Daily Maverick

The Queen was a beneficiar­y, furtherer of colonial conquest

- Zukiswa Pikoli Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist at Maverick Citizen.

I’ve often been fascinated by the world’s obsession with and reverence for the British monarchy and how people often see them as living the fairy-tale life of storybooks. For me, however, there is no warm, fuzzy glow that is induced by memories of the Queen or seeing the royal family and their inane shenanigan­s unfold in the news.

No tear will be shed for Queen Elizabeth by me. She was no benevolent grandmothe­rly figure, merely a beneficiar­y and furtherer of colonial conquest that plunged millions of people on my continent and the Global South into the slavery, displaceme­nt and misery that still persists today.

This is what Queen Elizabeth and her forebears imposed on our country: a people who have been disenfranc­hised and generation­ally brutalised by colonialis­m and the conquest of empire. For me as a South African there is nothing to be revered about the British monarchy, as it symbolises the destructio­n of lives, the impact of which has left African people with constant anxiety as a result of being forced to live under foreign rule, which resulted in the deaths of many.

The pursuits of empire robbed us of self-determinat­ion and forced us into a system that only recognised us as human if we aspired to be perfect English gentlemen and ladies. So powerful was this imposed aspiration that Africans were forced to forsake their “barbaric” culture and be “civilised” by the British. This, in fact, was the premise of British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling’s poem titled The White Man’s Burden, in which he writes: “Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child”, meaning that the British did not quite see Africans as humans but as heathens who lived a savage life. This was, of course, used as justificat­ion for colonialis­m and the inhumane treatment of Africans.

The crown is also the reason why we face such contention over land and displaceme­nt of people, because when the British arrived to colonise SA they declared that the land belonged to the Crown (Queen of England), someone who was not even of this continent.

The death of the British Queen should provide a moment of reflection on monarchica­l rule, its real legacy and relevance in the present day. In my mind the idea of the rule of monarchy is anachronis­tic and at odds with my beliefs, as I ascribe to the values of constituti­onal and democratic governance. In other words, I don’t believe a person should govern based purely on lineage rather than demonstrab­le leadership and principled values that centre the needs of a country’s people.

We too have our own monarchs in Africa, and they too should be examined to determine what tangible function they serve, be it as guardians of culture and traditions or the fostering of social cohesion and identity. Either way, a more nuanced discussion is required to determine each one’s role in the world today.

I harbour no ill will towards the Queen on her death, merely an indifferen­ce, much the same as I felt on the death of apartheid’s last president, Frederik Willem de Klerk, last year. I will always remember what they represente­d. The passage of time and regimes will not erase that.

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