“We posit that the non-racialism of transformation of Sisulu and the non-racialism of decolonisation of Sobukwe and Biko are inadequate. Africans must stop to accommodate whites and opt for the uncompromising Africanism of Lembede in the form of Africa for the Africans and Europe for the Europeans” concludes an opinion piece by Masilo Lepuru, a junior researcher at the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation( IPATC).
The Institute housed at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) claims to “provide a forum for scholars, practitioners, and civil society actors across Africa and its Diaspora to dialogue and contribute to the rigorous production and dissemination of Pan-African knowledge and culture” and further seeks to ‘promote original and innovative Pan-African ideas and critical dialogue in pursuit of global excellence in research and teaching, and to contribute actively to building an international profile for UJ on Pan-African issues.’
Lepura’s piece entitled “Non-racialism and its Discontent’s” published by IOL, thus purports to answer a question seemingly of utmost contemporaneous import — namely ‘the resolution of the national question’. Instead of providing any reasonable answers, he proceeds to fabricate a self-serving and overtly racist discourse. In other words, a false narrative in which the views of one Marcus Garvey, are hijacked and transposed with that of ANC Youth League founder and first president Anton Lembede.
It was the Jamaican Garvey, who whilst writing during the 1930s, first proposed “Africa for the Africans… at home and abroad.” A statement later memorialised in his poem of the same title which makes it clear he meant the term in a nationalistic sense, as in “America for the Americans”. Lepura writing almost 100 years later from the halls of UJ, sows a rather different, racist history of Pan Africanism within the country — a cockamamy yarn, obviously planted to subvert the very idea of non-racialism. An idea which has been at the bedrock of the ANC, in thought if not action, for decades. It is presented here as nothing less than a call for ‘Africa, for the Natives Only.’
At first he claims: “There are two dominant views regarding the resolution of the national question in South Africa. The first one posits that the national question revolves around the question of land and race, while the second one states that the problem of the national question is one of class in the form of the haves and have-nots.” Before proceeding apace, unapologetically towards an unpatriotic and clearly racist position.
His argument and proceeding bile, is best summarised as ‘the majority remain poor, therefore non-racialism has failed. Racism is the obvious answer.’
Tom Lodge writing in Black politics in South Africa since 1945, Longman (1983) describes the Pan Africanist movement’s rejection of “God’s Apartheid” by the inaugural Pan Africanist Congress held in Orlando, 1959.
“Four months after their secession the Africanists held the inaugural conference of the new organisation, the Pan-Africanist Congress, in Orlando. In a highly charged atmosphere, the conference was opened by the chairman of the Federation of Independent African Churches, the Reverend W. M. Dimba, who began his address by denouncing those ‘hooligans of Europe who killed our God’, and went on to salute ‘a black man, Simon of Arabia who carried Jesus from the cross’.”
“The delegates then elected a president, rejecting, rather to the surprise of observers, Josias Madzunya (who had disgraced himself by calling for ‘God’s Apartheid’, that is, Africa for the Africans and Europe for the Europeans), choosing instead Robert Sobukwe, a lecturer in African languages at the University of the Witwatersrand.”
The academic effort expended at framing a non-debate, one which clearly exists only inside the inner sanctum of the IPATC alone, is accomplished by Lepuru without so much as any demonstration of popular support. He immediately assumes his own authorship like a Monarch over the character of our country, and thus a contrived argument, which may have once informed the period immediately preceding the constitutional process. Current debates are thus subsumed by the introduction of hackneyed quibbles from a former era.
All cast here in the pursuance of a shallow academic and political project, calculated to re-engineer the country’s local ‘African Nationalism’ within the ambit of a particularly vicious trend amongst dissatisfied Pan-Africanists, namely their quest to create a continental super-state, one with overtly racist overtones.
It would not be all that bad if Lepuru were accurately relaying historical information as fact. If all he was doing was providing us with an opinion, as some do — one which myopically opposes the non-racial framework of the nation’s Constitution, whose Preamble states: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”. And thus critically tackling a foundation document, which attempts to negate racism by its clarion call to non-racialism. Instead what we have here is far, far worse.
Lodge goes on to record that in contrast, the ANCYL Anton Lembede believed in a racially assertive nationalism which would serve national self-determination: ‘Africa is a Black man’s country’ he stated, and thus ‘political collaboration with other groups could take place only with Africans acting as an organised self-conscious unit’. This early strain of ‘black consciousness’ is a far cry from the misreading of ‘Africa for Africans‘ of Marcus Garvey. It begs the question what any new sign reserving the future land might state: Africans here. Non-Africans there?
NOTE: Our constitution has several references to race. (Equality 9.3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race. Bars advocacy of hatred that is based on race in (16.2 c Freedom of Expression) ,bars discriminate on the basis of race in (Education 29.2c), provides person or community dispossessed of property restitution of that property or to equitable redress. Empowers state to introduce measures to redress the results of past racial discrimination (Property 25.6 25.7).