Sentletse Diakanyo
Sentletse Diakanyo

Rise Africans, rise!

“Nothing will come of nothing,” the old King Lear lashed out at his youngest daughter Cordelia. Cordelia unlike her older siblings, Regan and Goneril, had failed to shower the King, who was nearing the end of his mortal existence, with praises in order to earn an inheritance. This enraged the old king. For having “nothing” to say to the king, Cordelia was banished from the kingdom empty-handed and stripped of her royal title.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy lies a greater measure of truth about the manner in which particular events are necessitated by antecedent conditions; that ex nihilo nihil fit, “out of nothing comes nothing”. History provides for us instructive lessons that we only can ignore at our own peril.

Irish dramatist and socialist George Bernard Shaw (1856 — 1950) captured this aptly when he said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.”

That our present is born of events buried in history is by no means a plausible excuse to repeat the past as we would be derailing progress. However, ignorance is that natural trait that continues to stalk humanity with consistent regularity. We refuse to learn from the past in order that our present and future reconcile with those ideals we continue to imagine for ourselves and next generations.

Civilisations rise and fall, political power waxes and wanes all because we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence in blunders becomes our natural habit. Our present is constantly unfolding in the shadow of radical social and political upheavals in history.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was set in motion by the massacre of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators who marched to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. These were ordinary Russian workers who embarked on peaceful protests in solidarity with the workers of the Putilov Plant in St Petersburg. Their action led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the State Duma of the Russian Empire.

The Tsarist regime after this revolution, however, continued on its authoritarian path, which again provoked the indignation of ordinary Russians in 1917 and sparked the February Revolution, which overthrew Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. Born from the February Revolution was a provisional government that was also later overthrown in the same year by Vladimir Lenin during the October Revolution.

The social causes of the Russian Revolution can be traced back to the French Revolution of 1789, when the French rose against the ruling monarchy of King Louis XVI. He was deposed and later executed for high treason in 1793. Rising bread prices and dire economic circumstances were at the heart of general discontent. When pushed to the limit the people shall respond and respond in their multitudes.

These crucial lessons of history continued to evade rulers of the modern nations during the 20th century. The worsening economic situation across the entire Eastern Bloc in the 80s after the failure of a series of economic reforms, devastated Poland the most. The communist state of Poland had been subjected to economic sanctions and by 1988 its economic situation had become desperate and food prices had risen by more than 40%. Ordinarily the Polish people embarked on mass demonstrations that swept across the country and led to the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. The success of the Solidarity Revolution in Poland sparked a series of protests across the entire Eastern Bloc in the same year.

The non-violent student demonstration in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, ignited the Velvet Revolution which ended communist rule on November 17. In Estonia thousands of peaceful demonstrators had also gathered at the Lauluvaljak, where they sang patriotic songs in defiance of the ban by the Soviet regime. The neighbouring Baltic states, Lithuania and Latvia, were also gripped by similar peaceful protests. The Singing Revolution ushered the independence of Estonia in 1991. The voice of the people triumphed.

The communist state of East Germany was not spared of social unrest. Again students initiated protests that eventually led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall had been a symbol of communism. Its fall symbolised the end of the Cold War and the freedom of the people who had been subjected to the tyranny of communism.

Unmistakeably,1989 was an eventful year, the year of revolutions. Not all of these revolutions were peaceful. The Romanian Revolution was a series of violent social upheavals that collapsed the communist totalitarian president Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu and his wife were publicly executed after the overthrow the government.

In China, peaceful student demonstrators after seven weeks of demanding political reforms after the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal communist leader, faced brutal assault by the military. Almost a thousand demonstrators were killed during a brutal crackdown that began at Tiananmen Square and spread across mainland China. The regime managed to halt a revolution.

The eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was significant in burying the communist ideology and relegating it to the rubbish-bin of history. Even China today is mulling over political reforms in recognition that the people cannot be denied their freedoms with no end. Their economic reforms that began in 1978 had been most successful in appeasing the Chinese people but liberation cannot be complete unless the people are emancipated both politically and economically.

The persistence of social and political unrest in the 21st century emanates primarily from the failure of governments to institute meaningful political and economic reforms. This bears testimony to the observation that humanity refuses to learn from history. There are people across the world who are still subjected to political tyranny to the detriment of their respective social and economic circumstances. Despots are concerned with plundering state resources and suppressing the universal freedoms of their people. Superpowers are in constant pursuit of self-interest and are more amiable to the friendship of dictators and violators of freedoms of their own people.

The anger of ordinary people will continue to fester and revolutions, whether peaceful or violent, are inevitable. The Rose Revolution of Georgia in 2003 which unseated Eduard Shevardnadze from power as well as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 serve as immediate reminders of what is possible when the interests of the people are trampled on by those in power.

The recent revolutions across the Arab world, from Tunisia to Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Syria should serve as an inspiration to Africans whose existence is at the mercy of kleptomaniacs and despots. The African Union has become a club of despots, most of whom have been in power for over 30 years. They have plundered the resources of their own countries with no meaningful economic development and social progress of their people. The people of Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Angola, Swaziland and other parts of Africa, were despots refuse to yield to meaningful political and economic reforms, must rise to defend their own countries and install governments they deserve.

South Africa may be a democratic state but it is no different to those countries in Africa where kleptomaniacs are using state coffers as personal accounts. Our government is infested with crooks, thieves and violators of our national dignity. Their primary interest is self-enrichment and not serving the poor or advancing economic transformation. Those in power abuse their liberation credentials for narrow political ends. The poor are held hostage to the sentiment of the liberation struggle despite after 16 years of political freedom still being subjected to a miserable existence.

Not only should people revolt when subjected to autocratic rule but as South Africans we deserve better and must rise against mediocrity. The people must rise against corrupt leaders and thieves that form an intricate patronage network and deny them their economic emancipation. The arrogance of the ruling party continues to grow because of their comfort in the knowledge that despite their mediocrity, they have secured votes from those they have liberated. Economic liberation cannot be a negotiable cause.

Aldous Huxley said “that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history”. We have none but ourselves to blame for the pathetic governments we have. The power is with us to remove those who do not serve our interests. No military, no amount of intimidation and threats and no scale of mass murder can defeat the noble cause.

Nothing will come of nothing if we do not act and act now!

Rise Africans, rise!

  • DonQuixote

    “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great events and characters of world history occur, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” – Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”

  • Kamwini

    Someone once said of a dictator that it didn’t matter “that he is a devil, as long as he’s our devil.” Unfortunately, that appears to be how the majority of South African voters think.

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  • Hoosen

    Kamwini we don’t have to overthrow the ANC government all we have to do is make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate mediocrity! Idiotic things like the Joburg billing mess all because the contracts was given to a “Comrade!”

  • Koos Kombuis

    I agree with everything you said, but you left out one little word. Should your blog post title not be “Rise, South Africans, rise!”?
    Whatever. Great sentiments. What’s one little word between friends?

  • Mpho

    Interesting article. Our neighbours Zimbabweans must go home to fix their once prosperous country and get rid of the cancer that killed their country.

    South Africans, we need to think and rethink when we vote. How long will we let thieves and incompetent people come out of their hibernation during voting time and use our tragic past to demand for our votes and when they get them they slap us right in the face? Our Government is an extended family business, when I’ve enriched myself, my sister, brother, 2nd and 3rd cousins join the thick gravy train and do the same and the bloodline continues… Food for thought indeed!

  • Sean

    The South African political system is very different to that of Egypt and Tunisia. A Nation will rise against corrupt and inept Government when there isn’t any other form of recourse. We have the ballot box in South Africa. Many people died for the right to vote. Once the nation becomes gatvol enough of the current Government they will voice their feelings at the ballot box. Spend your time building an alternative Political Party worthy of Governing, not sweeping up emotion with empty rhetoric.

  • Garg Unzola

    I agree with Huxley. The empty revolutionary rhetoric and even more empty attempts at jump-starting revolutions show that man doesn’t learn much from history.

  • MLH

    Enjoyed that. It’s just a pity you don’t have a wider audience. I do hate good stuff being wasted on the converted. My domestic helper told me: ‘They don’t print things like that in the Zulu papers’. Perhaps they should print them in all official languages.

  • die antwoord

    So why don’t you just vote DA???

  • JannieJammerGat

    Selentse,welcome back! I agree, although the intentions of laws like BEE, BBBEE, and affirmative action are noble (and necessary), the way they are implemented means only the ANC`s connected cronies benefit. Wether it be tenderpreneurs, corruption, ANC parties, fancy cars, fine wine & luxury living on so called goverment business, giving away money (billions), or plain incompetence running state owned corporations, the poor are again getting the short end of the stick. While I believe everyone should earn their own keep & be responsible for where their own lives are headed, I also believe goverment should provide the gateways for needy people to be able to improve their lives. The sad part is that once again the uneducated and brain washed masses will vote for the ANC, believing they are their messiah, whilst they slowly create conditions that may potentially result in a black mass uprising! If this happens, the direction of this anger will be to the whites of this country and in my humble opinion this is exactly why so many white people oppose the ANC, it is because we want to see black people living better lives, we want to see a honest goverment that is accountable to the people, we want to see that money is spent on necessary infrastructure, education, etc that will help our economy grow and improve peoples lives. One last comment… the word “black” in our empowerment laws should be replaced with the word “poor”,only then will S.A be united!

  • Heidi Ernani Drew

    my fellow South Africans – make your voice hear at the ballot box –
    make sure you are registered to vote –
    we deserve what we get if we are not prepared to get involved…

  • Pakane

    Very thoughtful and relevant input Sentletse and other respondents. One observation from me is that there is a characteristic “flee mode” amongst Africans when dealing with unwanted and undeserved governments. America, UK and other European states are full with Africans who flew from their governments and settle as aliens in these countries. SA has many other Africans who flee political and economic unbearable situations in their countries. Africans seem to master the flee mode when the going gets toughest. Sudanese plague US as “the lost sons” are homing America. Lastly, history reflects masses rising against despots, and in most nations the educated do not form masses but a few percentage. As South Africans, we can make our history by having the educated, I mean people like the bloggers in “Thought” column to be the ones who stand up and not just write about injustices. It takes too many years for masses to realize and rise against despotic governments.

  • dimwit

    It’s what you do after the rising that counts.

  • Hlabirwa

    Fleeing is not an exclusively African thing, ho wthen do you explain the multitudes of Irish and Italian, French, German, Polish an Russians in the USA. The socalled educated are the ones who do the most fleeing.

    @Sentletse,your take on issues have been missed from the blogs welcome back!

  • Kwame

    The only likely revolution to happen in SA is one to the left, and I wonder how many anti-ANC rethoric’s will be happy when ‘Stalinist’ Vavi is in charge!

  • http://aol fergie

    @Kwame, in Edmund Burke’s book “Reflection on Violence” he said that if a society would reforms itself over a period of time the country would have a revolution. He was against violent changes and thought that a society should change gradually. He used France as an example of the violence and turmoil, however, the same people ruled France before the revolution were still ruling them after the revolution. I know the question on your mind is how do one get the African dictators to understand the importance of reforms.

  • http://google tsepang

    My sentiments exactly thanks and well written sir.

  • N3

    Thank you so much for the wisdom brother, there were a few revolutions we knew not of. But thanks to your thorough research and skill we are now even more educated.

  • Philimon

    My dear brother u have echoed our sentiments very well. Only problem is come election day we will be falling over ourselves to vote for ANC again. I was down in Cape Town for December holidays, and that is how I want to live. Place is clean and tidy. 2009 I voted ANC but not again, I just got a R20 000 water account for November for my flat and its only the wife n I. Both of us work nobody at home during the day.
    I feel bad but DA here comes my vote. I don’t think my father went through the struggle for a few individuals to enrich themselves!