about or looking up to.

We keep turning back to the past and talking about leaders who are no longer present, and died decades ago, but whose influence is sorely missed today.

In the absence of great leaders, I conclude, it is up to us, the small people, to unite and fight for what is rightfully ours. That is our future, an equal slice of the economic cake, prosperity and a better life.

This cannot become a reality while the hawks of imperialism and neocolonialism are circling the continent in search for rich and easy pickings, robbing us from the food right from our mouths.

Image of Steve Biko taken from his book I Write What I Like. The accompanying quote reads, African unity is not a concept that should remain a dream but it should become a reality because that is where our salvation lies. We cannot do it alone as individuals but as a collective.

Therefore, we, Africans, have nothing to lose but our colonial and neocolonial shackles. We have a motherland overflowing with diamonds, cobalt, gold, uranium, milk, honey and every thing else a people could ever need. Africans of all nations, all ethnic groups unite and reclaim what is rightfully yours.

Homeland or death, we will win comrades! Aluta Continua!

Thomas Sankara 8

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May 2, 2015 · 1:40 pm

Afrophobia or xenophobia is unAfrican!


In William Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of “star-crosse’d” lovers, the legendary playwright penned four immortal lines that embody a struggle and tragedy that still plagues mankind to this day. In those lines, Juliet tells Romeo:

“What’s in a name? That

which we call a rose

By any other name would

smell as sweet.”

Her point was that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention because she was in love with the person who happened to carry the Montague name but not the  name “Montague” nor the family.

Looking at what is happening in South Africa, we can reach the same conclusion in describing the absurdity of those in power who tried to spin the xenophobia which resulted in the deaths of numerous “foreigners” by calling it by another misnomer, namely Afrophobia.

We could rewrite Shakespeare’s immortal quote, trying to make sense of this crime against humanity:

“What’s in a name? That

which we call Afrophobia

By any other name would

still be inhumane.”

The point is clear: whether or not we call the xenophobic attacks Afrophobia, the outcome is still the same. They are senseless murders.

Numerous people died. Many more were displaced. Businesses were destroyed. Properties looted. People are living in fear. People were horrified. Disgusted.

Picture of a man in a red cap and sweater arrested by the Johannesburg for allegedly being a xenophobic attacker

A man is held in Jeppestown by the police in Johannesburg for allegedly attacking foreigners in the xenophobic attacks last month and looting businesses owned by foreigners.

The nation is severely divided. Relations between nations are tense. Tempers are flaring across borders and social media. The forecast is not looking good for Africa.

From the north to the south, the east to the west, Africa is in trouble. We are in trouble. Rarely has one incident, maybe with the exception of Boko Haram, set so many people in Africa against each other, or united them to condemn such depravity.

Yet international condemnation was absent in the furore engulfing Africa at the time. The mainstream [western] media barely uttered a word for over a week or two. When it finally did, many social commentators argued it was too little too late.

They argued that if the attacks had targeted white foreigners, they would have reacted sooner condemning the attacks in the strongest terms. Maybe there is some truth to that.

If that was the case, President Jacob Zuma would have reacted swiftly and firmly to avoid a situation where NATO countries would venture to put boots on the ground to protect their citizens as what happened during the Crisis in the Congo during the reign of Patrice Lumumba, and in Egypt under the watch of Gamal Abdel Nasser at the time of the Suez Canal Crisis. No African president wants a situation like that.

Residents from Jeppestown hostels flee for cover when the police fire rubber bullets to disperse the unruly rioters who were attacking people and destroying and looting business, local and foreign owned. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

Residents from Jeppestown hostels flee for cover when the police fire rubber bullets to disperse the unruly rioters who were attacking people and destroying and looting business, local and foreign owned.
[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

The mainstream media’s’ sluggish and non-committal reaction led many to question if black lives were of equal value with white lives.

Not many were convinced the white media placed equal value on black lives as it did on white lives. Their coverage of issues in Africa or their bias in their reporting of the murder of black men and women in America and many other countries has led many to question their motives.

Whether or not we call these xenophobic attacks Afrophobia, it does not mask the horror; the depravity, the inhumane, or the shocking reality of this callous snuffing out of human life.

It goes against the moral and humane tenets of what we call Ubuntu [Zulu], Hunhu [Shona], Umntu [Xhosa – South Africa], Botho in Sesotho and Setswana [Botswana], Numunhu [Shangaan], Vhuthu [Venda], Bunhu [Tsonga], Utu in Kiswahili/ Swahili [Kenya and Tanzania], Ajobi [Yoruba – Nigeria], Abantu in [Luganda] Uganda and many other names across East, West and Southern Africa.

These humane tenets of Ubuntu, Hunhu is the common thread that runs throughout all the different ethnic groups of East, West and Southern Africa.

Pictures of men from Jeppestown making threatening gestures and brandishing axes, sticks and other weapons towards foreign-owned businesses in the neighbourhood.

The men from Jeppestown hostels making gestures and brandishing various weapons to threaten foreign-owned businesses in their local neighbourhood. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

It’s the same common thread binding all Africans from East to  West Africa and Southern Africa as one.

It’s testimony that we, Africans, spring from the same source and we have more in common than we have in differences.

The Zulu saying, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”: a person is a person because of people encapsulates this thinking. We can break it down further into Sotho and Tsonga:

Motho ke motho ka batho (Sotho)

Munhu i munhu hi van’wana vanhu (Tsonga)

The meanings are the same as the Zulu saying above. As we can see clearly, our African worldview or philosophy holds true that we are only human because of other human beings; therefore, when we dehumanise others, we are dehumanised as a result.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu tried to explain the concept of Ubuntu. He said,

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu unobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have.

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Picture of a group of Nigerian men trying to salvage a car wrecked after their vehicle repair shop was set on fire by angry mobs. The police stand guard.

A group of NIgerian men attempt to salvage a car from their vehicle repair shop which was burnt down by mobs. The entire workshop was razed and all its contents, other cars, destroyed. The police keep watch over them.
[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

We are divine human beings but we are fighting each over borders the colonialists set up at the Berlin Conference in 1884 – 1885 when the European powers cut up our continent and divided it amongst themselves as their imperial conquests, creating these nations we inherited at independence.

All these nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria, etc. are white constructs.

Africa never had these artificial borders on a map until the colonialists cut up the continent to build their personal fiefdoms.

Prior to that, we, Africans could move freely within our continent in search of food, greener pastures, water, etc. without restrictions as we have today.

It was through these migrations that we intermarried, traded material goods and ideas and acquired new skills that enriched our various ethnic groups.

However, the borders we have today hinder trade within the continent. They prevent the easy exchange of ideas, cultural and economical capital and exchange of human resources.

Picture of two women and a baby flee with their few belongings  after receiving death threats by angry mobs.

A family packs their belongings and flee from Jeppestown after receiving death threats by angry mobs.
[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

The continued division is a hindrance to the development of Africa and we are impoverished because of it.

The division perpetuates a continual state of arrested development which prevents us from realising our potential as a continent.

The Europeans are constantly calling for continental unity: they realise that a united Europe is stronger in the political, economical, military and cultural spheres.

Yet we, Africans, still refuse to see that our safety and security, progress and strength lies within our ability to unite as a continent.

It seems that the tactics of divide and rule first used by the Romans and later adapted by the Europeans are still as effective today as they were back then in breaking our forward stride.

As long as we are fighting for these small nations we inherited instead of knocking down these imperial borders, the greater vision of the United Africa Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and others called for will always remain a fleeting illusion.

Image of Bob Marley with the quote, “The truth is the truth, you know. Sometimes you have to just sacrifice. I mean, you can’t always hide, you have to talk the truth. If a guy want to come hurt you for the truth – then, I mean, at least you said the truth.”

Some Africans pride themselves about their ability to think outside the box. Ironically, this idea is a cliché, therefore, it can only produce clichéd thinking.

Furthermore, it is nothing but an illusion because those very people can’t think outside the borders set up through the colonisation of the continent, nor outside the confines of their intellectual sandboxes.

We need to stop thinking nationally but develop a continental perspective because the future for Africa lies within the confines of the motherland. No nation is an island.

Our inability to think beyond these border posts the colonialists set up for us is sheepish behaviour. It prevents us from manning up and dealing with the root causes of our poverty and oppression.

It is the reason why many other races and people treat Africans like little boys and girls who constantly need guidance because we can’t do things for ourselves and improve our lot.

Our minds have been twisted to respect flags: useless pieces of cloth coloured and designed by man but which have no value whatsoever.

We have flag flying independence but no economic independence which means the very idea of independence is an illusion.

We remain dependent on whoever is pulling the purse strings. They are the ones pulling the puppet strings of those caricatures of human brings we call African leaders.

Instead of addressing the question of economic independence, we forsake the greater humane good in deference to these useless pieces of cloths that we pledge to die for, yet we wouldn’t die in the quest for humanity, or fighting the forces that seek to keep us politically and economically subservient.

We wouldn’t die for our brothers or sisters but we would die for a useless piece of cloth. This illustrates the problems with the things that we value.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Afrophobia or xenophobia is a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a violation of the right to life. It is a violation of the right to protection. Afrophobia or xenophobia violate almost all the rights that should be accorded to every human being.

We should never let it spread its ugly roots in our communities. It is a poison that kills and tears apart the delicate fabric of society.

Afrophobia or xenophobia is murder with an abstract name to divert attention from what is really going on in South Africa. It is murder with a different dress on.

Picture of an armed South African policemen sweeping through a warehouse in Johannesburg after the showroom was gutted by fire and all the cars destroed and left covered by dust and ash.

P An armed policemen in Johannesburg checks out the remains of a car sales shop where rows of cars lie under dust and soot after the business owned by a Nigerian was burnt down by some local South Africans during last month’s xenophobic madness.

Afrophobia or xenophobia is unAfrican

Afrophobia or xenophobia is an ugly thing: it is unAfrican. It is unAfrican for hosts to mistreat visitors.

It goes against the tenets of Ubuntu, Hunhu, Umntu, Utu, Ajobi, Vhutu, Bunhu, Abantu, etc. most of us were taught to adhere to from an early age.

We were taught to welcome and accommodate strangers. We were taught to offer food and water to visitors who visited us. Failure to observe these customs were frowned upon by our elders.

It was a sure way to earn a chastisement and it was always condemned as a sign of ill breeding as it reflected poorly on ones upbringing. It reflected poorly on ones parents or guardians if one failed to observe these customs.

A person who displayed values such as compassion, empathy, respect or morals was often described as munhu ane hunhu: a person imbued with humaneness.

Anyone who lacked these ethics or morals was seen as a person asina hunhu or haana hunhu, a person lacking humaneness. They were not ashamed of behaving badly, robbing, disrespecting elders, cheating, lying, raping, stealing, killing, etc.

Ubuntu, Hunhu, is what makes us munhu ane hunhu or vanhu vane hunhu: good humane people.

It is a shame that those in the know tried to repackage murder and crimes under a more acceptable and palatable label. That is a shame because Ubuntu condemns corruption of any kind.

They seem to have abdicated their African culture for a caricature of a hybrid culture that is undistinguishable. It seems like they lost their humaneness.

Ubuntu/ Hunhu is the core of the African conception of humanism. A person who embodies this concept of humanism is said to be a good human being who understands propriety; they are morally upright.

They’re responsible, honest, just, trustworthy, hard working, full of integrity, possess a cooperative spirit and can stand in solidarity with others.

They are hospitable and devoted to the  well-being of the family and the wider community. In a nutshell, anyone with Ubuntu/ Hunhu understands how to uphold the norms and values of the family, the community and society.

Therefore, they would never commit the horrific acts we witnessed because life in African culture is sacred.

Those who fall short are often rebuked In Shona or Ndebele [Zimbabwe] as “Hausi hunhu ihwohwo/ Ayisibobuntu lobu” (This is not humanness).

These type of people are viewed as ruffians or scoundrels because of their lack of a moral compass that shows humaneness.

In African tradition or culture, murder is not encouraged. It is a harbinger of ngozi, a curse, because it causes avenging spirits to wipe out generations and cause bad luck until the deceased is appeased.

Pre-colonisation, when a person took a person’s life, they had to atone for their transgression by compensating the family of the deceased; not only to compensate the family materially, but to appease the dead to allow them to rest in peace.

In some cases, the perpetrator or his family were ordered to hand over a member of their family, normally a young girl – a virgin, to the family of the deceased. This was accompanied by rituals that had to be performed but I won’t get into the details here. That is a topic for another day.

However, it illustrates the sanctity Africans had for the living. It was sacrilegious to take a life because the repercussions were devastating for everyone, including those who were not directly involved. Not even the unborn were immune from Ngozi when they finally came to be.

However, it is worth reiterating that Afrophobia or xenophobia are unAfrican. It is not the way of Africans who know themselves and adhere to the philosophy of Ubuntu/ Hunhu.

“Murder is murder”, a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall. She was correct and I concur with her.

Learning from past tragedies

Let us not forget that more than a month ago, Rwanda was commemorating 21 years of the genocide on the 7th of April 2015 and then these attacks happened weeks later.

It seems like we, Africans, have not learnt the lessons that ensued from that tragedy and we are bound to repeat the same mistakes again.

Let us not forget that while 800 000 to a million people were slaughtered, the people in power were busy dithering about what to call the genocide instead of taking action to prevent or contain it.

It seems like we are repeating those mistakes again by drawing red herrings, trying to intellectualise these crimes against humanity. Whether it is Afrophobia or xenophobia, it is an ugly thing: it is unAfrican.

While others may argue about the scale and numbers of the murders between what happened in Rwanda and in South Africa, it is irrelevant.

One life callously snuffed out is one life too many. It can be avoided and it should be avoided.

What is Afrophobia?

I must admit that I was unaware of this word until these events occurred and I heard that the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini described these attacks as Afrophobia.

Naturally, my curious nature forced me to look it up and find out what it really means. And a good starting point was Wikipedia. It describes Afrophobia as:

“hostility toward people, culture, or ideas of African derivation, particularly those of Sub-Saharan negroid origin. Unlike Anti-Semitism, Afrophobia is primarily a racial, and, to a lesser extent , cultural phenomenon, lacking a strong religious dimension.”

It goes on to state:

“A degree of Afrophobic self-loathing has on occasion extended to blacks themselves, leading many in the 19th and early 20th centuries to adopt artificially straightened, lye-conditioned coiffures in repudiation of their natural hairstyles. The term ‘Afrophobia” is sometimes used with this ironic metonymy in mind, using the fear of the Afro as a metaphor for the fear of one’s African heritage.”

Considering that the main victims of the attacks are people of African origin, it “appears” that Afrophobia is the appropriate term.

Hence the irony: the hostility is directed towards people of African derivation by people who look like them.

It appears to be a fear of self or “self-loathing”. It is a fear driven by ignorance. A fear heightened by lack of morals.

A fear elevated by a segment of society who cannot understand what brings other Africans to South Africa and what motivates them to strive against all odds and succeed in an alien territory.

It is a dangerous fear because it can and has been manipulated by politicians and media by channelling it to disastrous ends as we have witnessed in the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and many other conflicts throughout history.

It always begins with the denigration of others, demonising them and scape-goating them for the socio-economic and political ills a nation faces.

On the other hand Joseph L Celucien defines Afrophobia as “the fear and denigration of Africa, and the dissociation of things African and peoples of African ancestry”.

Both definitions imply that Afrophobia can be self inflicted or inflicted by the other, non Africans.

In this case, the attacks in South Africa are inflicted by “some” black South Africans on other, mainly, black Africans from other nations on the continent.

It is ironic that there are elements within South African society that refer to “Africa” as if it was a foreign country, and they live on a totally different continent or planet totally detached from the motherland.

It is this “dissociation” Celucien refers to as the detachment from the immediate surroundings or physical or emotional experience that makes it possible to murder one’s own in cold blood without feeling a thing.

Some of these Africans don’t act like Africans living in Africa, but Europeans living in Africa. They create a “them” and “us” mentality which is an ingredient that fuels xenophobia.

It is a shame that some of these individuals are powerful figures within the government, society and the media who should know better than to ferment hatred and division.

The Afrophobia Illusion

The operative word above was “appears”. That doesn’t mean I accept that what is happening or happened is Afrophobia. I believe it is xenophobia.

The question is when Europeans discriminate against their fellow Europeans from the continent, do they cry out Europhobia? No, they do not.

It is simply xenophobia. Therefore, it is idiotic for us Africans to claim it is Afrophobia: if the same thing happened anywhere else in the world, it would be labelled as xenophobia.

We cannot deny what happened by trying to muddy the waters, claiming that it is Afrophobia. These attacks on people of African origin from other countries in Africa is XENOPHOBIA plain and simple.

The complaint is against “foreigners”, albeit black ones; therefore, there is no way we can spin the truth unless those in the media and in power have ulterior motives.

Why are black Africans under attack by their fellow black South African kin?

There lies the absurdity of the attacks. It is an anomaly the term “foreigners” among “some” black South Africans refers to black Africans only.

Whites are viewed as expatriates, investors or tourists. They are not perceived as foreigners but people bringing in foreign currency, opportunities, jobs, cultural capital, etc.

Because they don’t share the same spaces as the majority, they are not perceived as a direct threat in the competition for scant resources.

In contrast, Black Africans often referred to locally as “makwerekwere”, a derogatory term demonising them as thieves, are perceived as people who come to South Africa to sell drugs, steal jobs and opportunities from the locals.

They are often accused of stealing women and men too absurdly as illustrated in the picture below. Who would want to steal the woman of the guy below?

A xenophobic South African in a meme claiming Africans are stealing their women.

In other cases, they are accused of stealing whole suburbs like Yeoville, Berea or Hillbrow in central Johannesburg.

Ironically, the area that foreigners, black Africans, occupy is a grain of sand in a desert when compared to the area controlled by white South Africans or white foreigners which makes this argument most absurd.

To make matters more complicated, a lot of blacks from other countries end up living in the shanty towns, townships and rural areas or farms with black South Africans.

Hence, because they share the same space, both are pitted to compete against one another for a place on the lowest rung on the South African socio-economic ladder.

Such competition opens up room for hostilities and consequently the ugly scenes we are witnessing today.

The legacy of Apartheid and colonialism subliminally brainwashed black people to respect white life because it supposedly had more value. This taboo was reinforced through subliminal brainwashing by convincing black people that they were inferior and whites superior through separate development.

It was a taboo for a black person to kill a white person then. The consequences of killing a white person were worse for killing a white person compared to killing a black person.

Even looking at a white woman could cost a black man his life or a lifetime behind bars. The old immorality laws made sure blacks always knew their place and forced them to respect white life.

It seems like the legacy of Apartheid was internalised and on a subconscious level White foreigners are less likely to be targeted as black foreigners are.

It is also ironic that a lot of Chinese and other Asian nationalities often take up jobs in South Africa or marry South African women yet they are not targeted in the same manner as other Africans from other countries.

In a way, this illustrates that issues about jobs or women are not really the underlying causes for these attacks.

What sparked these xenophobic attacks?

Politicians, the media and others have institutionalised xenophobia and have often used unsavoury terms to demonise black foreigners, blaming them for everything that is wrong in South Africa, that is when they are not blaming Rhodes or Apartheid.

The latest rounds of attacks were allegedly sparked by something the inappropriately misnamed Zulu king, Goodwill [Illwill] Zwelethini said, calling for the foreigners to pack their bags and go. He also allegedly likened them to lice and ants.

According to a speech made by Julius Malema in parliament, Zuma’s son is alleged to have added his vitriol to an already volatile situation.

However, it goes further back. There were other attacks in 2008. Prior to that there were low level attacks that date back to the mid 90’s but never gained any traction. They remained isolated incidents and under the radar.

In recent years, high level verbal attacks by powerful members in society scape-goating foreigners has increased the hatred of black foreigners. They have been blamed for crime and violence as if South Africa was not already a crime ridden country and one of the crime capitals of the world.

Foreigners are blamed for the weakening rand. They are blamed for the lack of jobs. They are blamed for poor or non existent service delivery. They are blamed for the lack of housing.

Social, economic or political ills are blamed on them. They are convenient scapegoats because they don’t have a voice. They have no means of articulating their position because of lack of organisation or a body to articulate their concerns.

The lie is repeated often enough and many people accept is as the gospel truth. However, very few people are willing to critically examine the root causes and point out that an incompetent leadership is the root cause of the social, economic and political ills South Africa is experiencing.

Very few want to admit that the growth of a tiny black elite and a lack of socio-economic and political transformation are the reasons why the poor are getting poorer and it is not the vulnerable African immigrants who are the problem.

The meteoric rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] under Julius Malema demonstrates that there is discontent among a significant cross section with regards to the lack of political and socio-economic transformation.

It is a motivating factor in the unrest. However, to deflect from the truth, politicians create an enemy to blame for the problems poor South Africans are experiencing. The voiceless and vulnerable immigrants are made the scapegoats to shoulder this blame in a manner resembling Hitler blaming the Jews for Germany’s woes.

The reality is that whether or not the immigrants are driven out, the situation is not going to change for those competing at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Without any meaningful transformation, the poor are going to get poorer and the rich richer. There needs to be a greater push towards changing the mindsets of certain sections of the community who remain illiterate and have no practical skills to offer in the workplace.

There needs to be more done to change the mindset of those who spend their time drinking and chasing women, parting with whatever little money they have purchasing juju to bring them luck or secure jobs; or those who believe that funding the flamboyant lifestyle of prosperity prophets will miraculously transform their lives, and they will be blessed in return with miracle money and prosperity.

Picture of illiterate and xenophobic protesters protesting in the streets that qualified medical doctors are stealing their jobs.

This cultural paradigm needs to be addressed first. However, there isn’t a Steve Bantu Biko like figure alive today who can address the question of psychological emancipation and encourage a spirit and mentality of self reliance.

More needs to be done to address the dependency syndrome that makes some believe that the government is a good parent that can cater for all of the needs of everyone. People need to do more to work on continually improving their self through their own means instead of waiting for others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves.

The question is how long are those at the bottom going to carry on walking around in their dazed stupors, refusing to see what is so obvious.

How long are they going to continue voting sentimentally for those who are going to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses?

Divide and Rule

We are all oppressed. But we are oppressed in different ways by the ruling elite. Some are oppressed by their gender. Some by race. Some ethnicity. Some class, religion, political affiliation, etc.

The motive is keep us fighting among ourselves over the crumbs and trivial matters; while we are distracted by our infighting, they are making off with the lion’s share of the economic cake.

As long as we remain fragmented and divided by ideological differences, the elite have nothing to worry about. They can get away with murder and they will use their dirty tactics and hungry youths and people to do their dirty work or fight wars dreamed up by old men.

Picture of an arrested looter claiming he was sent to loot and cause xenophobic violence.

It is no coincidence that one of the looters arrested in the pictures above and below claim they were sent to carry out xenophobic violence and loot the shops of foreigners or local businesses.

These are criminals with no compunction who have no ideological standing. They are rebels without a cause.

These are not the type of people who can or want to work when they can be rewarded through instant gratification, reaping where they did not sow.

Crazy looter 2

They blame foreigners for taking their jobs but use that as an excuse to rob hard working people. They blame foreigners taking their women to find easy pickings for their criminal activities.

They are criminals masquerading as protesters with genuine concerns. Why are they not attacking the Chinese who are doing the very same things they are complaining of?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not inciting violence against any race or nationality. My question is a rhetoric one and nothing more than that.

Consequences of Xenophobia

We all suffer, directly or indirectly, from the consequences of xenophobia. When one black person commits a transgression, the whole race is tarnished.

We don’t uplift our nation or race. Rather, we continue to reinforce the racial stereotypes that some have tried for centuries to prove true.

We have come a long way as a continent but we have a long way to go still. All the progress that we have made is wiped out by transgressions like these xenophobic attacks. It makes us look less humane. It makes us look like barbarians, people who haven’t seen the light.

Picture of people fleeing violence by xenophobic mobs

The families of the victims of the attacks have lost sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandsons, etc. They have lost breadwinners. They have lost hope.

The future is a much darker place. We cannot even begin to imagine their grief. Only someone who has lost a family member through senseless violence can appreciate it. The rest will have to imagine it.

The families of the perpetrators suffer too because of the actions of their sons. They are ashamed of the actions of their sons. They are stigmatised.

They also have their losses and share of grief to contend with, let alone the ruined futures of the young men involved in some of these gruesome attacks as illustrated by the consequences the families of the murderers of Emmanuel Sithole a.k.a. Josias suffered after he was murdered in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, South Africa.

As I touched on above, there has been a massive fallout between South Africa, its neighbours and other countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, etc.

Nigeria recalled its high commissioner. Malawi was threatening to expel the South African Ambassador to the country.

South African workers who were based in Mozambique had to be repatriated back home because of fears that they would be attacked.

The South African Embassy in Nigeria was shut down for over a week due to protests in Nigeria.

A number of countries have repatriated their nationals back home. Over two weekends, there were protests at the South African Embassy in London.

The whole continent is destabilised because of the actions of a few. There are some who claim that there are efforts by external forces to create such a situation and exploit it. Whatever the truth is, we are responsible for our own actions and we have to accept it like men and women with minds of their own to think.

The Rand fell while these xenophobic attacks were occurring. It is not Africans who benefit from the fallout of the Rand but the major currencies and we have to pay more to make ends meet in South Africa. It is the poor who suffer when inflation rises.

Armed members of the SAPS gesture to a Nigerian man to keep his distance to prevent him from approaching a South African Man who has been arrested while in the process of looting a Nigerian owned business in Jeppestown, Johannesburg.

Armed members of the SAPS gesture to a Nigerian man to keep his distance to prevent him from approaching a South African Man who has been arrested while in the process of looting a Nigerian owned business in Jeppestown, Johannesburg. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]  

There are on-line petitions and campaigns to boycott South African artists, companies and products.

Some campaigners are calling for the likes of the Zulu King to be hauled before the ICC. Others are calling for South Africa to be expelled from SADC and the African Union and leave it isolated as it was during the Apartheid era.

However, the truth is that it is not going to happen. There will be some posturing by ambassadors, presidents and politicians vying for political capital to brush up their bruised egos but nothing meaningful will come out of it until the next wave of attacks when all the posturing will be repeated again like a never-ending charade.

Reviews and inquests will be conducted but it will not make a difference. It is a part of the sham that is modern politics. Afterwards, announcements will be made that they have learnt their lessons and politicians will make empty promises again.

Politicians are going to attend meetings at the AU and SADC to discuss these matters over numerous courses of meals but the discussions at the conference table will serve us no purpose.

Tackling the root causes of xenophobic violence

However, the politicians will not address or tackle the root causes. It will not happen. Tackling the root causes will mean introspection and constructive change which is not something our African politicians are used to or willing to do.

Tackling the root causes of xenophobic violence means educating the people and tackling the high level of illiteracy, ignorance, poverty.

It means delivering on election pledges, transparency and honesty from those in government. It means structural changes to the socio-economic and political order. It means getting rid of corruption and bad governance.

No leader is willing to tackle these issues head on. African leaders, as a collective, all shy away from tackling these issues because they believe that they will threaten their survival.

Keeping the people divided and fighting each other and struggling to survive means the poor don’t have the luxury to think, and develop an awareness of why they are hungry and poor.

By keeping people hungry and fighting between themselves, politicians and the elite prevent the masses from thinking critically and turning against them.

It is at times like this we miss leaders like Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness Movement and philosophy. I can imagine Biko reminding the people that:

“The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country [on the continent] of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.”

The parenthesis above is mine. I believe Biko would find it difficult to believe that an African would be considered a foreigner on the continent of his or her birth; he would stand up and speak out against the reduction of the black man and woman’s dignity through xenophobia and the reckless utterances by those who yield power in society.

That no other leader after Biko has attempted to empower the people and decolonise their minds reinforces his idea that “the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.

Picture of Steve Biko with the quote,

Politicians, like ticks, thrive on the blood of a mainly ignorant population. They can piss on them and tell them it is raining; their deaf, dead, dumb and blind followers will mobilise to convince the masses that the president said it is raining and so that is that.

Forget that the piss is warm and stinks. These ignoramuses in our midst will ignore the evidence in front of their eyes and demonise whoever thinks with their own mind and rejects the lie that it is raining. Those who reject the word will be accused of being unpatriotic or sell-outs; i.e. if they are not subjected to violence to silence their protestations.

Africa is facing a crisis of leadership as I wrote before and we need new leaders to take the continent in a different direction.

Is the influx of foreigners into South Africa a unique situation?

The influx of foreigners into South Africa is in no way a unique situation. It is a universal occurrence. Even countries without economies as strong or as diversified like South Africa such as Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, etc. are taking their share of economic and political refugees displaced within Africa.

But, there are no cries of xenophobia yet they also face dire economic circumstances and the same high levels of unemployment.

Yes, there are complaints of the Chinese immigrants coming into African countries and killing industries with cheap imports or taking over whole sectors of the economy or monopolising some mining sectors.

However, we are yet to see uprisings against the Chinese from other Africans across the continent as we witnessed in South Africa.

The xenophobic attacks we witnessed are unique to South Africa. The scale and barbarity of the acts eclipses anything we have probably ever seen.

We have witnessed politicians in the west using immigration as a means of manipulating the electorate using fear tactics.

Nigel Farage’s UKIP Party manipulated immigration in the run-up to the recent UK Elections to the   extent of whipping out xenophobic fervour against immigrants, African and European.

Consequently, the Conservatives, Labour and others had to create a perception that they were tough on immigration to avoid being run over by the anti-immigrant electorate.

In this scenario, immigrants received the blame for lack of jobs, unemployment, losses to the NHS, etc.

The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of teaching, nursing and IT jobs that are lying vacant because there aren’t qualified people who can fill those jobs.

It is a sham that slogans like British Jobs for the British are created and they resonate with the populace when in reality, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs British people can’t fill because they don’t have the necessary skills.

The truth is that they are going to recruit foreigners to fill those jobs because there is no other way around it. Politicians play dangerous games by creating such scenarios when the reality is very different from the perception.

This is not to insinuate that this only happens in the UK. No way. It happens in all the major countries in the west such as the US, Canada, etc.

So as stated above, the South African situation is not unique but they have dealt with it in a manner that we have not witnessed anywhere else in the world where people are experiencing the same problems.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Whenever there is a dark period, there is also light at the end of the tunnel. Forgive me when I say South Africans as if all South Africans are the same. I have stated above that “some” sectors of society are responsible for what happened.

There are probably larger pockets of society who are totally against what happened. They did not want this to be done in their name. They do not condone xenophobic violence of Afrophobia or whatever you call it.

Picture of little children holding placards that read

Children join the protests against xenophobia. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

We have also heard of various movements within the ghettoes that have been stepping up to the plate, patrolling their neighbourhoods to protect foreigners and their businesses.

There are numerous initiatives started by South Africans both at home and in the Diaspora to say #NoToXenophobia.

There are a number of musicians, artists and politicians who have stood up and said No To Xenophobia.

Let us not forget all those good hearted South Africans who said enough is enough and took to the streets in protest, demanding an end to the violence and denouncing xenophobia.

Picture of protesters in their thousands take to the streets of Johannesburg, holding up placards and denouncing xenophobia.

Anti-xenophobia protesters take to the streets of Johannesburg in thousands, holding up their placards and making sure their message is heard loudly and clearly.
[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]

There is hope at the end of it. There always is. When we lose hope, we die.

I say that the demon of xenophobia/ Afrophobia must be exorcised from the hearts and minds of the black man and woman. As they say in South Africa – Simunye – We Are One!

I believe in the words of Biko and his belief that, “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face”.

South Africa is not going to do that through xenophobia. It is going to do that by working together with her sisters and brothers in Africa and uplifting the human race.

We have a lot in common. We share a common heritage and it is our duty to uplift each other from the gutter as those who did it before us like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel and others did to see a decolonised Africa.

Picture of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere smiling and clapping his hands. Below his picture is a text where he is denouncing tribalism.

We are not each others enemy. We want and need the same things. We want a greater slice of the economic cake that comes from the rich repositories of mineral wealth that ensues from our continent.

We want a better life for all: equal access to minerals, economical and political resources. We want an Africa free from violence, starvation and poverty.

Our greatest enemy today is corruption, ignorance and poor governance. They are doing more damage to Africa then anything else. It is the reason why our progress has been arrested. It is the reason why the socialism we fought died in the embryonic stages.

The spectre of neocolonialism and imperialism are on us: they are making off with our wealth while we are dying of thirst yet we are standing in water.

George Orwell, the famous writer, once wrote in the dystopian novel 1984 something to the effect that Africa was the continent that was passed over from one conqueror to another.

Reality is stranger than fiction; it seems like this fictitious work has some morsels of truth in it: we are becoming a continent that is fulfilling the words of Orwell as we are passed on from one hand of the conqueror to another.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must learn to love ourselves. We must love one another. Even the revolutionary is driven by enormous love.

It is important to have an enormous capacity of love to enable us to carry out the arduous and most difficult task of denouncing the cruel, and obscene assault against human beings who have the least in society when it is so much easier and comfortable to accommodate the power structure from which we can reap benefits for ourselves.

Our commitment must not yield to social injustice; we must give hope and hold firm to the conviction that an unfair and discriminatory world can be changed to be more just, less dehumanising and more humane. Change is difficult but it is not impossible. It is possible. We have numerous opportunities and possibilities to shake the structure of the world.

In the words of the great pedagogue, Paulo Freire, “I think that with a tranquil more alert and awakened consciousness, we should assume a position of indignation. I mean we should become indignant, but not at the favela dweller who kills, but indignant at the historical, political, social and economical situation that creates the possibility of me being killed by this unfortunate person”.

The root causes of the xenophobic violence doesn’t lie with the poor who have carried out that violence. On the contrary, the root causes that force migrants to flee their countries do not rest on the shoulders of the migrants.

Likewise, both are pawns in a greater struggle for power and control. It is a struggle shaped by historical, political, social and economical situations of which both are not always conscious of, or have an awareness of how they have shaped circumstances, but they view each other as enemies or competition.

Brothers and sisters, we all need the same basic things in life. All our countries are in the grip of the same forces. Therefore, we need each other to struggle against these forces that seek to use our African-ness as a mark of subservience.

Let us not be driven to desperate measures and remember that we are unofficial diplomats of Africa. As diplomats of the continent, we should work towards uplifting our motherland in all our endeavours.

Let us uplift one another from the slum and continue to strive for excellence in our chosen fields. Our focus should be on the kind of legacy that we are going to leave for our children and their descendants.

Are we going to keep up the stereotypes or are we going to break the chains? I believe we have the capacity to start a new chapter and continue where our respective revolutions left off and restore dignity and humanity to all Africans.

Oppression and poverty are dehumanising. It is our moral duty, our political duty to make Africa a less dehumanising place. Therefore, as unofficial ambassadors we must lead by example and be proud of our culture and remind the world of the beauty of our culture: that is our respect for life, private property and the likes as the picture by Steve Biko spells out below.

Image of Steve Biko with a quote from the book I Write What I Like which states “We must reject, as we have been doing, the individualistic cold approach to life that is the cornerstone of Anglo-Boer culture. We must seek to restore to the black man the great importance we used to give to human relations, the high regard we had for people and their property, and for life in general; to reduce the triumph of technology over man and the materialistic element that is slowly creeping into society.”

We are not each other’s enemy; we should be each other’s keeper. We have nothing to lose but our colonial chains. We have a land overflowing with milk and honey, gold and diamonds, cobalt and coltan, platinum and uranium and everything that the world desires. Africans from all over unite! We have a continent to win. Aluta Continua!

It is time to pause and reflect and realise that to reach our goals we need each other. No man or nation is an island. Our generation must do to our governments what our predecessors did to the colonial regimes if they refuse to change the political and socio-economical structures of Africa. Revolution is the only solution!

I leave you with the following words by Steve Biko, “Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood”. Aluta Continua!

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April 18, 2015 · 12:26 am