«ANSA Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa The search for Sustainable human development in Southern Africa Editors: Godfrey Kanyenze, ...»
Throughout the world, settler-colonialism in its early stages frequently went hand in hand with genocidal practices. In places such as New Zealand with respect to the Maori, Australia with respect to the Aboriginals, North-America with respect to the Native Americans, SouthAmerica with respect to the Amerindians and Southern Africa with particular reference to the Herero in South West Africa (Namibia) and the Khoi-khoi and San peoples of South Africa and Namibia, extensive genocidal campaigns were waged against the people. Where physical elimination did not take place, ethnocide was not uncommon. It was in settler-colonial societies that Apartheid, Jim Crow laws or the White Australian policy emerged. In Africa and elsewhere the colour bar was institutionalised to various degrees but nowhere on this continent was the virulence of colonial racism as entrenched as was in the settler-colonial societies of the South. In South Africa, the culture of Apartheid achieved a level of finesse whose only rival in the world in the last hundred years was Hitlerite Germany.
In Southern Africa, institutionalised racism sealed off the various cultural communities from each other. The rich cultural variegation drawn from various corners of the world, which holds the prospect of a vibrant cosmopolitanism, was for centuries and decades held back from achieving this goal. With the end of institutionalised settler-colonialism in the region new and better possibilities have open up, but not without residual difficulties.
Neo-liberalism and globalisation undermine the relevance of popular local cultures in the pursuit of developmental objectives. The economic, political and hegemonic advantages of international capitalist culture smother local varieties, contributing directly to cultural denationalisation. The economic open door policy, which neo-liberalism and the Bretton Woods Institutions advise, is matched by a cultural open door equivalent. As earlier pointed out, backed by economic and political power, there is a continuous torrent of cultural material flooding the region from the northern hemisphere, especially the United States.
In the above scheme of things, the African elites, which form the overwhelming majority among the elites of the countries in the region, operate culturally as if they are minorities. Culturally, they seek integration into white minority culture, particularly through the educational system. In Africa, including Southern Africa, it is Western culture which must be infused into the wider African base, not the other way round; not the absorption of African culture into the demographic minority-based settler-colonial or neo-colonial culture. This, unfortunately, is the situation to various degrees across the continent.
African children of the elites are thrust into former white racist schools that mainly remain, in educational content, largely unreformed from the colonial era. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Secretary-General, Zwelinzima Vavi, in a recent interview trenchantly observed that "I live in what used to be a whites-only suburb and my children go to a formerly white school. They are not taught in Zulu, Xhosa or Sotho. We have a whole generation that is not able to read, write or understand their language. They have voluntarily agreed to make their own languages second-class" (15). Many members of the African elite in the region speak English or Portuguese (depending on the country) at home to their children. This undermines the African cultural base of the youngsters, alienates them from their cultural and historical belongings and accelerates the process of denationalisation. This situation has another knock-on effect. The masses who witness the process of elites sending their children to schools which practically downgrade African languages as languages of instruction and who realise that vertical social mobility is enabled exclusively through the use of the colonial languages, also decide that they do not want their children to learn in African languages. In turn, their reaction becomes ammunition in the hands of those who favour the use of the colonial languages as languages of instruction. The net result of all of this is that the cultural basis of neocolonialism is steadily entrenched instead of being weakened. Indeed, the supreme expression of dominance and imperialism at the cultural level is in the use of language. Somewhere in the literature of the Anglo-Boer war one of the Boer leaders observed, "the language of the oppressor in the mouth of the oppressed, is a language of slaves". Another effect of the reality of the majority seeking integration into the culture of the minority is that the historically privileged settler minority is not encouraged to culturally Africanise. You do not want to become like someone who is only interested in imitating you.
In a youthful biographical account given by Jose Eduardo dos Santos, he revealed that, "the Africans in Loanda are trying to live like Europeans and they do not know very much about the African tribes from which they come. Most of the Africans in my village probably come from the Cazenga tribe, but many of them no longer know their tribes. I do not know myself what tribe I come from. The only language I speak is Portuguese, but I understand the native language called Kimbundu" (16).
There is another sense and method in which the entrenchment of neocolonialism in the region and beyond is assured. The technological and scientific advancement so visible in Southern Africa as compared to the rest of the continent is based exclusively in the languages and cultures of the white minorities. There is hardly any scientific cultural base located in the African languages of the majorities. With the African elites abandoning their linguistic and cultural moorings, this situation does not only produce conditions of stagnation in the African languages as languages of science and technology but also produces a process of steady relative cultural retrogression. The observations of Naomi Mitchison made several decades ago with respect to the future of Tswana become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mitchison had written that Setswana for example is "essentially good for poetry, singing and some kinds of conversation … is also bad for science … Perhaps African languages will be modified in the same way or perhaps they will be kept for speech, poetry, fiction and drama, while English and French is used as a useful written language of non-poetic communication."
(17). The contemporary African elites, cultural creatures of colonialism, are serving this end without further prompting. There is evidence that socalled foreign experts whose positions depend on the use of the colonial languages, do not favour the development and use of African languages.
In a perceptive paper, which appeared some time ago, Lars-Gunnar Andersson and Tore Janson had this to say: "We have met several foreigners in Botswana complaining about the constant use of spoken Setswana in areas of social life where they had the preconception that the official language English would be used. Some of them are Europeans working for the UN or some foreign aid organization. Others are well educated Africans from neighbouring countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe who find it hard to work as physicians, for example, when both staff and patients mostly speak Setswana. Some of them say that people should try to speak English, since English, after all, is the official language" (18). I have drawn attention elsewhere to the fact that the devaluation of African culture has, at the mass level, established strong feelings of inferiority and a denudation of cultural confidence amongst the people. While this condition is not only due to the dislocation of African languages from the heart of social and economic life and includes the heathenisation of religious life, the penetration of the cash nexus and the general denationalisation of cultural life of the masses of African society, its maintenance has in no small measure been facilitated by the presence of the elite, which is made up of their direct and indirect kinsfolk whose acquisition of the material emblems of success in the colonially bequeathed order of things stands in ostensible testimony of the superiority of the culture of the old imperial powers and the ineptitude of their own (19).
One of the most important instruments for socio-structural decolonisation, especially within civil bureaucracy in the African experience, has been the policy of Africanisation. In brief, Africanisation means the systematic and preponderant deployment of Africans in African societies into positions that enable Africans to gain control over the running of all affairs in the social system. Africanisation is thus an antidote to the colonial legacy. All emergent post-colonial states and elites throughout Africa have espoused and pursued policies they define as Africanisation.
The logic of this policy is simple. During the colonial period, throughout the colonial world, "natives" were kept at the lower levels of business and civil administration. In Apartheid South Africa, "natives" were supposed to be as descendants of the biblical Ham, "hewers of wood and drawers of water". Where the indigenous people were allowed to rise beyond the lowly ranks to more elevated heights, they frequently suffered discrimination reinforced by a deliberate system of differential payment for the same job. The general relegation of the native population to the depressed ranks was a policy, more or less common to all the colonial powers.
In the final decades preceding African independence, these realities were a principal source for the development of strong nationalist, anticolonialist sentiment. If colonialism as a system could not legitimately reward deserving and qualified natives, then the feeling was that colonialism had to go, and for the radicals this should happen as soon as possible, if not immediately. In those countries, such as Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, where colonial devolution took place in a relatively ordered fashion with some degree of effective and sympathetic planning, Africanisation or Localisation (as it has been called in some instances), was built into the handover process. Few statements defining Africanisation from the heights of African political leadership have been as succinct as the articulation of the policy by Julius Nyerere. Close to the eve of the independence of Tanganyika, as Chief Minister, on October the 19th 1960 he made these points in the Legislative Assembly: "I think it is important for us to know exactly what this government means by it (Africanisation)... and I say the words that follow as a deliberate statement of government policy... Tanganyika is an African country, and, though there are communities of other races settled here, some of whose members certainly have a legitimate claim and a genuine claim to be regarded as 'Tanganyikans', the vast preponderance of the population of Tanganyika is indigenous African. It is therefore naturally the intention of the Government that, in the long term, and I want to emphasize the phrase 'in the long term', the composition of the civil service should broadly reflect the racial pattern of the territory's population as a whole and thus that the great preponderance of posts should be held by indigenous Africans. Indeed, anything else would be artificial and unhealthy..." (20). Tanzania has, by and large, over the years achieved this objective.
What Nyerere was saying then is true for the whole of Africa including Southern Africa. In a way, the problem in places such as Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Benin and others, was fairly simple in as far as opposition to Africanisation was concerned. There was hardly any opposition and in many instances the colonial authorities accepted its logic and inevitability. However, this was not necessarily the case with individual colonial officials. Some of these colonial officials were resentful, despite the fact that their home governments had agreed that power should devolve to the locals. Many of them were well aware of the fact that their services were vital until trained Africans were developed to replace them. While some supported and diligently assisted such training programmes, many others were standoffish, unhelpful or oppositional.
Those who had actively opposed or worked against the emergent nationalist class were particularly sensitive to the prospect of African independence. In Southern Africa, while many of the white minority, privileged under the erstwhile settler-colonial regimes, today work peacefully under majoritarian African governments, there are also many who would want to turn the clock back and who hinder, obstruct or undermine the efficient government of the contemporary state.
5. Africanisation, Africanism and elites
It also needs to be remembered that, Africanisation wherever it has been pursued on this continent, is a policy, which affects mainly the elites. It has hardly any direct bearing on the depressed classes. In this sense it is quintessentially a policy that facilitates the ascendancy of emergent and new elites, the inheritors of the colonial or settler-colonial state. This fact sets both maxima and minima to its scope.
Africanisation is a must if Southern Africa is to developmentally move forward. A facilitatory principle for Africanisation is the policy of affirmative action. This latter principle is necessary to redress the deliberately constructed historical imbalances, which were over decades purposely built into the development of settler-colonial society by the various white minority governments. While other groups, which were also underprivileged by the settler-colonial regimes, specifically so-called Coloureds and Indians should also be recognised in the implementation of affirmative action; it however remains a well-known fact that the Africanlanguage speaking groups in the region were systematically the most deprived and underprivileged. It is therefore to be expected that the African language-speaking groups should be the most prominent beneficiaries of affirmative action. This policy would need to be implemented until a demographically representative balance is achieved.
Herein lies the connection between Africanisation and affirmative action.
But there is a problem with the term affirmative action. Its usage largely derives from the African-American experience in the United States, where the African-Americans are a national minority. In Africa, the opposite is the case. The term empowerment may be a better description.