«ANSA Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa The search for Sustainable human development in Southern Africa Editors: Godfrey Kanyenze, ...»
Africanisation in itself is not necessarily a policy, which ensures societal development. For the development of mass society, the centering of African culture at the heart of the development endeavour is crucial. This latter, I describe as Africanism. The argument runs thus: Africanism requires Africanisation, but Africanisation in itself without cultural reinforcement would not, on the strength of the evidence of the Southern African post-settler-colonial record produce sustained development, which enlists the creativity of the broader sections of the population. Indeed, Africanisation without Africanism, in as far as the African post-colonial record demonstrates, leads in all spheres of social life into deeper multidimensional dependency on engendered cultural forms derived from the metropolitan centres of culture and power in the contemporary world.
In societies which are historically and culturally overwhelmingly African, the usage of the cultural belongings of Africans, as bases for development, becomes a democratic requirement for the emancipation of the broader sections; the majorities of the society. The cultures of the majorities provide bases for a growth and development process, which would avoid the alienating pitfalls of borrowed linguistic and cultural vehicles. The opposite approach, which offers or suggests in the African reality the
usage of narrow minority cultures, by implication:
• Condemns the cultures of the majority to a future of inferiority and eventual death • Restricts development to leadership and activity located in the social conditions of minorities • Ensures the maintenance of neo-colonial cultural conditions and standards where these minorities are in themselves colonially conditioned cultural enclaves, which refer constantly to the "cultural motherland", overseas.
It is important to note that the entrenchment of neo-colonial cultural conditions in Africa today is not advanced in situ principally by Western settler minorities. Throughout Africa, to different degrees, there is a fairly new well-consolidated post-colonial elite in place, which is culturally indiscriminately beholden to Western cultural orientations. It is well on the way towards becoming a third generation. It is this elite which is responsible for the expansion of neo-colonial culture and the slow death of African historical and cultural features. In this sense, it needs to be pointed out that the African elite today is by and large, non-Africanist. It may often, for various reasons, profess Africanism but its practice over the past few decades of the post-colonial era suggests the opposite.
When we suggest that African cultural groundings should serve as premises for development, we are not encouraging a return to outdated practices or anti-industrial values or referring to folklore and artefacts of a bygone age. As I have pointed out in an earlier paper, such features belong to the museum and cannot be resurrected for the purposes and challenges of development of the present. We are suggesting a selective process of engagement with those cultural belongings of African people which provide confidence, enhance creativity, acknowledge indigenous knowledge and builds on what we already have; values which do not negate the humanity of the African (21). What example can we provide here with regard to selection or rejection of cultural attributes and traits?
There is in South Africa today a muted but strong debate about the initiation rite of passage among African-language speaking peoples.
Scores of victims of botched circumcisions are giving scope and reason to those who want to see the death of this institution and who in some numbers see it as a primitive feature, an atavistic practice which should be prescribed, but let us look further at the logic. There is fundamentally
• For botched circumcisions if they are done by trained medical practitioners under sanitary conditions • To make too much of the ostensible "need" for harshness of conditions in the bush and caves as the location for surgery rites and rituals.
We must modernise the infrastructure and logistics of the institution. It is the meaning of the institution that matters not its trappings. As an institution, this rite of passage has been important for Africans in instilling sentiments and socio-cultural mores of adulthood, responsibility and fellowship. Its attitudes towards women have been backward, emphasising male dominance and an assumed patriarchal beneficence in domestic and wider social life. Such aspects of the institution must be ideologically contested and corrected. Emancipatory principles accepted the world over in our times do not permit the oppression of women.
Gendered over-lordship must belong to the past.
In other words, we must not discard the entire heritage we have in favour of wholesale borrowings from elsewhere. We must learn from the past, take lessons from the experience of our historical and cultural antecedents and utilise such choices as bases for the future. That is the only way to acknowledge and engage the energies and potential of mass culture and help to shape it towards solutions, which transform the lives of Africans in their numbers.
In a past issue of the South African journal Social Dynamics, Jackson nonetheless displayed the sort of misplaced Eurocentric fears in a subtly argued piece, which has come under attack in the new South Africa. The author wrote that; "for South Africa, Africanisation complicates the process of forging universal equality, because it privileges an entire organically defined community", further on in the paper the contention is made that Africanisation, "denotes on the one hand, a move to re-take the centres of cultural production by the majority, but on the other, a retrenchments of difference based on the nexus of culture-ethnicity-race" (22).
• Confused Africanisation for Africanism • Avoided the fact that, in the contemporary world of Africa including Southern Africa, what is frequently described as universal culture, is actually a covert euphemism for Western culture.
Simple democratic understanding requires that the cultural belongings of the majority should prevail without trampling underfoot the cultural space of minorities. To do anything else, under present conditions, would be to accept the hegemony of cultural minority rule. The difficulty with the argument as produced by Jackson is that it stays on the abstract level of discourse and is devoid of concrete societal consideration. Humans live in a world in which cultural attributes such as religion, customary usages and practices, geography, environment and language, form the substance in which social activities are transacted. Can a society be democratic or move forward in development if the majority are forced by circumstances to speak and work in the languages of small minorities? The answer is simple: No!
5.1 Language and African advancement The use of African languages is central to any reconstruction of an African cultural base for development. African languages are the central pillars in the cultural edifice of African society as a historical product. None of the African elites, which inherited the colonial state, have rehabilitated the languages of the African masses. What we have consistently seen is rather the promotion of the languages of the colonisers, while at the same time lip service is paid to the promotion of African languages as equals of the languages of colonial power. At the cultural level, this is how neocolonialism is being entrenched. It is indeed arguable that in may parts of Africa African languages were better protected, however limitedly, under colonialism than in the post-colonial era. This situation is indeed a reflection of the thinking and mind of the dominant elites.
The question we need to ask is, how can the Southern African case be made to turn around this trend as a new African example? The ultimate direction in which the resolution of this question will move, will determine the way the process of cultural decolonisation in the region unfolds. If progress is to be made which economically, socially and culturally elevates the existential conditions of mass society, it will have to acknowledge the primacy of the languages of the majorities as central to their empowerment.
The grand delusion of the African elites is that it is possible to move forward to equality and modernity in a globalising world on the basis of languages that are totally foreign to the overwhelming majorities in Africa.
This extravagant fallacy assumes that modernity, understood as technological and scientific advancement, is tied to the usage of the received colonial languages. There are those who would argue that this position is hardly a misconception and that it is rather the understandable response of current elites to the conditions of the present in which their social and material interests are inextricably bound with the maintenance of the status quo.
There is no greater mark of superiority and inferiority in the contemporary African scene than the inability or ability to speak a colonial language. The implications of this ability or disability is best exemplified in those places in Africa where membership of parliament is acceptable or not acceptable depending on whether the person is able to speak in the elite colonial language. For as long as Africa remains trapped and bound in the consequences of colonial language usage there is little chance of advancement either at the scientific and technological levels or the sociocultural level. This is one of the important differences between Asian economic, science and technological advancement and the comparative African failure. Another consequence of colonial language usage is that the culture of democracy can hardly be indigenised and owned by the masses of Africa. The persistence of colonial language usage in Africa will, in effect, mean that the aura of inferiority will continue to linger around Africa and Africans.
Increasingly, African scholars are arguing for the return to African languages and cultural usages less removed from the history and culture of the rural masses. French, English and Portuguese can hardly reach rural Africa in such form or intensity as to become sufficiently internalised to serve as a viably creative media for the transformation of rural society. If African languages were developed to carry modern science and technology, transformation of the African earth would rapidly be advanced. The usage of European languages in Africa is a class phenomenon and underscores the condition of dependence and neocolonialism. The transition from oral to literate cultures in the languages of the majorities in Southern Africa is crucial for the scientific and technological renaissance of the region and beyond. In sum, the key to halting the marauding and pernicious influence of neo-liberalism and neocolonialism at the cultural level is the unstinted use of African languages.
But, how is this to be done?
6. Using African languages for scientific and technological development If African languages are to be used in transforming and leading Africa to modernity, the whole exercise needs to be undergirded by economic rationality and the cultural empowerment of the productive numbers of African countries. Literacy in African languages is crucial for without literacy in the languages of the masses, Africans cannot culturally own science and technology. Africans will remain mere consumers, incapable of creating competitive goods, services and value-additions in the era of globalisation. It is on literacy that modernity is constructed. Mulira reminds us "if you draw a literacy map of the world and another map of economic income per capita and compare the two, they show a definite correlation between wealth and literacy. A third global map showing mortality rates would show a pre-eminence of illiterate countries, demonstrating that illiteracy, poverty and disease coexist (23). How can African languages be developed to meet this challenge?
Some years ago, it was realised that if we want to produce literature and related materials in large economically viable quantities, we first need to harmonise existing orthographies. When the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society (CASAS) (Cape Town) was created in 1997, the immediate issue addressed was: what bases exist for the contention that there are literally uncountable numbers of languages on the continent.
Figures provided at the 1980 Lome Seminar on the Problems of Language Planning in a Bi- or Multilingual Context suggest that there are somewhere between 1250 and 2100 languages on the continent but, what soon became clear, was that this is nowhere near the truth. In fact, when the size of Africa as the second largest continent after Asia is taken into consideration, the variation of speech forms in most of Africa hardly exceeds the variations found elsewhere. True enough, most of the variation is found in what is called "the fragmentation belt" that runs roughly from the Senegambia to Ethiopia and down to the latitude of North Tanzania. More importantly, the overwhelming majority of so-called languages in Africa are in fact dialectal variants of "core languages".
Because these mutually intelligible variations have been introduced as written forms by different, often rival, missionary groups keen on preserving "their flock" from the possible evangelical poaching activities of rivals, an appearance on paper of difference has been invested in speech forms which can easily be written in the same way, enabling their accessibility to larger literate communities.