#NdloziAtUCT: eloquent on Fanon, basic on feminism

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesperson aka The People’s Bae, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi gave a public lecture on post-colonial African liberation movements at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Thursday. As some are perhaps unaware, Mbuyiseni is a Ph.D student in Political Sociology at the University of Witwatersrand. Hundreds of students filled the lecture hall over capacity to watch the charismatic EFF leader deliver the flames.

Here are five key things The Daily Vox learned.

1. The EFF is trying to speak to feminist politics, but leaders such as Ndlozi still have a lot to learn

Ndlozi repeatedly called out the continued violence women face in South Africa. Yet, as some in the audience picked up, there was an awkwardness in his pro-feminist politics.

Compared to his eloquent and sophisticated rhetoric when discussing policy, dialectics and philosophy – his gender politics were quite clumsy. He more than once seemed to suggest that one’s sexuality, or having a non-binary gender, was a “choice” – which upset the crowd. He also only began mentioning queer folk after being called out by an audience member.

This was disappointing considering that the younger generation of EFF members such as Naledi Chirwa and Simamkele Dlakavu are doing amazing work around gender and queer activism. However the work done by these young leaders is somewhat undermined by the older male leadership of the EFF – such as when Julius Malema lapses into openly sexist and misogynistic rhetoric in public.

While the EFF consistently speak out against patriarchy, one wonders whether their Central Command are open to taking the lead from the young women in their ranks.

The EFF refers to its political ideology as Marxist-Leninist-Fanonism – perhaps its time black feminism and intersectionality are included?

2. Post-colonial African liberation movements, such as the ANC, are not interested in true decolonisation – they simply want to take up the old seats of colonial powers

Drawing mostly from decolonial philosopher Frantz Fanon in his “Pitfalls of National Consciousness” , Ndlozi highlighted African liberation movements followed a pattern that embodied by the ANC. This pattern is promises liberation through a radical restructuring of society, when in fact the true agenda is simply for the liberation movement to replace the colonial power’s positions.

Mbuyiseni outlined true decolonisation was not the substitution of one power by another, despite the latter now being black. Rather, this tendency by national liberation movements was borne out of a desire to mimic the colonial masters.

“The organising concept he [Fanon] uses is precisely ‘national consciousness’ which he exposes as native bourgeoisie practice of self that is rooted in mimicry, laziness and nostalgia,” said Ndlozi.

3. The biggest damage of colonisation is that people are left unable to run their own affairs

According to Ndlozi, through colonialism, Africans were left with the idea that they cannot run their own lives and thus, without guidance from settlers, would fall back to barbarity.

“The problem is not there! Rather it is in the actual fact that within their own ways of understanding humanity, they have excluded us as Africans and we are only included on the condition of their supervision,” he noted.

He argued that liberation movements such as the ANC, through its neoliberal policies, hoped to make the economy stable by opening up borders to foreign investors. This, according to Ndlozi, is another form of economic supervision – to try to get foreigners to “come solve all our problems”.

He said the solution was to empower and industrialise the South African people through economic self sufficiency which catered to self-determination.

4. The Land Question is important for three reasons besides taking back what was stolen by white people

Ndlozi highlighted that the EFF policy of expropriation of land without compensation, for equal distribution, is important for reasons besides the misleading narrative that blacks people wanted revenge on white settlers.

Primarily, nationalisation of land is fundamentally linked to the issue of food sovereignty. According to Ndlozi, the majority of the food South Africans consume is not produced locally.

“If Donald Trump tomorrow decided he wants to declare war on Russia, in three months there won’t be food in the shelves of South Africa,” he said.

Secondly, land is needed to deal with the matters of human settlement, legacies of spatial apartheid and the overpopulation of townships.

Thirdly, Ndlozi said minerals (gold, platinum etc) should be owned and utilised for the public good. According to Ndlozi, the importance of the minerals being nationalised lies their value in financing free education, providing better and quality public healthcare and financing local industry towards the production and manufacturing of products that better lives.

“You go dig gold out and you think you’re a powerful capitalist? That’s lousy thinking and laziness. Go invent something and advance us to make our lives better,” he said.

5. The EFF believes economic protectionism is the way forward in industrialising South Africa

Ndlozi said the EFF wants investments from nationalising the mines to be redirected to those industries that are captured by white monopoly capital – particularly foreign capital.

According to Ndlozi, in South Africa, we import too much of what we consume and need to develop local industry in order to solve the issue of rampant unemployment in South Africa.

“One of the lies the ANC tells is that we have no jobs because we have no skills, but let me tell you the people who are making teaspoons, smartphones and televisions don’t even have a matric,” he said.

He said South Africans should be producing whatever we consume locally. The factories and production sites for these products should be placed in rural areas where people live.

In order to facilitate the growth of these industries, Ndlozi said high import tariffs strategically placed to aid infant industries were necessary. He said that this protectionism was fundamental in the economic development of the USA and many East-Asian countries – including China.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Mo says

    That seems a fairly boilerplate summary, though a little uncritical.

    I thought the speech was hot air. I used to be quite a serious Marxist, so while the stuff appears fresh to some, I can see when people are just sloganeering.

    The analysis of Hegel, Fanon and Mbembe was relatively unoriginal. The outline of the argument was that the mutual self-recognition as a common political unity which characterises personhood in a free society cannot ever be done between white and black, essentially rendering whites permanently outside the public sphere, and beyond recognition of personhood. This was done by starting with Fanon’s idea of abandoning ethnic nationalism for consciousness of practical politics which focuses of human needs (the enlightnment idea of humanism), and then saying that this humanity only really applies to blacks, and that the individual must sacrifice his self into the collective. This is essentially Mussolini’s argument for “collectivissimo”. He is right, he has avoided mimicking the master, but what he has done is end up mimicking the master’s defeated enemy, fascism. Pretty standard fare, which has cultural roots.

    For any non-blacks out there, there is a practice among speakers of Nguni, and Sotho-Tswana languages of referring to your own ethnic group by the noun classes reserved for humans (ma, ba, etc), and for others, to use the markers for inanimate objects(le, di, etc – google “bantu noun classes”). There was some controversy in black feminist circles some time ago for uncouth young men referring to objects of their sexual fancy as “le way”; clearly, this is an acknowledged offensive practice of dehumanisation. Black solidarity attempts to reverse this, but does not extend the courtesy to non-blacks. What Ndlozi (or really, Mbembe, Ndlozi only does slight tweaking) does, is say this with fancy academic language.

    Fanon was not a postmodernist like the fallists are, he believed in reason, and enlightenment ideals of humanism; he wanted to be seen as rational, but argued that the enforcing of racial identity in institutions, either colonial or revolutionary, made rational speech impossible. Either it was not recognised by whites, or it was made degenerate by Negritude, an attitude he summed up by calling it manichean, a similar frame to the Nietzschean idea of moving beyond “master” and “slave” moralities. That’s not where Ndlozi or the auditorium are, that’s for sure.

    Then he moves on to Leninist economics. Nationalisation, import substitution. Thoroughly discredited economic practice, and not particularly creative in implementation. Modern, successful African states use state-directed investment across multiple sectors with hybrid state-private ownership and relatively open borders. See Ethiopia and Rwanda. Generally includes a great deal of rolling heads and suppression of popular movements to ensure ruling elite control over the means of production, but ensures growth and development.

    What the EFF want to do is repossess all white-owned land “without machine guns, but with a bill in parliament” (I paraphrase). Clearly, he reads Fanon selectively, since Fanon recognises that the implementation of law is done with the use or threat of force or violence. So 4.5 million people get evicted, and if they are in debt (which most are), they will be made destitute. I will grant that does solve the housing crisis, at least for blacks; just shy of 4 million people live in ‘informal’ settlements today.

    It just means you’ve created a few million desperate hungry, angry people with a history of guerilla warfare against greater odds, to-the-last-drop with all maps of social relations destroyed, so that the first man who tells you die derde boereoorlog has begun has first claim to leadership. So, then there’s civil war, which black people will be fighting for pride, and whites for survival. Sounds fun.

    And then there’s the fact that the agricultural distribution policy, in a drying nation with below 13% arable land, is based on allotment by request. We don’t even need a particularly large minority to lodge land claims, and the farmable land will be saturated with subsistence smallholdings which will subdivide into inheritance packages until they are too small to be feasible, which is what Rwanda did in 1960. Every Hutu who asked got a piece, and then within a generation, many had too little land to feed even themselves with. And in a primary resource economy, there is no flexibility of demand for labour, so people went hungry. Then when the Tutsi came back demanding their political rights after Uganda made them stateless, they butchered them (sorry, I had to cut out 90-93, that’s a long story). Or maybe it will end like Afghanistan, where different clans and ethnic groups fought over ‘unfair’ distributions. Or maybe Zim, where they somehow manage to let their people go hungry in the most arable territory on the continent. Or Venezuela, where not even embargo is an excuse, people starve in the cities fighting over the remaining supplies in the grocery stores.

    And then there’s mining. So you nationalise the mines, and all the operators go overseas. We have a shortage of skilled labour, and cannot offer globally competitive salaries, so while we wait to train engineers, the machines rust, and informal miners get killed in the collapsing tunnels.

    The same goes for manufacturing. No competent professional will settle for the kind of salary a Leninist state can offer. The only way to compete is to remove labour law and collective bargaining, as the Soviets did, and operate on cheap labour and slavery. But then they do have 4.5 million destitute abeLungu hanging around, so maybe it’s payback time.

    Actually, I misspoke, this isnt import substitution, that would be too sophisticated. It’s a downgrading of the economy from services to manufacturing and agrarianism. Raising the tarriffs would just make the food prices go through the roof, along with all other commodities. 101 stuff. The question is, how much repression of popular discontent will be required to hold onto power until the economy becomes totally independent (if very poor)? And how long will that take given that there’s a civil war going on with the newly dispossessed white minority? Wars are expensive.

    Regarding gay rights, shit, I could have told you a National Socialist party would be slow on the uptake, especially a movement which praises violent hypermasculinity as the model for revolutionary heroism. (So does fallism, actually, just women get to play the role too). As for feminism, who the hell would want to hit the perfect pitch of western postmodern feminism? Surely feminism is far better served by pragmatic policies addressing unambiguously articulated issues of justice, rather than following a dogma of perfectly clipped postmodern jargon borrowed from the French via America to pander to insecure young students. Not that Ndlozi even does that successfully. The fact that he is trying to keep up with what people want to hear instead of solving the problems with his own mental faculties shows he will say anything to get applause.

    Not that its hard to get praise from the guys dressed like valentines-day themed French clowns. They would cheer his farts if he said it was the winds of change. Leninism is vanguardist – that means an authoritarian follow-the-leader system, based on Lenin’s rationalisation of his overturning of democracy in the Soviets. He figured, being the most radical, he represented the people better than the revolutionaries they actually voted for, and therefore had to force them to be free. Hence the concept of the intellectual vanguard. To tell the peasants what’s good for them, which is why they call themselves the EFF Student “Command”, not “Council” or “representatives”. Power excercised top-down, telling the people what they want to hear.

    And then you can drink all the good wine when youre sitting in the Kremlin while the Kiev starves, and the kulaks are butchered to collectivise the land.

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