Friday, 13 January 2012

Black Consciousness Revisited

by Benedick M Louw

A QUOTE in Spanish by the revered Cuban patriot, poet and writer Jose Marti (1853-1895) states “La unica manera de ser libre es ser cultos”. When translated into English it means “the only way to be free is to be cultivators”.

Contrary to hasty interpretation thereof, this statement, which by now is a social belief in Cuba, means that in order to be free one needs to produce food to feed yourself or work hard to be able to pursue your happiness whatever trajectory you choose to undertake. In other words it defines absolute independence characterised by a complete psychological, physical but most of all economic liberation from the oppressors.

Underlining the word ‘absolute’ gets one’s attention more in the sense that it calls for complete and total independence vis-à-vis dominance from the oppressor, which in Cuba’s case was principally from Spain.
Now it has resonance for the West, particularly the United States of America.

It’s obvious today that we in Namibia are continuously being led and misled by the former architects of apartheid, particularly the small percentage that owns, dictates and monopolises the economy, sowing divisions or disunity inconspicuously amongst the majority of blacks. This is because it would be unthinkable to repossess the country politically hence the cunning manner of pulling the bargaining ropes with the state and economically sabotaging the majority of the people, namely blacks.

In simple terms, 21 years after independence the majority of blacks clearly do not hold absolute power, being economic ownership, leaving the status quo of apartheid architects still unchanged and unchallenged. It would be foolish or naïve to suggest that a few black elitists do not gain from this fundamentally manipulative neo-colonial manoeuvre.

In his book The Dialectics of Ideological Resistance to White Supremacy, author Robert Fatton dissects the pertinent issues of Class, Blackness and Economics in a very eloquent approach. At the Black Renaissance Convention organised in 1974, Foszia Fisher and Harold Nxasana presented a paper entitled “The Labour Situation in South Africa” which expressed the point of the radical wing of Black Consciousness on the class nature of the blacks.

They argued that white supremacy was not simply the result of military conquest; it also depended on co-opting a black minority into the structure and superstructure of the white system.

This co-option permitted the systematic exploitation of black labour without the permanent use of force.
In this sense, some blacks became auxiliaries of the white system and also participated in the exploitation of fellow blacks. Namibia is a prime example in respect of this rather abyssmal chain of events as evident today.
The ongoing tender tussle of the Neckartal dam is a case in point, which bears all the distinguished hallmarks of black elites at work.

These elites lack the logic, insight, and courage that would have made them leaders of the black revolution. They are blinded by their material egoism and they hardly dare to conceive the idea of black liberation, for this idea was the very negation of their existential condition. Furthermore, since their only social base of power – outside white support – resided in the intensification of tribalism, they actively contribute to the fragmentation of black resistance.

In Namibia nothing is more likely to cause more argument and debate than the ‘land issue’. Land has become synonymous with this situation where less than 10 percent of the people control nearly half the land, while a further 65 percent of the population lives off 41 percent of the total area.

The fact that the former 10 percent are white and largely derived from European settlers, adds racial and political dimensions to the issue.” (Society and Governance – Namibia’s Land Issue)

Kazenambo Kazenambo, alias KK, Minister of Youth and Sport’s recent rhetoric regarding white arrogance sent shockwaves throughout the corridors of white owned businesses and straight into the living rooms of most, whether it be in urban areas or in the luxury of their farm establishments or industries.

These overdue sentiments silently enjoyed praise and still echo in the minds of black youth nation-wide, not to mention youth leaders, the majority still crippled by the manacles of apartheid and the continued experience of being oppressed and economically disadvantaged.

It is the elitist class that is sowing seeds of confusion and division amongst our people. It is the elitist class, created by the very oppressor which has joined hands with the oppressor in suppressing the legitimate aspirations of the masses of the people and they collect crumbs from the master’s table for this dirty work.

To draw parallels to this fact is the undisputed partnership between white capitalists and some few BEE elites discreetly establishing empires, whereas the latter in the name of BEE affirmative policies and with capital funds of their former slave masters through unscrupulous and dubious means seek what is known as ‘tenderpreneurship.

This act of self-enrichment of a few to the disadvantage of the masses is fundamentally unconstitutional, morally backward and ought to be shamed where and when it shows its face.

Such a severe condemnation of the tribal elites was an example of part of an incisive criticism of the whole policy of separate development, which in turn led to radical criticisms of the whole capitalist system.
The linkages between tribal elites, separate development, and capitalist exploitation were identified in Black Consciousness literature and thoroughly condemned:

“Let blacks take full notice of the fact that the Transkei and other homelands are there not for our benefit but to maintain the chains that bind us into perpetual servitude by keeping us divided and involving us in useless and meaningless political exercises so as to keep our eyes away from the pot from which the racial poison is being brewed.

They are there to ensure that the blacks never attain what they aspire for - their liberation.
They are there to maintain the capitalist system of this country by keeping (the black man) starving and ignorant so that he can continue being a tool in the white man’s farm, mine or industry for the production of wealth for the exclusive benefit of the white imperialist.”

Despite liberal claims to the contrary, foreign capital did not contribute to the overall development of black Namibia; instead it enriched the white population and propped up a new black class of pseudo-capitalists.
It’s obvious today that despite the success stories of numerous well drafted policies and well intended regulations, we have dismally failed regarding the effective implementation of these fundamental policies, which putting it candidly, are collecting dust and serve as mere white elephants, archived in the deep office corners of legislators, remaining idle until Kingdom comes.

In the words of Nkwame Nkrumah: “In the era of neocolonialism, under-development is still attributed, not to exploitation but to inferiority, and racial undertones remain closely interwoven with the class struggle”.

Benedick M Louw
Karas Region