By: Lavittude Ramphomane |I Post What I Like
If anything, the PAC and APLA’s posture was informed by a conviction that usurping a people’s land (let alone killing, maiming and raping them) is an act of war which can only be put into question by picking up the weapons and respond in a commensurate manner.
In 1990 after his release, when the domestic and global spotlight was on Nelson Mandela for his talk of “a peaceful negotiated settlement”, the PAC of Zephania “The Lion” Mothopeng and Sabelo Phama was speaking out at the folly of initiating talks with the enemy on the terms of the enemy.
While the Mandela-led ANC viewed the white regime’s decisions to unban liberation movements and to release political prisoners as the white world’s display of sincerity towards black emancipation; the Mothopeng-led PAC elected to throw a precondition prior any engagement with apartheid hegemony in order to test its sincerity about ending black suffering.
This demand-cum-precondition which the PAC made immediately after its unbanning was the unconditional return of stolen land to black south Afrikans; as its slogan and war-cry, “The land first, all shall follow” attests.
The way the PAC looked at it, the unbanning of liberation movements and the release of political prisoners was no sign of goodwill by the oppressor but the right thing to do as the black liberation struggle was legitimate. Also, and perhaps more vital, is that the PAC rightly viewed the white settler regime as an oppressive colonialist machinery which had no moral ground to be engaged while it still hoarded stolen property.
However, Mandela obstinately soldiered on with his “peaceful negotiations”, parading his peace and reconciliation brouhaha across the length and breadth of the globe and and look where we are now: not only have black lives deteriorated thanks to landlessness and a myriad epi-phenomena therefrom, but white settlers have become more arrogant and daring in their obstinate refusal for blacks to own land.
What we learn in hindsight, however, is the genius of the PAC at the time, and how their initial boycott of negotiations was a masterclass akin to Antonio Gramsci’s ideal revolutionary vision which black south Afrikans should have pursued to the death.
Italian Marxist, Gramsci, cautioned against the folly of engaging the oppressive ruling class within its hegemonic codes, constructs and cognitive cartography, and instead agitated for what he termed counter-hegemonic gestures if the oppressive class was to be successfully obliterated. That is to say, Gramsci advocated for the disavowal of the oppressor’s rules of engagements since these were inherently in favour of the oppressor’s interests.
Hence my contention that black south Afrika should have rallied around the PAC on the demand for the unconditional return of the land as show of sincerity by the colonialists towards an egalitarian society; while we also embraced the PAC’s readiness to unleash its APLA combatants on white supremacist occupation of Azania if it remains unyielding in its anti-black atrocities.
Alas, the ubiquitous Madiba Magic (which should actually be called the Madiba Black Magic because it is pure witchcraft), in cahoots with the global colonialist media, cast its spell on blacks and we chose to die on our knees instead of on our feet!
The PAC of Mothopeng and Phama, contrary to how the media portrayed it, was not a belligerent liberation movement which was hell-bent on starting a conflagration which would consume south Afrika and, in its wake, leave debris of dead black and white corpses.
If anything, the PAC and APLA’s posture was informed by a conviction that usurping a people’s land (let alone killing, maiming and raping them) is an act of war which can only be put into question by picking up the weapons and respond in a commensurate manner. To rob a people of land is indeed, in itself, an act of war because land is wealth; land is food, land is employment; land is water, land is oxygen; land is shelter, land is sovereignty; and land is herbs, medicine and cure!
By hoarding our land, white settlers are refusing us the right to breath, drink, work and eat! In other words, the PAC was engaged in self-defensive gestures; just like a law-abiding citizen would hit back at a robber in a robbery situation.
As a rebar, we are told that had black south Afrika pursued the Mothopeng/Phama’s (and indeed Biko’s) counter-hegemonic gestures instead of Mandela’s hegemonic politics, south Afrika would have turned into a war-zone and a giant graveyard.
This, however, is one of the many lies advanced to conceal the true extent of the colonialist’s atrocities: south Afrika, since 1652, has always been a war-zone of decomposing dead bodies, what Mandela and white settlers aimed to accomplish was to ensure that this raging war remained one-sided with white lives being spared; while only black bodies continued to fill multitudes of gaping graves!
Mandela was extolled for his “peaceful efforts” at home and abroad, but the PAC was condemned as war-mongers who threatened peace, yet hundreds of thousands of blacks died at that juncture from poverty and disease catalysed by landlessness; and from the bullets and weapons of the army, the police and the Third Force which largely masqueraded as IFP members.
We shunned the PAC’s revolutionary gestures because we feared death, but death still encroached towards us and left heaps of dead black bodies through white settler-manufactured poverty, guns and bullets!
This is also to say that millions of black people who have died since 1994 until today from poverty, crime and disease died as a result of white settler occupation because these ills take their genesis from Azania’s occupation, at the first instance, and as a result of the raw deal Mandela signed for during “our peaceful transition”!
In crude terms, the PAC said: “let us die fighting”; while Mandela said: “let us die on our knees with our hats on our hands!” Today, in the midst of the brouhaha on the land question, I’m reminded of the great Mothopeng and Steve Biko. Biko would have said: “This land question should be discussed amongst ourselves without whites dictating to us because landlessness affects us and only us!”
Not this joke we see, with parliamentary land talks, which is not too unsimilar to CODESA and the TRC. To people like us who have grown to appreciate how colonialism morphs into neo-colonialism under different masks, there’s no difference between Mngxitama, Shivambu and Lekota. The other two attend a colonialist event and sound wolfish, while Lekota attends to sound sheepish – but they all serve to sanctify and justify an illegitimate edifice which genocides black people!
It’s not hard to conclude that, if he were alive today and invited to discussions on land, the 23 year-old Biko would have said: “Go and invite non-whites like Mngxitama, Zuma, Maimane and Malema! Andizi!”, and then he would have proceeded to call his own land Indaba featuring strictly blacks.
Inspired by the unflinching spirit which flowed inside of Mothopeng, Phama and Biko, I say all black “leaders” who are engaged at those parliamentary land talks are defeated empty shells who have presented themselves to the white baas with their hats on their hands!
To attend a white man’s initiative and voice radical-sounding albeit empty, worn-out soundbites like “we are going to take the land by force” is not iconoclastic – let alone counter-hegemonic – by any stretch. Telling the white man to leave the room and leave blacks alone to talk about the land and other issues which press us is stuff of iconoclasm that Mothopeng, Biko and Phama epitomized and laboured to inculcate into our collective black psyche!
Mothopeng would never sit under the same roof with AfriForum to explain why we want our land back!
Biko would never share the same platform with Orania racists to justify his claim for the land!
Phama would never share a platform or talk of our land with white supremacist DA!
Not these black cowards, celebrities, populists, coons and millionaire politicians who are obsessed with hogging the limelight on TV, radio and newspapers masquerading as “land activists”!
There’s no radicalism and sagacity in explaining to thieves why we want our stolen property back!
****Ramphomane is an activist and social commentator.