The 2015/2016 South African political and social disintegration: A self-inflicted pain

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Since the fateful Monday I woke up to the beginning of what would be the Rhodes Must Fall Movement (followed by the Fees Must Fall), on the 9th of March 2015, when Chumani Maxwele threw excrement on the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, I have been quietly and patiently watching, anthropologically observing and documenting, in awe, at least social, political and economic events after events that I alluded to (and in some cases clearly stated) as future consequences of serious political dishonesty and deceptions in South Africa and an acute lack of ethics and moral considerations in academic institutions, particularly at the University of Cape Town, where I have spent 7 years of my life scientifically observing and documenting societies through the disciplines of Public Policy and Administration, International Relations, and Social Anthropology.

Through significant and very important lessons learned in researching through these triple majors I signed up for, at the University of Cape Town since 2010, I foretold in my Public Policy and Administration Honors Research Thesis that South Africa will descend into chaotic disintegration if there was/is a continued dishonesty and a lack of continued ethical and morally based academic engagement with the general public but particularly the events that led to the removal of President Thabo Mbeki in September of 2008, leading to the election of President Jacob Zuma, in 2009. I was not saying this in favor of President Thabo Mbeki nor of President Jacob Zuma, I was saying it in order to understand the future implications of allowing certain precedents to take place in society without the supposed authoritative academic institutions challenging them head on as they take place. Academic Institutions are meant to focus on researching, documenting and understanding society for what society is, for society’s sake, in order to be the authoritative voices of reason in maintaining peace and stability in society, and not to be dishonest and bias in their engagements, just to serve their own interests.

In my Public Policy and Administration Honors Thesis, written in 2013, where I conducted a comparative research analysis of the factors influencing the processes of formulating Public Policies, in general, but the South African Foreign Policies, in particular, between President Thabo Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma, I clearly and unambiguously stated that President Jacob Zuma, by virtue of him lacking the western education was and is NOT fit to govern South Africa as it is expected under the colonial neo-liberal social construction of South Africa. President Jacob Zuma’s lack of western education does not allow him the privilege of knowing what is “New Public Management” and all the nitty grittiness inherent in this approach/technique of Directing and Managing the State, as the Head of State of a neo-liberal colonial system. I clearly stated that unlike President Thabo Mbeki, who was trained with Masters in Economics at the University of Sussex, who by virtue of his economics training in Europe, had and still has a grounded depth of how to Direct and Manage an economic growth-oriented (a New Public Management) State, President Jacob Zuma does not know this formula of doing this.

President Jacob Zuma, as I researched him, from a young age when he had to leave school due to limiting family circumstances, he taught himself everything he knows for his own personal and family survival. And that is not a bad or a wrong thing. He just taught himself what he needed to know in how to be a political strategist, with the minimal self-learning he gave himself in English, in order to survive in a muddy neo-liberal colonial world where all is about the survival of the fittest. In this sense, he did not train himself to be a Saint but a political strategist. Saints are found in churches by virtue of their high morality and political strategists are found in political institutions by virtue of their deception. Therefore, as a self-taught circumstantial political strategist, he is certainly not and cannot be St. Zuma. He is a politically strategic President with intentions to survive, no matter what, in an undignified context of inhumane and rampant unrepentant colonial-capitalism which has caused nothing but countless extreme harm and deaths of African people in South Africa, and the world over.

Therefore, in my honors research thesis, I clearly argued that it was and it is imperative that academic institutions and their practitioners invest their time in focusing on the context that defines President Jacob Zuma’s presidency, instead of the on the surface media reports about his corrupt dealings and other media reported circumstances surrounding the president. I clearly stated that the context of what informs President Jacob Zuma’s actions was and is more relevant and fundamental than what the president was and is still doing because the answers to future consequences, and certainly currently manifesting consequences, of his reported behaviors are embedded.

And this applied to President Thabo Mbeki, as well, as it was evident with his westernized aloof presidential posture towards the extreme social conditions and needs of African people in South Africa, which led to the Workers Federation Union, Cosatu, calling for his removal in support for President Jacob Zuma as the next president. The assumption by Cosatu was that President Jacob Zuma, by virtue of his background of poverty, he was going to be an all-embracing St. Zuma who would give equally to all the poor, hungry and destitute. But they did not understand that life, from a very young age, taught President Jacob Zuma to solely rely on himself to survive, for himself. And this was the grave miscalculation by Cosatu, other groups, and individuals who were in support of him as the next president of South Africa. They did not invest time and energy into understanding the significance and implications of the background and context of President Jacob Zuma’s strategic political engagements.

Make no mistake I am not anti-President Jacob Zuma nor anti-President Thabo Mbeki, I am just an individual who is always fascinated by human behavior and I dare to watch, observe and analyze it as I see fit, all the time when it interests me. I am naturally patient with life enough to follow through with research exercises as they are very fulfilling with the knowledge and wisdom gained from the vast learning in researching. And in the next paragraphs, let me make my points on how this all directly links to the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall Movements.

When I chose to write my Public Policy and Administration Honors Research Thesis on a Comparative Analysis of President Jacob Zuma and President Thabo Mbeki’s foreign policy formulation processes and the significant and imperative factors/contexts influencing them, the point was to bring to the attention of whoever reads it the understanding that human beings do not just fall out of the sky. There is always factors/context to each and everything they do. And it is the factors/context that is MORE significant and imperative than anything else in human behavior. Unfortunately, my then supervisor and the external examiner(s) failed to capture my sentiments and graded my research with 60% which automatically disqualified me from continuing with my Masters in the Political Studies Department. However, I was not even negatively affected by this because when one door closes another one opens. I decided that Masters in Social Anthropology was even more ideal after I confidently wrote my comparative honors research in Public Policy and Administration.

It is in Practical Anthropology for my Master’s program that I began researching practical activities on the ground in order to make my informed but kept to myself opinions about societal matters. Often, people want to hear what they want to hear to be comfortable and not reality. But I am interested in reality than fiction in order for me to make informed choices. Uninformed choices are dangerous, and only experience(s) can and will teach anyone that truism. And in light of the truism of reality being a necessity for informed choices, let me link the student movements to President Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

When Chumani Maxwele threw the excrement on the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, on 9 March 2015, I had just finished writing up two Practical Anthropology research items with the assistance and supervision of my Supervisor, Professor Francis Nyamnjoh. I had done research on the colonial history of South Africa to where we are now in the historical timeline. Therefore, I was not shocked by Chumani’s actions and nor by the reactions which have led to where South Africa is today. Throughout the student movements activities, I have been engaged in watching, observing and documenting all that I could in order to contribute to the conversation when I felt the need. Because I naturally engage with reality, and reality is not what is appreciated in our society in general and in the academic institutions, in particular, I never felt the need to engage about any of these student activities until I felt forced to do so at the University of Cape Town’s Learning and Teaching Conference on 30 March 2016.

This conference was meant to take place in October 2015. However, due to the students’ national Fees Must Fall university shut-downs, it was moved to March 2016. And due to the student activities and confrontations with the police and private security personnel, which led to a number of them expelled, issued with interdicts and arrested, I decided to withdraw from participating at the conference because so much had happened that needed to be addressed outside conference papers and presentations. However, reality, again, does not work on personally desired experiences and timelines. It just happens. It forces you to adapt to it. Because it is the reality after all, and we are all subject to it, whether we like it or not, I ended up presenting at the conference.

Having followed around the student movement, observed and recorded conversations during the student protests and talks, I titled my paper, “Institutionalized Racism: A Symbolic Perspective of Racism at UCT” (This title could be different on the actual conference brochure. I could not find it at the time of writing this communication but the title is roughly similar). I then focused on showing how institutional symbols at the University of Cape Town are tools heavily encoding racism in them. The former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, addressed this reality in an article he so perfectly penned on “Archives and Public Culture” at UCT. My apologies I am unable to locate the article at the moment as I am also engaged in my academic writing research as well. I had saved it somewhere but I just cannot remember where it is. Anyone who wants to read that article to understand my point can research it online they will find it. He talks about the archives and symbolic culture at UCT and its significance and implications to and for those who are affected by it, at times just by virtue of observing an object or reading one archive document. They can and do awaken sleeping dogs. You can only be an unimaginable person not to understand or be affected by this fact. But let me digress for a moment just to show my point with a simple and very practical example.

A very significant and highly abusive racist symbol one will ever find at the University of Cape Town is a Naked, Iron-crafted Statue of Sarah Baartman, standing inside the main library, on level three. It is standing on an area where Her Naked body is easily accessible to and viewed by anyone who walks to that area of the library. As a very sensitive African Soul to African Spiritual Realities, I have repeatedly engaged some academics on the need to remove the statue of Sarah Baartman, and have it completely disintegrated it to non-existence, with the intention to actually lay to rest Her restless Naked Spirit. The reason I have repeatedly given to these academics is simply that for as long as Sarah Baartman is made to continue standing NAKED as an object of analysis anywhere in the world, but particularly at UCT or anywhere in South Africa, there will be no peace. Sarah Baartman was extremely violated against Her will when she was forcefully taken to Europe to be paraded in freak shows for European self-amusement. What Europeans do not and did not understand, when I talk about the African Spiritual realities, is that Her remains might have been brought back from Europe when they did, however, Her Spirit is still left lingering NAKED in the UCT library. As someone who directly shares Her Bloodline of Abathwa (aka Khoisan/Bushman), I am fully aware of the reality that Her Spirit is very ANGRY here at UCT. It will continue being angry until African people find it their hearts and minds to address this grave injustice on the body of a woman who did nothing but being African and endowed with specific features which cause wonder to those who do not have them. It will be very naive and very serious mistake for anyone to undermine my assertion in this regard. This is the most racist symbol one will ever find at the University of Cape Town.

However, my focus at the conference was mainly on how the University of Cape Town continues with a symbolism and naming of buildings which celebrate murderous European figures who dispossessed African people off their Land and made them into cheap labor in order to maintain their view of human existence. I mentioned the injustices committed by Leander Jameson and what it means for UCT to continue venerating this symbol of injustice in a building where descendants of the murdered and abused Africans are awarded their degrees. Like, I honestly do not know what level of hate this is when one really applies their heart and mind to it. It is an unparalleled and unimaginable level of hate for African people that makes no sense at all on an African soil, “post-apartheid”. Hence less Spiritually sensitive Africans do not even notice the meanings and grave implications in these symbols. In other words, it is what the experiences of witchcraft are made of. Making people do things against their will without them knowing how you do it.

That is what symbols do to the mind. They unconsciously program your mind for you to behave in particular and desired ways for the benefactor. And this is why I have been affected the most by the naked iron-made statue of Sarah Baartman in the library. Everytime I go to the main library to collect books, She is giving me serious problems that give me sleepless nights. She is simply demanding justice for Her extremely violated Spirit. She wants to rest in peace. For any African person to not understand this reality about our Africanity and Spirituality, it simply means that your hearts and minds have been completely destroyed. However, some African Bloodlines are extremely possessive and protective over their descendants. They will do anything to demand fulfillment through them or just simply take their lives themselves. And this explains why African students have been committing suicide at the University of Cape Town in uncomfortable numbers, at least as I observed and encountered with my student support services work I have done for the duration of my stay at UCT. When I submitted my abstract for the 30 March 2016 Teaching and Learning Conference, I was simply given the option to either address this issue publicly at the conference or simply lose my life. I chose to be subjected to UCT’s institutional violence as a response because I fear my Ancestral retribution more than anything anyone else can do to me. I know it from personal experiences, I do not need to be told by anyone about their response to distasteful behaviors they detest from us African people. President Jacob Zuma is actually feeling it as I write this.

The University of Cape Town, as I anticipated, violated me privately after my conference presentation by sending private security to follow me around everywhere I go. I do not know what they have not done yet to this far to try to get me to keep quiet about this grave injustice taking place at UCT. The only thing they do not understand is that I am under the authority of Righteous Spiritual forces far beyond their understanding and imagination. When I step out onto the streets, I do so under their authoritative forces that give me simple and humane directives to follow. All I need to do is simply live my life as normal and as simple as it ought to be. And when they violated me for speaking the truth, however, I returned home with my father. He had to come and get me here for my safety. As I was home, I was given the necessary healing ceremonies in order for me to return back to my centers and finish my academic program. As I was home, I decided to go and cry on the graves of my grandparents and asked them why would they allow me to be violated as I was if they made me speak the truth. Little did I know that the work was not done yet.

What is my point? How is this all even related to President Jacob Zuma and his presidency? Well, President Jacob Zuma, like his predecessors, has consciously disregarded the actual history of what took place in South Africa in order for the European colonial social and political order to be established. Like his predecessors, he committed an unforgivable treason for the third time, in a row after his two predecessors, against African people for the sole purpose of maintaining his personal interests and that of his cabinet members and business associates. His entire cabinet, like those of his predecessors, has not dealt directly with the prevailing realities as they should have and ought to do, guided by history. They have all decided to run away from this forever present reality and instead sent police officers and private security personnel to quell the raging African Spirits, through us, as though the Spirits were that of dogs invading a foreign Land.

By doing this, not only did they prepare themselves for another wave of chaos, they have violated the sacredness of the voices that have been speaking through us as though we were the ones on the wrong. They have projected their failures and violence on us as though we are the ones committing a treasonous inhumanity, for the third time, against African people. I include myself here on the basis that I have been privately targeted for documenting and being an intellectual interpreter of this unfolding historical moment. Instead of engaging me publicly, they have sought underhanded, evil, sick and twisted methods to silence me. But in all of them, I have been assured of one thing, that no matter the level of violence metered against me, I should simply walk the path I am being directed to walk, anything else shall be dealt with accordingly. And this applies to many of the student activists who have been violated through similar and even worse sickening methods I am not even sure anymore what kind of Spirit that controls the hearts and minds of the old generation of African people in politics and other societal institutions.

The reason African students have been up in arms demanding things to radically change, through the self-conceptualized philosophy of Fallism, is because, with their self-taught Black and African Consciousness, they have awakened the African Spirits and brought them back to life. However, most of them are not consciously aware of this even though they often say “Biko is Alive” or “Sobukwe Lives”. But it is a truism that Biko is alive and Sobukwe lives. They are alive and live through us. Violating us is the violation of their Spirits. I unambiguously assert that Sarah Baartman, King Mhlontlo kaMatiwane and Queen Mamani kaPhahlo as my Ancestors of AmaMpondomise, are alive and live through me and all they are demanding is justice. The reason they have captured us students is simply because the African elders in politics are drunk in extreme self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement at the expense of a very big national responsibility that has been dodged so many times by all, including President Thabo Mbeki and the late President Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps I should have this last line here:

As you all decide to use institutional power to violate, even more, a historical injustice you know you are complicit in and benefiting from, may our Ancestors show you all their Might of Righteousness!!!

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Lindiswa Jan

Lindiswa Jan is an Independent Researcher & Masters Candidate in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town.

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