By Andile Mngxitama
This lecture was delivered on 14 December 2016 during the Black First Land First Strategic Planning Meeting (BLF NSP) held over the period 12 to 16 December 2016 at the Moon Hotel in Clairwood, Durban.
In this short piece I wish to expand on some elements of the principle of “peace amongst blacks”. The principle was first applied by the University of KwaZulu-Natal branch of the Black First Land First Student Movement (BLF-SM) as a response to the concrete challenge of provocation from other student movements during the 2016 SRC elections. The opposing student movements have been pulling down the BLF-SM posters, destroying pamphlets and tearing t-shirts over and above hurling insults and threatening members of BLF-SM.
The response of BLF-SM to these provocations was to adopt and implement the principle of “peace amongst blacks”. In practice this means refusal to return the violence of fellow blacks against oneself with violence. At its height this principle is black love. But this raises a number of tactical and practical challenges. In the main, how do we respond to blacks who are send by whites to harm us? What do we do when other blacks, for whatever reason, choose to attack us? What must happen to sellouts?
The principle of “peace amongst blacks” is a derivative of the slogan first espoused by Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe who declared “Peace amongst Afrikans. War to the enemy”. The slogan has not, up to now, been elevated into a principle and its application has been uneven. Blacks who mouthed the slogan have not refrained from attacking and even killing other blacks. It can be said that up until now, it has been merely a slogan that has not been given content as a guide in the struggle. BLF-SM must be commended for bringing back the slogan and elevating it into a principle.
The need for such a guiding principle in the revolutionary struggle of black people is borne out by the amount of harm blacks have inflicted amongst each other as opposed to on the enemy. All the African conflicts are about blacks killing each other for one reason or the other while the enemy is watching or sponsoring the different sections of blacks at war with one another.
One of the most debilitating outcomes of slavery and colonialism is black self hatred. This is a disease that afflicts blacks. They hate themselves and each other more than they hate the enemy. Often the oppressed envies their oppressor and wants nothing more than being like them. The “peace amongst blacks” principle seeks to create love amongst blacks. It’s a revolutionary principle. It’s a difficult principle but it may still be the key strategic requirement to stop blacks from harming each other and realising unity against the enemy.
Lack of this principle, coupled with self hatred, has had devastating consequences for the South African liberation struggle. Blacks are too quick to kill other blacks including the sell outs. This only serves the enemy which continues to recruit sellouts amongst blacks through starvation, threats and other means. Therefore, focusing our attention on blacks who are enemy agents can be counter productive. It becomes the best way to keep us busy with each other. Failure to recognise this is the surest way to turn a revolutionary war against other blacks and never to the enemy itself. The liberation movements have up to now often elevated the sellout into the main target of their rage and violence. This is a strategic mistake.
To expand on this strategic mistake, let us reflect on how in South Africa the liberation movement has killed more blacks than settlers. In the ten years between 1985 to 1995 about 30 000 blacks were murdered in South Africa by other blacks. The number of whites who were killed won’t total to even 20. If we factor the number of blacks who died in the frontline wars such as the war between Umkhonto Wesizwe and UNITA of Angola or Renamo of Mozambique the tally of dead blacks increases. Internally, the ANC aligned UDF created the feared and gruesome “necklace” method which basically resulted in burning the so-called sellouts alive by putting a car tyre around their necks with petrol and setting them on fire. Not even one white person was ever subjected to the “necklace” method.
The internecine violence between the UDF, Azapo and PAC left scores of blacks dead. We shall never forget how Maki Skhosana was burnt alive in Soweto. Was she a sellout or a victim of malicious rumour and petty jealousy? It became an orgy when the violence turned to Inkatha vs the UDF. It is said that over 2000 blacks were murdered just in Pietermaritzburg alone in ten years.
Many ask the question, what must we do when blacks are violent towards us? We have seen, for instance, how the EFF leader once let loose his members against fellow blacks by declaring “fighters attacks!”. Such a command has not ever been issued against the whites who brutalise blacks everyday. Instead, peaceful demonstrations are staged when racist whites who brutalize blacks appear in court. There is no peace amongst blacks.
The best response to black violence is political education and black love. This may be seen as cowardice and counter productive. However, this is the most effective way to overcome the manipulation by the enemy. The primary concern of peace amongst blacks is to maximise war against the enemy. Let’s take the three examples we have mentioned here in turn to illustrate the point. The apartheid government set up Renamo in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola to fight against the liberation movement in exile and to try and topple the revolutionary governments in those countries because they supported black liberation in South Africa. The response shouldn’t have been to focus on fighting Renamo and UNITA but rather to get behind them and inflict harm on the settler population inside South Africa. For each attack on the frontline state and the liberation movements in exile, there should have been double the number of settlers murdered inside South Africa. This would have acted as a deterrent to the apartheid state violence. Whites don’t like to bleed.
The same applies to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The apartheid government sponsored violence in the townships. Again, here the ANC responded with self defence units which only killed fellow blacks when everyone knew that the IFP was armed and protected by the apartheid government. For each attack in the townships, the liberation movement should have responded with attacks of settlers in the white suburbs. If the IFP violence killed ten blacks, twenty whites should have been killed in revenge. This would have been a serious deterrent to the white sponsored violence. The ANC was manipulated by whites, like Joe Slovo, to protect the white settlers by calling them civilians when in fact they are all legitimate targets in the struggle for decolonisation. The apartheid government didn’t make a distinction between armed blacks and the general population. All blacks were targets of the apartheid state sanctioned violence. Our response should have been to see all whites as legitimate targets.
So the principle of peace amongst blacks is the only way to minimise harm against the oppressed and to maximize the damage in the enemy camp. Furthermore, such a principle ensures that the enemy is correctly identified. Such a principle could have guided the EFF away from forming coalitions with the enemy and from giving political power to the same settler land thieves. Such mistakes happen when you lose focus on the enemy and get manipulated into elevating the bodyguard into your enemy. Once the manipulation is successful, one sees the bizarre situation where those who claim to fight for the land and the economy go into coalition with the enemy. Essentially the EFF, by giving power to the DA, has gone into coalition with the enemy against the bodyguards. That’s like if the liberation movement went into alliance with PW Botha against Buthelezi, Mangope and Mathanzima. It makes no sense at all. It only serves the enemy!
The principle of “peace amongst blacks” doesn’t deny that sellouts are dangerous. It doesn’t deny that bodyguards are harmful agents of the oppressor. The principle guides us to avoid the terrible pitfall of reducing our struggle into a war against the sellouts and the bodyguards instead of the enemy. Certainly, we must protect ourselves against sellouts. There must be better ways of protecting sensitive information and missions. And certainly, some sellouts must be executed. However, we have to guard against disproportionately focusing on the bodyguards to a point where we forget who the enemy is. Furthermore, we have tried to show in this piece that the best defence against bodyguards, sellouts and other instruments of the enemy is to always inflict maximum direct harm on the enemy. This response is only possible if the liberation movement adopts and implements the principle of “peace amongst blacks”.
There is a possible question that some in the black consciousness tradition may ask that is, are sellouts black? In the “definition of black consciousness” and other texts Steve Biko makes the point that sellouts are not black but non whites. Note that Biko doesn’t say sellouts are white. In other words, they are still less than whites who are the enemy. It is also important to note that non whites can be turned black again if they abandon their defence of whites. It must be stated that Steve Biko spent some time trying to get Mangosuthu Buthelezi back to the black side. However, no white can ever be black – Joe Slovo and Ruth First included. They remain white and settler colonialists who stole our land and labour.
A common conceptual mistake made by misreading black consciousness is that non white is presumed to be a category outside the black category. A corrective is important here. Non white is a concept applicable only among blacks (horizontally). But this concept doesn’t apply to the white vs black nexus (vertically). In the eyes of whiteness, all blacks are black. This is an important consideration to bear in mind. White racism treats all blacks alike irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, class or political belief. In the eyes of whiteness any difference within the black community is collapsed. We are all black in front of whiteness.
To reiterate – to arrest being manipulated by whites into fighting each other instead of the enemy, black people have to adopt the principle of “peace amongst blacks”. This principle is not easy to implement but its the only principle which can foster black unity, minimise self harm and assist to concentrate black efforts against our enemy which has kept us oppressed the world over. From “peace amongst blacks” we can realise true black love. When we love ourselves, we shall not allow anyone to brutalise us. When we love ourselves, then we would be willing to realise black liberation by any means necessary.
Andile Mngxitama is the National Convener of Black First Land First.