Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)/Taken April 27, 2023. Runners from all over Cape Town braved the weather to take part in the Langa Freedom Run in Langa, South Africa’s oldest township, to celebrate Freedom Day.
By Masilo Lepuru
“Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Claim no easy victories” (Amilcar Cabral).
The disjuncture between the unrealistic lofty ideas promoted by the African National Congress about its struggle against the Apartheid regime as partly embodied in the final Constitution and the dehumanising material conditions of the African majority makes it clear that the ANC is “telling lies and claiming easy victories”.
The absurd celebration of the 27th of April as the so-called Freedom Day is the highest expression of the betrayal of Amilcar Cabral’s advice regarding the struggle for national liberation. The inveterate culture of telling lies and claiming easy victories on the part of the ANC about its role in the so-called negotiations has resulted in a critical engagement with the nature of CODESA and the transitional period. Was there any form of freedom attained during the “secret talks” with the Apartheid regime?
This is the fundamental question which is posed as a way of contesting the nature of the post-1994 dispensation. There are those who claim that the ANC through Mandela managed to obtain political freedom. This political freedom as inspired by Kwame Nkrumah’s biblical injunction to “seek ye first the political kingdom and all other things shall be added unto you” is the legacy of the ANC, which must be translated into economic freedom, according to some militant and radical revisionists.
Perhaps the dominant common-sense way of criticising the 1994 moment is to dismiss it as a “sell-out project”. But the foregrounding of this political freedom variable seems to change the dynamics of the contestation regarding the nature of the post-apartheid era. It is interesting how some of the militant critics of the ANC can be seduced by its historical distortions to a point of being sympathetic to its lies and easy victories propaganda.
At the core of the debate regarding the role of the ANC is the definition of freedom. For the ANC and some of its “radical” critics, freedom is divisible in the sense that one can have political freedom and then economic freedom. For Afrikanists like us freedom is indivisible. You are either free or you are not.
This is because we define freedom as comprising of “freedom from” and “freedom to”. The indivisibility of freedom implies that when one becomes “free from” something one must at the same time be “free to” do something otherwise one is not free at all. One cannot attain political freedom and then regard economic freedom as a “dream deferred”.
Because the ANC was never a liberation movement fighting for national liberation but a Civil Rights movement which fought against the Apartheid regime, it makes sense why it celebrates the extension of democratic rights to the African majority as symbolised by the 27th of April. To decorate this moderate liberalism of the democratisation paradigm, the ANC resorts to the Communist myth of National Democratic Revolution which will never reach the second stage of socialism.
This so-called two-stage theory of NDR is peddled by the ANC and its fellow-travellers in the “telling of lies, claiming easy victories” mission such as the South African Communist Party and Cosatu. What the leadership of the ANC, which has always been infatuated with the epistemological paradigm of the European conquerors who became white settlers through land dispossession since 1652, fails to understand is that freedom is fundamentally epistemological. Freedom commences with freeing oneself from “the terms of order” of your conquering enemies such as white settlers and at the same time being free to replace them with your own indigenous epistemological paradigm.
This is because as Audre Lorde argued “the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house”. You can never win a war in which your enemy defines the rules of the game. As soon as you accept these rules as in the case of the ANC, the legal and political system of white settlers you are bound to be outsmarted by them. This is what precisely happened during the constitutional negotiations between the agents of the Apartheid regime and the those of the ANC.
The introduction for the first time of the constitutional court, constitutional supremacy, judicial review and group rights clause in the final constitution is a case in point of the ANC making the dangerous mistake of attaining “freedom from” deprivation of civil rights by the Apartheid regime without “freedom to” self-determine. Because the ANC accepted the epistemological paradigm of the white settlers and operated within it during the “secret talks” it allowed the white settlers to prevent the attainment of “freedom to” by introducing the Constitutional Court, constitutional supremacy, judicial review, and group rights.
By accepting the epistemological paradigm of our white enemies, the ANC has legitimised the racist notion of white trusteeship as part of the white supremacist fantasy of the “civilising mission”. The “civilising mission” was the basis of the white settler world which was violently imposed on the indigenous conquered people to deprive them of freedom.
The indigenous people can never be free in the world created by their white enemies. The freedom of white settlers cannot coexist with the freedom of the indigenous people. The world of the indigenous people is in an antagonistic relation with the white settler world. These two worlds are permanently irreconcilable, the truth which Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela refused to accept. Because the condition of possibility for the indigenous people to lose their freedom since time immemorial was the violent imposition of an alien world by white settlers. The only way the indigenous people can be free is by ending the white settler world.
South Africa which symbolises the white settler world must be destroyed for the indigenous people to be free. The freedom of the African majority within South Africa be it old or new is a ridiculous contradiction in terms. Only white settlers are free in white South Africa. The master and the slave can never share freedom. The indigenous conquered people must “free themselves from” white South Africa by destroying it so that they can be “free to” restore an independent Azania for the natives only. Until then its “freedom next time”.
We must inspire and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apologies to the powers that be. Let contrary sentiment and cross opinions go to the winds. Opposition to race independence is the weapon of the enemy to defeat the hopes of an unfortunate people. We are entitled to our own opinions and not obliged to or bound by the opinions of others (Marcus Garvey).
Masilo Lepuru is a researcher at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg.