MAKE AFRICA LIBERATION DAY A PUBLIC HOLIDAY
Molebatsi Masedi is a Polokwane, Limpopo based proponent of radical socio-economic transformation. Tweeter: @ MolebatsiMasedi
On Friday South Africa joined the rest of Africa and the world to celebrate the birth of freedom from colonialism and the plundering of natural resources and people. This was Africa Day, the day marking the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 196, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is celebrated in Africa, as well as everywhere in the world where Africans live or find themselves.
The forerunner of the OAU was in fact what was known as the First Congress of Independent African States. Convened by Kwame Nkrumah, the prime minister of Ghana, it included Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon. Apartheid South African was an obvious exclusion, its pariah status had set in.
Among its key resolutions was the calling for Africa Freedom Day as a commitment to the freedom of each and every square kilometre of the continent.
From this inaugural meeting of the African heads of liberated states, follow up meetings were held to keep up the full liberation people of the continent. As countries gained independence one after the other, they applied and were granted membership of the OAU.
The struggle for liberation from colonialism escalated with concrete support from the OAU Liberation Committee charged to mobilise resources for liberation movements across the continent like the ANC. Most notably, member countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Tanzania offered the countries to accommodate the South African liberation movement and its military wings. It provided all the support, including arms and military bases. For their support to the struggle for liberation some of these countries like Mozambique, Botswana and Angola came under attack by the apartheid military. The OAU and its member states dug deep to usher freedom to South Africa. We owe current status to their countries of the continent who stood fast behind us to the last. We will never do enough to repay our debt to Africa. Africa is our beginning, Africa is our beginning. In 1994 we joined the community of free African countries, thanks to the support of our brothers and sisters all over the continent. It therefore becomes a tragedy when we turn against our own people in what came to be known as xenophobic attacks. During these moments of madness we killed and maimed fellow Africans.We killed our own people as we rolled the red carpet for foreigners who enter our shores through main airports. These disappear into suburbs where our anger and frustrations don’t reach. There are out of harm’s way. These acts of violence against other Africans underpin our ignorance of our history and our rootedness in the continent of Africa. If we knew better we would be killing one another. We would be directing our anger where it rightful belong and bring justice for the past losses and harms.
Now that we are free and in charge of the country we can do many things to restore our humanity and that of everybody on the African continent. We need to rewrite our history and populate it with our beautiful and heroic stories. As the African proverb goes, if the lions do not have their own historians, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. This is where we find ourselves at the moment, we have our stories told by others than ourselves.
Emptied of all content by apartheid colonialism, we have turned against everything about ourselves in the form of history, culture and identity. We look up to Europe for everything good, than to our own in Africa.No wonder Africa Liberation Day is item on the calendar of events in the Department of Arts and Culture. Nothing much than flag waving is done in commemoration of our history and our quest for unity as envisaged by our forebears. We have enshrined in our national calendar, days of no significance to our history and identity. We even adapted the day we grew up knowing it to be Dingane’s, when black people were randomly beaten up for venturing in white public spaces.
Today it is in our hands to reclaim our very being.
And while at it, let us proclaim Africa Day a public holiday as it should be. We are an African country, owe our freedom to the collective act of solidarity of the continent. The final act of liberation will be the recognition of our being as Africans. It is the denial of our identity that has seen others and not ourselves claiming our birth right of the continent and its riches for their own. In this false story, Africa was without owners and there for the picking. Africa had owners, its sons and daughters.
As we call for the return of the land, we should reclaim and celebrate our identity. Happy Africa Month to all in the continent and in the diaspora. As president Ramaphosa correctly put it, the return of land is the restoration of the dignity of the dispossessed.
Let us reclaim our Africa Day. This doesn’t take time to do or to amend the constitution. All it requires is the will to do it and the signature of the attendant proclamation by the president. Africa Day would be a National Day in South Africa, alongside notable days like Freedom Day, Human Rights Day, May Day, Youth Day, Women’s Day and Heritage Day.
The country, continent and African Diaspora waits with bated breath for the day this becomes official and we get to sing the National Anthem of the African Union. We have the duty to realise the dream of our forebears who met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, many years ago to form the OAU in the quest for African Unity and Renaissance. Africa, the time has come.