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Lamont, you have just censored my history in the name of ‘democracy’

By Gugu Ndima

The awfully narrated judgment against Comrade Julius Malema at the Equality Court coincided with the 34th anniversary of the death of one of the most celebrated Pan-African intellectuals to date. He boldly said in one of his interviews, “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. These are the stark words of Bantu Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. This is the man that fought for black identity and assertion in society. Eighteen years into our democracy we still live in a highly divided society polarised with unemployment, poverty and tacit racism as we witnessed today; a society where one extreme utilises state and academic institutions to protect and preserve their existence and supremacy. This judgement also comes in light of the Heritage Month, a month where we urge South Africans to preserve and protect their heritage which is highly diverse in nature and yet our claim to reconciliation.

One needs to question whether Lamont understands the ramifications of such a haphazard judgement and that the president of the ANCYL isn’t the first to sing this song. It’s quite perturbing that a piece of such pivotal history could be wiped off simply through a clamped congested court room in the Johannesburg CBD. Moreover it exposes that our rainbow nation clearly is more of a myth and aspiration than reality, if truly white people in our society believe that such a song could incite violence, no “genocide” as our learned judge puts it in his judgement.

This unfortunate revelation asserts that the black majority are seen as extreme barbarians who could simply risk going back to the dark days of apartheid merely by being led by a piper with a tune. Lamont fails to understand that it was the efforts of the ANC inter alia which led to the democratic dispensation we find ourselves in. He swiftly forgets that it was the white supremacist apartheid government which incited violence and almost led this country to genocide as black people were brutally murdered daily in the hands of white officers, through an institutionalised system of segregation and socio-political divisions. Now if such vehement anger still existed among black people or better yet if they were unable to contain it, would Lamont even be a judge in a court of law today. At no stage did the ANC-led government instigate violence on any minority group. Instead the ANC-led government has been so tolerant that we have denialists who choose to confine themselves to an isolated community called Orania — distorting democracy.

It also asserts that the gains of our democracy and reconciliation, which we all worked so hard for, are still not considered genuine by the likes of AfriForum if a song could merely destabilise a country. No one took the opportunity to understand the song and what it means for those oppressed by a system today of capitalism. If a worker in a union sings that song for example, it would mean dismantling a system of white monopoly capital which continues to exploit and marginalise them. This song today speaks to the fight against a system that still preserves an unequal socio-economic status quo for a minority elite. However as young people in South Africa, this should infuse more rigour to fight against injustices within our democracy, we should be more encouraged to get educated and swell the ranks of this evidently reactionary system which has not transformed.

The precedence set by this judgement is an unfortunate one. When comrades sing “Hamba kahle Mkhonto” at a funeral of a fellow comrade, should it be remixed in order to accommodate people who fail to accept reconciliation? Should all whites fear being killed. This undermines further, white people that dedicated their lives to the emancipation of our people despite the privileges afforded to them by virtue of their colour. Whites in the movement have sung for decades in rallies and gatherings along to such songs without fearing that they will be harmed or marginalised. The ANC had ample opportunity to retaliate and even under horrendous pressure from its members, leaders remained calm. My son might never even know the term “ibhunu” because just by using the term in the near future, might be seen as futile and unconstitutional. Knowledge producers in our society enforce class inequalities and white supremacy. Institutions of higher learning still also undermine African history.

Singing is a very important way of telling a clear unedited version of history and a tool to teach. However this judgement depicts a picture that white methods remain civil and acceptable and black remains barbaric. The audacity of the judge to insinuate that the manner in which the president of the ANCYL sang that song was extreme compared to Comrade Collins Chabane, is humiliating to say the least; will we be expected to sing our revolutionary songs with pianos and an opera in the near future, so that it seems “civil” according to the fearful white man who can’t trust the black man’s ability to reason and restrain himself when hearing songs of the revolution?

Well I am certain Judge Lamont will be happy to hear that we are compelled by the law to respect the decision of the court. As he goes about his business, let’s hope that he will tell fellow members of the judiciary presiding in other courts, to be prompt when attending cases of black farm workers being raped or mistakenly shot at because they look like monkeys. If Lamont can come up with such a vanity conclusion to justify his judgement I am quite certain that fellow judges could do the same and provide justice for thousands of blacks who consistently face injustice in the justice system. This is a harsh lesson for South Africa that reconciliation might be a thin string wearing thin daily as such realities face us.

Racism was institutionalised in all sectors of society, up-rooting it will be the biggest challenge ever. One judgement might just be the tool of provocation to incite hate and racial tensions. We can never apologise for who we are. Those songs were written with blood, tears and souls of many revolutionary men and women. Lamont has just affirmed that as a black child I have no say on my forefather’s soil and that racism is still much of a reality to me as it was to them.

Well l’m quite certain that Lamont will be getting pats of gratitude on his back from fellow friends as they sing the De la Rey song!

The struggle continues.

Gugu Ndima is the former national spokesperson of the Young Communist League of South Africa and a member of the regional executive committee of the ANCYL in Ekurhuleni. She works for the ANC Caucus in the Gauteng Legislature as a media and communications officer.

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