Monday, 8 June 2015

Info on one part of many truths

Violent tribalism 2015


This site serves to break my promise to not publish any political information any more. And on my other blogs I don't. Indeed THEY all serve to highlight creativity, tolerance and all the other good and helpful things in life which are not represented in politics.
However, I feel that my friends in South Africa and Europe, USA, Australia and even as far as China deserve access to certain political articles and opinions which as a rule are not available in their home countries.

I am not revealing any sinister, secret plots and events, but otherwise published media articles and videos, which you find out about only if you are looking closer into matters of interest.

I have always had a keen interest in my second home country, South Africa, since more than 30 years. What is 'African', what is everything all about, the history, the people, how did it happen and what is happening now? In the present politics play a major role in everybody's life, politics based on corruption, maladministration, tribal and racial issues and greed. One can choose to not talk about this, but one can not ignore it. The seekers of the truth will not find it, because Africa has millions of truths, but they will be able to find aspects to make up their minds on some of the subjects.

So, here goes:
The Mozambican leader Samora Machel once famously proclaimed that, “for the nation to live, the tribe must die”.
I never liked this formulation because of its underlying assumption that tribal identities don‘t matter.
Throughout history, human beings have belonged to one tribe or another. But as Archie Mafeje argued in his famous 1971 article “The Ideology of Tribalism”, published in The Journal of Modern African Studies, the colonial-apartheid system manipulated tribal identities to Balkanise the black population into different homelands.
A concept that once referred to a small group of people in a limited geographical area was revised to be co-extensive with people who spoke more or less the same language over large territories. To be sure, smaller tribes were often conquered by bigger tribes. But then they saw themselves as part of new kingdoms, not tribes.
 The danger arose when these kingdoms were not only tribalised but also endowed with distinctive characteristics. The most damaging of these stereotypes was that the Zulu were warriors and the Xhosa were educated. That the Zulus were just as desirous of a peaceful future as anybody or that the great majority of Xhosa were not educated was disregarded in the construction of divide and rule.
By the ‘80s the narrative was that the Zulu “warriors” were under attack from a Xhosa-led ANC. This ignored that for most of its existence the ANC was dominated by highly educated Zulu leaders such as Pixley ka Seme, John Langalibalele Dube and Albert Luthuli.
The stereotypes left tens of thousands of people dead in the tribal wars of the ‘80s. The parallels between those wars and the current xenophobic attacks are striking. These include the horrendous “necklace”, the brandishing of “cultural weapons”, and the single-sex hostels that were the staging ground for late-apartheid tribalism. Can somebody please tell me why we still have people living in hostels 20 years into a democratic South Africa?
 The stereotypes are different now, but they all find fertile ground in a society where the tribe has replaced the nation. Now it is not just the Zulu or the Xhosa but black South Africans who see themselves as different from other Africans.
 I am now going to speak in the collective “we” in describing this new black tribal identity and the stereotypes on which it is constructed. I shall do so because we are all, in different ways, implicated in this horrendous crime against the humanity of other people.
First, we tell ourselves that other Africans are here to steal our jobs. What a lousy excuse for hatred. Unemployment, inequality and poverty were unacceptably high long before many Africans came here. Zimbabweans came running here after our own government refused to put pressure on Robert Mugabe to stop the misrule of his country. Lost on us is the irony of applauding the dictator when he visits South Africa while chasing his refugees with machetes. And we turn around to call ourselves Mandela‘s children?
Those of us who warned of the large-scale migration that would follow Zimbabwe‘s collapse were called “sellouts” by the high and mighty in Thabo Mbeki‘s government. The sad thing is that all of our troubles have been foretold — from electricity shortages to HIV/Aids to migration. But then again, denial is our national pastime and leadership our achilles heel.
Second, we demonise other Africans as “criminals”. But if the thugs who murdered Emmanuel Sithole do not represent all of us, why can‘t we accord the same logic to other communities? We are dishing to fellow Africans the same hate that was dished to us by white people under apartheid. We do not even bother to ask about their backgrounds and achievements. Do we really think that decent, hard-working, well-educated people would voluntarily leave their countries to become beggars on our streets?
All over the world people embark on perilous journeys across oceans and deserts to save themselves and their children from anarchy and the perils of war. Given our government‘s collusion in the collapse of Zimbabwe, we should at least have some compassion for ordinary Zimbabweans in our communities.
The third stereotype is that a Sithole in Mozambique is unrelated to a Sithole in Durban or Johannesburg. And yet the Sithole were a strong ally of Shaka. How ironic, then, that a Sithole died at the hands of his own people, following the words of one of Shaka's descendants. That is what tribalism does — it devours even its own. We ignore at our peril that African people are related, despite the history of migration.
I once hosted a workshop in which Julius Nyerere described the migrant history of African people as follows: “My tribe came to where we are now in Tanzania as a result of the refugee movements which were caused by the wars of slavery, the wars which disturbed the whole blessed continent. And our people have been moving and moving and moving all the time, refugees running away all the time. And a lot of so-called tribes in Africa are groups of refugees.”
That is as true for the African migrants in our communities today as it was for our ancestors thousands of years before Europeans even arrived here.
Fourth, the killers say their only objection is that the migrants are here illegally. But how would they know? Did they ask to see their documents? And when did refugees start at the visa office before they leave their countries? I bet the haters would have killed them even if they had shown their documents.
I say all these things to reject the notion that there are legitimate economic reasons for the attacks. The economic argument suggests the causes are outside of us, and even beyond our power. But what we are dealing with here are ingrained prejudices that long predate the present moment, drummed into our minds by the very same colonialists we claim to have overcome. Where is the blackness that was the ethical construct and the moral compass against apartheid, when our present government mostly speaks of the attacks as economic damage to “Brand South Africa”? Who are we and what have we become that we now see everything through the sign of the rand?
The truth is we have no social contract to guide us in this country. We have become the postmodern face of a xenophobic tribalism that will devour everything in its way, and ultimately become a threat to our very existence as a society. Instead of our nationally elected government, we had a tribal monarch left standing to call a national imbizo — to douse the very flames he had started. Where was the president of the republic at our most perilous moment? Where was the party that was founded by our forefathers to fight tribalism? Was the absence of national leadership further confirmation that the tribe has indeed become the nation, and the nation the tribe?
Mangcu is associate professor of sociology at the University of Cape Town
This article first appeared in the Sunday Times