How do our people express themselves outside of the electoral cycle in the absence of toyi-toyi? The former is an existential crisis which leads to the latter. Put differently, the psycho-psychology of service delivery protests is birthed by the absence of party political engagement, with the masses of our people outside of the election cycle.
It is almost as if the promise of the electoral manifesto becomes most pertinent in the lead up to elections. Tangible services delivery protest, such as those seen in Alexandra – a stone’s throw from Africa’s richest square mile – and Bhisho, the Eastern Cape’s capital and the much-proclaimed Home of Legends, become microcosms of what is generally expected before every local or general election season.
However, although elected officials ought to take the lion’s share in this existential state of “being”, the electorate ought to inform democracy – the question which then arises is – “how then do our people express themselves outside of itoyitotyi?”
Elected officials are vessels of democracy. They ought to be burdened with facilitating adequate engagements with the people of this country. However, as the adage goes, the political arena cannot be left to politicians alone. It is too great a task. Here, in as much as the electoral season comes and goes – the electoral season should not feel like an item to be checked off a list in the pursuit of democracy.
Given this reality, it is for the electorate to inform the type of democracy South Africa ought to see. It is for the people of this land, the people who share a collective memory and the people who identify with the social positioning of the majority citizens of this country and the people Veli Mbele speaks of as “the grandchildren of warriors, such as Inkosi uHintsa kaKhawuta, igorha uMavumengwana kaNdlela Ntuli, Inkosi uSekhukhune, Ikumkanikazi uManthatisi, and many others, who engaged in over 300 years of bloody resistance against all kinds of invaders”.
For Mbele, the existential state of being goes beyond the confines of democracy itself – it is the consciousness of collective memory in the pursuit of tangible democratic outcomes. It differs from the pregnant description of the African as described by president Thabo Mbeki in his 1996 “I Am an African” speech.
The challenge for South Africa’s democracy is that the African which Mbeki speaks about, is the African which has led us to this quagmire.
While Mbele describes an African who is situated outside of the confines of power, outside of decision making, yet is quite adept at articulating the intrinsic nature of the type of democracy necessitated for a truly authentic African expression – albeit imprisoned in the colonial linguistic memory.
In this respect, Ngugi Wa Thiogo challenges the African, as viewed by Mbeki, in positing that the African Renaissance may be hard to come by when the keepers of memory have to work outside of collective memory. ‘It’ is stored within the vernacular and operates in colonial and linguistic tools of analysis.
Perhaps the question is better understood in the context and aftermath of an election season that has been informed by the Fallist movements and the call for a decolonised society. Where fallism has been (un)fortunately been informed by supposed public intellectuals, borne of the “formal and educational colonising missions”.
In essence, the agency in the Fallist movements has been to some degree defined in proximity to one’s expression in the colonial realm, in the colonial language, in the levers of power and hierarchy of universities as set up by colonial-apartheid. And the ability to express these outside of the vernacular.
The form of society demanded cannot be informed in the absence of an African consciousness. It cannot be fathomed in the absence of informed decision-making, outside of the confines of the citizens of the land who reside in Alexandra, Bhisho and the many concentration camps the majority find themselves located.
The electorate ought to inform democracy through, language, active citizenship and a defined national consciousness. The intellectual capacity of the nation would then not be left to politicians or an “intellectual class” – rather the electorate ought to inform democracy.
Politicians, citizens and African intelligentsia ought to meet in describing the motive forces which define the democracy, build a form of organic African discourse that puts the electorate at the centre of democracy.
The challenge henceforth is that consciousness cannot be legislated. States and governments must provide an enabling democratic environment, littered with resources, so that there is no class of intelligentsia determined by one’s social positioning, where politics is not left to politicians and citizens are able to determine their own authentic African democracy. DM
"Last century’s magic is this year’s science." ~ Cherie Priest