No flies on BLF’s narrative of our future
AT THE Gandhi Square offices of Black First Land First (BLF), I find myself in discussion with their deputy leader, Zanele Lwana.
Two flies on the wall might get different impressions. A deaf fly would think: “Nice, the guy arrives cheerfully. The few people hanging around, not overbusy, welcome him decently. A young woman who could be a model sits him down to explain something urgent.”
A blind fly on the wall would think, “Is this World War III or a death sentence? Why is the guy speaking a language called ‘White Settler Racist Rubbish Narrative’? Has someone called the police?”
Well, my spirits were high, on arriving, because the square was a pleasure. Last time there was dilapidation and debris, broken lifts and stinking loos. Now, it’s clean, picture-postcard cheerful, and full of a warm African welcome in the lift, the office.
Welcomes done, Zanele puts herself behind a kind of high-table, me facing a segment of apron declaring in half-metre-sized letters, STOLEN BY WHITES. She talks engagingly of her great job, teaching biology and natural sciences.
She likes her school, likes her classes, likes the department, which says her politics is her own affair provided she leaves the kids out and delivers good lessons, which is impressive to hear, I find.
Now comes the state of the nation, and things change a bit. For one, volume control turns to max. I recall movies of Hitler addressing the Nuremberg rally. But only once does she scowl, and from the way her colleagues close doors it seems they’re used to stentorian decibels.
It’s about indignity, enslavement, sub-humanity, enslavement, dispossession, enslavement. It’s “reduction to tenants on our own land, the land that defines our dignity, the land that swallows us when we die, the land in which our ancestors are buried but our colonial law says ‘trespass’ when we set our living feet upon it”.
Strictly, I know this, we all do, but refresher courses have value. Zanele’s tirade is earnest. I raise the regular land facts, that South Africa had minimal slavery, and none black Africans, that our 1832 exit from slavery was part of history’s greatest example of a single nation taking a global moral lead. I raise the oddity of demanding more land while land claimants have occupied barely one-hundredth of land already returned.
Each point I raise gets the same first reply, “This is the White Settler Racist Rubbish Narrative”. Several are followed by good, even humbling, responses. That her forefathers weren’t technically “owned” by mine didn’t stop them being chattels in effect. That people don’t try farming patches of uninhabitable land doesn’t mean cramming them into nooks and alleys is okay.
Some of her positions tipple way out of the sanity basket. Take the white settler racist rubbish narrative which begs the question how it was okay for Bantu arriving from the north to subjugate the Khoisan? Her denunciation is as lame as it’s loud: “It’s completely different; all concerned were brother Africans.”
And her lot’s solution? “When we take power, white farmers and companies can give 80% to black people and then we’ll live peacefully. Otherwise we’re entitled to take it all.”
I look forward to her trying to get that past the strong-vote society we’ll get to before long. I’d see her party being an asset then, scaling down their rage, civilising their protests and providing vigorous insurance against complacency.
Leaving to courteous farewells, I’m enjoying knowing someone with whom I can disagree without rancour. Next time we might even lose some narrative adjectives.