Category Archives: South Africa

Open Letter to the Mayor of Durban

Dear Mr. Nxumalo, Mayor of Durban, South Africa

I have been informed that you are trying to be helpful to the poor, by way of being charitable, and sensitizing richer people to donate whatever they can to improve the conditions under which the poor live. From what is being reported, it does seem that you are not interested in listening to what the poor themselves are saying with regard to deal with their living conditions.

I do have many questions, but the one that really dominates is the following: why is it so difficult for you (and others in your administration, in the justice system, locally and nationally, in your party, locally and nationally) to look at people who are protesting on the basis of values (like solidarity, for example) that most Africans, nay, most humans, are proud to share? Is it not possible to put aside what capitalism, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, drilled into our minds, and listen with the kind of care, love, compassion someone like Francis of Assisi once did as a way of reminding us what we do have in common. One does not have to be a former catholic believer to admire someone like Pope Francis giving examples of humility, compassion, generosity, recently embracing a disfigured person. Or have you so imbibed the concept of power as power only when exercised with impunity, that you do not see how closely you are reproducing what went on during apartheid?

In his novel, KMT –In the House of Life, subtitled, an epistemic novel, Ayi Kwei Armah has provided an enlightened response. In this novel, Ayi Kwei Armah tries to understand why Ancient Egyptian Civilization fell apart. In a nutshell, it boiled down to a struggle between two antagonistic understandings of how to advance knowledge (and humanity). On one side there were the keepers (using knowledge as a way of accumulating power) and the sharers (using knowledge as a way of promoting solidarity, and the continuing emancipation of humanity).

Mr. Mayor, have you ever entertained the idea that, given your position, you could play a significant role, not only in Durban, but beyond, toward a complete and total emancipation of humanity, from the predatory practices of capitalism? What has been missing in Africa, since the years of Independence? What has been missing in South Africa, since the end of Apartheid? In all these cases can one seriously talk about transition when those who most benefitted from the predatory liquidation of Africa organized themselves to carry on with the predatory system? The predators are keepers and reproducers of the knowledge that made them powerful and super rich. The residents of Kennedy Road, Cato Cress Manor are trying to make you understand their messages about sharing in solidarity, not through charity. The latter is a healing message, the former is a transaction aimed at keeping the poor poorer and the rich richer.

There is a world of difference between solidarity and charity.
The latter calls for silence
Acquiescence, submission
Acceptance of poverty
As something akin to predestination
Solidarity
Calls for audacity
In liquidating misery
Poverty
Forever everywhere
Not just in one corner of a territory

The poorest of the poor
Took to the streets because they had no other way
To be heard in their own voices
By themselves, for themselves

In today’s world dominated by violence
The voices from the poorest of the poorest
Are healing voices seeking
To heal wounds, visible and invisible

Mr. Mayor, it is easier to focus on the visible wounds, the ones everyone can see and understand, but the deepest wounds tend to be the ones that are invisible from the outside. Real healing means going as deep as possible in those hidden wounds, with the help of those who are vocal and those who have been so badly wounded that, more often than not, they would rather keep quiet.
There is one humanity, indivisible. In the end, each one of us will be asked, whatever our beliefs what did we do in order to heal that which appeared irreparably destroyed.

Jacques MF Depelchin
Researcher/teacher
Salvador-Bahia
Brazil
Hugh Le May Fellow Rhodes University (August-December 2012)

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN SOUTH AFRICA TO CONGOLESE WHO ARE PROTESTING A FRAUDULENT ELECTION

ABOUT BARBAROUS ACTS WHICH OUTRAGE THE CONSCIENCE OF CONGOLESE
COULD SOUTH AFRICA BECOME THE ISRAEL OF AFRICA?

There are times when something outrageous happens, such as the illegal arrest of 150-200 Congolese in Yeoville (Johannesburg january 21-22), that persons of conscience are not sure that they got the information correctly. In the land that invented apartheid, could it be that something more pernicious than apartheid is being born? This is being written with many questions in mind, but also fully conscious that, given the whole history of Africa, over the past 500 years, knowing what happened during that history requires something that challenges one’s conscience to rise to the level of the outrages that have been inflicted collectively, systematically, with greater and greater impunity to humanity on the continent of its birth. Enough is enough says this conscience.

In fidelity to humanity
Keeping it free from insanity
Rooted in solidarity
Never forgetting the fragility
Of conscience, Memory,
Herstory, history, humanity
Shall rise eternity
As its horizon
And for that reason, always remember the preamble and article 1 of te Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the UN General Assembly in 1948 :

From the preamble :
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

From Article 1:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

1. This is being addressed to all those who are concerned about the present state of humanity anywhere, but especially on the African Continent. It is also addressed with greater urgency to those who can do something toward healing the bodies and spirits of those who have been violated (and continue to be violated) in their bodies, their spirits. This continuing suffering directly and indirectly linked to the legacies that have dehumanized the African Continent must cease.

2. This is being addressed to those whose functions at any level, financial, economic, educational, juridical, cultural religious, political, medical, social, directly and/or indirectly impact the lives of those who continue to be dehumanized simply because they refuse to submit to dehumanization as practiced under the various misleading banners of “humanitarian interventionism” in their charitable and/or militarized forms.

3. This is being addressed especially to those who have wielded, for centuries, political power with impunity because the returns were too high to let go. This kind of political power has reproduced itself in various guises. This kind of power has been so overwhelming that morality, ethics disappeared and became just words. During these centuries, Africa saw slavery come and go. It was abolished, in a manner. It was followed by the partition of Africa into colonies. The physical and mental borders created by colonialism came to an end, in a manner, with independence. Now globalization has followed the continuation of colonization and apartheid on a planetary scale.

4. Did Africa as a whole ever built a collective memorial to those bodies and spirits that, against the odds, maintained the conscience of humanity? How come that when consciences, anywhere in Africa and beyond, follow what is called for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by revolting against injustice, political and financial highway robbery, in short, how come such revolt of consciences get punished as if following the conscience of humanity has become a crime, especially when it happens in Africa?

5. Is this a sign that there is now humanity of the rich and humanity of the poor? The latter being put in place through humanitarian wars, through courts which are meant to bring peace in those places that are now being colonized by the new form of expanding the murderous legacies of slavery, colonial rule, apartheid?

6. Could all of this be happening precisely because those transitions from slavery, colonialism, apartheid were never dealt with properly, i.e. in the spirit of Mâât, in the spirit of always aiming for justice and truth. Could it be that on the continent where Mâât was invented, there are now forces being harnessed to liquidate all those who are trying to follow what their conscience tell them to do?

7. Could it be that the forces that managed to get away with impunity through those transitions that were not attended in the spirit of Mâât, have decided that they shall always achieve impunity regardless of the crimes they continue to commit in the name of things that mean one thing for the rich and another thing for the poor?

8. Is it not possible for South Africans in any position of political, cultural, legal, religious, social, educational, moral and/or ethical authority to remember that, years ago, under apartheid, there were Congolese and people all over the world who risked their lives, whose conscience revolted against the injustices and untruth, so that humanity could be healed. Is it not possible for these South Africans to rise in solidarity, not just for the Congolese, but also for all Africans who are now being bludgeoned to physical and psychic death so that globalization may triumph and, just like it happened under slavery, colonialism and apartheid, get away with impunity, once again?

9. Raising questions must lead one to stop, think and invent new possibilities, see other ways of achieving the maintenance of one humanity, through peace, justice, truth. Is it not time to stop the insanity that began with Atlantic and Oriental slavery; an insanity that has led, non-stop, to the creation of weapons that are obliterating, little by little, humanity in an instant; an insanity which through repeated impunity for crimes against humanity has continued unabated. Is it not time to encourage those who are outraged by injustice, barbarous acts against their own country to rise up to their conscience as they learned from the lessons of Patrice Emery Lumumba and the African heroines and heroes who gave their lives so that humanity can be healed forever, on the continent of its birth. Only thus shall civilization leads one away from the growing barbarism being witnessed today.

Mandela’s New Book: Cultural knowledge is imperative if Africans are to achieve economic democracy

(GB-N.com) – Ayi Kwei Armah is one of the world’s literary giants. He lives in Senegal, West Africa where he conducts an annual writers’ workshop. Here he reviews Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela (Foreword by Barack Obama). This review was first published at http://globalbreakingnews.com/news/2653/86/Mandela-s-New-Book-Cultural-knowledge-is-imperative-if-Africans-are-to-achieve-economic-democracyReview Android Smartphone

Mandela’s new book, neither an autobiography nor a structured memoir, is a series of musings held together by the major intellectual concerns of the man.
It was conceived as a project of the Mandela Centre of Memory and Dialogue, whose Memory Programme director, Verne Harris, guided the selection of archival passages for inclusion. He also determined its literary form.
Mandela, too old and tired to take direct control over the book’s creation, entrusted his helpers with the prepress work. This arrangement produced a gentle tension rippling through the book. For though the helpers share Mandela’s political affiliations, it’s not certain that they belong to the same cultural universe.
The tension starts with the title, then quickly escalates into real philosophical conflict with the formal organization of the text. The text we can deal with briefly. Mandela is explicitly shy about autobiography. His reason is that the form can so easily be abused for self-flattery. This is a rather unusual, somewhat original attitude, especially in this age when every average fellow yearns to star on the TV screen. For a sensibility so little inclined to navel-gazing, the title Conversations with Myself is way too narcissistic. A bit more imagination, and Mandela’s helpers would surely have found a better title.
The matter of the organizational form chosen for the book is less trivial, for it concerns a question bound to grow increasingly important in these coming years: To which cultural universe does the personal memory of Nelson Mandela belong? To the collective memory of the oppressed Africans whose struggle for political emancipation he helped to lead? Or to the memory bank of European civilization, in whose name the defenders of apartheid declared Mandela and his comrades terrorists, and on whose behalf they arrested, incarcerated, and isolated him for over a quarter century?
The cultural world of Mandela’s captors, conventionally called Western civilization, has over the past millennium grown vigorously, extending its control from its small European homeland to all continents. In the process, it has elaborated an impressive discourse presenting itself as not just European, but as universal.
By contrast, the African cultural universe, the other matrix to which Mandela’s memory might be connected, has little institutional support on the world scale. European culture has publishing houses, film studios, major magazines, web sites and transnational broadcasting services to propagate its viewpoints worldwide. Mandela’s African world has had to fight even for the basic right to vote. So far, it has scant cultural, educational and media power with which to project its claim to world recognition. Hence the inertial tendency even of helpers to integrate into sumptuous institutions of the European universe, instead of creating the new institutions needed for the projection of African memory.
Yet, from what we know of African history and philosophy before Africa was turned into a hunting ground for slaves and a reservoir for the pillage of raw resources, African society originally set great value on memory management. That is what Herodotus, father of European history, meant when he described ancient Egyptians as the most historically conscious of people. It is what foreigners still mean when they describe Africa’s old cultures as ancestor worship.
What they mean is that memory management was long an indispensable element in the African way of life. Generations knew how much they could benefit from the experience of predecessors. They in turn would add to the common pool of ancestral memory, if they lived well according to culturally useful norms. For a society’s memory bank is the prime intellectual resource reservoir from which humans have normally fetched insights and inspiration for individual and social growth. The deeper the memory pool available to any group, the more profoundly innovative its members can be when seeking intellectual tools for solving the many societal problems of life and death.
Ancient African society preserved its social memory in a variety of media, in architecture and medicine, in sculpture and painting, in temple liturgies and lay music and, above all, in language. Scholars now take it for granted that Africa has traditions of oral memory dating back thousands of years. Less well known, but increasingly open to research, is the fact that a considerable portion of Africa’s memory bank consists of written texts. The latest to be unearthed come from the medieval colleges of Timbuktu and Djenne in Mali. The oldest are ancient Egyptian papyri and stelae, some more than five thousand years old.
The personal memories of exceptional individuals like Mandela form a logical part of a larger African memory pool. Those memories should stimulate interest and research in that great multi-millennial pool of our ancestral information, now hidden from most of us because of discriminatory educational policies designed in the past to retard our intellectual emancipation. That large pool of social memory would include the words, ideas and deeds of other liberators like Lumumba, Nkrumah, Malcolm, Cabral, Fanon and Diop, Williams, Douglass and Sojourner, and reach all the way past the medieval states to the time of unifiers like Amenemhat and the prototype of them all, Menes the leader who unified Kemet more than five thousand years ago. Mandela is keenly aware of a small part of this general tradition, and he mentions local heroes like Makana and the Khoikhoi Autshumayo with great respect for their record as would-be liberators.
The fact that most Africans cannot access this ancient pool of knowledge only means that we suffer from induced cultural amnesia. The remedy is serious, organized study, supported by continental African institutes equipped and funded to research all our historical, philosophical, artistic and scientific heritage. The appearance of books like Mandela’s can help to draw attention to a powerful and legitimate issue: the need to correct past epistemological injustices by creating and strengthening institutions for the preservation of Africa’s social memory.
Social memory management enables new generations to know what values their society had, over the millennia; what was considered useful and harmful, and what behavior patterns were destructive. That is part of the workings of every dynamic society. It was a standard aspect of African socialization until foreign invasions snapped the links of common memory.
Readers with a short view of African history think the first foreign invaders were 15th-century Portuguese, Dutch, French and English sailors. But these were latecomers. Persians invaded Africa more than two thousand years earlier. They were followed by Greeks (Alexander) and Romans (the Caesars), a little before the birth of Christ. By the fourth century after Christ, Christianity had become Rome’s imperial religion. One Christian Roman emperor, Theodosius, defined Egyptian culture, with its temples, schools, writing system, sculpture, art and pyramids, as a pagan manifestation of devil worship, and banned the teaching of hieroglyphs, Africa’s oldest written records. Africa’s social memory is still numb from that attack.
Arabs were the next invaders. They too called African culture pagan devil worship, and intensified the violent assault on Africa’s social memory. Africans have since then had a rough time reconnecting with the entirety of our social memory, while foreign experts keep trying to persuade us that we have nothing worth remembering, and would do well to integrate our personal narratives into their Arab or European social memory.
We can now pose the question more clearly: To which cultural universe does Nelson Mandela’s memory belong?
Like the legacy of all outstanding beings, it belongs ultimately to humanity at large. But where is its cultural home? Is it part of the collective memory of South Africans in particular and Africans in general? Or is it part of Europe’s globalizing civilization?
Verne Harris works at the Mandela Centre of Memory and Dialogue. Answering this question by integrating Mandela’s book into the tradition of European memoirs, he gives it a literary structure borrowed from a writer out of European antiquity, the 2nd-century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Question: Is it sensible to model an African freedom fighter on a Roman emperor whose job, after all, was the snuffing out of other people’s freedoms? Considering Mandela’s life and work, such an option calls at least for a rationale. Harris supplies one, by saying Mandela was ‘steeped in the classics’ (page xxi). By ‘the classics,’ Harris means the European classics. He concludes that Mandela was steeped in them because, says he, Mandela studied Latin at school, and later, at university and in prison, he sometimes acted in Greek plays.
The word ‘steeped’ implies a degree of immersion in European culture not borne out in Mandela’s statements. Concerning his intellectual achievements, Mandela evaluates himself as a “mediocre man.” By this he means his educational development was so structured that it did not allow him to rise above average levels of instruction. Consequently, he says he is someone who possesses “scraps of superficial information on a variety of subjects, but who lacks depth and expert knowledge on the one thing in which I ought to have specialized, namely the history of my country and people” (page 7).
Evidently, in his youth, Mandela wished to study African history and culture seriously. Because of apartheid, he could not. Even so, Mandela sought mentors, trying to learn about the African past. He listened to knowledgeable elders who “could trace the movements of each section of our people from the North.” He mentions Skota, Thema, Luthuli, Matthews, Marks, Kotane.
Normally, these mentors would have been researchers and professors teaching African history, philosophy and culture at universities and research institutions. But under apartheid, their information could only come to Mandela along informal channels. He says no one ever briefed him “on how we would finally remove the evils of colour prejudice, the books I should read in this connection and the political organizations I should join if I wanted to be part of a disciplined freedom movement. I had to learn all these things by mere chance and through trial and error.” (27)
In case you still wonder what kind of history Mandela dreamed of studying, consider his musings on a short 1962 trip to Egypt. He went not to study but on urgent business: to undergo a crash course in insurrectionary warfare as a necessary step toward dismantling European minority rule in South Africa. Yet he remembers: “My chief interest was to find out the type of men who founded the high civilization of olden times that thrived in the Nile Valley as far back as 5000 BC. This was not merely a question of archaeological interest but one of cardinal importance to African thinkers … concerned with the collection of evidence to explode the fictitious claim that civilisation began in Europe and that Africans have no rich past that can compare with theirs.” (Page 95).
In a 1987 letter to the South African university administration, Mandela wrote: “I hereby apply for exemption from Latin I on the following grounds. Although I obtained a pass in this subject in the 1938 matriculation examination, and … passed a special course in the same subject at the University of Witwatersrand in 1944, I have forgotten practically everything about it.” Elsewhere, Mandela also requests permission to substitute African Politics for Latin. Hardly an avowal of deep immersion in the European classics.
Patently, Mandela would have loved to plunge his consciousness into the long stream of African history and memory. His memory managers and publishers, on the other hand, seem content to integrate his memory into the Western cultural universe. This tension surfaces, in other parts of the book, sometimes so subtly a casual reader might miss it.
Mandela is much written about. Readers might therefore expect to find little that’s new here. Yet there are mild surprises. One is Mandela’s stance on the issue of ‘natural’ rulers. Born a Xhosa prince, he might be expected to favor chieftaincy. On the other hand, his rational politics made him a champion of universal equality. So do his political convictions outweigh his inherited prejudices?
Mandela’s response will surprise egalitarians. “We must never forget,” he says, “that the institution of traditional leaders is sanctified by African law and custom, by our culture and tradition. No attempt must be made to abolish it.” (page 14). Given the sorry record of hereditary rulers in the African people’s spoliation, this sounds odd, but only if we assume, that Mandela is a born revolutionary.
On examination, he seems to be a man of conservative temperament, with a sense of decency, inclined not to overthrow systems but to seek reasonable compromises in situations of conflict. If such a man was drawn to embrace armed insurrection, the reason lies less in his temerity than in the cruelty of the system he fought to end, apartheid.
Like Nazism, apartheid is conventionally presented as an aberration in European history. In fact, it was part of the worldwide expansion of Europe, the globalizing process that replaced the populations of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand with immigrant Europeans, and transferred other people’s land and wealth to European descendants. In Africa, that European adventure was most intense in Algeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the conflict between South African democrats and apartheid supremacists, European nations such as Britain, France and Germany, along with the USA, were not bystanders. They were active allies of the white supremacist regime.
There is an occasion in this book for looking at that fact, but it gets fumbled. In a discussion with Ahmed Kathrada, an ANC comrade, Mandela is prodded to remember the moment of his betrayal and arrest. Mandela, disguised and underground, was driving to an appointment with a U.S. embassy contact. The contact tipped off the apartheid security service, and Mandela was taken off to spend twenty-seven years in jail.
In the retelling, there is no mention of the part played by the American embassy. Instead, we are served shreds of misleading gossip. Did Walter Sisulu betray Mandela? Was it Kathrada? Red herrings. The issue is handled as if it belonged to the field of trivia. The impression this casualness creates is that the struggle is past, no longer a matter of serious attention.
For the decision to integrate Mandela’s memory into the narrative of European social thought seems based on the assumption that with the achievement of the formal right to vote, the struggle for the emancipation of Africans in South Africa is over.
Such a supposition would be tragically shortsighted. Deeper than the political struggle lies the pending struggle for economic democracy. It cannot be waged intelligently unless the oppressed know who we are, who we have been throughout history, and what our relationship ought to be to the material and intellectual resources we need for living: the land, the air, the subsoil and environmental resources of our continent.
As long as Africans lack this cultural knowledge, our leadership will continue selling raw materials, raw energy, raw labor, which means they will continue creating poverty and unemployment at home, because they don’t know that Africa has a tradition in which unemployment is unacceptable, land cannot be sold, and resources are not for export, but for use in industry and agriculture involving every living adult in gainful work and shared prosperity.
Mandela’s generation were prevented from acquiring this salutary knowledge of African history. Still, they did a great job for posterity by courageously confronting apartheid and forcing it to concede the political franchise. They thus opened the way to the future, assuming that the vote can be used to create hugely better educational and health facilities. In that sense, they played the special role of the Vulindlela in South Africa, and the Wpwawt in ancient Egypt. They opened closed ways.
It is for coming generations of Africans to widen the now open ways to knowledge, to spread knowledge of regenerative values, and to use that knowledge to organize our society more creatively than any invaders ever did or could.
Mandela is a master of the self-deflating quip, a short, Zen-style statement that, by pricking his iconic persona down to a miniature, reveals hidden realities behind the public image. Remembering the decision to adopt armed struggle over fifty years ago, he laughs at how cheaply he was initially outvoted by conservative ANC officials. More funnily, when he wished to recognize the exceptional contributions of African teenagers to the liberation struggle by lowering the voting age to fourteen, he was lampooned in a cartoon that implied he favored giving the vote to babies in diapers. “I did not have the courage,” says this courageous man, to pursue the matter.
This book contains another such insightful quip. “Frequently over the years since his release he (Mandela) has teased visitors and guests with the comment that he is still not free, while pointing a finger at his personal assistants: ‘And these are my jailers.’” (p.321).
Copyright 2011 www.globalbreakingnews.com

Thabo Mbeki on Haiti

We must do all we can to help the island nation safeguard its dignity, writes Thabo Mbeki
The Big Read: It was difficult to hold back the tears as a deluge of news told of the catastrophe visited on the people of Haiti by the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12.

Jan 24, 2010 10:15 PM | Times Live, South Africa http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/article275664.ece

After the tragedies in Asia resulting from the Indonesia tsunami in 2004 and from Hurricane Katrina in the US city of New Orleans in 2005, it was possible to imagine that we could respond to future natural calamities with a certain degree of stoicism.

But when the full picture began to emerge about the destruction in Haiti, this proved to be little more than a delusion born of the wish to limit the pain all of us feel when merciless nature strikes suddenly, brutally claiming the lives of many helpless fellow human beings.

It was not necessary for us to see the human limbs protruding from under the rubble or to see lifeless bodies lying in the streets to know the terrible cost the earthquake had imposed on thousands of Haitians.

The heaps of bricks and mortar that had been houses necessarily invoked in the mind’s eye terrifying images of crushed bodies, of people still alive under the walls that had collapsed, but condemned to die slowly because help would not reach them on time, of human blood flowing into the canyons that had opened when the earth itself became an enemy of the Haitian humanity.

Those images in the mind, even without confirmation by the graphic television footage, were enough to produce the tears that are impossible to hold back.

But the tears also came because this tragedy engulfed this particular country – Haiti!

The fact of our birth into the South Africa that was, placed Haiti in a special place in our hearts and minds. This is because it has the indestructible distinction that 206 years ago, in 1804, it emerged as the very First Black Republic in the world.

More than the mere fact of this was the history of the extraordinary uprising which led to this outcome, which could not but serve as an unequalled inspiration to those engaged in struggle to achieve their own liberation.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

During a sustained military and political struggle, which ended with the birth of their Republic, the African slaves of Haiti, with many free mulattos as their allies, defeated the armies of the most powerful European powers of the day – Spain, Great Britain and France.

From this titanic struggle emerged true heroes of all oppressed peoples, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe and Alexander Pétion, who together out-smarted some of the best Generals that Europe could produce.

When, in 1803, their armies defeated the French forces, which were first led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Leclerc, they saved the United States of America from occupation by France.

Because the African slaves of Haiti annihilated the French army, this army could not proceed to occupy the US territory known as Louisiana, as ordered by Napoleon. Ultimately France had to sell this territory to the US, which is celebrated in the US as the Louisiana Purchase.

Free Haiti also provided the outstanding Latin American liberator, Simon Bolivar, with the war materials he needed to defeat the Spanish forces, secure independence for Venezuela and therefore guarantee the liberation of Latin America from Spanish occupation.

The Haitian Revolution was organically linked to the American and French Revolutions and should have taken its place alongside these in the construction of the new world order of the day. Sadly, this was not to be.

One important reason for this was explained by the US newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, in its January 2 2004 edition, in an article by José de Côrdoba headed “Impoverished Haiti pins hopes for future on a very old debt”.

The article said, “More than two decades after rebellious former slaves vanquished troops from Napoleon’s army here (in Haiti) in 1803, France’s King Charles X made the fledgling republic of Haiti an offer it couldn’t refuse.

“In 1825, as the king’s warships cruised just over the horizon from the Haitian capital, a French emissary demanded 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognising the new republic. The implicit alternative was invasion and re-enslavement.

“It was a huge sum, about five times Haiti’s annual export revenue. Haiti’s then-president reluctantly agreed, taking on a crushing debt.

“Today, as Haiti celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence amid growing political unrest and a collapsing economy, one of its few glimmers of hope is that long-ago deal.

“Haiti wants its money back – with interest.

“Aided by US and French lawyers, the Haitian government is preparing a legal brief demanding nearly $22-billion in ‘restitution’ for what it regards as an act of gunboat diplomacy.”

After its defeat, France refused to recognise the Republic of Haiti. Frightened by the example it had set, the slave-owning US imposed economic sanctions against the young Republic.

France demanded that the Republic of Haiti must pay compensation for the losses sustained by French property-owners in what had been its wealthiest colony. The most valuable property for which the French claimed compensation was the slaves themselves!

The France of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité sent a new expeditionary force to enforce its demand that the liberated slaves had to pay money to guarantee their freedom.

Haiti felt that it had no choice but to pay the compensation demanded by France. Remarkably, it took Haiti 122 years to settle this debt, with the final payment being made in 1947 to the US, after the latter had bought this debt from the French!

To indicate how heavy the burden of this debt was, in 1900 fully 80% of Haiti’s national budget had to be set aside to service the debt imposed on the country by France in 1825, which continued to expand because of the interest it carried.

What the poor of Haiti paid during 122 years, expressed in 2004 US dollars, was conservatively estimated to amount to $22-billion! In 2004, a French government commission established to assess Haiti’s demand for restitution said this demand was “not pertinent in both legal and historical terms”.

It is probably true that Haiti today is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is, however, also true that as their forebears did, the people of Haiti continue to stand out today as an inspiring example of human resilience and dedication to the cause of freedom.

The urgent task all humanity faces today is to come to the aid of the Haitians, to confront and overcome the consequences of the deadly earthquake which has claimed the lives of thousands and wiped out the little wealth they had accumulated in the protracted struggle of many centuries merely to survive.

It was indeed truly inspiring to hear the international media reports about the efforts of fellow South Africans, working side by side with other foreign teams, to rescue Haitians from beneath the mounds of rubble in Port-au-Prince. It is this that makes it possible for one to say – I am proudly South African, and proudly human!

The time will come when other truths will have to be told about Haiti, to allow this country once again to set an example, this time to speak about what should be done and not done if, indeed, we are true to the humanist view that umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye – I am because you are!

When those truths are told, we will have the possibility to salute the people of South Africa that, during the year that Haiti celebrated its Liberation Bicentenary, they had the courage to welcome into their midst a distinguished Haitian family – the family of Jean Bertrand and Mildred Aristide and their two daughters.

Then we will tell of the bond of friendship that has developed between us and the poor of Haiti, including those who have resided in Cité Soleil, the biggest slum in Port-au-Prince, to which has been added the enormous destruction imposed by the January 12 earthquake.

We will also have the possibility fully to absorb the story told in Peter Hallward’s book, Damming the Flood, about what happened in 2004, as Haiti celebrated its Bicentenary and as it saw its elected president forcibly transported into exile in Africa, the ancestral home of the 1804 liberators of Haiti.

For now, we must convey our sympathy, condolences and solidarity to the Haitians who live among us, as well as the rest of the sister people of Haiti.

To give meaning to our words, we must join the rest of the world to do everything that has to be done to help ensure that tomorrow we shed tears of joy, as we see the people of Haiti realise the dreams which inspired the African slaves of Haiti to do what they did over two centuries ago, which affirmed the dignity of all Africans and all human beings, regardless of race, colour, gender or belief.

Statement from Dr Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Former President of Haiti
15 January 2010

We thank all the true friends of Haiti, in particular the Government and the people of South Africa for their solidarity with the victims of Haiti.

The concrete action undertaken by Rescue South Africa and Gift of the Givers is a clear expression of ubuntu. Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. As we all know, many people remain buried under tons of ruble and debris waiting to be rescued. When we think of their suffering, we feel deeply and profoundly that we should be there, in Haiti, with them, trying our best to prevent death.

To symbolize this readiness we have decided to meet not just anywhere, but here, in the shadow of the Oliver Tambo International Airport. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, to share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity. Friends from around the world have confirmed their willingness to organize an airplane carrying medical supplies, emergency needs and ourselves.

While we cannot wait to be with our sisters and brothers in Haiti, we share the anguish of all Haitians in the Diaspora who are desperate to reach family and loved ones.

Soufrans youn nan nou se soufrans nou tout.
L’Union fait la force. Kouraj! Kenbe! Kenbe!
Youn soutni lòt nan lespri Mèm Amou an.

Our love to the nation now labeled the poorest of the western hemisphere. However, the spirit of ubuntu that once led Haiti to emerge as the first independent Black nation in 1804; helped Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador attain liberty; and inspired our forefathers to shed their blood for the United States’ independence, cannot die. Today this spirit of solidarity must and will empower all of us to rebuild Haiti.

Ukwanda kwaliwa umthakathi.
Thank you.

In Solidarity with Abahlalibase Mjondolo (AbM) 5: On Christmas Day, but it could be any day

Reading about what has happened at Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban makes me wonder. More like wondering and wandering from society to society, from places in history and geography. Has capitalism become the greatest laundering scheme, the greatest organized gang?Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download?

Going back to some of the most predatory roots of capitalism, one finds children split from their families by the slave hunters. That was the beginning of the splitting of humanity. A splitting apart long before Chinua Achebe saw it with the arrival of the colonizers in Things Fall Apart. In spite of the endless onslaught, healing has been going on, more often than not unseen, unheard of among the pharisaic promoters/distributors of pacifying rewards.

Healers are always close by if one can see/hear/feel them
Spirit, breath, pen is all it takes
Ayi Kwei Armah helps those without go to
Healers in forests, healers in deserts,
They are everywhere
HealersbaseMjondolo
same as
AbahlalibaseMjondolo

Is it true, so goes one story,
That abahlali can turn up in your bank
Dry up your account?
Make the owner feel how it feels to be without money
In a land of honey
For the Richest of the richest
Who make money
Out of nothingest
Have decided to get rid of Abahlali
Before they desertify their bank accounts

For centuries the splitting went on
cooked in history books through
names always chosen by the same chefs:
Slavery, abolition, enlightenment, civilization
Capitalism, progress, Christianity,
Colonialism, apartheid, peace, development, competition, globalization, terror
some of these names were once sorted out by one of the greatest chefs of all, under the name la grammaire des civilisations (later, in 1994, translated in English as A History of Civilizations).

La grammaire des civilisations does not mention the splitting of humanity
despite the genocidal sequences of the 20th century whose names have not been forgotten, but are fading fast…just like humanity:
Herrero, Armenians, Congo Free State, Nankin, Holocaust, Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Indochina, Rwanda, DRCongo.

In the eastern part of DRCongo:
Violence, rape against women, babies
followed by unthinkable atrocities.
Committed just for the sake of might is right always.

And so, now, in the hearts, veins and brains of the land of Sobukwe, Biko, Madiba,
Splitting of humanity has been taken to a new level
reminiscent of darker and darkest times

Questions arise:
Germany in 1933? Kolyma/gulag tales?
Nankin? Kassinga? My Lai?
Hiroshima/Nagasaki by other means?

Questions arise:
For what?
In the name of what?

In the name of the richest of the richest
At Kennedy Road/Durban
The answers came:

Showing the poorest of the poor
They are nothing unless they submit
To the most powerful, the most brutal
If they do not submit
They shall be silenced
Forever if necessary

Healing, once said S’bu Zikode,
Is more powerful than any lethal force.
Is the GAH (Gang against healing)
Trying to prove all of the AbahlalibaseMjondolo wrong
AbM is like a young baby, born in 2005
Being raped till it submits to might is right

Questions arise
Will the sun still rise?
We had been promised a new dawn
quickly
Re-baptized renaissance
Quickly evaporated
Has everything been inverted?
Will the sun still rise in the East?
Is the West willing to set?

Accelerated, from splitting to the next stage
With the help of the nuclear mentality
Reducing humanity to dust
Hoping that healers
Shall be pulverized in the process.

Questions arise:
Where is the world headed for when
Apartheid has been relayed by former victims
To make it sweater on the
Richest of the Richest
and harsher on the
Poorest of the Poorest?

Questions cannot be silenced:
Could it be that splitting has now entered its most lethal phase
Gone beyond the point of no return
Saying no to Reconnecting with the Disconnected
As called for by Ayi Kwei Armah
In his Eloquence of the Scribes?

Keep listening
To answers coming
From the quiet ones
Keep listening to
Abahlali relaying
The silenced ones

These words almost did not see the light of day
It moved out of sight on October 18 2009
With apologies
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, December 25, 2009

In solidarity with Abahlalibase Mjondolo (AbM) 4

Dearest Friends,

Like many people in South Africa and around the world, I am still stunned by what has been done to the people living at the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban.

From 2005, AbM seems to have managed to overcome many obstacles, but, or so it seems, it has not been able (yet) to overcome the biggest one, namely appearing to be giving a lesson in emancipatory politics to the ANC.

Since assuming power, it seems that there are members of the ANC who seem to have forgotten the role played by ALL the people, but especially, the poorest of the poorest, in propelling the ANC to power. This forgetting could have lethal consequences, not just for the PoPs, but also for every citizen in South Africa and beyond. In the history of emancipatory politics, from slavery to today, the enslaved, the colonized, by definition, must never ever free themselves. Should they try and, worst of all, succeed, those in power shall quickly “put them back into their place”. In retribution, more often than not, this trespassing act, or so considered by those in power was followed by the most severe of punishments, preceded, if necessary, by torture. Since 2005, AbM has been giving lessons on emancipatory politics to a party in power which, directly or indirectly, claims to be the only one to know how to bring about emancipatory politics. Other historical examples are too numerous to list, but let us start with one of the most notorious:

Toussaint-L’Ouverture and the Africans of Santo Domingo of which AbM could claim to be a descendant since the poor of today are being treated like the slaves of the past. The sin of Toussaint and his comrade in arms was to succeed where the slave masters insisted they could not possibly do. For the slave masters, by definition, enslaved Africans could not possibly organize their own emancipation. For them, such a feat required the kind of intellect and organizational skills which the enslaved could simply not have, by virtue of being Africans and enslaved.

From the available information, it seems that the greatest sin of AbM has been to outsmart the ruling party in an area (politics) in which it considered itself unbeatable, unchallengeable. The behavior of the party clearly shows that some within the ANC felt that AbM had to be put back in its place. Ever since 2005, various methods have been tried and they have all failed. AbM and its leadership became more popular as some within the ANC became more agitated at not being able to outperform AbM in an arena the ANC considered to be its own turf. And to make matters worse, the AbM outdid the ANC using politics in a way the ANC has systematic failed to do, i.e. consult with the people all the time, not just at election time, and, all the time respond to the needs of the people, while treating them with the respect due to equals.

In Haiti, the success of the Africans was followed by withering punishment, individual and collective, and still unfolding to this day. It was crucial for the French state (and its allies) to do everything for Haiti never to be a functional state. As Peter Hallward showed in his book, the Africans were forced to pay compensation to those who lost their property (slaves and plantations). The payment took place from 1825 through 1946. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pointed out that that compensation money had to be restituted, France balked at paying back what had been calculated to amount to 20 billion Euros. Meanwhile, France had passed the Law Taubira, making slavery a Crime Against Humanity, but stipulating, at the same time, that such a recognition did not imply reparations. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide insisted that restitution was not reparation.

Those who have vowed to continue the fight started by the Africans more than 200 years ago are still being harassed and tortured as demonstrated by the current military occupation of Haiti by the UN, and the kidnapping of people like Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine simply because they keep calling for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Pierre-Antoine was “disappeared” in Port-Au-Prince in August 2007).

Other examples are the Native Americans in all of the Americas, but, in particular, in the US. For having resisted the occupation and then the stealing of their land, the Native Americans have paid, and continue to pay a price difficult to imagine for anyone who has not visited any of the Reservations to which they have been restricted.

For now, let me stop here and bring out more examples later on.

Again dear members of AbahlalibaseMjondolo we shall never thank you enough for standing up for those of us who do not have your courage. Thank you for spelling out patiently, non violently, persistently the principles of emancipatory politics. Thank you for your prescriptions on the South African State. Thank you for your fidelity to humanity.

In solidarity,

Jacques Depelchin
13-Oct-2009