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We failed the youth, now they are little tribalists

By Andile Mngxitama

The emergence of tribalism in South Africa (SA) is a reflection of how deep the depoliticization of the youth has gone since 1994. It is mostly the youth who are pushing tribalism today. The youth of the 1980s would never uphold tribe against black solidarity.

The broad Black Consciousness Movement was very aggressive against tribalism. In fact, it went so deep you wouldn’t ask anyone ungumni? Because such a question was seen as trying to locate one in a tribe instead of blackness.

I recall when I was a student at Wits during a Student Representative Council (SRC) election season, a candidate came to one of the classes and said, “elect me I’m Xhosa…”. Before he could finish, we were all laughing like headless chickens. The guy took his stuff and left in disgrace.

Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe were amongst our best teachers who taught us against tribe. You must hear how Sobukwe castigates Nelson Mandela for his tribal affinities. This was because Sobukwe understood that the African nation, in the face of colonial plunder, couldn’t succeed if it didn’t reject the tribe and embrace the nation.

All the liberation movements in SA were fiercely against tribalism. In fact, we can say that we had succeeded where most African states failed. We succeeded partly because apartheid used tribalism so openly to divide us.

Since 1994 however, there has been a systematic erasure of radical consciousness. There has been massive reversals in the national psyche. Without a coherent national moral and political code for reconstruction and nation building, the way forward was left wide open to atavistic identities. The ideology of money also has a lot to do with the erasure of national identities.

When the youth expresses these degenerate tendencies, it’s the generation before that must take responsibility. The enemy is aware of how vulnerable we are because we have lost the essence of our revolutionary identities to help us unite against a common danger. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a development of regional tribal political formations to fragment the national poltical force of blackness.

I speak here about the vacuum left by the lack of systematic education of the youth about nationalism, oppression, slavery, colonialism, apartheid and imperialism. We are now reaping the whirlwind of impossed ignorance.

What we have now is bombast, not knowledge and thought. People are too eager to sing and applaud in rallies.

This is the real lost generation!

Andile Mngxitama is the President of Black First Land First (BLF), a radical black consciousness organization.

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