A shared lan­guage is a solid sig­ni­fier of a com­mu­nity ex­ist­ing as one fam­ily

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Her­bert Vi­lakazi

THERE are sound and com­pelling his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural rea­sons that jus­tify the for­ma­tion of an Eco­nomic Union com­posed of the cur­rent south­ern African states. The peo­ple com­pris­ing th­ese south­ern African states are his­tor­i­cally and cul­tur­ally one peo­ple. They can be said to be mem­bers of one his­tor­i­cal fam­ily, which was ar­ti­fi­cially split by the Euro­pean colo­nial­ists.

A few ex­am­ples: the peo­ple called BaTswana stretch all the way from what to­day is called Botswana to Pre­to­ria – but the Euro­pean colo­nial­ists drew an ar­bi­trary line sep­a­rat­ing the BaTswana of Botswana from the BaTswana of South Africa; the peo­ple called the Swazi stretch from Swazi­land to Mpumalanga and Jo­han­nes­burg – but Euro­pean colo­nial­ists drew an ar­bi­trary line sep­a­rat­ing the Swazi of Swazi­land from the Swazi of South Africa.

The peo­ple called Ba­Sotho stretch from the Le­sotho to the Free State – but Euro­pean colo­nial­ists drew an ar­bi­trary line sep­a­rat­ing the Ba­Sotho of Le­sotho from the Ba­sotho of South Africa.

The same ap­plies to the for­ma­tion of a coun­try called Mozam­bique, as well as to the draw­ing of the bound­aries sep­a­rat­ing present-day Zim­babwe from South Africa.

It is im­por­tant to stress that there was con­stant move­ment of peo­ple from one area of Africa to another. To­day we move as in­di­vid­u­als, or as in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies; in the pre-cap­i­tal­ist, pre-colo­nial era, we moved as com­mu­ni­ties.

We know, for ex­am­ple, of the move­ments of com­mu­ni­ties of peo­ple from KwaZulu-Natal, which spread to dif­fer­ent re­gions of south­ern Africa: we know of com­mu­ni­ties led by Soshangane, who es­tab­lished a king­dom in what to­day is Mozam­bique; of com­mu­ni­ties led by Mzilikazi, who set­tled con­sec­u­tively in what is now Gaut­eng, the North West and later Zim­babwe.

We know of com­mu­ni­ties led by Zwan­gend­aba, who moved up to what now is Malawi and parts of Zam­bia and Tan­za­nia; we know of She­mane, King Zwide’s son, who moved with his com­mu­nity to what to­day is Lim­popo. In sum, th­ese com­mu­ni­ties were mix­tures of Nguni, Sotho, Shona, Tswana, Venda, Pedi, and other cul­tures.

All th­ese peo­ple were one fam­ily. Lan­guage is, among other things, a very sig­nif­i­cant piece of ev­i­dence in com­mu­nity ge­neal­ogy.

The study of lan­guages spo­ken by peo­ple in south­ern Africa shows that th­ese peo­ple are orig­i­nally one fam­ily. For ex­am­ple, lin­guists who have stud­ied the struc­ture of Nguni and Sotho lan­guages have con­cluded that the Nguni lan­guage is the skele­ton of Sotho lan­guages; through sep­a­ra­tion of groups, mi­gra­tions and in­ter­face with dif­fer­ing en­vi­ron­ments and ac­tiv­i­ties, dif­fer­ent flesh and ac­cents emerged: “If ge­netic re­la­tion­ship among a num­ber of lan­guages can be demon­strated, it con­sti­tutes prima fa­cie ev­i­dence that the an­ces­tors of the speak­ers of those lan­guages shared a common lo­ca­tion at some time in the past.” ( Re­con­struct­ing African Cul­ture His­tory, edited by C. Ga­bel and NR Ben­nett, 1967, p 31).

Cap­i­tal­ism, the African slave trade, colo­nial­ism and racism were like an enor­mous world­wide land­slide that rad­i­cally re­shaped so­cial re­la­tions, the hu­man mind and con­scious­ness through­out the world: a new mea­sur­ing rod of hu­man be­ings emerged, which placed Euro­peans as the top and best, and Africans as the bot­tom and worst, with the rest of hu­mankind fall­ing in-be­tween.

Dur­ing the first two decades of the 20th cen­tury, Euro­peans be­gan to carve and cre­ate new white-ruled na­tions in south­ern Africa: it was dur­ing the same pe­riod that Pan-African­ism was born, that the Bam­batha War oc­curred, and the ANC was formed.

The ANC was orig­i­nally formed as a Pan-African­ist Move­ment for the eman­ci­pa­tion of all Africans from Euro­pean dom­i­na­tion. The first con­sti­tu­tion of the ANC, adopted in 1918, takes it for granted that the peo­ple of what to­day is Botswana, Le­sotho and Swazi­land, are con­stituen­cies of the new or­gan­i­sa­tion. In her his­tory of the ANC, Mary Ben­son wrote as fol­lows: “Early in Jan­uary 1912, from the kraals in the Highveld and Lowveld of the Transvaal, from Zulu vil­lages, from the beau­ti­ful bare up­lands of the Transkei, from the arid ex­panses of Bechua­na­land and the royal cap­i­tal of Swazi­land, from the paramount chief ’s fast­ness in the

Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrica be­came the an­them for the en­tire re­gion of south­ern Africa. The kings and queens of Africa were the god-par­ents of the ANC.

moun­tains of Ba­su­toland, came chiefs and their fol­low­ers… Among them were the chiefs from the neigh­bour­ing high com­mis­sion ter­ri­to­ries: Prince Malunga KaMban­deni, re­gent of Swazi­land, just back from Eng­land; Chief Maama, the de­scen­dant of Moshoeshoe the Great, rep­re­sent­ing the paramount chief of Ba­su­toland; and chiefs Molema, Montsioa and Mankwane from Bechua­na­land.” (Ben­son, Mary, The African Pa­tri­ots: The Story of the African Na­tional Congress of South Africa, pp. 26-27)

The founders of this or­gan­i­sa­tion were very clear that they were form­ing a “PanAfrican as­so­ci­a­tion”. Mary Ben­son con­tin­ues: “The con­fer­ence re­solved to unite to­gether and form a fed­er­a­tion of one Pan-African as­so­ci­a­tion” (p 28).

It must be em­pha­sised that this PanAfrican as­so­ci­a­tion would form a union with a sin­gle par­lia­ment, of which what to­day are Le­sotho, Botswana and Swazi­land would be con­stituent parts. Ms Ben­son fur­ther wrote: “The con­fer­ence ac­cepted Seme’s rec­om­men­da­tion that the Congress should be mod­elled on the Amer­i­can Congress and it was also de­cided to com­bine Bri­tish par­lia­men­tary struc­ture and pro­ce­dures in an Up­per House of Chiefs and a Lower House of Com­mon­ers, each with a pres­i­dent. The paramount chief of the Ba­suto, Letsie ll, was unan­i­mously elected honorary gov­er­nor, leader of the Up­per House in which princes of African blood were to hold their seats for life” (p 28).

This was, in­deed, a Pan-African agenda: Dr Seme trav­elled the en­tire south­ern Africa, mo­bil­is­ing support for the ANC; that is the rea­son Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika be­came the an­them for the en­tire re­gion. The kings and queens of Africa were the god-par­ents of the ANC. Per­haps no peo­ple in south­ern Africa made a greater con­tri­bu­tion to the es­tab­lish­ment of the ANC, dur­ing the early years, than the Swazi.

Through Prince Sob­huza’s grand­mother, Queen Labot­si­beni, the Swazi royal king­dom made a tremen­dous fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion for the up­keep of the ANC; Dr Seme and Pa­trick Vi­lakazi re­lo­cated to Swazi­land, as ad­vis­ers to the royal lead­er­ship, and acted also as tu­tors to the young prince, so that he could be raised in the tra­di­tion of the ANC.

As the new white na­tion-state called South Africa be­came sta­bilised, con­sol­i­dated and tri­umphant, the agenda of the ANC was for­mu­lated anew in re­ac­tion to the poli­cies of the white na­tion-state: there be­gan the south african­i­sa­tion of the ANC.

Euro­pean cap­i­tal­ism in south­ern Africa did not clip its wings to fit within the white na­tion-state. Ce­cil Rhodes and An­gloAmer­i­can used semi-slave labour of Africans from south­ern Africa to lay the foun­da­tion of South African in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. It was the forced labour power of en­tire south­ern Africa which cre­ated the melt­ing pot called South Africa. The min­ing in­dus­try knit the en­tire south­ern Africa into one econ­omy, with its me­trop­o­lis be­ing the white-con­trolled ci­ties and towns of the new coun­try – South Africa.

I am em­phat­i­cally not propos­ing that Le­sotho, Botswana, Swazi­land, Mozam­bique and the other ex­ist­ing states should be made part of the ex­ist­ing South Africa; I am propos­ing that we form a new union al­to­gether, com­pris­ing all the ex­ist­ing na­tions of south­ern Africa, be­gin­ning first with a Cen­tral Eco­nomic Coun­cil, which shall make in­vest­ment and plan­ning de­ci­sions for en­tire south­ern Africa, which later on can re­sult in po­lit­i­cal uni­fi­ca­tion.

With the wealth of all south­ern Africa put to­gether, this union shall be more pow­er­ful and de­ci­sive in the world econ­omy than Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China, South Africa) – and it shall im­part great power to the par­tic­i­pa­tion of South Africa in Brics. Pro­fes­sor Her­bert Vi­lakazi is an in­de­pen­dent scholar and con­trib­uted this ar­ti­cle in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity. Note: This is the fi­nal ar­ti­cle in a two-part se­ries on this topic. Ref­er­ence works used in this piece have been ac­knowl­edged by the ed­i­tor.

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