Julius Malema, the president of the African National Congress Youth League of South Africa, has been under fire for his statements to the public. A civil trial brought by a white group challenges cultural expression. , a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Challenging liberation songs affront to our being
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 22:05
DURING the recent Sadc Extraordinary Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia; Mauritius' incumbent President Anerood Jugnauth said something that I believe is one of the quotable quotes for the year.
The Heads of State and Government were deliberating on the Sadc Tribunal when he is reported to have said: "This is yet another instance where like remarkable fools, we rush where angels fear to tread; and like fools, we are paying for it".
My reading of the statement was that he was saying that in most cases, Africa has adopted decisions without thinking them through, and without even reflecting on their short and long-term effects on the people.
I also believe that he was saying that so many times, Africa has swallowed hook, line and sinker policies foisted on it by outsiders, policies that those same countries would not dare to put before their own people.
After Tunisia and Egypt, it was not clear which direction the so-called people's revolts would take.
Syria was touted for quite some time, until things just happened in Libya, and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi responded with extreme force to put down armed rebels, resulting in the disgraceful UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which was meant to enforce a no-fly zone, but instead gave leeway to Nato forces to bombard Libya since March 19.
The relentless bombardment and the motives have continued to be well covered in the mainstream media. The bottom line though is that Libya has become a model of long-held suspicions of the West's attempts to recolonise Africa in order to plunder and pillage its natural resources.
And most people feel that southern African states that fought the colonisers are next in line.
However, even those who have been hoping for an Egypt in Zimbabwe are seeing the light since the West's intransigence cannot be hidden anymore.
A number of times, NATO has regarded African soil as Anglo-Saxon soil, and has had the temerity to disregard resolutions passed by the African Union.
South African President Jacob Zuma was in Libya a few days ago to broker a peace deal, but to no avail.
I point to the South African leader because as facilitator to Zimbabwe, we know that less than 10 day's time, he will be under pressure from the same Western forces pounding Libya, to give them the passage way to do the same in Zimbabwe, an opportunity they almost got on a silver platter after the Livingstone Sadc summit.
President Zuma is also crucial in this discussion because not only is South Africa the biggest economy on the continent, but in a true brotherhood spirit, they have stood by Zimbabwe many a time.
But what has surprised many analysts is why the continent's economic leader together with Nigeria and Gabon chose to vote for Resolution 1973, which is nothing but a precursor of worse things to come for Africa.
I also point to President Zuma because when challenges to Africa's liberation struggles are allowed to make the day like they have done with the song "dubula ibunu", then apart from the natural resources, anything that is African, including its history will not stand. They will be shelled down by drones and the Anglo-Saxon legal systems.
When the songs that celebrate our heroism against settler colonialism and neo-colonialism are not only challenged and proscribed, but also face banning because they are accused of fanning hate language, then you wonder what is it about Africa that gives whosoever believes that they are superior to its people, the powers to stamp their authority on the continent.
We have an oral culture that dates back centuries. Song and dance are part of how we express ourselves. Thus our songs and dance forms tell a thousand stories. This is why the songs sang during liberation struggles of different countries - Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa - come under the genre, "songs that won the liberation struggle".
An analysis of those songs will reveal so much about the people and the struggles they were fighting. So, for the South African people to entertain the challenges and the banning of the singing of "dubula ibunu" shows that Africa compromises a lot.
This is why suddenly the talk of recolonisation has become so momentous, because Africa looks like a continent with a people who are least interested in it, and who would easily give it away at the slightest nudge.
I can never imagine being stopped singing those songs I sang at so many "pungwes", because they mean so much. When there is very little historical material to connect us with the liberation struggle, the songs bring out that form and meaning.
Mbuya Nehanda kufa vachitaura shuwa
Kuti tinotora sei nyika ino
Shoko rimwe ravakandiudza
Tora gidi uzvitonge.
VaChitepo kufa vachitaura shuwa
Kuti tinotora sei nyika ino
Shoko rimwe ravakandiudza
Tora gidi uzvitonge.
When singing this and hundreds others, an analytical mind would want to know who Nehanda is; when she said what she said and why she said the only way to defeat colonialism was to fight the colonialists not through diplomacy, but through the barrel of the gun.
The same with Chitepo! Thus through many of these songs, one can easily piece together Zimbabwe's history and also understand why the struggle is central to the national ethos.
This oral culture helps us pass on valuable information to future generations. But when the likes of Julius Malema are denied the right to express their own history because of some nefarious reasons, all one can say, how very, very unfortunate for Africa.
We were persecuted yesterday, and our persecutors would want to continue to do the same today because we cannot say "no" to them, because democracy says that we should be accommodative.
A South African friend remarked recently: "And it (Chibondo) reminded me of the controversy concerning the so-called ‘kill the farmer' song and court action to suppress it.
"I ask myself, where the ANC is? . . . What happened in South Africa is that those who do not speak the language and who were not involved in the singing of the songs, have been allowed to interpret - out of ignorance - what those songs meant, using their own terms of reference and then consign them too to historical oblivion.
"But where was the ANC? Surely it would have been simple enough to explain what the many songs that spoke of ‘ukubulala amabhunu' were referring to.
"In Zulu and Xhosa, ‘ibhunu' or ‘amabhunu'' (plural) does not refer to Boer, in the sense of the Boer people - as in, say, the Boers of the Voortrekker Monument. Just because ‘Boer' also means ‘farmer' in Afrikaans, does not mean that ‘ibhunu' means ‘farmer' in Zulu or Xhosa!
"This is such a ridiculous interpretation that one would have thought that a six-year old child could have pointed it out to the learned judge (‘Fetch me a six-year old child!' - as Groucho Marx once spat out in a memorable comic aside).
"No, when the comrades sang their songs, in Angola, Tanzania, in Mozambique and in South Africa, ‘ibhunu' meant the enemy - a greedy, selfish, brutal upholder of a criminal system of racial oppression and exploitation. And if any in today's ‘Rainbow Nation' feels this applies to them, there is all the more reason why the songs should be sung.
"But above all, the moves by those who never supported the liberation struggles in our countries - and in some cases opposed them - to suppress the history of that heroic achievement underline for me more and more conviction that we made a grievous mistake when we thought our slogan ‘A luta continua!' meant ‘the struggle continues till we have a black president''. Perhaps we should re-phrase the slogan now so as to remove all doubt and say, ‘A luta tem que continua!' (the struggle MUST continue!)"
At the height of the South African struggle, I was a member of Zambuko/Izibuko theatre group and we sang South African songs to raise awareness not only about the release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island, but also about the total destruction of the evil apartheid system. Liberation songs were part of the act.
Today, if someone were to tell me not to sing those songs I can still recall, then it will not only be an insult to my being, but it will be an attempt to erase Africa from my consciousness.
If indeed democracy enshrines freedom of expression, these are songs that we should sing anywhere in Africa:
O thina siyalila e Africa
Sikhalele ilizwe lethu iAfrica
Elathathwa ngabamhlope iAfrica!
(O, we cry in Africa. We cry for our land Africa that was robbed by the whites, Africa.)
Today, they are calling for the banning of "dubula ibunu"; and, tomorrow, after President Zuma is out of office, they might go for "Umshini wami". After that, what will be next?
When Africa's history through song is banned, who will tell it objectively?
And, this is when President Jugnauth's statement makes a lot of sense.