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There's only one race

By Thami Ka Plaatjie | Sep 29, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

RECENTLY statements have been attributed to the general secretary of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, to the effect that Africanists have provided a racist response to the South African political question.

This assertion is at best untrue as it is unsubstantiated and implausible. Any contest between two people or nations is caused by something. This causality is called the object of dispute.

In South Africa, over 300 years, the African people were oppressed by someone or something. This someone was a white man who used something called racism, or colonialism, or apartheid to keep the African majority in a perpetual condition of servitude. The oppressed therefore did not fight an abstraction.

The fact that there are about six million whites who have for more that 300 years lorded over Africans through an oppressive political and economic machinery based on race demanded a political and a philosophical response.

The ANC's answer was an all inclusive approach called multiracialism. This approach sought to include all races in the quest for a national struggle for freedom and justice. On the other hand, Pan-Africanists argued that in order to effectively challenge racism, there was a need to firstly empower the oppressed and provide them with the mental, ideological and philosophical tools necessary to fight their oppression.

It is this decided focus on the oppressed that have earned the Africanists labels of being racists.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe argued that Africanists were not fighting against whites but against white domination. This meant that the struggle was not against white people by virtue of their colour but because they had dispossessed us of our ancestral land and were oppressors.

Their oppression was exemplified by their sophisticated hegemony over all aspects of our lives. Fifteen years after 1994 whites still dominate the economy, education, culture, language, sports and so on.

It is this marauding white hegemony with its transnational and multinational allies that causes consternation among the oppressed who gave power to the ANC with the hope that their lot would improve.

Sobukwe stated unequivocally: "We are not anti-white. We do not hate the European because he is white. We hate him because he is an oppressor. And it is plain dishonesty to say I hate the sjambok and not the one who wields it."

Asked if all whites were oppressors, Sobukwe gave a lucid rejoinder: "We regard them all as shareholders in the SA Oppressor Company (Pty) Ltd. There are whites, of course, who are intellectually converted to our cause, but because of their position materially, they cannot fully identify themselves with the struggle of the African people."

In his inaugural speech Sobukwe gave an exposition of the Africanist stance towards the race question. "Africanists take the view that there is only one race. In our vocabulary, therefore, the word race, as applied to man, has no plural form." Sobukwe argued that in a "nonracial society, the person's skin colour would be as irrelevant as the shape or size of his nose."

The fact that the race question remains unresolved in South Africa is precisely because we have de-linked its resolution to access and control of national resources.

It is this concern that must bother Mantashe, that an African government voted by the very oppressed is immobilised to deliver on the vital interest of the oppressed. Tempelton Ntantala, a leading Pan-Africanist thinker, argued that for so long as we are not going to ensure full control of our natural resources, we must accept that we will become mere managerial staff of the multi and transnationals.

The control of our natural resources is not only a legal obligation but is fundamentally a moral imperative. It is not moral that the vast majority are still poor with no visible prospects of any betterment of their servitude conditions. The fact that we are willing to coexist with the domination of whites demands serious debate and introspection. When their interests are threatened, whites will, of necessity, evoke a plethora of excuses, such as racism, rule of law, independence of the courts and judiciary.

Sobukwe argued that the ultimate goal of struggle must be equitable distribution of resources to all of its citizens through an Africanist socialist democratic form of government. This can best take place through state control of the economy and the enactment of distributive justice. How else can the government distribute wealth if it does not own it? One Professor Ramose sums distributive justice poignantly: "All human beings deserve equal concern even though they may receive unequal recognition. Because of scarcity, rules of distribution must be formulated and observed in order to satisfy each and every individual's claim to the right to life.

Without this, the most powerful or the craftiest among individuals will succeed to satisfy the demand of their right to life but always at the expense of the weak."

The revival of race debates must not sidetrack us from the real issue, i.e control of natural resources in order to guarantee the poor their right to life.

Africans cannot be racist because they have from time immemorial espoused a humanists philosophy called Ubuntu.

Ka Plaatjieis President of PAM and Director of the Pan African Fondation


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