Fighting for our humanity and actualising the dreams of AZANIA

By Dimpho Phiri

Welcome to the state of violence where xenophobia visits yearly and naked Bulelani Qholana was violently evicted from his shack. Collins Khosa murdered by the South African defence force and the nation where Uyinene Mrwetyana, Tshegofatso Pule and many other women are brutalised and killed every second.

This article will discuss why South Africa cannot realise the dreams of the Rainbow nation and Biko‟s vision of a true human race. I write this not only to engage the topic but to amplify the voice of black people as it is evident that the looting of our lives and  livelihood is not enough. We constantly face structural neglect and are plagued by gender-based violence, the indignity of poverty, exclusion and social death.

‘Kuzolunga’, is what we have constantly told ourselves but 26 years into democracy and this has evolved to ‘Kuzolunga Nini’?

Fighting for recognition

Speaking from the subject position of  “those confined to the other side of line (zone of nonbeing) blacks suffer unremitting social invisibility” (Madlingozi 2017:146 ).This simply means we are not seen as deserving of life and basic humanity by those who oppress us and our own who are enamoured with melanin but clouded by the comfort of whiteness. This is worsened by our current government and its neoliberal rational that is riddled with corruption, bad policy choices and cadre deployment.

Despite the democratic transition we are a people stripped of our history, culture, heritage identity and till date facing epistemicide. Our political apparatuses have failed in delivering us from the fruits of Apartheid and colonialism as this power was attained through a democratic transition and not a revolution. An ideal revolution is a revolution whereby the transfer of power in the economy, institutions and land occurs without negotiation.

Maintaining Structures

Both black and white citizens of this country maintain structures through repeated acts of adherence. We have legitimised, strengthened and maintained structures of oppression by adhering to them and accepting this state of the nation. White people have maintained whiteness, white supremacy and superiority complexes on the latter blacks have maintained the structures through black inferiority complexes, not ensuring the transfer of power and black economic transformation. If we are serious about getting closer to true humanity or the rainbow nation, we need to address these inferior and superior complexes to avoid premature integration. Moreover, there needs to be a deep acknowledgement and reparations for the injustices white people caused during Apartheid.

Education and its attachments to revolution

The education sector makes it is evident there is unequal access to institutions and resources for learning. What worsens this is the low number of textbooks written in South African languages other than Afrikaans and English. People are being deprived of knowledge not only due to financial constraints but also because of the language barrier. As writers we thus carry the responsibility to ensure our work is digestible and benefits the same communities it speaks for. Black should have access to philosophies and liberation ideologies and theories that they will utilise to conscientize themselves and understand their subject position. We are constantly violated however we cannot make sense of it or put it into words.

As seen in 1976, it is evident liberation theory and philosophy is important for revolution and meaningful changes in society. Arming blacks with decolonised social and academic knowledge will enable them to reimagine and actively create the Africa they want to live in. This is due to gaining a political consciousness and a simultaneous commitment to making a change.

Black consciousness as a means and end

Black consciousness is “a philosophy, political ideology and postcolonial social ontology based on black pride” (Biko 2004 ). In simple terms black consciousness is an act of love to us, our country and black communities around the world. It liberates and allows us to fall in love with our blackness and fight against everything that plagues black society. It only makes sense for us to abandon inferiority complexes and through this break the structures that oppress us. By simply being conscious we are breaking the habit and using our agency to destroy oppressive structures. Black consciousness is also “a realisation and awareness of the facticity and reality of blacks existing in a world that is constituted by systemic white racism” (Biko 2004:97). Hence, for as long as the institutionalised brutalisation of blacks either socially or physically lives on the call for black consciousness will exist as it is the means to conscientize and provides a blueprint to end this oppression.

Sisakhalela Izwe Lethu.

The tears of the Bantu have flooded the gates of the nation for decades however we have yet to taste true liberation. This is not to say we won’t realise this future but rather to say we still have a long way to go. We need to gain consciousness, armour ourselves with black pride then discard inferiority and superiority complexes. On a positive note, we are the dreams our ancestors didn’t have the liberty to have and proof that change is inevitable. Despite the depressing state of our nation, through black solidarity,  critical engagement with our problems and epistemic justice we can and will realise the dreams of a true humanity. A humanity where we will rejoice, and black people will finally quench their insatiable desire for peace.


Biko, S.1946-1977 (2004). I write what I like. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.

Madlingozi, T.2017.Social justice in a time of neo-apartheid constitutionalism: Critiquing the

anti-black economy of recognition, incorporation and distribution. University of Pretoria

The Cost of Homophobia in Africa: Hate Sponsored by Historic Fallacies,Omissions and Silencing of Same Sex Desiring Communities

By Mpho Buntse

In this essay I explore the history and existence of same sex desiring and the complex dynamics of the history of oppression, violation and silencing of Queer bodies in the continent. I draw an important conclusion that there is a fundamental problem embedded in the many misconceptions about the realities and lived experiences of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Questioning and Queer plus communities. It is because of these misconceptions that the community remains to be subjected to condemnation, violation, discrimination and silencing.

In an attempt to misspell some of these misconceptions I position the realities of same sex desiring in precolonial accounts embedded in many vintage textual archives, some mythical, others biblical as well based on the lived experiences of individuals. I also position ‘Queer’ visibility within the history of the South African struggle and post-colonial discourse and finally I articulate the contemporary problems the community is subjected to at the hands of state, religious, cultural as well as traditional institutions and spaces because of thisentrenched homophobia and transphobia.

I am more interested in the trajectory of queer visibility and to this end there is overwhelming existence of same-sex visibility in many context across the global community that continue to shape the status quo for the community. My assertion in this regard remains one of the believe that history is not obsolete and because historical accounts are narrated by people, we can’t completely erase the existence and reality of how some histories were tempered with, changed or told in a bias voice. A classic example of this could simply be this idea of human evolution. Human evolution has for many centuries divided science and religion, it is in the wake of the 19th century that the West even questioned the truth of the bible. Proximity to contemporary knowledge takes us on a journey of the rise of fields of paleontology and archeology. Charles Darwin introduces humanity for the first time in 1859 to a plausible possibility that human beings might be descended not from Adam and Eve but from primates, of course many have and still believe this to be hogwash and focus effort on confirming the truth of the bible. One such individual is George Smith, who presented the closest account to the story of Noah and the great flood that wiped humanity off the face of earth.

In his extraditions, Smith also collected an important piece of text that I believe sets the scene for articulating this idea of same sex desiring, The Epic Gilgamesh. Although mythical in nature, The Epic Gilgamesh accounts of a story of a mythical king immortalized in literature, Gilgamesh is portrayed initially as a problematic misogynist who enforces droit du seigneur, the idea that premarriage all brides must spend the night with him. Following concerns about his treacherous behaviour Gods brings a friend to distract him. When he meets Enkedu who is initially enraged with his behaviour, they become instantly connected. Enkedu is described here as another strong, wild and powerful man. The heart of this poem is found in its many gaps and ambiguities. The Epic Gilgamesh also offers Queer Scholars the gradations, although subtle of what developed to be an intimate companionship between two men in a pre-historic context.

Throughout history some men and some women have engaged in romantic and intimate companionships with the same sex. In our collective efforts to demystifying the many misconceptions about same sex desiring we need to start by unpacking these historical contexts as urgency to unlearn and learn about human sexuality, thus media and the academy have an important role to play in deriving and driving this narrative. This narrative encompasses a wide spectrum that articulate amongst others decolonizing same sex desiring and the language used to denote Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, there is a view held that due to the absence of the language theorizing same sex desiring, therefore it is unAfrican and did not exist from time immemorial.

Professor Thabo Msibi in his paper titled “The Lies We Have Been Told: On (Homo) Sexuality in Africa” offers a broader term of Same Sex Desiring individuals as acknowledgement that “same-sex erotics, practiced by many people in many different historical contexts, do not always necessarily lead to the emergence of a “gay” identity”, a position he derives Deborah Amory (1997:5). The presence of same sex desiring for instance in the continent could be traced through many experiences. Msibi presents evidence that homophobia is not only publicly approved by African leaders, but relies on unsubstantiated claims of an imposed homosexual identity, contradictory ideas on morality, and the use of outdated laws, bluntly these are used to erase the history that in reality does and has existed throughout human history.

This global pre time history also explores the works of Sappho, a Greek lyric poet from the Island of Lesbos and believed to have lived between 630 and 570 BC. Her poetry became prolific and esteem amongst many scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria, an era covering the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire. It is also widely believed that the term Lesbian evolves from this context. Her work became popular in the 6th century and to date her sexuality is still a great subject of debate amongst many sexuality scholars. Although early translations of her work were heterosexualised, today Sappho’s poetry portrays homoerotic feelings. We also draw historic lessons from the accounts of many ancient Greek militaries. The Trojan War of the 12th century in particular carries the accounts of male companionship, Homer in the poem Iliad tells of a deep and meaningful relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Although many contemporary cinematic portrayals have erased this history, one such film is the movie Troy portraying Patroclus as a younger relative of Achilles and no companionship, there is still literary archives to suggest that their relationship exceeded the common bounds of friendship.

Beyond Europe, where Christianity was not present or as prevalent as the ‘proclamation of truth’ we are continuously reminded that coloniality is not an African issue. Therefore, deciphering queer experiences across the world outside the West confirms the idea that colonisation eroded lived experiences and we contemporarily find these environments to still shun upon homosexuality. In Asia for instance homosexuality was historically accepted as part of the local cultures prior to the rise of Christian ideologies. As with the Greek accounts, many ancient legends detail accounts of same sex desiring, particularly through textual archives emerging from the Ming and Han Dynasties where men, in addition to their female counterparts would also take on male lovers. These Asian experience also account of Japan’s pre-Meiji period where Monks and Samurai engaged in same sex relations. In one account relayed by a European missionary:

“Your lordship will know that the priests of these kings are generally called byssus. They grow no hair on their beards, dress in a womanly fashion, and grow their hair long and braided, they imitate female speech because they adopt all of the female gestures and inclinations. They marry and are received, according to the custom of the land, with other common men, and they live indoors, uniting carnally in their secret places with the men whom they have for husbands…”

Religion , bigotry and West influence

Generally the Western culture and tradition comes from the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures, both influences emerge out of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of many elements of Western culture including the reality that from as early as the 4th century, Christianity has played a major role in shaping Western civilization. However, contrary to this view anywhere in the world where Christianity was not as prevalent as in the West same sex desiring found expression and societies maintained their sexual codes and vocabularies. The bigotry of Sodomy to condemn homosexuality.

Through this paper I posit that there are many biblical myths and of these myths I explore the idea of sodomy. The description and emergence of this idea first emerges out of Christian teachings, and not entirely the scripture itself or what it actually denote in its original meaning. We are first introduced to this term in the book of Genesis. Many theologians have derived the use of this word from the city of Sodom and Gomorrah though its destruction by rain of fire as punishment for sin and vise, to date we still hear of many theologians identifying homosexuality as the ground for this retribution by God.

In its truest description, Sodom was not destroyed because of same sex desiring, in fact if we are to focus on sodomy as the act of non-normative sex, much of the evidence still points to an emphasis on a myriad of biblical sexual offences including adultery, fornication, lust and sexual impurity. However not as the basis for the destruction of the city, but because of the lack of hospitality. Today many conservative countries hold the position that Sodomy describe same sex. Professor Nick Grier posit that there are two theological positions:

“The first, if homosexuals are inherently evil, then that means God created them such; or secondly, the more orthodox and acceptable is the view that all humans are created in the image of God and all that God create is good. Therefore, if God creates homosexuals the way they are, then God must intend that they are and integral part of the human community”

He notes an interesting point that Jesus did not interpret the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as sexual, rather speaks across context of sexual sins that we’ve  known people to commit despite their sexuality. Frankly does not even speak of anything specific in relation to the sin of homosexuality anywhere in the Gospel, in fact a prominent bone of contention here should be the idea that he and the rest of the gospel placed focus on this idea of the gender-binary and reproduction. There is however a general contemporary understanding and position that the idea of Sodomy was not to denote homosexuality, but rather the abuse and stigmitazation of strangers or outsiders and neglecting those that are poor and needy. Although the Sodomite’s intention in this given context were sexual, this does not entirely imply homosexuality, but rather the exercise of power and violence embedded even in the patriarchy and misogyny seen through our contemporary world. According to Msibi:

“the increased expressions of homophobia in Africa today are not only a reaction to the “personified” and visible homosexual identity, but also a tool for sexism, an attempt to solidify men’s position in society”.

According to Ezekiel the inhabitants of this city “had pride, abundance of food and did not come to the aid of the poor” an idea clearly painted through how King Lot received mercy from the destruction because of his unique hospitality among the inhabitants of the city. Matthew 10 verse 5 confirms and highlight that when Jesus sends out his disciples to preach in Israel, he warns that those who fails to welcome them will be judged more harsher than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. To this end the conclusion remains according to Grier whether we reject or accept the sexual meaning of sodomy, if the word ‘sodomite’ should be reserved, to even be used at all to denote those who use sex to dominate, humiliate or inflict terror, then we should reserve the word homosexual in this context for people who love the same sex.

Queering in the Post-colonial Africa

Many African sexuality scholars have all dismissed the famous misconception that homosexuality is unAfrican. The mistaken claim that anything can even be un-African is anchored on the essentialist supposition that Africa is in its nature a homogeneous environment. This is not true, Africa is and has been characterized by its diversity. In fact it is colonization that should be blamed for the suppression of same sex realities in the continent.

This project has been driven by European missionaries and ethnographers as a way of introducing and promoting slavery and imperialism. According to Marc Epprect and Professor Thabo Msibi, linguistically the terminology describing same sex desiring is foreign to the African context, thus making it unAfrican. However the practices  around same sex desiring far predates colonisation. Msibi assert that “colonial influence have always served to erode truth in Africa, mainly by imposing Western norms”. This is also indicative of how religion, Christianity in particular had been used as a tool to condemn homosexuality and by extension we see this manifested through personal and institutional homophobia entrenched in cultural, traditional principles, biases and prejudices carried by many societal leaders driving the political, social and economic narratives. In Africa we have learnt of many heads of state, the likes of the late Robert Mugabe, former African National Congress president Jacob Zuma and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, condemning homosexuality on the grounds that it is unAfrican, evil or nonnormative. As Sylvia Tamale rightly putsit “It is legalized homophobia, not samesex relations, that is alien to Africa.”

I argue that the existence of same sax desiring as an accepted social practice has mainly been eroded by the erasure of vocabularies in African Sexualities. There exist a pool of vocabulary that is found in many African languages some have emerged out of a derogatory history, while some have been appropriated, all have different meanings and historiesfor communities who appropriate and use them. The point is that, the fact that they exist in our traditional languages is enough to dispel the ‘un-African’ myth. The greater Southern African regions have used words such as inkotshane to express same sex between men, while the word for “homosexual” is adofuro inYoruba, a colloquialism for someone who engages in anal sex. In Nigeria, the word yan daudu was used in most Northern parts of the country, a Hausa term to describe effeminate men who are considered to be wives to men. The Nilotico Lango tribes of Nothern Uganda used the term mudoko dako to describe an effeminate male who is considered to be of a different gender, however were mostly treated as woman among the Langi people.

In additions to languages, visual evidence has been found through many Bushmen rock paintings portraying men having sex. Many other scholars including Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe have explored many reports of same sex desiring by some African monarchs. King Mwanga II of the Buganda Kingdom of Uganda was widely reported to have been openly gay, Queen Ndzinga joins this list as one of the monarchs who eliminated the gender binary as a ruler and has been reported to have taken men and women as ‘wives’. As history progresses, we also see the migration of men from across Southern  Africa into South African mining towns, a space that also gave expression to same sex desiring in the wake of colonization.

Queer organizing within the context and history of South Africa

The history of Queer organizing intersects with the history of the struggle for black emancipation in South Africa. The existence and voice of the community had been projected throughout many struggles, including that of black emancipation and freedom. This history follows what has become the most famous example of how the very same struggle perpetuated the silencing and erasure of queer voices and realities. The late stalwart and symbolic leader of the African National Congress, Ruth Mompati when interviewed by Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in 1987 she says:

‘I hope that in liberated South Africa people will live a normal life. I emphasise the word normal… Tell me, are lesbians and gays normal? No, it is not normal. I cannot even begin to understand why people want lesbian and gay rights. The gays have no problems. They have nice houses and plenty to eat. I don’t see them suffering. No one is persecuting them… We haven’t heard about this problem in South Africa until recently. It seems to be fashionable in the West.’

But perhaps this is also an important turning point for the ANC as this would fundamentally surface the questions about homophobia in the ANC and forced the movement to envision embracing gay and lesbian rights for the first time. This history is followed by another important account through the contributions of anti-apartheid and gay activist, Simon Tseko Nkoli. Nkoli was born on 26 November 1957 in poverty stricken family and it is during his early teen years that he directly experienced the harsh realities of the apartheid regime, with constant police invasions at his family home. Having moved between the Orange Free State, Sebokeng, Soweto and ending up in Hillbrow, one would tell that he was shaped by all these experiences.

Nkoli becomes an integral icon when engaging the history of LGBT visibility and organizing in South Africa. A courageous leader who despite the silencing of Queer expression in and outside the congress movement, lived as an openly gay  man while serving this movement that was characterized by great antagonism and held conservative views regarding homosexuality at that time. He became integral in merging the anti-apartheid and gay liberation movements as an effort to express his intersectional voice, and he never neglected this approach. He notably said in 1990:

“I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary or primary struggles. In South Africa, I am oppressed because I am a black man and I am oppressed because I am a gay man. So, when I fight for my freedom I must fight against both oppressions… All those who believe in a democratic South Africa must fight against all oppression, all intolerance, all injustice”

His idea of intersectionality offers the movement important lessons for striving for equality and complete visibility, through this work he took up white queer spaces and preached inclusivity and the idea of a single movement. As a Queer activist he co-founded notable LGBTQ organisations including the Gay Association of South Africa (an organization that later refused to support him during his detention), the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and most notably, the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand, a reaction to GASA’s white apolitical standpoint and his solution to reconcile both sides of his activism. It is through his leadership at GLOW that he proposed and led the first ever pride on the African soil with his protégé Dr Bev Ditsie. Prior to this he had served as the secretary of the Congress of South African Students Transvaal branch where he also came out to his comrades, needless to say his sexuality became a subject of great debate, however was allowed to continue serving despite this reality.

This culture of having to defend his sexuality in the ranks of the United Democratic Front and the ANC was something he had been accustomed to during his time in the movement. In 1984 Nkoli was detained with other 21 activists of the UDM and ANC in what was to be known as one of the longest running trials, the Delmas Treason Trial. The 22 were on trial for initially leading a protest march against rent increases in the township of Sebokeng, and on 23 September 1984 were arrested while attending the mass funeral of those killed during the protest. In the letters he wrote to his partner Roy Shepard, Nkoli reflects on the hardships of also having to defend his sexuality to the other comrades he was tried with, to a point where the collective was divided in accepting to be tried alongside Nkoli. At this time Nkoli had already started receiving solidarity support from across the world. Two years later the trial was declared invalid and Nkoli acquitted of all charges.

In post-apartheid South Africa Nkoli together with many other Queer activists including Phumi Mthetwa and Julia Nicol became instrumental in ensuring that the rights of LGBTQI+ people were included in South Africa’s new constitution.

He led a delegation of members of the community to meet the late Nelson Mandela when he became president. Nkoli died on 30 November 1998 after succumbing to HIV-related complications. The HIV/AIDS work also became a space he also advocated for through the Soweto based Saturday Group and the Township Aids Project. Today his legacy still can’t find expression in many history books, even in what he called a political home. This home has a great responsibility to immortalize his legacy and that of many anti-apartheid activists who were ‘othered’ throughout the history of a struggle that recognizes the Gender binary politics and erases others.

Despite the numerous constitutional and legislative advances, many LGBTIQ people are still subjected to harsh realities entrenched in homophobia, transphobia and biphobia by members of society, the state and institutions including cultural and religious spaces. In a survey conducted by the Inclusive Society Institute it was found that 59% members of the community experience some form of rejection and or discrimination when wanting to access their cultural rights and 67% faced rejection and discrimination when wanting to express their personal religious beliefs (Buntse & Swanepoel).

Despite this reality, the past 28 years in Africa have been characterized by queer visibility, perhaps this as a result of the rise of Queer activism and new various other global phenomena such as homonationalism, globalization and the rise in the Pink economy across the globe, ideas that I explore deeply in my paper titled The Somizification Discourse: A Theory of the Framing of Gay Image in the South African Showbusiness Industry.

For as long as the notions that homosexuality is un-African persist in the continent Queer people will continue to bare the brunt driven uninformed views about same sex desiring. The community requires better allies who will protect the humanity of all people lead personal initiatives to unlearn without the expectation that the community should conscientise and sensitize them. The LGBTIQ community also remain key in re-telling our history, a history that celebrates diversity, that promotes equality and acceptance, and recognises the contribution of everyone, regardless of their sexulity.

The Root of Decay and Decline in Society – Moral Degeneration

As Anton Muziwakhe Lembede put it, “Decay and decline of morals brings about the decay and decline of society – so History teaches”

The haunting poignancy of the words of Lembede lie not only in their ability to evoke the temptation to compare the past with the present, but also in their assertion that it is history that teaches us that: “Decay and decline of morals brings about the decay and decline of society.”

A brief history lesson will enrich us with the necessary perspective to understand the present era of moral decay.

Imbi Lendawo!

It was in 1652 through the arrival of the Dutch East Indian company that Europeans began quenching their capitalist thirst with the human capital and minerals of South Africa. It is in this epoch that the deeply entrenched roots of racial conflict are located.

Capitalist expansion and primitive accumulation in the Cape of Good Hope, where they first arrived, would not suffice. When they were no longer able to trade mirrors for land and cattle, the capitalist bandits would resort to violence and armed merciless raids to loot and appropriate all that the land had to offer.

Being well aware that they had to protect their stolen goods and expropriated wealth against a great mass of African people, the bandits resorted to institutionalizing their modus operandi through legislation passed by the Union of South Africa and then later the apartheid regime which was undisguised in its racist ways.

A constant in all of this was the use of expansionist religion, particularly Christianity, and the logic of perverted science to justify unjustifiable means to an unjust end.

Morally bankrupt and no longer able to resist the unyielding advance of democratic and liberation forces, the society that was structured to benefit a few at the expense of the majority would go through a democratic revolution in 1994. This meant the death of the old and the birth of the new.

The birth of the new would signal a dramatic break from that tendency of justifying unjustifiable means to an unjust end. Or so we thought.

Given that society remains classist, racist and patriarchal in character, have we taken seriously lessons given to us by history? Have we resisted the forces of evil in all their manifestations to birth a moral and humane society?

If the term, “Imbi Lendawo”, was ever used to label society and its moral fibre pre-1994, it has remained as an accurately descriptive tag for current conditions. We are in a state of moral decay. Imbi Lendawo!


Corruption has stunted not only our growth but our human capacity to be moral and ethical beings.

Corruption has stunted not only our growth but our human capacity to be moral and ethical beings.

In a lecture delivered in Canada in 1978 Thabo Mbeki said of the capitalist class of South Africa, “The capitalist class, to whome everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable.” While these words were uttered in 1978 they make clear the type of moral compass that has been employed by the private sector in South Africa. It is a moral compass that directs individuals and big business in the opposite direction from the spiritual beacon of Ubuntu which should be our true north as far as our morals are concerned.

Gangsters in suits thriving in embezzlement, fraud, illicit flows of funds, hyper-inflated price fixing, and collusion indeed prove that to a large extent the Private Sector in South Africa does not consider “moral incentives as very dependable”.

Of more concern is the corruption that takes place in the public sector. I say this not to compare sins but rather from the understanding that it is the organs of the state that ought to protect those within its borders from the ruthlessness of the private sector. Furthermore, it is organs of the state that are entrusted with funds that belong to the people. Corruption in the public sector amounts to selling out. It is selling out the prerogative and the powers granted to public office bearers by the Constitution of the Republic in exchange for monetary gain. It is selling out those invaluable principles of servitude, integrity, honesty, and credibility. It is selling out our capacity to be moral and ethical beings!


What is the root and core of the problem if not moral decay?

The clearest indicator of moral decay has been the scourge of violence particularly against those who have been allotted to the bottom of the tiered hierarchal pyramid of oppression: black women and the LGBTQI+ community.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) continues to terrorise South African institutions and individuals, it dares to shamelessly rear its ugly head even during a time when most of us are confined to our homes – a place where one should find refuge and safety. Our homes have become the epicentre of gross human rights violations.

In this regard I must ask: Given the extensive protective and preventative measures put in place by both non-state and state actors, what is the core and root of the problem if not moral decay? Given the fact that we can no longer claim GBV as to be one of the hangover symptoms of a drunken society due to the heavy ban on the trade of alcohol, what is at the core and root of the problem if not moral decay?

Of course it would be neglecting our intellectual duty as activists to view this from such a simplified prism. To ensure that we aren’t charged for this ever so common act of neglect we must follow the root (moral decay) up to the branches that make patriarchal oppression possible. An attempt at this should not only reveal different branches of socio-economic inequalities but also cultural and religious views which have refused to evolve along with the dynamism of society.

The effects are clear for all to see not only in how the culture of violence, intolerance and discrimination disproportionately affects women of colour and the LGBTQI++ community. But also in the social, economic, political and cultural marginalization that condemns them to a life of subservience whereby they have to prove to be better than the different custodians of privilege in order to be regarded as equal and worthy members of society.

Beyond Moral Outrage

Moral outrage in itself is society communicating its anger, discontentment and judgement at acts committed by third parties towards other groups, individuals or institutions. We cannot doubt the effectiveness of moral outrage in terms of its ability to ignite action against what society deems as an injustice.   

However we must be alive to the fact as human beings our morality, or what we deem as right and wrong, can be persuaded and that makes us susceptible to employing moral double standards. The latter perspective lends an explanation to the inconsistency and lack of endurance that our moral outrage has when it comes to issues that “hit home”.  

Because of moral double standards we cannot marshal the powers of moral outrage to effect change in those very communities that we inhabit because we in ourselves start to question the legitimacy of moral outrage that is in opposition to those beliefs and values of the community that we are part of. This taps into the human tendency to protect that which gives them standing in the community, be it masculinity, accumulation /of wealth or the fictitious claim of racial superiority.

It becomes clear, then, that where there is opportunity for moral double standards there also opportunity to justify unjustifiable means to an unjust end. There is a remedy for this in the age old saying of Ubuntu; “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”. Let me explain.

The saying “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, does not recognise gender, race, class or any other difference that can be exploited by those who are intolerant of the other. The saying also makes it clear, as Linguists will tell you, that one cannot be umuntu without abantu and vice versa.Meaning our humanness and standing in the community is dependent on how we treat others regardless of gender, race, or class.

The power in the saying displaces the Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest and encompasses the belief that we are part of a broader society whose survival, harmony and prosperity is dependent on cooperation and compassion. It is the world outlook of Ubuntu that aims to go beyond tolerating and towards embracing the other in an interconnected and diverse society.

Recognising moral decay as the root and core of our problems necessitates that we embark on a journey of moral regeneration with the spiritual beacon of Ubuntu guiding us in the manner that we behave in our personal capacity and the collective treatment that we extend as a community to others. Failure to do so will result in the society of this current epoch being another part of South Africa’s history which will lend itself as an example of the truism in the words of Lembede when he said, “Decay and decline of morals brings about the decay and decline of society – so History teaches”.

Role of the Youth in Advancing the African Renaissance

The realisation of a re-imagined continent heavily relies on the youth and its ability to rise from the ashes of neo-colonialism and socio-economic bondage.

Some view this as a burden which weighs heavy on the shoulders of a generation that should be reaping the benefits of a post-independence Africa. I view it as our generational mission and an ardent response to the rallying cry, aluta continua (the struggle continues)!

The vision of a reimagined continent is encapsulated in the concept of an African Renaissance. Although it was popularised by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, the concept is Africa’s direct response to the rewriting of Africa’s cultural, social, political and economic history by the vampire colonial powers. Pixley Ka Seme’s regeneration of Africa, Cheik anta Diop’s Afrocentricism, Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Negritude and the Pan-Africanist maxim “Africa for Africans” are all encompassed in the African Renaissance.

My belief that a re-imagined Africa is our generational mission is not a mere expression of my admiration towards its populariser President Thabo Mbeki. Rather, it is premised on the acknowledgement that Africa’s escape from dependence and the periphery of global influence can only be attained through unity, social cohesion, innovation, and the resurrection and accentuation of her past glories as the cradle of humankind. 

Telling our story

Until the Lion has its historian, the history of the hunt will glorify the hunter

African Proverb

One of the most important undertakings that the youth must commit to is the rewriting of our history. Until the Lion has its historian, the history of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

We should not employ a narrow scope when continuing the rich tradition of rewriting our history. Purging the occidental perspective of Africa’s history should involve both scholarship and the creative deployment of arts and popular culture to gift to the world the true story of Africa. My point is best carried by the words of Seme whose words still echo with significant relevance 114 years later, he asserts that the historian will:

Tell of a race whose onward tide was often swelled with tears, but in whose heart bondage has not quenched the fire of former years. He will write that in these later days when Earth`s noble ones are named, she has a roll of honor too, of whom she is not ashamed

Equally it is important that we use this same method to gift to those generations yet unborn their own time capsule that will grant them access to their history; our modern-day lived experiences. Our contemporary stories should be told today and tomorrow. When told, our contemporary stories should play the practical role of increasing social consciousness around the issues which plague the continent and her progeny. This will in effect render null and void the musty views of anti-African imbeciles who remain loyal to the nostalgia-driven view of Africa as the world’s pet project. As the lyrics of the African Giant (Burna Boy) put it;

They wanna tell you o,
Tell you o,
Tell you o,
Another story o, story o, story o

Feminist Activism

Feminism is a tool that invites us to dismantle hierarchies and all forms of injustices

dikeledi mokoena

Another struggle which must be continued with much valour and resoluteness is that of feminist activism. “We should all be feminists,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie boldly said.

The fruits that we shall reap from the renaissance of the continent cannot be monopolised by patriarchy. It would be transitioning from one epoch of oppression to another. With this struggle, that of feminist activism, we must interlace theory with practice and through our activism breakaway from the boundaries which have normalised the oppression and objectifying of women. One of the strengths of feminism as a doctrine or ideology is its ability to be intersectional in its analytical scope and challenging of the norms which dictate structural hierarchies of society. Dikeledi Mokoena, a feminist activist herself, postulates that, “Feminism is a tool that invites us to dismantle hierarchies and all forms of injustices”. If indeed the Africa that we envisage is one devoid of hierarchies and all forms of injustices, we must gladly accept the invitation.

Prosperity and Development

Through shared prosperity and development I envisage an African society which collectively sows and reaps the fruits of inclusive growth. Led by us, the development trajectory must look in disdain at the current pattern of poverty and unemployment which has sentenced the youth to the restraining fetters of social and economic bondage.

As we advance in this journey towards shared prosperity and development, it is important that the notion, ‘shared’, is under constant emphasis lest we model the exclusionary and destructive nature of Free-market economies.

Furthermore, as we occupy spaces in the public, civil and private sector, we must remain cognizant of the fact that our existence is embedded in that of society. This Ubuntu rooted outlook necessitates that even in the unavoidable advent of the fourth industrial revolution technologies must be used only as far as they serve the community. It also necessitates that our innovation and use of resources is people orientated. A development model which is mandated by the need for shared prosperity has the greatest potential to feed the exponentially growing populations, deliver health care and education, and bridge the growing inequality gap that is based on the savage principle of survival of the fittest.


The forces that unite us are intrinsic and are far greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart

-Kwame Nkrumah

Unity through integration is a prerequisite if we are to compete with other emerging regions and a strike a fatal blow against western hegemony in all its manifestations. As to what constitutes the basis of this unity is contained in an article written by Muziwakhe Lembede for Illanga lase Natal on the 6th of October 1945. Bold and unwavering in his call for unity and solidarity among Africans, the flower whose ideas continue to bloom said:

The African Natives then live and move and have their being in the spirit of Africa, in short, they are one with Africa. It is then this spirit of Africa which is the common factor or co-operation and the basis of unity among African tribes. It is African Nationalism or Africanism.

The visionary words of Kwame Nkrumah also allude to an innate desire for unity, he said, “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and are far greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”

Unity is the overarching aim of Pan-Africanism, apart from returning us to our communal and social existence as Africans; unity will position Africa equitably with other nations in the global village. Above all else, unity in the continent will be the cornerstone of the complete reversal of colonial conquest which was perfected by the demarcation of the continent in Berlin 1884.

Unite or perish!

As we embrace our role in advancing the African Renaissance, we must be wary of those among us who seek to reduce our efforts to nought through selfish acts and behaviour that is similar to that of despotic egomaniacs coming into power with the single-minded determination to enrich themselves and those around them. Chinua Achebe in his book A Man of the People articulates the grabby tendencies of such despots;

“Chief Nanga was a born /politician; he could get away with almost anything he said or did. And as long as men are swayed by their hearts and stomachs and not their heads the Chief Nangas of the world will continue to get away with anything. He had that rare gift of making people feel – even while he was saying harsh things to them – that there was not a drop of ill will in his entire frame.”

Therefore as watchdogs of the continent we must not let those who behave like Chief Nanga emerge in our midst and take charge of our lives.

In all that we do, let us be guided by the dominating spirit of Africanism, let us not be ethical contortionists who entertain the cynics by bending our values and principles into strange unnatural positions.

We are the young lions that have been dared to roar, and indeed WE SHALL ROAR!

Listen you can hear it
A subtle distant roar
A preview of intention
And action yet in store


A Tale of Disparities: Reflections on Freedom Day


We live in a nation that is the product of the struggles and resistance of those who gallantly fought against apartheid. Today, the 27th of April 2020, South Africa celebrates Freedom Day with most of her citizens confined to their homes due to the Coronavirus and the lockdown implications it is accompanied by.

However, her people have been affected differently by the lockdown. These differences are predisposed by class, race and gender. Those who occupied the trenches in the war against apartheid were driven by the singular aim of obliterating inequality in all its forms. Such a society is envisaged in the preamble of our Constitution, it says;

“…South Africa belongs to all who live it, united in our diversity”.

The preamble of our world acclaimed constitution, underpinned by the pillars of equality and social justice, goes on to further emphasize the need to heal a nation that is broken, and improve the quality of life of all its citizens.

How can it then be, that 26 years after the advent of democracy, South Africans are disproportionately affected by a pandemic which holds no class bias, knows no race, and is oblivious to gender identity?

How can it then be, that 26 years after the advent of democracy, South Africans are disproportionately affected by a pandemic which holds no class bias, knows no race, and is oblivious to gender identity? This question becomes particularly poignant when one considers the words of our preamble, our journey of suffrage from the 6th of April 1652 to the 27th of April 1994, and our all too prevalent manifestation of patriarchal domination and privilege in society.

A candid reflection on the path trodden in the past 26 years will reveal a state that has constantly stumbled in the nation building project. A state that has marginalized womxn and given undue power and privilege to patriarchy, a state which has failed at reversing the gains made by a minority through what many scholars term as ‘colonisation of a special type’.

In her 26th year as a democratic country, the state lays unmasked, its façade of an equal and just rainbow nation has been unsentimentally exposed by the menacing pandemic. Those who form part of the deprived strata of class hierarchy are most affected; this is by no means a symptom of the novel COVID-19. It is however one of the severe symptoms of far more wider malaise, which is a state that remains divided: a state ravaged by inequality in all its forms.

In his 1998 National Assembly statement on Reconciliation and Nation Building, then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki argued that 4 years after the advent of democracy, South Africa had yet not made any progress in meaningful nation building, nation building was defined as,  

“…the construction of the reality and the sense of common nationhood which would result from the abolition of disparities in the quality of life among South Africans based on the racial, gender and geographic inequalities we all inherited from the past.”.

These disparities which were spoken of in 1998, the year in which I was born, are the reason why the pandemic has disproportionately affected South Africa’s vulnerable. Like Mbeki in 1998, we are confronted with the same question 22 years later. Which is whether we have made any meaningful progress in nation building, and like him, we are forced to be honest and answer – no!

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the living”

Karl Marx

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the living”, the words of Karl Marx reverberate with relevance today as we are plagued by the legacies of the past. We are reminded of this past today as many families are unable to exercise any meaningful form of social distancing or isolation, as a family of 10 compacts itself in a single 4 room house. We are reminded of this past today as many are without adequate supplies of basic necessities such as food and water, instead, many are forced to accept food parcels and strip themselves of whatever dignity they have left to the benefit of poverty porn.

All these manifestations of an unequal society, as revealed by the pandemic, can however not all be attributed to a government which has failed to reverse the spatial and socio-economic disparities of the past. Part of the problem has been a society which has struggled to maintain social-empathy, a society with a moral-fabric that has been ragged by domestic violence and patriarchal domination. These fault lines, all revealed by the pandemic, have midwived concerns which should not impose themselves on a nation which is theoretically anchored in the values and principles of Ubuntu.

As omnious as our future seems to be, it is important that we use the opportunity granted for reflection to seek out positive change. A type of change that will allow for genuine emancipation, a type of change that will give rise to nationhood and bring to ashes the type of disparities we see today. A type of change that will see South Africa face future adversities with the type of solidarity which can only be cultivated through shared prosperity and equality. 

“Morality is the soul of society. Without sound morals a society must inevitably gravitate to low levels of beastly existence – so History teaches”

anton muziwakhe lembede

To this end, it is important that we discard all cosmetic reforms and embark on a meaningful redress and nation building path. In this path, we ought to carry with us the values and principles of Ubuntu. This will ensure that we maintain sound morals in our attempt to equalize society. The fostering of sound morals is also important if we are to shape a society that is not a ‘man’s world’, a society which succeeds in tangibly arresting all forms of patriarchal domination.  It was Anton Lemebede who underscored the importance of morality when he said, “Morality is the soul of society. Without sound morals a society must inevitably gravitate to low levels of beastly existence – so History teaches”

In the next 26 years, our conviction should drive us towards eliminating absolute poverty and reducing the yawning gap of inequality. The moralization of social relations must be intertwined with an improved quality of life for all. Should we remain steadfast and consistent in this approach, then indeed kuzolunga!

Let us refrain from burdening future generations with problems that we can solve now


By: Ntokozo Lunga