Mama Madikizela-Mandela fought a good fight
In a new book on Thomas Sankara, Aziz Salmone Fall says ‘it is said that behind every great man is a great woman. In the case of Thomas Sankara that woman is Mariam Serme. The courage and resistance of this great woman in the face of adversity is an example of resilience for all of Africa. She remains convinced that social progress cannot occur without a radical change in the status of women.’ We also learn, in this new book (A Certain Amount of Madness: The Life, Politics and Legacies of Thomas Sankara), that Sankara was significantly influenced by his mother like many other men out there (at least those who imbibed good values and are able to espouse such).
The continent of Africa and entire global south has come a long way. The liberation struggle for the emancipation of the peoples of the global south, and Africa in particular, was long and hard – there is still a long way to go. For South Africa, the next phase of the struggle for the complete emancipation of the majority is gaining momentum. We stand in the shoulders of the heroines and heroes that brought the freedoms, however insufficient, that we are enjoying. They fought a good fight. Mama Madikizela-Mandela fought a good fight among those of her generation, and endured many hardships as well as made many sacrifices. We often talk of Sankara, Cabral, Lumumba, Mondlane, Mbeki and many heroes of the liberation project but we hardly talk of the many heroines that gave birth to the politically independent Africa we now enjoy. Freedom was never free, and many of our grandmothers and grandfathers suffered immensely so we can have the freedoms we experience.
The Ever Changing Political Landscape in South Africa
The political landscape in South Africa has been changing rather rapidly lately, after two decades of democracy in South Africa. Among the issues that play a big role or contribute to the rapid changes we observe is reconciliation or lack thereof. Linked to reconciliation is development; inclusive development to be sure. With regard to development, there is a general view that socio-economic transformation has been slow since the dawn of democracy in South Africa. Indeed, nation building (as in a cohesive society), development, freedom and related phenomena have suffered in post-apartheid South Africa because there has been an inability to acknowledge and respect South Africa’s repulsive political and economic history of deprivation (as I have been arguing). Consequently, the power base of the African National Congress (ANC) has been eroding. The ramifications of apartheid colonialism have not been directly addressed and the weaknesses in the ANC and in government have given the minorities room to renege from reconciliation efforts.
South Africa's future becomes clearer
For good or bad, or for better or worse, the future of South Africa is becoming clearer. The signs are everywhere for everyone to see. It is better to deal with a clear future than an uncertain one, even if the future might look ugly. Now that South Africa’s future becomes clearer, we can all plan better.
To start with, it would seem that things are going get very bad before it gets better. The economy continues to fall apart and Statistics South Africa is finally telling the truth that the economy is in a recession. Unemployment continues to increase, and it will most likely get very bad before it gets better. The economic inequality, let alone other historical inequalities and inequities, remains the highest in the whole wide world. Poverty has not declined as expected. In fact, it might very well be that poverty is also increasing – or would increase, at least income poverty, as the economy takes a further knock and unemployment further rises. These triple-challenges, as government terms the trio (i.e. poverty, unemployment and inequality), are all a function of the structure of the economy as many have said, although some do not share the view that unemployment in South Africa is structural. Of course there are other problems, such as the poor management of public finances, which accentuate economic challenges in South Africa.
As I have been arguing, after stabilizing the economy in the early 2000s there was a long period when economic reforms were not pursued. Only in 2005 the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) was unveiled, replacing the 1996 Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) Framework. GEAR was, arguably, meant to stabilize an economy that was bankrupted by the apartheid regime.AsgiSA was meant to grow the economy and ensure that the fruits of the growing economy got widely shared across society. Accompanying AsgiSA was the Joint Initiative for on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) in South Africa. Around the same time there was an Antipoverty Campaign Programme which had been proposed by the Antipoverty Strategy for South Africa. The Policy Coordination and Advisory Services (PCAS) in the Presidency was playing an important role as a think-tank and also coordinating these major initiatives of the government. There was also continuous consultations on a variety of important issues across government even in instances when there were disagreements. For instance, there were those who objected to the National Treasury’s Harvard Panel of Economists initiative but the Harvard Panel happened and it did the work that was envisaged. ...
What does Africa really want?
As we celebrate yet another Africa Day, the question of what Africa really wants (and or what Africans, wherever they are, want) cannot be avoided. This question is forever lingering, and it becomes sharpened when Africa interacts with the rest of the world. The question must be confronted or posed directly especially given the fuzzy and amorphous relations between Africa and the rest of the world, China included. Regarding China in particular, many questions remain. Among them, and the most fundamental one, relates to what does Africa really want from China. This is the question that only Africans within the African continent, or their representative body – the African Union (AU) Commission – should address. The Chinese appear very clear about what they want, hence the contradictions in the Chinese foreign policy as epitomised by the recent South Sudan case and also its new partnership with France on Africa...
Critical consciousness is the answer
There is, increasingly, a common message that is emerging about South Africa 21 years since the formal end of apartheid: things are getting bad. As argued elsewhere, this might not be surprising particularly if we look at the development experiences during the first two decades or so for many post-independent countries on our continent. We could have paid more attention to avoid what appears to be the forthcoming ultimate outcome: a new order, if not a disorder, that is plunging the whole of South Africansociety into a crisis if not a civil conflict. The sixteenth Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, which coincided with the fortieth Independence Anniversary of the Republic of Mozambique, confirmed that South Africa is at a cross-road again. It was therefore befitting to having former president Joaquim Chissano to deliver the lecture – he also got to juxtapose the link between the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) as well as reflect on the role and relevance of Black Consciousness in the liberation struggles in southern Africa.
The National Question in South Africa
It is not easy to ignore the national question in South Africa, particularly presently, both in the context of twenty years of democracy and also given the troubling discourse by certain seemingly regressive people and or institutions. It is also hard to overlook this paramount issue of the national question when one observes the socio-economic challenges confronting South Africa today, and what appear to be a directionless government and a chaotic parliament. By a ‘national question’, to put it simple, it is generally implied that there is appropriate balance of power and influence among all people and or ethnic groups in a nation state. Linked to the national question are notions of nation, nation building and nationalism as well as nation state. In simple terms, pride in identity beingof a particular origin is nationalism.Nation building, not statebuilding, can be viewed as the strengthening of unity, coherence, functionality and pride in a nation state – nation state simply refers to a geographical area characterised by legitimacy based on sovereignty of a nation. The reason I do not spend time on the question of sovereignty of South Africa is because the then parliament of South Africa declared South Africa as a sovereign independent state through the 1934 Status of the Union Act. Others may want to engage with this issue, because there are those who are of the view that ‘sovereignty’ of South Africa remains in question.
Towards a better agenda for the development of the Global South
The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. The MDGs were adopted in September 2000 through the Millennium Declaration at the 55th session of the United Nations General Assembly, convened as the Millennium Assembly. The MDGs, understood to be a global development agenda, focused on poverty reduction, access to education, gender parity, healthcare access, sustainable development and international partnerships. Although many milestones have been reached, Africa is set to miss most of the MDGs, so are many countries in the global south (with possible exception of Brazil and China which incidentally did not follow the orthodox prescriptions for development). Most African countries perform poorly on human development. The African economy, broadly, performs below potential relative to its size, resources, and other factors. Poverty and inequality remain very high in most African countries. It is imperative that the post-2015 development agenda pay particular focus on poverty, inequality and human development. It should be noted also that poverty and inequality in Africa are structural. The structures of African economies favour capital intensity, mineral-energy sectors, and high level skills. As many have explained, the colonial project had shaped African economies – and those of the global south as a whole – as satellite economies in the periphery to serve the metropolis in Europe. It is also in this context that the African continent was inappropriately partitioned at the infamous Berlin Conference and colonialism reigned.
Biko and the ‘new’ South Africa
As we commemorate the brutal and barbaric killing of Stephen Bantu Biko this time of the year we are once again forced to reflect on where we are as a country against the ideals that Biko died for. South Africa is also marking 20 years of political independence. It is fitting, indeed, to ask and answer the question: how far is South Africa in the journey to true liberation? Barney Pityana, at the debate that commemorated Biko at the University of South Africa, appealed to us, as Africans, to confront the question of what is wrong with us. Pityana, among many important points made during his reflections on Biko and South Africa, argued that Biko cherished dialogue and that we must discuss what is going on in South Africa. He reminded us of one of Biko’s most powerful and timeless essay, “We Blacks”, which was directed to Africans in an appeal that Africans must have a dialogue among themselves as a step towards decolonising the mind and being proud in being African. There have been similar calls and similar commemorative discussions across the country, as we remember Biko.