When we cry ‘Bring back our land’, some think that we simply shout these words because it is in vogue to say so, that it is cool to utter them. They do not understand the pain from the open wounds that are a source of these words. Their minds cannot fathom the sorrowful message that is carried within this phrase. For years Africans have been calling for the return of the land to its rightful owners. The gifted founder of the ANC Youth League Muziwakhe Anton Lembede, a protégé of Pixley ka Isaka Seme – a man who himself founded the broad church of the ANC – called for the return of the land, writing in emphatic words: economic freedom in our lifetime. Our history as Africans has depicted us as a meek, peaceful people who suffer from a lack of confidence and would rather sidestep the truth instead of facing it. This feeds the belief that we are being unreasonable in demanding what was unlawfully and forcefully taken from us with a barrel of a gun.
In her hateful vomit of tweets, typical of her whenever she feels like offending black people, the premier of Western Cape and former DA (Democratic Alliance) leader Helen Zille said a few weeks ago that colonialism was beneficial to the people of this continent. The inhumane treatment and brutal snuffing of lives from black people like flies was critical to the civilisation of Africa. Without these heinous acts Africans would still be trapped in caves, using sticks to make fire. Had the visionary Europeans not stolen land from its rightful owners – that being Africans – to build modern infrastructure this continent would still be stuck in the Stone Age. This is the enlightenment that your favourite tannie from Cape Town brings to us in 2017. This is the very same racist who is quick to remind us that it was she who reported the murder of Steve Biko whenever she is called out for her racism, as if that is supposed to shield her from rebuke or excuse her behavior.
In modern South Africa, where in reality nothing has really changed for the total upliftment of the people of Morolong wa Modiboa Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje, Zille like all racists in this country will escape unscathed. Her party, the DA, will issue some feeble public statement, promising that Zille will be severely reprimanded for her offensive tweets and be subjected to a disciplinary hearing; all that useless rubbish to pacify us and make us go away. Zille will of course return months later, take to Twitter once again and call us unrefined natives who were saved by European thuggery. At the end of the day, in the eyes of some of these European descendants – because Zille is not alone in this backward colonial thinking – despite Mandela’s reconciliation speeches, blacks are and will always be nothing but objects of entertainment for whites.
When we cry for the return of the land to its rightful owners in South Africa, Africa’s most southern country, we do so because we cry for the restoration of our dignity. Economics while very critical to the outcome, the return of the land to its rightful owners is a matter of restoring the respect and dignity of the African. As Africans in South Africa we own nothing of substance, or to use the EFF leader Julius Malema’s speak, we own no means of production. Now I can almost hear Uncle Toms and their white liberal mates screaming, ‘You will collapse the economy.’ Frankly speaking, the economy will be collapsed by those who were in possession of stolen land and now finding it hard to deal with justice once the land is returned. As they say in Setswana: ‘Molato ga o bole.’ I am afraid that the time has come to collect on that debt.
If you are a reading person and a perpetual student of history, you will agree with me that there is no opening in line in South Africa’s history books which contends with the first sentence from Tshekisho Solomon Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: ‘Awaking on Friday morning, 20 June, 1913, the South African native found himself, not a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.’ In this sentence alone Plaatje delivers a succinct message to the reader: the black person in South Africa has been stripped off his dignity. Naked, exposed and humiliated, his existence is no less than that of an animal roaming the wild. The white man had kicked him off his land to die with no place to call home, forced to bury his loved ones, like a dog, next to the road.
We suffer today from Zille and her ilk because as history has portrayed us, as meek, subservient and forgiving, we fail to organise and shout in one voice that shows determination and union in demanding our land back. By taking to Twitter each time Zille is taunting us, she is exposing us, embarrassing us and proving to her cohorts that Africans are mere animals that are weak, spineless, forgiving and have short memories.
In 2017, hundred and one years since Morolong published his searing book, one that remains relevant to this day, I call on to his people, his offspring to demand their land back. Not as a stunt but as a restoration of the dignity of that native of Tshekisho Plaatje who was forced to bury his child next to the road. By doing so we shall be dressing him; he shall no longer be exposed and humiliated. He will be dignified, free to walk this world with gusto and respect, and finally as their descendants – Plaatje and his native – we shall be able to produce from our own land that which says to anybody who cares to look and listen: we are Africans and we are proud. I can almost hear that complex South African patriot, president Jacob Zuma singing at the top of his voice, crying for the return of the land:
‘Thina sizwe esimnyama,
Sikhalelela izwe lethu
Mabayeke umhlaba wethu.’
This song, like many other struggle songs, was composed out of pain, out of misery and sorrow. No man, at least a sane one, can create such a beautiful yet poignant song from joy. It would be tantamount to wizardry and witchcraft. Thina sizwe esimnyama sing these words because we cry for justice for our loved ones, those we lost in the fire of misguided hatred for another human because he had a different skin colour. In receiving our land back with no strings attached, we would finally be able to mourn with the knowledge that a wrong has been corrected and justice has been served. In receiving our land back, in the midst of the noise made by cynics asking what we shall do with land upon getting it, we shall walk its fertile ground and answer them: it is our land; what we do with it is none of your tuckshop, for dignity will be restored to the black person of South Africa and Morolong and his native will find peace in their rest. Kgotsong!