first published here: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-09-26-class-theory-finally-decolonised
September 26, 2014
September 24, 2014
September 14, 2014
September 5, 2014
In an attempt I made recently at sorting out what is what in South African literature, certain ideas occurred to me, which I jotted down in somewhat haphazard order. I also tried to put down some of my notions about what is not what in South African literature. Judge of my surprise when, on re-reading this collection of stray notes, I found that they seemed to form part of a coherent, overall pattern. I would as readily have expected them to fit neatly into a sizeable portion of chaos.
So I went along home and wrote down some more things.
You mustn’t ask me to approve of the artificial efforts being made by a section of the Afrikaner literati at establishing cultural links with the Hollanders and the Flemings, in order to stimulate interest in the creation of a “Dietse” (Low-German) literature. Afrikaans is not Low-German. Its name tells you that it is an African language.
The resemblance that exists between Afrikaans and the languages of the Low Countries is something fortuitous and meaningless, something to do with the mechanical side of linguistics. The politician or the business-man might feel that he would like to do something about exploiting these chance similarities. But the poet must know that Afrikaans is more different in spirit from Nederlands than from Chinese.
Perhaps a few Afrikaans writers will continue to delude themselves for a little longer with the notion that the Hollanders and the Flemings are interested in Afrikaans literary developments. But any Afrikaans publishing-house will tell you that the demand for Afrikaans books in Holland and Belgium is plus nought. The only people in the Low Countries who read Afrikaans authors are Afrikaners who are there as students, or on holiday, or on business.
Were people in West Flanders interested in Anna Neethling-Pohl’s readings, just before the war, or N.P. van Wyk Louw’s poems? No. But they were interested in the fact that, at a political meeting held in the same town, a Fleming hit a Walloon over the head with a bicycle. They were interested only in their own culture and in the make of the bicycle.
Similarly, the visits to this country, since the war, of Hollander and Belgian poets and professors of literature have perhaps served a useful purpose in strengthening the international amities.
It might help to sell a few push-bikes in this country when Holland starts exporting them again.
Some years ago it was fashionable for a European tourist to explore some part of Africa, and after he had spent a week or two on the Dark Continent, to return to Europe and to write an authoritative work on the tribal customs, etc., of the savages who allowed him to pass peacefully through their territories. Because they didn’t ask to see his visa, or offer to kill him – as would have happened to a foreigner trying to walk through any part of Europe that way – the tourist always knew that he was dealing with a lot of savages.
And the funny thing is that Africa has been uncivillized like this for a very long time. Look for how many years Livingstone walked about all over Africa as a spy. And whenever he came to a village the savages, with studied brutality, would set before him food and drink. When he got fever, the benighted heathen even nursed him back to health without pay – just so that he could go and spy on them some more. That’s this continent for you, sunk in absolute abomination.
Latterly, I have had occasion to make a somewhat detailed study of certain aspects of S.A. English literature, and I have made a number of interesting discoveries. In the first place, considering the fact that S.A. English literature had its beginnings way back in the early years of the 19th Century, long before Afrikaans literature was thought of, why is it that today S.A. English literature has got to take so much of a back seat to Afrikaans?
I think I have found the answer, all right. The Afrikaner accepts himself as part of Africa. Out of his own traditions and history and background, out of the stones and the soil and the red guts of Africa, he is fashioning a literature that has not reached a very high inspirational level – let us make no mistake about that – but that has struck an authentic note, somehow, and that you can feel (italics) has got a power in it that must become an enduring part of the Afrikaner’s national heritage.
During the 19th Century, the paradox about S.A. English literature, which had no pretensions to being anything more than a frankly colonial literature, was that it was a literature essentially of the soil. The first writers really tried to find themselves in terms of their identification of themselves with the African scene. It was hard going, but they tried. Pringle might be a colonial poet, but his love for South Africa was sincere enough to get him into trouble with the British Government on account of it – and the last line of his sonnet. “The Kaffir”, is a challenge ringing across one and a quarter centuries.
The pioneers of S.A. English literature, from Pringle to Olive Schreiner, struggling by whatever inner light they had to give expression to their individual creative urges, were consciously or unconsciously contributing to the task of bringing into existence an indigenous South African literature, native of the soil. And their ultimate level of achievement was not too bad.
The Bantu has got a marvellous world of knowledge and experience right here in the city of Johannesburg that he should be able to pour into the mould of great literature. But then he mustn’t follow in the footsteps of a lot of these semi-educated, half baked Natives who embark on literary careers with the idea that producing fiction is no more complicated a matter than turning out Left sociological treatises.
Never mind the obvious features of location-life, and all that. I recently had occasion to travel up and down a Native lift in one of Johannesburg’s tall buildings. I had to go up and down it quite a number of times. It was a revelation – another world, dun coloured and queerly frightening, existing a few yards away from the European lift that I had used daily for years.
Nobody can know the streets, the gutters, the seamy side of life in a South African city like a kaffir does. And it says in the Book of Kings: “He that climbeth up into the gutter shall be chieftain of them all.” Here is the tremendous raw material for the Bantu writer of to-day and of the future. But the theme of kaffir man and woman in the city must be handled romantically. The whole art of literature is to transform this kind of squalor into the hard, imperishable grey beauty of literature.
To deal with it in terms of realism is to offer insult to the theme. Furthermore, this is material only for the Bantu artist. The white man must keep away from it. We have stolen enough from the kaffir. Don’t let us have the cheek to go and try to poach on the preserves of his life’s bitterness as well, without having shared them. In any case, how can a white man get into a black man’s skin – and vice versa? That sort of thing is presumption, and can produce only falseness in art. No, they must write their literature. We must write ours. Only thus will we be able to meet each other in honesty, as fellow-artists, on a footing of equality.
Another thing: If I were a Native, and I had acquired a certain amount of culture, I wouldn’t want to call myself a Bantu or a Native or a negro or an African. No, I would demand to be recognised and accepted as a plain kaffir. I would receive from the hand of the white man nothing less. I would never allow them to take away from me a name so rich in legend, sorrow, and so heavy with the drama of Africa.
Incidentally, the etymologists’ tame derivation of the word “kaffir” from the Arabic for “unbeliever” must be rejected by anybody with a feeling for the significance of words. It is a strong, florid word, broad as the African veld, and in its dissyllabic vehemence a depth of contumely that I am sure no Arab would ever be able to think up.
published in uncollected essays, Timmins Publishers, 1981
July 22, 2014
They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.
July 17, 2014
July 16, 2014
July 15, 2014
July 10, 2014
Basically the South African white community is a homogeneous community. It is a community of people who sit to enjoy a privileged position that they do not deserve, are aware of this, and therefore spend their time trying to justify why they are doing so. Where differences in political opinion exist, they are in the process of trying to justify their position of privilege and their usurpation of power.
With their theory of “separate freedoms for the various nations in the multinational state of South Africa” the Nationalists have gone a long way towards giving most of white South Africa some sort of moral explanation for what is happening. Everyone is quite content to point out that these people -meaning the blacks -will be free when they are ready to run their own affairs in their own areas. What more could they possibly hope for?
But these are not the people we are concerned with. We are concerned with that curious bunch of nonconformists who explain their participation in negative terms: that bunch of do-gooders that goes under all sorts of names -liberals, leftists etc. These are the people who argue that they are not responsible for white racism and the country’s “inhumanity to the black man”. These are the people who claim that they too feel the oppression just as acutely as the blacks and therefore should be jointly involved in the black man’s struggle for a place under the sun. In short, these are the people who say that they have black souls wrapped up in white skins.
The role of the white liberal in the black man’s history in South Africa is a curious one. Very few black organisations were not under white direction. True to their image, the white liberals always knew what was good for the blacks and told them so. The wonder of it all is that the black people have believed in them for so long. It was only at the end of the 50s that the blacks started demanding to be their own guardians.
Nowhere is the arrogance of the liberal ideology demonstrated so well as in their insistence that the problems of the country can only be solved by a bilateral approach involving both black and white. This has, by and large, come to be taken in all seriousness as the modus operandi in South Africa by all those who claim they would like a change in the status quo. Hence the multiracial political organisations and parties and the “nonracial” student organisations, all of which insist on integration not only as an end goal but also as a means.
The integration they talk about is first of all artificial in that it is a response to conscious manoeuvre rather than to the dictates of the inner soul. In other words the people forming the integrated complex have been extracted from various segregated societies with their in- built complexes of superiority and inferiority and these continue to manifest themselves even in the “nonracial” set-up of the integrated complex. As a result the integration so achieved is a one-way course, with the whites doing all the talking and the blacks the listening. Let me hasten to say that I am not claiming that segregation is necessarily the natural order; however, given the facts of the situation where a group experiences privilege at the expense of others, then it becomes obvious that a hastily arranged integration cannot be the solution to the problem. It is rather like expecting the slave to work together with the slave-master’s son to remove all the conditions leading to the former’s enslavement. Secondly, this type of integration as a means is almost always unproductive. The participants waste lots of time in an internal sort of mudslinging designed to prove that A is more of a liberal than B. In other words the lack of common ground for solid identification is all the time manifested in internal strifes inside the group.
It will not sound anachronistic to anybody genuinely interested in real integration to learn that blacks are asserting themselves in a society where they are being treated as perpetual under-16s. One does not need to plan for or actively encourage real integration. Once the various groups within a given community have asserted themselves to the point that mutual respect has to be shown then you have the ingredients for a true and meaningful integration. At the heart of true integration is the provision for each man, each group to rise and attain the envisioned self. Each group must be able to attain its style of existence without encroaching on or being thwarted by another. Out of this mutual respect for each other and complete freedom of self-determination there will obviously arise a genuine fusion of the life-styles of the various groups. This is true integration.
From this it becomes clear that as long as blacks are suffering from inferiority complex -a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision -they will be useless as co-architects of a normal society where man is nothing else but man for his own sake. Hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of black consciousness such that blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.
Thus in adopting the line of a nonracial approach, the liberals are playing their old game. They are claiming a “monopoly on intelligence and moral judgement” and setting the pattern and pace for the realisation of the black man’s aspirations. They want to remain in good books with both the black and white worlds. They want to shy away from all forms of “extremisms”, condemning “white supremacy” as being just as bad as “Black Power!”. They vacillate be- tween the two worlds, verbalising all the complaints of the blacks beautifully while skillfully extracting what suits them from the exclusive pool of white privileges. But ask them for a moment to give a concrete meaningful programme that they intend adopting, then you will see on whose side they really are. Their protests are directed at and appeal to white conscience, everything they do is directed at finally convincing the white electorate that the black man is also a man and that at some future date he should be given a place at the white man’s table.
The myth of integration as propounded under the banner of liberal ideology must be cracked and killed because it makes people believe that something is being done when in actual fact the artificial integrated circles are a soporific on the blacks and provide a vague satisfaction for the guilty-stricken whites. It works on a false premise that because it is difficult to bring people from different races together in this country, therefore achievement of this is in itself a step forward towards the total liberation of the blacks. Nothing could be more irrelevant and therefore misleading. Those who believe in it are living in a fool’s paradise.
First the black-white circles are almost always a creation of white liberals. As a testimony to their claim of complete identification with the blacks, they call a few “intelligent and articulate” blacks to “come around for tea at home”, where all present ask each other the same old hackneyed question “how can we bring about change in South Africa?” The more such tea-parties one calls the more of a liberal he is and the freer he shall feel from the guilt that harnesses and binds his conscience. Hence he moves around his white circles – whites-only hotels, beaches, restaurants and cinemas -with a lighter load, feeling that he is not like the rest of the others. Yet at the back of his mind is a constant reminder that he is quite comfortable as things stand and therefore should not bother about change. Although he does not vote for the Nats (now that they are in the majority anyway), he feels quite secure under the protection offered by the Nats and subconsciously shuns the idea of a change. This is what demarcates the liberal from the black world. The liberals view the oppression of blacks as a problem that has to be solved, an eye sore spoiling an otherwise beautiful view. From time to time the liberals make themselves forget about the problem or take their eyes off the eyesore. On the other hand, in oppression the blacks are experiencing a situation from which they are unable to escape at any given moment. Theirs is a struggle to get out of the situation and not merely to solve a peripheral problem as in the case of the liberals. This is why blacks speak with a greater sense of urgency than whites’.
A game at which the liberals have become masters is that of deliberate evasiveness. The question often comes up “what can I do?”. If you ask him to do something like stopping to use segregated facilities or dropping out of varsity to work at menial jobs like all blacks or defying and denouncing all provisions that make him privileged, you always get the answer -”but that’s unrealistic!”. While this may be true, it only serves to illustrate the fact that no matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin -his passport to privilege -will always put him miles ahead of the black man. Thus in the ultimate analysis no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp.
“~here exists among men, because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world, and especially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant”.
This description of “metaphysical guilt” explains adequately that white racism “is only possible because whites are indifferent to suffering and patient with cruelty” meted out to the black man. Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society ,liberals waste lots of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can find that they are liberal. This arises out of the false belief that we are faced with a black problem. There is nothing the matter with blacks. The problem is WHITE RACISM and it rests squarely on the laps of the white society. The sooner the liberals realise this the better for us blacks. Their presence amongst us is irksome and of nuisance value. It removes the focus of attention from essentials and shifts it to ill-defined philosophical concepts that are both irrelevant to the black man and merely a red herring across the track. White liberals must leave blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society-white racism.
Secondly, the black-white mixed circles are static circles with neither direction nor programme. The same questions are asked and the same naivete exhibited in answering them. The real concern of the group is to keep the group going rather than being useful. In this sort of set-up one sees a perfect example of what oppression has done to the blacks. They have been made to feel inferior for so long that for them it is comforting to drink tea, wine or beer with whites who seem to treat them as equals. This serves to boost up their own ego to the extent of making them feel slightly superior to those blacks who do not get similar treatment from whites. These are the sort of blacks who are a danger to the community.
Instead of directing themselves at their black brothers and looking at their common problems from a common platform they choose to sing out their lamentations to an apparently sympathetic audience that has become proficient in saying the chorus of “shame!”. These dull-witted, self-centred blacks are in the ultimate analysis as guilty of the arrest of progress as their white friends for it is from such groups that the theory of gradualism emanates and this is what keeps the blacks confused and always hoping that one day God will step down from heaven to solve their problems. It is people from such groups who keep on scanning the papers daily to detect any sign of the change they patiently await without working for. When Helen Suzman’s* majority is increased by a couple of thousands, this is regarded as a major milestone in the “inevitable change”. Nobody looks at the other side of the coin -the large-scale removals of Afri- cans from the urban areas or the impending zoning of places like Grey Street in Durban and a myriad of other manifestations of change for the worse.
Does this mean that I am against integration? If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up by and maintained by whites, then YES I am against it. I am against the superior-inferior white- black stratification that makes the white a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that). I am against the intellectual arrogance of white people that makes them believe that white leadership is a sine qua non in this country and that whites are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress. I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.
If on the other hand by integration you mean there shall be free participation by all members of a society, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people, then I am with you. For one cannot escape the fact that the culture shared by the majority group in any given society must ultimately determine the broad direction taken by the joint culture of that society. This need not cramp the style of those who feel differently but on the whole, a country in Africa, in which the majority of the people are African must inevitably exhibit African values and be truly African in style.
What of the claim that the blacks are becoming racists? This is a favourite pastime of frustrated liberals who feel their trusteeship. At that time, and for many years, the only Progressive Party MP. Editor’s note. ground being washed off from under their feet. These self-appointed trustees of black interests boast of years of experience in their fight for the ‘rights of the blacks’. They have been doing things for blacks, on behalf of blacks, and because of blacks. When the blacks announce that the time has come for them to do things for themselves and all by themselves all white liberals shout blue murder!
“Hey, you can’t do that. You’re being a racist. You’re falling into their trap.” Apparently it’s alright with the liberals as long as you remain caught by their trap. Those who know, define racism as discrimination by a group against another for the purposes of subjugation or maintaining subjugation. In other words one cannot be a racist unless he has the power to subjugate. What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism. We are in the position in which we are because of our skin. We are collectively segregated against -what can be more logical than for us to respond as a group? When workers come together under the auspices of a trade union to strive for the betterment of their conditions, nobody expresses surprise in the Western world. It is the done thing. Nobody accuses them of separatist tendencies. Teachers fight their battles, garbagemen do the same, nobody acts as a trustee for another. Somehow, however, when blacks want to do their thing the liberal establishment seems to detect an anomaly. This is in fact a counter-anomaly. The anomaly was there in the first instance when the liberals were presumptuous enough to think that it behoved them to fight the battleforthe blacks.
The liberal must understand that the days of the Noble Savage are gone; that the blacks do not need a go-between in this struggle for their own emancipation. No true liberal should feel any resentment at the growth of black consciousness. Rather, all true liberals should realise that the place for their fight for justice is within their white society. The liberals must realise that they themselves are oppressed if they are true liberals and therefore they must fight for their own freedom and not that of the nebulous “they” with whom they can hardly claim identification. The liberal must apply himself with absolute dedication to the idea of educating his white brothers that the history of the country may have to be rewritten at some stage and that we may live in “a country where colour will not serve to put a man in a box”. The.blacks have heard enough of this. In other words, the Liberal must serve as a lubricating material so that as we change gears in trying to find a better direction for South Africa, there should be no grinding noises of metal against metal but a free and easy flowing movement which will be characteristic of a well-looked -after vehicle.
By Stephen Biko
first published on the web here: http://www.blackstate.com/sbiko1.html
July 7, 2014
first published here: http://thinkfest.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/from-how-do-you-do-to-fu/
July 2, 2014
Meanwhile I’m i Amsterdam. The Keti Koti herdenking was today at the Oosterpark
During the speech of the vice premier of Holland this happened:
This was their full speech:
“Wij staan hier vandaag met het grootst mogelijke respect en eerbied voor onze voorouders. Wij staan hier voor Anton, Boni, Tula, Baron, Sophie, Joli-coeur, Tata, Karpata, Toussaint, Nanny en de talloze onzichtbare strijders en slachtoffers van de Nederlandse rijkdom en welvaart. Wij zijn hier om ervoor te zorgen dat er geen vreemde adem hun herdenking betreedt. Minister Lodewijk Asscher vertegenwoordigt de Nederlandse regering: dezelfde regering die de zwarte gemeenschap respectloos behandelt, geen nationale herdenking wil, VN verdragen naast zich neerlegt en zich niets van aantrekt van de pijn en zorgen van de zwarte gemeenschap.
Wij zijn hier vandaag om te voorkomen dat vice-premier Lodewijk Asscher namens de Nederlandse regering onze voorouders nog langer beledigt met loze woorden. En al helemaal niet op de dag dat wij hun strijd en leed herdenken. Alleen een zwak volk laat zo´n vernedering toe. Wij zijn niet zwak.
Op 1 juli 1863 werd de slavernij in Nederlandse koloniën op papier afgeschaft (in de praktijk 1873), maar de erfenis is nog steeds zichtbaar. Alledaags racisme, discriminatie en uitsluiting zijn aan de orde van de dag en zorgen voor structurele ongelijkheid op de arbeidsmarkt en in het onderwijs. De keiharde cijfers liegen er niet om en vertellen ons het verhaal over schooluitval, over achterstand op de arbeidersmarkt, over armoede, over bestuurders op scholen en universiteiten, over een discriminerend politiekorps, over aanhoudende meldingen van racisme en ga zo maar door. Behalve deze achterstanden moeten wij nog altijd vooruit in wetgeving en politiek.
Deze cijfers zijn destructief, en drukken als een loden last op onze gemeenschap. Wij zijn trots op de generaties die voor ons hebben gestreden. Van ons mag niet minder verwacht worden. Genoeg is genoeg en ons geduld is op. De huidige politiek en wetgeving zijn er niet op uit om een status-quo te doorbreken die niet voor ons werkt. Een status-quo vol scheve verhoudingen geërfd uit een koloniale tijd mogen we niet doorgeven aan onze kinderen, Nederlandse kinderen. Onze generatie gaat een nieuw pad bewandelen. Wij zullen een voorbeeld zijn voor onze nakomelingen, zoals onze Afrikaanse voorouders een strijdbaar voorbeeld voor ons zijn geweest. Wij weten wat rechtvaardigheid is, wij weten hoe gelijke kansen eruit zien en wij weten wat er hersteld moet worden. Op wie wachten wij nog om het voor ons te doen?
De politiek neemt ons nauwelijks serieus en komt niet voor ons op. Na jaren van protest, demonstraties en dialoog tegen Zwarte Piet zegt premier Rutte nog steeds: “Zwarte Piet is Zwart, daar kan ik niks aan doen”. Na jarenlang dialoog, protest en een rechtszaak zegt de burgemeester: “Geef Zwarte Piet nog 10 jaar zodat we eraan kunnen wennen”. Net zoals de koloniale overheid op 1 juli 1863 vond dat de tot slaaf gemaakte nog 10 jaar moesten wachten op hun echte vrijheid. Wij wachten al 151 jaar lang op gerechtigheid en respect, de tijd van wachten is voorbij. Vandaag eisen wij deze op!
De Trans-Atlantische slavernij is door de VN uitgeroepen tot een misdaad tegen de menselijkheid, gedreven door een ideologie besmet met racisme, uitsluiting en uitbuiting. Laat Nederland daar openlijk afstand van nemen. Hoe doe je dat? Niet alleen met excuses, spijt en berouw, maar óók met daden. En als de meerderheid in Nederland niet in staat is om te vechten voor een harmonieuze samenleving, zullen wij het zelf moeten doen. Wij moeten daadkrachtig optreden totdat Nederland de plicht op zich neemt om net zoveel aandacht te schenken aan het gedeeld verleden als alle andere traumatische verledens.
Onze generatie zal niet langer over zich heen laten lopen, zal niet langer buigen en zal de zwarte gemeenschap in Nederland niet in de steek laten wanneer zij ons nodig heeft. Alle vorige generaties kijken toe hoe deze generatie het pad voorbereidt voor de volgende generatie. Een pad naar rechtvaardigheid, een pad naar gelijke kansen en een pad naar herstel. Onze generatie heeft lang genoeg stilgestaan. Stilstaan zal Nederland het respect en het fatsoen niet te geven dat verloren is gegaan door jarenlang slavernij en kolonialisme.
Wij zijn het zat om als tweederangsburgers behandeld te worden en wij zijn het zat om er alleen toe te doen als Nederland ons goed genoeg vindt. Het is tijd om op te staan. Tijd om voor onszelf op te komen. Wij luiden een nieuw tijdperk in. Wij zijn Nederlanders net als iedere andere Nederlander en we eisen met hetzelfde respect behandeld te worden.
Totdat dat is geschied staan wij niet toe dat vicepremier Lodewijk Asscher hier vandaag als vertegenwoordiger van de Nederlandse regering komt spreken!”
July 1, 2014
June 23, 2014
June 20, 2014
first published here: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/19-5
keep reading this article here: http://blog.dhec.co.za/2013/09/greytons-commonage-to-be-land-claimed/
June 19, 2014
June 5, 2014
June 2, 2014
The following speech was given by Russell Means in July 1980, before several thousand people who had assembled from all over the world for the Black Hills International Survival Gathering, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is said to be Russell Means’ most famous speech.
* * *
The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.
So what you read here is not what I have written. It is what I have said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I’m more concerned with the American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it’s a marginal sort of concern. It’s very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that’s a person’s individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples’ today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but may be confused as to how to proceed.
(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people.) There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin — which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota — or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, et. — and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.
(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met “Indio,” from the Italian in dio, meaning “in God.”)
It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be Hopi. A master’s degree in “Indian Studies” or in “education” or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into the traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.
I should be clear about something here, because there seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental Europeans, I’m not allowing for false distinctions. I’m not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few thousand years of genocidal, reactionary European intellectual development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I’m referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and “leftism” in general. I don’t believe these theories can be separated from the rest of the European intellectual tradition. It’s really just the same old song.
The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural science by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation.
Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into a code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended: they “secularized” Christian religion, as the “scholars” like to say — and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!.
This is what has come to be termed “efficiency” in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment — that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one — is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why “truth” changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive.
Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing theology — and that is put in his own terms — he secularized the religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. Then Marx put Hegel’s philosophy in terms of “materialism,” which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel’s work altogether. Again, this is in Marx’ own terms. And this is now seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as revolutionary, But American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism lie in Marx’ — and his followers’ — links to the tradition of Newton, Hegel, and the others.
Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is “proof that the system works” to Europeans. Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But lets look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual debate.
The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill,” at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.
In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it become virtuous to destroy the planet. Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator may refer to “developing” a parcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be “developed” through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open — in the European view — to this sort of insanity.
Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools.
But each new piece of that “progress” ups the ante out in the real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood — a replenishable, natural item — as fuel for the very human needs of cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas wood had simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected through a series of scientific “revolutions.” Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground will really be in the long run. Now there’s an “energy crisis,” and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.
Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate at which they can show a good profit. That’s their ethic, and maybe that will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it’s the most “efficient” production fuel available. That’s their ethic, and I fail to see where it’s preferable. Like I said, Marxism is right smack in the middle of the European tradition. It’s the same old song.
There’s a rule of thumb that can be applied here. You cannot judge the real nature of a revolutionary doctrine on the basis of the changes it proposed to make within the European power structure and society. You can only judge it by the effect it will have on non-European peoples. This is because every revolution in European history has served to reinforce Europe’s tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. I defy anyone to point out an example where this is not true.
So now we, as American Indian people, are asked to believe that a “new” European revolutionary doctrine such as Marxism will reverse the negative effect of European history on us. European power relations are to be adjusted once again, and that’s supposed to make things better for all of us. But what does this really mean?
Right now, today, we who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation are living in what white society has designated a “National Sacrifice Area.” What this means is that we have a lot of uranium deposits here, and white culture (not us) needs this uranium as energy production material. The cheapest, most efficient way for industry to extract and deal with the processing of this uranium is to dump the waste by-products right here at the digging sites. Right here where we live. This waste is radioactive and will make the entire region uninhabitable forever. This is considered by industry, and by the white society that created this industry, to be an “acceptable” price to pay for energy resource development. Along the way they also plan to drain the water table under this part of South Dakota as part of the industrial process, so the region becomes doubly uninhabitable. The same sort of thing is happening. The same sort of thing is happening down in the land of the Navajo and Hopi, up in the land of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow, and elsewhere. Thirty percent of the coal in the West and half of the uranium deposits in the United States have been found to lie under reservation land, so there is no way this can be called a minor issue.
We are resisting being turned into a National Sacrifice Area. We are resisting being turned into a national sacrifice people. The costs of this industrial process are not acceptable to us. It is genocide to dig uranium here and draw the water table — no more, no less.
Now let’s suppose that in our resistance to extermination we begin to seek allies (we have). Let’s suppose further that we were to take revolutionary Marxism at its word: that it intends nothing less than the complete overthrow of the European capitalist order which has presented this threat to our very existence. This would seem to be a natural alliance for American Indian people to enter into. After all, as the Marxists say, it is the capitalists who set us up to be a national sacrifice. This is true as far as it goes.
But, as I’ve tried to point out, this very “truth” is deceptive. Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation and perfection of the very industrial process which is destroying us all. It offers only to “redistribute” the results — the money, maybe — of this industrialization to a wider section of the population. It offers to take wealth from the capitalists and pass it around; but in order to do so, Marxism must maintain the industrial system. Once again, the power relations with European society will have to be altered, but once again the effects upon American Indian peoples here and non-Europeans elsewhere will remain the same. This much the same as when power was redistributed from the church to private business during the so-called bourgeois revolution. European society changed a bit, at least superficially, but its conduct toward non-Europeans continued as before. You can see what the American Revolution of 1776 did for American Indians. It’s the same old song.
Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms, seeks to “rationalize” all people in relation to industry — maximum industry, maximum production. It is a materialist doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, out cultures, our lifeways. Marx himself called us “precapitalists” and “primitive.” Precapitalist simply means that, in his view, we would eventually discover capitalism and become capitalists; we have always been economically retarded in Marxist terms. The only manner in which American Indian people could participate in a Marxist revolution would be to join the industrial system, to become factory workers, or “proletarians,” as Marx called them. The man was very clear about the fact that his revolution could occur only through the struggle of the proletariat, that the existence of a massive industrial system is a precondition of a successful Marxist society.
I think there is a problem with language here. Christians, capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in their own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What they really mean is a continuation. They do what they do in order that European culture can continue to exist and develop according to its needs.
So, in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we American Indians would have to accept the national sacrifice of our homeland; we would have to commit cultural suicide and become industrialized and Europeanized.
At this point, I’ve got to stop and ask myself whether I’m being too harsh. Marxism has something of a history. Does this history bear out my observations? I look to the process of industrialization in the Soviet Union since 1920 and I see that these Marxists have done what it took the English Industrial Revolution 300 years to do; and the Marxists did it in 60 years. I see that the territory of the USSR used to contain a number of tribal peoples and they have been crushed to make way for the factories. The Soviets refer to this as “the National Question,” the question of whether the tribal peoples had a right to exist as people; and they decided the tribal peoples were an acceptable sacrifice to industrial needs. I look to China and I see the same thing. I look to Vietnam and I see Marxists imposing an industrial order and rooting out the indigenous tribal mountain people.
I hear a leading Soviet scientist saying that when the uranium is exhausted, then alternatives will be found. I see the Vietnamese taking over a nuclear power plant abandoned by the U.S. military. Have they dismantled and destroyed it? No, they are using it. I see China exploding nuclear bombs, developing nuclear reactors, and preparing a space program in order to colonize and exploit the planets the same as the Europeans colonized and exploited this hemisphere. It’s the same old song, but maybe with a faster tempo this time.
The statement of the Soviet scientist’s is very interesting. Does he know what this alternative energy source will be? No, he simply has faith. Science will find a way. I hear revolutionary Marxists saying that the destruction of the environment, pollution, and radiation will be controlled. And I see them act on their words. Do they know how these things will be controlled? No, they simply have faith. Science will find a way. Industrialization is fine and necessary. How do they know this? Faith. Science will find a way. Faith of this sort has always been known in Europe as religion. Science has become the new European religion for both capitalists and Marxists; they are truly inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same culture. So, in both theory and practice, Marxism demands that non-European peoples give up their values, their traditions, their cultural experience altogether. We will all be industrialized science addicts in a Marxist society.
I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible for the situation in which American Indians have been declared a national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition; European culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest continuation of this tradition, not a solution to it. To ally with Marxism is to ally with the very same forces that declare us an acceptable cost.
There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and the ways of the other American Indian peoples. It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. A lopsided emphasis on humans by humans — the European’s arrogance of acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related things — can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment which cuts arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of that reality beyond their grasp or control and restores the harmony. There is no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it’s beyond human control. The nature peoples of this planet know this and so they do not theorize about it. Theory is an abstract; our knowledge is real.
Distilled to it’s basic terms, European faith — including the new faith in science — equals a belief that man is God. Europe has always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians know this to be truly absurd. Humans are the weakest of all creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give up their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only though the exercise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of fang and claw.
But rationality is a curse since it can cause human beings to forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior.
All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things will come full circle, back to where they started. That’s revolution. And that’s a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of other correct peoples.
American Indians have been trying to explain this to Europeans for centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven themselves unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and the offenders will die out, the way deer die when they offend the harmony by over-populating a given region. It’s only a matter of time until what Europeans call “a major catastrophe of global proportions” will occur. It is the role of American Indian peoples, the role of all natural beings, to survive. A part of our survival is to resist. We resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don’t want power over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear. That’s revolution.
American Indians are still in touch with these realities — the prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the elders, from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe is over, we American Indian people will survive; harmony will be reestablished. That’s revolution.
At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what I’ve said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to hammer home this point. When I use the term European, I’m not referring to a skin color or a particular genetic structure. What I’m referring to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a product of the development of European culture. Peoples are not genetically encoded to hold this outlook, they are acculturated to hold it. The same is true for American Indians or for the members of any other culture.
It is possible for an American Indian to share European values, A European worldview. We have a term for these people; we call them “apples” — red on the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Black have their “oreos;” Hispanos have “coconuts” and so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I’m not sure what term should be applied to them other than “human beings.”
What I’m putting out here is not a racial proposition but a cultural proposition. Those who ultimately advocate and defend the realities of European culture and its industrialism are my enemies. Those who resist it, who struggle against it, are my allies, the allies of American Indian people. And I don’t give a damn what their skin color happens to be. Caucasian is the white term for the white race: European is an outlook I oppose.
The Vietnamese Communists are not exactly what you might consider genetic Caucasians, but they are now functioning as mental Europeans. The same holds true for the Chinese Communists, for Japanese capitalists or Bantu Catholics or Peter “MacDollar” down at the Navajo reservation or Dickie Wilson up here at Pine Ridge. There is no racism involved in this, just an acknowledgment of the mind and spirit that make up culture.
In Marxist terms I suppose I’m a “cultural nationalist.” I work first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because we hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle. Beyond this, I work with other traditional American Indian peoples, again because of a certain commonality in worldview and form of struggle. Beyond that, I work with anyone who has experience the colonial oppression of Europe and who resists its cultural and industrial totality. Obviously, this includes genetic Caucasians who struggle to resist the dominant norms of European culture. The Irish and the Basques come immediately to mind, but there are many others.
I work primarily with my own people, with my own community. Other people who hold non-European perspectives should do the same. I believe in the slogan, “Trust your brother’s vision,” although I’d like to add sisters in the bargain. I trust the community and the culturally based vision of all the races that naturally resist industrialization and human extinction. Clearly, individual whites can share in this, given only that they have reached the awareness that continuation of the industrial imperatives of Europe is not a vision, but species suicide. White is one of the sacred colors of the Lakota people — red, yellow, white and black. The four directions. The four seasons. The four period of life and aging. The four races of humanity. Mix red, yellow, white and black together and you get brown, the color of the fifth race. This is the natural order of things. It therefore seems natural to me to work with all races, each with it’s own special meaning, identity and message.
But there is a peculiar behavior among most Caucasians. As soon as I become critical of Europe and its impact on other cultures, they become defensive. They begin to defend themselves. But I am not attacking them personally; I’m attacking Europe. In personalizing my observations on Europe they are personalizing European culture, identifying themselves with it. By defending themselves in this context, they are ultimately defending the death culture. This is a confusion which must be overcome, and it must be overcome in a hurry. None of us has energy to waste in such false struggles.
Caucasians have a more positive vision to offer humanity than European culture. I believe this. But in order to attain this vision it is necessary for Caucasians to step outside European culture — alongside the rest of humanity — to see Europe for what it is and what it does.
To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all the other “isms” is simply to remain within European culture. There is no avoiding this basic fact. As a fact, this constitutes a choice. Understand that the choice is based on culture, not race. Understand that to choose European culture and industrialism is to choose to be my enemy. And understand that the choice is yours, not mine. This leads me back to address those American Indians who are drifting through the universities, the city slums, and other European institutions. If you are there to learn to resist the oppressor in accordance with your traditional ways, so be it. I don’t know how you manage to combine the two, but perhaps you will succeed. But retain your sense of reality. Beware of coming to believe the white world now offers solutions to the problems it confronts us with. Beware, too, of allowing the words of native people to be twisted to the advantage of our enemies. Europe invented the practice of turning words around on themselves. You need only look to the treaties between American Indian peoples and various European governments to know that this is true. Draw your strength from who you are.
A culture which regularly confuses revolution with continuation, which confuses science and religion, which confuses revolt with resistance, has nothing helpful to teach you and nothing to offer you as a way of life. Europeans have long since lost all touch with reality, if they ever were in touch with it. Feel sorry for them if you need to, but be comfortable with who you are as American Indians.
So, I suppose to conclude this, I would state clearly that leading anyone toward Marxism is the last thing on my mind. Marxism is as alien to my culture as capitalism and Christianity are. In fact, I can say I don’t think I’m trying to lead anyone toward anything. To some extent I tried to be a “leader,” in the sense that white media like to use that term, when the American Indian Movement was a young organization. This was a result of a confusion that I no longer have. You cannot be everything to everyone. I do not propose to be used in such a fashion by my enemies. I am not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot. This is all I want and all I need to be. And I am very comfortable with who I am.
first published here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/russell-means-for-america-to-live-europe-must-die
May 21, 2014
May 18, 2014
*16 May 2014*
*Bandile – My Story in AbM*
*I joined Abahlali base Mjondolo through my mom who was already in the
movement. In December 2009, twelve members of Kennedy Road appeared in
court after an attack against the community. I went to support them. I
loved what I saw of them. When I joined it was not about getting any
services. It was about making a change to people’s lives. I became fully
involved in 2010. I wanted to learn as much as I can and I got to be
well known on protests.*
*The biggest protest was a march from Durban Botha’s Park to Albert
Park. I was this young child who was very active and who could be sent
anywhere on chores. I think I proved my commitment. On June 2010, I
became the General Secretary of this famous movement, at age 23.*
*I had a very good relationship with communities. I was just a phone
call away, even at night dealing with evictions. I found I was not
scared of police or rallying people. I also worked in the office under
the comfort of Sbu Zikode, our leader. I used to take his orders.
Whenever he said jump I said how high, as a child, not knowing my true
role as General Secretary. Sbu was always respected in the organisation,
because of his commitment in the past. Everyone liked him because he was
famous, crushing the government on TV. Myself, I respected him until I
observed that whatever people say, he had the final word. Ma Nxumalo,
another leader of AbM started to complain, asking where is democracy if
there is only one final decision maker.*
*More and more complaints started emerging, whether Sbu held a position
or not, he dictated direction. He used powers. For example, all our
legal matters have an amount set aside to fund them. He decided to
punish Ma Nxumalo. He told SERI to take money from the Siyanda Transit
camp court case, and transfer it elsewhere. Their matter was delayed for
three years. *
*It was also funds that were misused. Different funders paid for the
same thing and we gave long narrative accounts that satisfied them. But
I did not have any signing powers because I was not treasurer. There is
no transparency in the movement. Only one or two people know how much
money was there, how it was used. This was Sbu and treasurer. At one
point even the Treasurer was marginalized. People who would sign at the
bank are people who are chosen by Sbu. *
*Democracy is not healthy. In meetings a quorum is not reflected in the
movement. Even if just two branches are present, decisions are made.
General meetings are not places where decisions are taken by members but
where decisions are told to members. I remember in 2011, there was an
organisation called Real Party. Its leader approached AbM. He was a
millionaire. The AbM leadership accepted to partner with him but set
conditions. When Ma Nxumalo asked what we are going to tell the people,
the leadership told her we would convince them, make it taste nice.
That’s what we would do in meetings. Go with a position and then support
each other. It was difficult for people to go against this. We always
have been a top down organisation. But AbM demanded too much than the
millionaire could give. The leadership wanted stipends, R 1 million
every year. It was too much. *
*The real membership of AbM is 1000 – 2000 members. There is no 27000
members. I don’t know which interview I gave with a journalist and I
said AbM has 10000 members. This was the time Bohmke issued 52 page
document against AbM. Richard Pithouse called me and said we must
maintain figures of 30000 otherwise people will question our numbers not
staying the same.*
*Of the 1000 – 2000 paid up members, active members are 200. We have
branches in KwaMashu, Siyanda, Lindelani, Richmond Farm, Siyanda Transit
camp, Cato Crest, Ridge View, Newlands West, Isipingo Transit camp,
Uganda, Umlazi, Kennedy Rd, Palmate, and Foremen Rd. That is 12
branches and a few individuals. We don’t have whole settlements who join
us, plus minus 20 people from each branch and some supporters. *
*I was arrested on 30 September 2013 in Cato Crest; I received a call
from people to say they were being killed by police. They wanted me to
go and help. I went to Mayville, I found the poor Nqobile Nzuza lying
down dead waiting for the mortuary van. After Nqobile was taken, eTV
called me. As soon as people heard eTV was there, they started
protesting. They wanted the policeman arrested. We went to Cato Crest
Police station. I was observing. I didn’t want another Marikana to
happen. I was watching that police do not harass marchers. When I was
standing there, the police said I must tell protesters to stop. I said I
never told them to start. The police used water cannon, tear gas. I took
pictures standing on the pavement. This policeman approached me and said
I must move. I asked who is in charge. He then grabbed me and threw me
in van, took me to Cato Crest. I was kept isolated in a cell with no
water, no blankets. I started bleeding, had to survive with one
Liquifruit. At my bail hearing I saw many AbM members there and I hoped
to be released. But bail was denied. If you are a leader you cannot show
your fears but when I was down, I cried. I stayed 7 days in prison. When
I was in prison I thought maybe this wasn’t worth it. I was arrested for
a community who wasn’t even my community. But then I told myself I had a
purpose, to bring change. So I told myself I will fight until poor
people are safe to live in this city, which is why I am still fighting.*
*At the 2014 AGM, the problems with democracy in AbM became worse. The
then President came and gave us names of who he already had for
positions. This was not the true Abahlali constitution where each
settlement must decide on names for the AGM. People cannot self-appoint
themselves, only a branch can. A task team was set up to organize. My
mother volunteered to be on task team. During this process there was
some rules. A branch should be launched and be active in AbM for 2
years so that they could understand AbM. People in the task team were
not allowed to mobilise or contest for any position. *
*During the process I was getting complaints from people. That the
office administrator, who was on the task team, was mobilizing for Sbu
and his people to be put on a list of nominees. I also got complaints
that this person refused to accept nominations for Treasurer saying we
already have one. Lastly, people at Kennedy road said that the
administrator was forcing them to withdraw their candidates in favour of
*Just before the AGM a press statement was sent to Richard to edit.
Richard sent an email back saying that the press statement should not go
out. The contact people were mainly from Kennedy Road and this might
give people ammunition to raise questions about process.*
*At the AGM I gave a report. I tried to raise these issues but I was
silenced. The chair said time is up. People were not given chance to
question things I was saying. Our comment part was closed. It went to
voting. This is where things get very strange. For President and
Treasurer, the crucial positions, it was Kennedy Rd versus Kennedy Road.
This was unconstitutional because you are supposed to be nominated by a
branch first. Sbu nominated himself, not coming from community level.
If he wanted to contest, he should have gone to the community and asked
their permission even though he doesn’t stay at Kennedy Road. He
undermined the community. *
*Also at the AGM there were members who wanted to attend, toyi-toying
outside. One of Sbu’s people (head of religious group, head of safety
and security) called Police, the same police who went to Marikana and
shot Nqobile Nzuza. Our members had to protest to get into our AGM. They
were locked outside because they did not want Sbu. They were not given
a chance to vote. *
*When the ballot boxes got full for Sbu’s rival, Mashumi, he was told by
Sbu’s bodyguard that he must tell his people to vote for Sbu, they know
where he stays. At the end, when it came to the President position, the
votes did not tally with the people eligible to vote. Many questions
*Ma Nxumalo as Vice President tried to have a meeting with Sbu after the
AGM about how the AGM went and how he contested against another Kennedy
Rd person. She called a meeting. On that **Saturday**, Sbu came to the
meeting and crushed Ma Nxumalo in front of us, saying Ma Nxumalo is
hyper, she’s got too much energy, she must lower her energy, this is
*When people questioned him about his behaviour, he said “are you now
spokesperson for Ma Nxumalo”. I told him you are wrong, this is a
people’s movement, not his. He said I have no right to speak to him like
that. I suggested that the meeting should continue. The head of the
religious group and safety and security supported Sbu. I thought to
myself, gone are those days when Sbu pulled me by nose, I am the
secretary general, and I have right to call meeting. But Sbu chased us
out of the office.*
*Sbu called a follow up meeting in his office, not the boardroom. This
was strange. When we walked in, Sbu’s bodyguard locked the door from the
outside. Sbu said he had nominated his own people, who he trusts, for a
new committee which were male dominated Zulu people from Kennedy Road
displacees. Ma Nxumalo then asked him again which branch do you come
from and who nominated you? *
*He shouted, ‘This is my movement, I built it’. I tried to stay calm
although I was scared. I clarified the question. He was even worse.
He shouted “who are you to question”. He stood up I thought he was
going to give me a fist. He walked to the door and knocked on it. He
said, “Nkokeli /(leader),/ open the door” and the bodyguard opened the
door. He said ‘Get these two women out of here; get these two things out
of here’. I was first to walk out. Ma Nxumalo is 56 years old, she was
walking out slowly. Sbu pushed ma Nxumalo, the elected Vice-President,
and threw her out. When he was doing this he had his gun showing. He was
wearing a jean and white T-shirt. He said we must never set our foot
*Role of white outsiders*
*They are the decision makers of the movement. Because whatever we
decide, then we send it to them through emails. If they like it, then it
*I was not part of conflicts in 2006 in AbM when they decided they did
not want to work with the CCS. There was a time recently when CCS
invited AbM to a meeting with other movements for a workshop. I knew
community might benefit. I wanted to break the ice. As Secretary, I
requested that the CCS apologise and we could meet, as long as they
denounce Bohmke. CCS sent that letter and clarification. Sbu was happy
with that letter. But he said I must send it to Richard. Richard was
unhappy and turned it down.*
*This is just one example of how they play a role. They have influence
in who is profiled in the movement. Richard is always inviting Sbu to
Grahamstown, making sure Mail and Guardian profiles him. During this
dispute, he has pretended to be on my side, while editing statements
discrediting me. There are so many examples of this.*
*For the past 2 years, DA has been meeting with AbM, openly at first.
When we came back to discuss as leadership, we said we do not want to
partner with the DA. Sbu started sneaking behind us and having private
meetings with DA. That is when he got married to DA. My anger comes
from the undemocratic way it happened. He issued a statement calling
for inputs by all parties except the ANC. By the following meeting, the
next week already, the DA was chosen. *
*Abahlali has about 1000 – 2000 members. Why did they not have all
branches there? Why was the meeting in Diakonia Centre in town with
only 200 people attending? If we really have 27000 members this meeting
was far from democratic. What does democracy mean? Giving one weeks’
notice? No. Democracy means going to all the branches of AbM, consulting
first, getting everyone’s input. Two years was enough to do this.*
*Of our 12 branches, only 2 branches attended plus a few individuals of
four other branches. However, general meetings are meant for branches
and not individual members. The process to vote for the DA was
completely wrong. The cake had already been baked in secret by Sbu and
the DA. It was just for selected people to come and approve. Why use
poor people to implement the decisions of a few? Poor people are always
used to get leaders up a ladder. We have seen it in Marikana. AbM is
breeding new Ramaphosas.*
*Another question is why did the leadership want the DA? They have shown
us no solidarity. In CT they are oppressing our members. When a leader
like Thembeka Sondzaba said she does not support the DA letter, Sbu said
he will withdraw her legal funding. This is how democracy works in AbM.*
*I don’t blame DA, they have done their work. Never did they think they
were talking to only to a few individuals, who did not pass down
information to the people.*
*I have been reading in the newspapers about all these academics, all of
them white, who have been blessing AbM’s DA decision as democratic. We
do not want them to speak about us. They need to lower their voices and
have the poor people’s voices to be heard. They were not there. The
question is who gave them all this information. *
*It is time to confront own deceptions, to speak the truth about where
we are. Only if we are able to confront lies will there be a future. A
movement based on lies and remote control has no future. Much of the
membership is not aware of this dynamic and they are the real losers in
this painful collapse of a once proud organisation. This is not the time
for Sbu and his white T-shirts, saying “100% Sbu Zikode” to take
decisions for the hundreds of red T-shirts.*
*Former General-Secretary AbM*
Ms. Bandile Mdlalose
*Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement S.A(Secretary General)*
Office : 031 304 6420
Fax : 031 304 6436
Mobile: 071 424 2815