The time is ripe to consider the formation of a just and inclusive African regional union of Azania, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana respecting the equality of all partners and people, with no “big brother” colonial mentality
On 28 July 2013, Mondli Makhanya of Sunday Times in Johannesburg criticised Julius Malema’s “ambitions of annexing the whole of southern Africa.’’ But wrote that, “Although, I might encourage him or any other possible future president of South Africa to do something about Lesotho and Swaziland. ”
“Annexing” Lesotho and Swaziland to the “rainbow nation’’ as some who seem to be ignorant of the history of colonialism in Africa have hallucinated is no solution for Lesotho and Swaziland nor for so-called “New South Africa” itself, while the African people are still colonially robbed of their country (Azania, colonially called South Africa). At present South Africa is an “African’’ country in name only. It is a “Europe” controlled by Europeans. It serves the economic interests of Europe, not those of the African people in Azania and of the continent of Africa.
It would be suicidal for the Basotho, Batswana and Swazi to be incorporated into a still economically controlled South Africa. It is important to resolve the land question in South Africa first. And then when the long standing African demand for equitable redistribution of land and its economic resources has occurred in South, look at the colonial boundaries and see how best to resolve the issue of colonial boundaries as they affect Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.
It is prudent to look at creating a new country without compromising the sovereignty of any of its partners and people. Historically, the idea of a “union” in this country was stolen by white colonialists. The Union of South Africa was originally the idea of African kings in colonial South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. It was also the idea of the founders of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC).
When opening this Congress, Dr. Pixley Ka Isaka Seme said: “Kings of the royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme my colleagues have decided to place before you…in the LAND of our birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The whites have formed what is known, as the Union of South Africa in which we have no voice.”
The colonialists hijacked this idea to form their own racist colonial union in order to fight what they called “the native danger’’ (black danger) and dispossess Africans of their countries and riches. (For detailed information on this matter, see ‘South Africa:Betrayal of a colonised people, ISAL Publications London 1990, ISBN 0951588400, and Aparthedi: The story of a dispossessed people, Marram Books London 1984).
The “Union of South Africa” was established for colonial settlers alone. This was done through a British statute called The Union of South Africa Act 1909. This imperialist legislation was followed by the Native Land Act 1913. Through this act Africans were allocated 7% of their own country. Their population was then five million. 93% of the African land was handed to the 349,837 European colonial settlers. Today Africans are 41million. This is 79.2% of the country’s population. They are still dispossessed of their land and have to buy it from their dispossessors at exploitatively high prices.
When the British colonial regime realised that the 7% of land allocated to Africans through the Native Land Act 1913 was obviously a disguised form of genocide, it tried to find an additional 6% for the land robbed Africans through the Native Trust Land Act 1936.
They pushed hard for the incorporation of Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana into the British colony of South Africa. They said they needed 15,000,000 acres of land to relieve pressure in the 7% “Native Reserves.” Yes, acres not hectares! Meanwhile the settlers had 106,800,000 hectares of land to their tiny European colonial minority which is today only 8.9% of this “African” country.
A knowledgeable writer put it this way at that time: “Covetous eyes have been cast upon Bechuanaland (Botswana), as a means of satisfying this agrarian need, while the mining companies of the Transvaal are hoping to exploit the coal, gold, asbestos and other minerals found in Swaziland.” (‘Africa: Britain’s Third Empire’, George Padmore, page 34; Dennis Dobson Ltd London 1948).
Third, the European colonialists wanted to extend their sovereignty over raw materials of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland as well as turning nationals of these countries with a combined territory of 293,420 square miles into massive cheap labour, not for the benefit of these Africans, but for their own insatiable appetite and greed for more of Africa’s riches.
Fourth, the incorporation of the three African countries into British colonial South Africa was motivated also by the European colonial superstition of “white superiority.”
Long before the world ever heard about Adolf Hitler and Nazism and about Daniel Malan and apartheid, racism in South Africa was a religion of the European colonialists. When Lord Bryce, a British official said, “Race repugnance is no constant and permanent factor in human affairs as members of Teutonic peoples are apt to assume,” his fellowman, Sir Thomas Watt, replied:
“Be that as it may, one thing is sure that the white man, English or Dutch, is determined to do all that he can to remain and, what is more, to rule. He hopes to get the sympathy and support of the mother country. If that is withheld, he will not be deterred. To those who say that England cannot be a party to a great act of injustice, I would reply that this is to us in South Africa a fundamental matter that no ethical considerations, such as the rights of man and equal opportunities for all non-Europeans, will be allowed to stand in the way. It is a question of self-preservation with us.”
It is important here to point out that the 1935 report on the European colonial policy of education in South Africa stated that the “education of a white child prepares him for a life in a dominant society and the education of a black child for life in subordinate society.” (The Times of 30 April 1926 and in George Padmore page 30; Dennis Dobson Ltd)
In this regard the union bulletin of educational statistics 1940 gave the 1939 figures as follows:
Population number educated percentage post-primary total cost per child
Europeans 2,116,500 417,000 19.7% 19.4% €10.576,196 €25.36
Africans 6,667,500 453,648 6.5% 2.24% €934,320 €2.06
R.U. Kenny in his book, ‘Piet Retief: The Dubious Hero’, reflects the depravity and inhumanity of the European colonialists that came to this country. He says they believed that “The possession of the heathen (Africans) were the inheritance of God’s people (colonial land robbers) and could be taken from them (the Africans) without sin (to whites).The heathen (Africans) fell outside the pale and their claims could therefore never compete on equal terms with those of the Christian’s group (colonial thieves). The idea that Christians (European colonialists) and non-Christians (Africans) were in any sense equal even before the law or that any offence by Christians (colonial aggressors) against the person or property of non-Christian (black people) should be taken seriously.” (The Dubious Hero page 120, Human & Rousseau Cape Town 1976. The brackets are mine.)
The truth of the matter is that in “New South Africa” Africans are as poor as
their brothers in Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. These countries are poor today because large portions of rich and mineral land that was theirs before colonialism are today the domain of the European minority. The “rainbow nation” has two economies. Europeans and tiny African elite enjoy a first world economy while the vast dispossessed Africans wallow in the quagmire of colonially manufactured poverty of a third class economy. In fact “New South Africa” has the widest gap in the world between the poor Africans and the rich Europeans.
FORMATION OF A GENUINE UNION OF EQUAL PEOPLE
The time is ripe to consider the formation of a just and inclusive African regional union of Azania, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana respecting the equality of all partners and people, with no “big brother” colonial mentality inherited from colonialists. This regional unit would be a big economic market. Its major objective would be to create an economy that is strong and controlled by the African people. Political freedom is void without indigenous control and ownership of the economy.
The equitable distribution of economic prosperity in this regional union would rapidly raise the standard of living of this huge African nation to unprecedented levels. It would make this union one of the most enviable economic giants in the world.
Talk of “annexing” or incorporating Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho into “New South Africa” is an invitation to the Africans of these territories to dinner of the poor who control nothing economically and hardly speaking about the land question, the foundation and source of wealth.
What should happen now is that even before there is this regional union of the mentioned African countries, harassment of nationals of Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland in particular, must stop. They must be free to work in South Africa because some parts of this country pre-colonially belonged to these people. This regional union should gradually be joined by African countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola or by all present SADC countries all heading for the United States of Africa.
Finally, the gallant role that Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho played in the liberation struggle of Azania must be recognised, appreciated and applauded. The African liberation struggle in South Africa (Azania) would have been more difficult without the hospitality and sacrifices of these countries to refugees and freedom fighters that fled there when things were hot in colonial apartheid South Africa. These countries lost the lives of their nationals and property through terrorist militarism by the colonial settler regime in South Africa.
The refusal of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland to join the racist colonial Union of South Africa in May 1910 and in 1936 was a blessing in disguise for the future liberation of Azania which began in intensity after the Sharpeville Uprising led by the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania under leaders such as Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe and Potlako K. Leballo. It would have been difficult to escape to Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and other African countries, had it not been for these nearest neighbours of Azania.
Two African proverbs are fitting here in this context. ‘‘Do not treat a forest that sheltered you with ingratitude.’’ Poverty in these countries is as a result of land that was colonially stolen from them and made part of the “rainbow nation” where Africans still have their land dispossession through the Native Land Act 1913 now entrenched in Section 25(7) of the “New South Africa “ Constitution. All African countries must unite and destroy the colonial land dispossession of the Africa people. At present the usurpers of Azania say, “Lo government ka wena. Lomali ka thina” (The government is yours, but the economy is ours).
* Dr. Motsoko Pheko is author of several books, including, Towards Africas’ authentic liberation and The hidden side of South African politics. He is a former Member of Parliament.