Presented by Thami Ka Plaatjie
Sooner or later, we must unite as one African people. Because without unity there can be no success, and without success there can be no strength. We have an African proverb that says, "Disunited lions can be outrun by a limping buffalo." I think that as things stand, colonialism and imperialism are a limping buffalo. The lions must begin to get their act together.
I’m going to speak on the issues that pertain to South Africa.
Subsequent to the 1994 settlement, there are a few things that have been done well. We must acknowledge them. But the extent to which they advanced the cause of our people is very questionable.
One of the things that South Africa managed to achieve well is de-racialization. Many of the racial laws that had been erected by apartheid since the 1930s and ‘40s, have been erased. So we live in a de-racialized society where human beings can interact freely without any limitations.
There are civil liberties that have been restored as a result. Black people can get married to white people. Black people can go to the same school as white people. Black people can use the same toilet that white people have been using. But is that what we have been fighting for all of these years? Is this really the strategic objective of this program for liberation and self-determination?
Secondly, the economy has been slightly changed. There are many black entries into the economy and activities of South Africa. There are a number of black partners who are working with white companies. They have become some form of a front in what the government calls Black Economic Empowerment. Comrade Mbeki recently very seriously indicated that we need to aspire to create the black middle class, without apology. But I just want to ask, is that what we have been fighting for?
The police have been reformed or adjusted. You find more signs of black people in police positions. But most of them do not have decision-making powers.
As things stand, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) controls plus or minus 70 percent of the South African Defense Force. A great number of the former PAC guards are in commanding positions. But the structures have not been changed and out of 20,000 people that we injected into the Defense Forces of South Africa, we are now left with 6,000. Fourteen thousand have been laid-off, suspended, expelled and literally chased out of the National Defense Force.
Our people have been court-martialed for very petty criminal offenses. One person was brought before a military tribunal for wearing a necklace. The army has been won back by the Afrikaaners.
Notwithstanding all these changes in South Africa, we can safely say it is not yet Uhuru. In South Africa we have replaced white faces with black faces. The black faces turn out to be more aggressive, more brutal than white faces.
There is talk about a "better life for all." This is what Mbeki committed himself to when he came into power. When Mandela was released from prison, he indicated that his concern was to balance white fears with black expectations. He saw his role as a balancing act. The people who put him in jail for all of these years wanted to balance their fears with the expectations of the people who have been oppressed for more than 300 years. I submit that if you find a thief in your house, you do not want to balance the thief’s fears!
You don’t even care to know what the thief expects. You don’t even have to go into entertaining what is it that they expect, and what is it that they fear, and how you can you come together and reconcile. These are irreconcilable entities. But let us be reminded of the fact that when Mandela was in the African National Congress (ANC) and went to prison, he never sought to fight to destroy white domination. He said in the 1960s that he fought against "black domination" which never existed! Blacks have never oppressed and colonized white people. But this is what he fought for all of his life, to ensure that black people do not rise up.
There is a tacit commitment to underdevelopment from the ANC. If you look at their budgetary allocations on paper, it all looks fine, but insofar as delivery is concerned, this is where real contradictions become clear. For instance, the region where Mandela comes from is the poorest of all the nine provinces or regions in the country.
In this region monies are allocated but monies are not spent. The money does not go for its intended purposes. For instance, last year the provincial government underspent by 188 million Rand. This is in a province where people die of starvation.
The health department under-spent by 228 million Rand, which was rolled over because it was not used for the people it was intended for. In education, 254 million Rand went unspent. This is a province where half of the schools are sheds during daylight. At night those schools are used to keep livestock. So, literally, when children come to the schools in the morning they have to clean them because pigs, cattle, goats and sheep have been staying at the school the night before. This is where money is not being spent.
The government is not doing anything to make sure that they intervene strategically to ensure that there is indeed, in the words of comrade Mbeki, a better life for all.
The other thing is the question of land. I grew up in the Eastern Cape. My ancestors were forcibly removed from that part of the country. In return for their removal, as a form of compensation, each one was given a bag of oranges. A bag of oranges! You are forcibly removed from your ancestral land and all of your cattle are taken away from you. In compensation for that, you are each given a bag of oranges.
Now, when we went to go back to our ancestral land, we were told by the farmers who are now occupying that land, that in light of the government’s position of "Willing seller, willing buyer," the government has to buy them out. And that land that they got for nothing, that land that they paid for with a bag of oranges, they are prepared to give that land to the government and indirectly to us for a sum of 60 million Rand.
So, most of these white farmers are getting rich. They are going to the government and saying, "Here is my land. Pay me off and take this land to the poor people." This is a racket! They are using the system to extort as much money as possible. So, with our families and extended families, we have decided to invade this land.
We have decided that around December of this year we will all organize one another and forcibly take ownership of this land and property. We have our ancestral graves as proof that it belongs to us. Sometimes when some of our relatives want to access the graves, the white farmers say, "You need permission, you must apply within seven days." Some people wrote letters within seven days and there was no reply. So people cannot access their ancestral shrines and graves.
Last year, we were involved in a huge land campaign in South Africa. Some of you must have seen it on CNN and a number of international media stations. We did some research and found out that this land was not owned by anybody. We called a huge press conference and announced that the next day at such and such a time we were going to occupy so many acres of land.
Indeed, the next day there were plus-or-minus 3,000 families occupying the land. Throughout the week, even at night, twenty-four hours a day, people were moving in. We realized it could have been a mistake because the government came crashing down. They wanted to fight; they wanted to take us to court. It was a huge battle and we had to be forcibly removed. It was a very painful exercise, but we thought it was worth it. We thought our involvement with it has helped to create the consciousness of our people in respect to the owners of the land.
Twenty-five percent of our people in South Africa are living in squatter camps. Squatters are shed houses, made of corrugated iron. In this environment, there’s no running water. People have to go to the streams. If there is a tub, it’s communal, serving five or ten families.
There’s no proper healthcare for the people in the squatter camps. There is no electricity. There are no roads. There are no toilets! People relieve themselves in the ferns.
Under the heavy rains, it’s chaotic, it’s a crisis situation. Kids do not have schools. Prostitution becomes rife. The spread of HIV/AIDS finds common ground, and our people are condemned to death, notwithstanding Mbeki’s "better life for all" statement.
Almost 10,000 African youths are released from prison monthly. Out of these, about forty percent of them come out HIV positive. Reports show that gangsterism takes place in our prison system. People are inducted by being raped. HIV/AIDS is literally and deliberately spread to our young people. Most of the productive young people who are supposed to be the future of Azania, do not reach maturity because of HIV/AIDS. This is notwithstanding that there should be a "better life for all."
Forty thousand white farmers are responsible for 86 percent of all agricultural production in South Africa. It is criminal. There isn’t anything that we consume which we produce ourselves. We are at the mercy of white people insofar as food production is concerned. The same thing is happening in Zimbabwe. White people are hoarding food, as a result of the rising prices of food in the market, because they occupy our land, they occupy our labor and they design our destiny. Where is Mbeki’s promise of a “better life for all”?
Fourteen percent of African people own land in South Africa. The land that they own is inhospitable. It cannot be ploughed. It is mountainous. It is not productive. Eighty-six percent of all arable land in South Africa is firmly in the hands of whites.
Twenty-five percent of all of our people in South Africa are infected with HIV/AIDS, a very serious situation. But it is not a crisis as far as government is concerned. Mbeki still maintains that HIV does not cause AIDS, notwithstanding that our people are dying. There is no day when people are not burying their beloved ones. There is no week that passes without someone that you know either directly or indirectly dying of HIV/AIDS. Yet the government does not provide anti-retroviral drugs.
Thirty-two percent of people in South Africa are unemployed. Some of them have no means whatsoever.
Hospitals have been privatized. Prisons have been privatized. People from Britain bought some prisons, and the government pays that private company to run and to coordinate prison activities.
Water is being privatized. The poorest of the poor cannot even access natural water, which is necessary for life. The British company called Biowater is now controlling our water. Our people have to buy water.
Unemployment is rising. People are being laid off. They don’t have money to buy food, let alone to access and buy water. This is what is happening, notwithstanding Mbeki’s promises.
Another very tragic consequence of this post-apartheid situation is the collapse of universities. From 26 universities we will have only 21. We have all this talk about the importance of education, but most of the black universities are going to be closed. White and English institutions are left alone. I work for a black university that is being taken over by the Afrikaaners. So, we are going to be led by the intellectual leadership of the people that we have been fighting all of these years.
People like Winnie Mandela have been singled out and isolated on charges that are very flimsy, because she held the fort and continued to struggle while Nelson Mandela was in prison. Even the courts have ruled that she had no material benefit from her case. She didn’t take a cent. But she was arrested and condemned.
Contrast this to the case of Wouter Basson, known as Dr. Death, who killed our people. He infected them with AIDS. He was involved with chemical warfare. He spread anthrax. He worked with the Selous Scouts in Rhodesia. This guy had 95 charges that were reduced to 35 charges. From 35 charges, he walked scott-free. He wasn’t found guilty even on one charge! He’s now a happy man. He walks the streets of Johannesburg. He’s used by the ANC as a consultant! He goes on TV and appears to speak about the chemical warfare in Iraq.
The long and short is that we have not received what we fought for. It’s as if somebody steals your bicycle and then he says "I’m prepared to reconcile with you, let’s be friends. But there is one condition. I am not going to give your bicycle back." We’re saying this is what is happening in South Africa. We have reconciled with white people. We embrace them. But, where is the bicycle? To this day, they are holding onto the bicycle. Mandela doesn’t want us to talk about the bicycle. Mbeki doesn’t want us to talk about the bicycle, and the bicycle is the land.
Our people are beginning to see the contradictions, to see the ANC for what it is, to see Mandela for what he is. This reminds me of the story of a remote rural area where it is said that people feared the horse. They had never seen a horse, but they feared the horse. One day a donkey arrived, and all of them went to the donkey and they bowed down and worshipped, because they thought that the donkey was a horse.
It was only a matter of time before the real horse came, and they came to see the difference. They saw that they had been worshipping a donkey, instead of a horse. So we say that the horse has come. The horse is a horse and a donkey is a donkey. It cannot be the other way around.
People are saying and writing, especially the young people that we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees. This is a response that we are beginning to see, where people are saying "It is enough."
This is a time when we are presented with untold possibilities, both for good and bad. In African culture, there is a proverb that says if a cow is about to give birth, no power on earth can stop it. Our people are pregnant. They are about to give birth, and no power on earth can stand in place of an idea whose time has come. We think our time has come. We will win. We must win. Uhuru!