Picture Credit: REUTERS – A statue of colonial Dutch governor Jan van Riebeeck, background, stands before the headquarters of Absa bank in Cape Town in March 2016. King Charles III, right, will host President Cyril Ramaphosa on the first state visit by any foreign leader to the UK since his ascendancy to the throne was announced. Will Ramaphosa follow the example of the Caribbean and other colonially impacted nations in seeking redress and reparations for what is an ongoing crime against humanity, ask the writer. | Graphic Credit: TIM ALEXANDER African News Agency (ANA)
By Professor Saths Cooper
NOW that the longest-serving British monarch is deceased (and only the second in recorded history after the 5-year-old Louis XIV became the French King), will we now be able to rise above the pomp, ceremony, manufactured sense of grief and loss and deal with the harsh realities of our fractured and fragile world?
We won’t really know if the sheer burden of appointing another Liz (Truss) as her prime minister was the final nail in Elizabeth II’s coffin, but what we can say is that a large part of the world was subjected to unremitting royalty mania, and our TV screens were filled with all sorts of documentaries, “Breaking News” and other snippets of trivia, with a glaring lack of deeply-probing insight into the British royalty and its nefarious historic roles.
All Western-oriented media outlets just single-mindedly focused throughout the day and night, from September 8 to well beyond her funeral on September 19, on mind-numbing irrelevancy and puffery to make anyone go stir crazy. Let me acknowledge upfront that when one criticises those, whose sections of the population have been groomed to admire from infancy, one does so knowing that many will feel really offended that someone they have seemingly grown up with is being impugned.
At this advanced stage in life, in particular, I need to retain a modicum of integrity by not lauding an anachronistic institution that has brought so much suffering for so long to so many people across the globe, whose vacuous media and fatuous commentators would wish us to continue eulogising at our own expense.
Those who were seriously upset by the treatment of Diana, especially the callous disregard over her tragic death, and who over time came to forgive Elizabeth and her cad of a son, Charles, must have been similarly affected by how Diana’s son Harry and his wife Meghan were treated by the royal family and their claque of admirers.
Many though, would not have noted that Meghan was not quite welcomed by her father-in-law last month, and would have ignored Harry’s statements at the Commonwealth Trust in July 2020 that “there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past … and trying to right those wrongs … It’s not going to be easy and in some cases, it’s not going to be comfortable, but it needs to be done, because, guess what, everybody benefits… we can only do this together”.
The racist blaming of Harry’s wife Meghan is a story for another day.
While the British royal show continues its unashamed public wooing through traditional and social media, it is sobering to realise that all countries in the world, save 22, have been invaded by Britain. In Africa, these are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, the Republic of Congo, and São Tomé and Príncipe, with all except the latter being ferociously guarded by the French, who continue to extract a “colonial tax” on most of their former African colonies.
Without this unjust “colonial tax” that persists today, France would be a shadow of itself. To crown it all, it is reported that “the ultimate diplomatic gift” has been bestowed on our own President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, who will be the first to be hosted by Charles III, and the last since his “Mama” hosted the then-US President Donald Trump in 2019.
This is apparently “an important way for the UK government to shore up relationships with countries that they see as strategically important for reasons such as trade or security,” according to Sky News. Clearly, we will have polarised views on whether this “gift” is a curse or a blessing, which is likely to play itself out in the hotly-contested coming ANC elective conference in December that promises to meet expectations of intrigue, vote-buying, factional revelations, heroes being cancelled into zeroes, a high or low-water mark, and more than soapies and reality shows are made of.
Meanwhile, the country continues spiralling into unredeemable debt, decay, widescale lawlessness, evercascading violence, increasing unemployment, decreasing employment, youth (who comprise 60% of our population) alienation and disaffection, with anger, rage and rebellion barely contained.
Legendary ANC President OR Tambo, among many of his resonating statements, said: “The ANC must continue to make sure that our revolutionary Struggle is revolutionary in every respect, and obeys the rules of any revolution, follows definite defined rules. A revolutionary behaves in a certain kind of way and is distinguished, and distinguishable, from the criminal.”
He would agree with Aimé Césaire that, “between coloniser and colonised there is room only for forced labour, intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses”. The burning questions that many liberated thinkers here, on the continent, and across the globe would be asking are: What would our president say to Charles III, who is heir to the most rapacious, self-aggrandising system of colonialism, slavery, exploitation and decapitation of numerous parts of the world?
Would he succumb to the imperial panoply of well-honed subjugation and awe, or would he, in his own way, seek a stop to the Anglo-American wealth extraction machinery entrenched in our land, and seek just compensation and the return of all our stolen artefacts and heritage?
Would he follow the example of the Caribbean and other colonially-impacted nations to seek redress and reparations for what is an ongoing crime against humanity, urging “that the colonising nations reconcile with their past, permanently distancing themselves from it by officially apologising to the colonised nations?”
Will he heed the injunction of Tambo to be “revolutionary in every respect” and distinguish himself from the criminal line that Charles is crown of, truly sowing the seeds for reconciliation internationally, that his mentor Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela attempted to do nationally in the first two years of his Presidency?
Or will he go down in history as having lost this singular glorious opportunity to right one of the all-pervasive and manifest injustices in our fractured and deeply cleaved world, and help restore the moral ethic on which our democracy was forged, and in which the then-ANC Secretary-General Ramaphosa bruited the quest for justice, dignity and restoration of our common humanity?
Cooper is President of the Pan African Psychology Union, a former leader of the Black Consciousness Movement and a member of the 1970s group of activists.