No flies on BLF’s nar­ra­tive of our fu­ture

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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