If a person steals bread because s/he is hungry; can you call that theft or a symptom of a deep-seated socioeconomic problem? A mother stealing diapers for her child; such an act says a lot more about her society than just taking something without paying for it.
The recent looting spree in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal has made me reflect on other looting-related incidents, whether this looting was done in the name of Zuma or xenophobic-related incidents. What is common to them is that the most looted commodity was food. Our people are hungry, and the system put in place to alleviate the “hunger” is not working.
Hence, the mantra of “monopoly capital”, mostly advocated by those in the Zuma camp, cannot be ignored. Maybe, xenophobia or rampant civil unrest can also be explained by the word “hunger”. The ANC government’s call to help rebuild what was burnt during the #zumamustbefree campaign is no solution to the hunger problem, but in fact just helps fortify the poor majority’s predicament.
Maybe we should move beyond this “reformist model”. This problem is not exclusively South African, but African. Africa is “hungry”, and it has been “hungry”, it is time to stop the “hunger”. What role can education play? Can this “hunger” stop if each country fights this “monopoly capital” virus separately?
Thinking pan-Africanism is not academic or imaginary thinking, but a political and pragmatic movement against the African “fragmentation” intentionally induced by colonial powers, which renders it weak in its fight against the capitalist predatory practices of Euro-American powers. A united Africa presents a better opportunity to safeguard its resources from Euro-American plundering and illicit contracts.
What makes the present pan-African objective like Marxism is that they both despise capitalism, which recently has mutated into neoliberalism, neatly packaged within the so-called neocolonialism. The pan-Africanist strategy seeks to propose an effective roadmap to emancipation for people of Africa and African origin. Monopoly capital thrives on subjugation, greed and domination. Aimé Césaire in his essay Discourse on Colonialism described modern civilisation that is essentially defined by capitalism, as dying and unsustainable because it fails to solve its problems.
I perceive the periodisation such as “postcolonial” as a “taboo” or a “dangerous” theoretical construct. Such periodisation seems to affirm a transition that never was. Independence granted through negotiation can best be understood as a strategic mutation of colonialism.
This failed transition cannot just be exclusively blamed on the incompetence of African leadership because they rule within a myopic, regulated and inherently “captured” system, which Frantz Fanon described as “this narrow world, strewn with prohibitions”. Pan-African movements’ revolts today are directed towards this draconian system of subjugation (referred to as “monopoly capital” in South Africa).
The nature of emancipation that they seek is not just limited to the realm of politics, but identity as well. It seeks to re-establish who we are through our culture and languages — great thinkers like Achille Mbembe might confuse this emphasis as “nativism” or “Afro-radicalism”. The modern system is still being reinforced by the present educational systems, both formal and informal. Contemporary thinkers like Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Nelson Maldonado-Torres have shown how the culture of neocolonialism (which I call the culture of “hunger”) is maintained through coloniality.
The studies in decoloniality help us to understand the central role that education plays in the colonial process. Of its three components of analysis, namely power, being and knowledge, the latter seems to define the other two. In this regard, Ndlovu-Gatsheni in his article, Why Decoloniality in the 21st Century, lamented the coloniality of knowledge as follows:
“What is even disturbing is that African children and youth begin a journey of alienation from their African context the very moment they step into the school, church, and university door. They begin the painful path of learning to hate their progenitors as demons, they begin to be taught that all knowledge they possessed before school was folk knowledge, barbarism and superstition that must be quickly forgotten. They begin to be told that speaking mother-tongue is a sign of being primitive.”
Such pedagogies and epistemologies produce Africans alien from themselves. Africans are socialised to hate themselves and to love anything that is either European or American. This hate drowns them to the “realm of non-being” where their humanity will only make sense not in itself but in relation to whiteness, as argued by Fanon in his book, Black Skin White Masks — when black people are taught to hate everything about themselves and love everything that has nothing to do with them.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni argued that African studies most often neglect to invest seriously in investigating “the origins of disciplines, into epistemicide, into how knowledge has been used to assist imperialism and colonialism and how knowledge has remained Euro-American-centric”.
An education can challenge these colonial stereotypes; this education cannot be limited to formal education, but also include informal education and conscientisation of the limits that slave education was designed to promote. Our university degrees and the nature of learning need to be reviewed. Our education system needs to introduce questioning and more questioning, a critical reading of Western texts. A critical examination of their context, who the author is, the intention of the author and its relevance or irrelevance to students. To make critical thinking an essential element of any discipline.
Among the practical steps to critically rethink the present university curriculum, the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (under the University of Johannesburg) has made it a priority, through intense research, to introduce books in this regard, among which is The Pan-African Pantheon that will serve as a solid reference volume on both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This month they will be launching another book, From Ivory Towers to Ebony Towers, which specifically looks at the curriculum transformation in the humanities. It focuses on South Africa, Africa and African-American studies.
This “hunger” cannot be stopped by prescriptive solutions of African governments on behalf of the people, not even by the grant system, but by the people themselves through an education that questions dominant narratives. DM