The notion that a person with no formal education possesses no intellectual faculties and thus must be dismissed as a hapless intellectual zombie is so antiquated and unscientific such that even those who once held it as a basis to oppress Africans are now embarrassed when reminded of such nonsensical views. Seemingly Prince Mashele harbours no such inhibitions, and repeats it with impunity at every opportunity he gets.

The view that intellectual rigour is the preserve of those who have spent time behind a classroom desk, assumes that there are only western forms of education. This betrays lack of knowledge about the various ways to impart knowledge in society, particularly, among indigenous Africans. The fact of the matter here is that long before there were classrooms, there were always various means through which knowledge was shared and acquired.

Communities taught their young, how to engage in economic, social, religious and political activity; gathering plants for food, hunting wild animals, rearing cattle, planting crops, running initiation schools, slaughtering cattle or goats for ancestral rituals, paying tribute to kings, attending traditional courts, even engaging in war. Who would deny that this was education in the fields of agriculture, politics and law?

As a result of its ability to organically develop intellectuals that were its products, our pastoral communities produced orators whose persuasiveness could swing decisions in traditional courts and in lobola negotiations. They did not have to be lawyers to perform such tasks, but had been schooled in the University of Life.

No one can now dispute that military strategists and organic intellectuals such as King Shaka and Moshoeshoe could turn defeat into victory in the battlefield. Were these not intellectuals? Not in Prince Mashele’s book.

I am reminded of an anecdote. A young man was sent to university by his uneducated parents. They sold all their livestock risking their livelihood in order to realise their son’s dream only to be later confronted by the horror of their son being embarrassed of them as soon as he received his university qualification and ultimately rejecting them. In this case, who are the non-intellectuals here: the overzealous parents or the ungrateful son? The answer is clear.

The “uneducated” Jacob Zuma started serving in the ANC NEC in 1977, was re-elected into the NEC in 1985, elected its deputy secretary-general in 1991, was elected its national chairperson in 1994 and in 1997 was elected its deputy president, but Mashele is not embarrassed to allege that Zuma is where he is today because of “victimhood” : “If Zuma did not incarnate victimhood in the faction-ridden politics of the latter-day ANC, nothing exceptional would have propelled him to the fortuitous heights he now occupies.”

Is it so difficult for Prince Mashele to appreciate the fact and fix it firmly to his mind that Zuma may have risen to the dizzy heights he now occupies because of his dedication to the struggle against apartheid when many of his peers hid behind the skirts of their families and homelands.

Surely, with the above evidence, Mashele’s statement ranks as nothing but a figment of his imagination.

Although pretending to write about the intellectual inaptitude of Zuma, Mashele shows the shocking disdain with which he holds us “ruralitarian” ANC members. We are all guilty by association. The fact that we grew up in villages renders us thoughtless mobs that supported Zuma because he could “dance” and sing just like we do.

Mashele must accept that we supported Zuma because we were tired of the “educated” former president Mbeki who we felt treated many with disdain. One’s level of education is no weapon to insult the rest but should assist one to act as a resource to the rest of society. There is no necessity for the gratuitous insults and disdainful assumptions that we suffer incurable levels of intellectual bankruptcy.



Lazola Ndamase

Lazola Ndamase is head of Cosatu's political education department. He is former Secretary General of SASCO.

Leave a comment