Don’t let careless words divide us
THE way of the sufferers
We crucified non-racialism on the smouldering cross of betrayed hope in a paradise denied on Jakes Gerwel Drive in Mitchells Plain today.
Recently the residents of the Siqalo informal settlement took their service delivery protests on to Jakes Gerwel Drive.
Their Mitchells Plain neighbours, “fed up” with the debilitating road blockages caused by the protesters, in turn, registered their displeasure.
Social media was, and still is, littered with references to “us” and “them” and the words “kafir” and “malau” found its way from angry hearts and weary, dispirited souls.
A “kafir”, an Arabic word, referred to a person who was aloof to the claims of Islam, hence an unbeliever.
But the incremental value and negative meaning of the word – from its early usage by Muslims dragged here on Dutch and British slave ships to its contemporary use – is contoured by its place in the lexicon of the dispossessed by how Europeans deployed its usage from the position of power.
This word became part of the “othering” of the underclass of this colonial settlement.
All Africans were called by this word and at its most benevolent, regarded as lesser children of God.
Our embrace of Christianity dimmed our love of self as “Turn the other cheek” seduced us into making peace with oppression.
As a child growing up in Elsies, the personal aspect of belief was kept intact by the faith of my mother.
I experienced the Jesus who loved me through the care and support of many in our community.
Steve Biko’s challenge about
“the sin of allowing yourself to be oppressed” led me on to the path of the liberation struggle.
All believers are mandated to stand opposed to anybody who talks about “them” and those who “must go back to where they come from”.
Must I, by that same logic, go back to the India where my father’s DNA locates me because of slavery? Or to Holland, the land of the Verweys, the Christian Europeans who owned those of my lineage, as slaves?
Should I lay claim to land in Angola and beyond, where my
Khoi and San ancestors sojourned thousands of thousand years ago?
We are damned when we can only respond out of fear, and, dare I say, ignorance.
The word “malau” means “bushman”. It is used, dismissively so, to distinguish between the amaXhosa who owned cattle – a sign of wealth – and the San who were hunters and did not own cattle, in contrast to our Khoi forebears who did.
Over a period of warfare and conquest, Khoi and San were assimilated into the Nguni people.
The users of the word “malau” seek to remind us that we are of the bushmen. “Julle dink julle is bietere as ons.”
It is not a nice word, but let us understand its origin and purpose.
We have taken a derogatory term, “bushman”, in the same way young black Americans have reimagined the word “nigger”, and asserted it as a positive.
Our historical masters can never be our teachers. See who benefits from our struggles on the grassroots level.
We must listen to what is being said on social media, after our mosque meetings and what is prayed for at our prayer meetings; our gossip across the gate or at the bus stop and then seek ways of engaging each other.
We talk, says Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, to our enemies and not only with those with whom we agree.
Hopefully this would lead us to where we can all stand on the same side, in the same trenches, in the same struggle against the devil and the evil it spawns such as poverty, gangsterism, racism and for a just share in the wealth of the land.
A struggle for bread and roses for all of us in a commonwealth where the only “them” are those who do not love their children and the future we build today.