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Reality check for radical black political adherents

Featured Image: Pastor Xola Skosana of the Way of Life Kilombo Village in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

By Pastor Xola Skosana

Radical black political adherents. I am referring to the weak socialist block which has always been characterized by fewer and fewer numbers. In the same way that we do not want mindless masses in the black struggle who believe what Sobukhwe vehemently refuted, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. It is equally self defeating for us to claim to be “woke”, to have the right politics which don’t translate to a mass based movement.

Those of us in the cities, and reflecting on the state of Blackness from the ivory towers and boardrooms, need a constant reminder of the fact that the black struggle is not homogeneous and does not fit neatly into our theories. I had a rude awakening to this reality recently, thanks to my visit to Mpondoland this past weekend.
Apart from spending an hour traveling on what Mrs GPS considered the shortest root between Port Shepston and Bizana, when N2 suddenly became R61, I found myself in deep deep beautiful rural South Africa. It felt as if I had just been flung back into a forgotten world that I know only from a white historian’s book, Jeff Peares’s “The Dead Will Arise”.

The last thing you want in this patch of unpaved R61, as it zigzags from one village to the other, up the hill and down the hill, with no human in sight, is a tire puncher or to run out of fuel.

This is exactly the place I needed to be in to reflect on the relevance and limitations of Black political guiding theories which seem to have taken root among the activists in the cities, Black Consciousness, Afro Pessimism, Pan Africanism and Black Radical Feminism. Some things are taught but some things are caught. I caught a glimpse of the reality, that the black struggle is not homogenous.

Blacks in the cities, universities in particular, explain the black experience and define freedom differently to blacks in deep rural South Africa where arguably the majority of Blacks still live.

Our politics in the cities are forged in the cold face of and in close proximity to white supremacy, they grow as a natural reaction and a response to suffocating white privilege and racism that we wake up to everyday in the cities of South Africa. However, black people in rural South Africa have a different reality, and may be using  different tools for critical social analysis. Their context is one where some blacks may live their whole lives without ever encountering whiteness in its roar form such as is witnessed in the cities.

The material conditions here are different. Here blacks have the land. They want what blacks in the cities take for granted, water and electricity and anybody who delivers these basic amenities, will have their vote and loyalty.

A story which highlights the simplicity of life and politics in these parts of our country is told by the children who grew up there, children who now pride themselves as rightful inheritors of these vast lands, though still lacking infrastructural development such as sanitation etc. The story goes as follows: The village people wanted the government build them a road through the forest so they can have a short route to the next village. The officials from water and forestry advised them otherwise, sighting the forest as a world heritage sight with a unique set of plant species. In one meeting the officials told the community that there is a butterfly that is only found in this forest and nowhere else around the world. At this point the elders told the officials to catch the butterfly, put it in a bottle and give it to whoever is fascinated with it at UNESCO.

This is a silly story but it highlights the need for us to understand and appreciate that our political ideas and theories may not resonate easily and translate automatically to every setting where blacks are found. We love Sobukwe, we love Biko, we love bell hooks, but we need to be humble about it and learn to appropriate Black Consciousness, Pan Africanism and Black Radical Feminism to the different contexts where Blacks are.
Whether in deep rural South Africa or in peri urban settings, blacks think, feel and express their need for freedom in particular ways. It is our responsibility as theorists and social analysts to gently caution Blacks not to reduce and narrow Black Pain to electricity and water or a government grant for that matter. But to see the burden of being black as a direct consequence of white power and the preservation of white privilege. That it is not our desire to assimilate into whiteness but to dismantle whiteness all together and leave no trace of whites ever being here. To end the world as we know it.

These politics must find their way into deep rural South Africa and townships where blacks are, if we are to change the trajectory of our country.

We have so much to reflect on as we gather at the Kilombo on the 16th of June to commemorate and celebrate the 40th Anniversary of 16th June 1976. Until then, Buy Black in June and bring an end to white arrogance!

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