Pan-Africanism: It’s what Mandela went to prison for

GOOLAM DAWOOD believes the philosophy of Pan-Africanism should inspire South Africans and their relationship with the rest of the world.

We have mourned the loss of our icon, Nelson Mandela. We have rejoiced in his selfless and honourable life. We have celebrated him for the man he was. Western media have portrayed Mandela as a saviour, someone unique and outstanding in the world. But we South Africans know a little better.

Nelson Mandela was not a saviour risen up from the ashes of apartheid, but a torch bearer of an ideology and sentiment called black consciousness. Nelson Mandela was a Pan-African. He was a link in the chain of African revolutionaries, some of whom were his contemporaries and others his ideological progenitors – Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Muammar Ghaddafi and Robert Mugabe to name but a few. He was a Pan-Africanist.

Pan Africanism may sometimes appear militant, but it has quite a compassionate and humane world view. And it has been extremely gracious to some of its own most vicious detractors here in South Africa too. Stone-cold racist fascists and apartheid profiteers were miraculously transformed into honest citizens overnight by the spirit of Ubuntu. It is this same philosophy that paved the way for our own South African national reconciliation, and it sought to include multiple races in its view of a liberated African continent.

This includes the liberation from the intellectual and social baggage of unrelenting forms of ethnic cleansing that was meted out to citizens over hundreds of years, and also the liberation from the tentacles of imperialism and colonialism, still practiced, in part, by the very same Western nations that sing Mandela’s praises today.

Democracy has always been a means of Pan-Africanism, but never its objective. Movements arose out of their imposed national identity, but endeavoured to realise a transnational ambition of the liberation of Africans, their descendants and their beleaguered formerly colonised allies. Many different cultures including the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Native and South Americans, and even the Irish were considered partners and compatriots in this struggle. Liberated from what? A global political, economic and social institution that devalues the pursuits and status of Africans and other non-Western people as being less-than and subservient-to that of their colonisers.

I don’t think it’s an unfair expectation that when Nelson Mandela so graciously pursued a discourse of National Reconciliation and tried to promote the concept of a Rainbow Nation, that he expected of his citizenry their complementary duty to reorder their social priorities. We are rightfully expected place the progressive needs of the beleaguered African continent ahead-of and superior-to the needs of Western and other proxy states. The interest of the West, which filled its coffers with the spoils of African exploitation for four hundred years, are now to be made subservient to the interests of Africans. And the South African public, privileged and oppressed, are surely expected to be part of this broader project to vindicate humanity’s sordid history by reinvigorating the self-respect of the African public.

  1. Naeem says

    I fear the tentacles of imperialism won’t simply let go their holds on Africa’s resources.

    Is there a non-violent way to do it, do you think?

  2. Goolam Dawood says

    Non-violent passive resistance is the mode of resistance fostered by the citizens of this continent. Who bear witness to the cycle of poverty they are subject to. Perhaps the notion of violence itself needs to be evaluated. Is a crushing dehumanizing cycle of poverty not a form of violence? In which case, violence is what legitimizes the status quo in the first place.

    Right now, the Egyptian military junta considers free speech, freedom of association and the right to protest, to be public violence. Non-violent responses to this criminalization of humanity is the means of resistance adopted by majority of the people. Is organizing and politicizing this resistance violent? People are afraid of change. People should be afraid of the current status quo.

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