Two hundred years on, no group of oppressed people, having liberated themselves from oppression, have ruled themselves successfully. This failure to rule themselves successfully has led their oppressors to suggest a return to oppression. The same failure to rule themselves successfully has led the cynical among them to wonder aloud: when will independence end and liberation be terminated? That failure has encouraged racists of all colours to insist that they can never succeed because they cannot succeed. Against this afro-pessimism visionaries proclaim the possibilities of all human species “to achieve at the rendezvous of history.”
The lack of success is there for all to see. The French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution took place at the same time. In fact the celebrated humanist essayist and cricket funds from Trinidad and Tobago would let us understand that the oppressed of France in collaboration with the oppressed of Haiti were inspired by the desire for liberation. See where the revolutions have led the two countries: France to being one of the most powerful countries of the world and Haiti one of the poorest countries on earth.
Extending the comparison, how come President Macron, who was five years old when the present president of the Cameroon became president, must now receive the obeisance of the Cameroonian President?
African political scientists and philosophers recognise that perhaps attention needs to be paid to the predominance of the trickster culture in all oppressed social formations. By the trickster culture is meant the use of subversion tactics the oppressed perfects in order to survive. The oppressed subverts the order set up in the social formation, organises outside of the institutions that exist and achieves a hand to mouth existence. For the oppressed to survive, the institutions of the social formation must be demolished. Something ad-hoc, for the time being must be created to replace institutions that are in fact the pillars of the oppressive social formation. When the oppressed then overthrows the social formation, which had fostered his or her oppression, what does he put in its place?
The oppressed sets up the same social formation, which she had subverted. But having been used to subversion of any and all social formations, he subverts what he set up and makes a failure of it.
If all Revolutions make space for the rebels behind the Revolution, and so the social formation survives, that of the slaves must differ from all other Revolutions. The English Revolution beheaded the king and restored kingship thereafter. The English social formation continued but modified the power of the king or queen. The American Revolution rejected colonisation but accepted to live with the racial discrimination. The French Revolution proclaimed the equality of all but restored emperor Napoleon who sent soldiers to Haiti to restore slavery. The attempt to restore slavery in Haiti must have fired the terrible genocide to which whites were subjected to in the last years of that Revolution. It was terrible. It was inhuman. And it guaranteed that there would never be slavery again in Haiti. Two hundred years on, there is no slavery but poverty, disease, disorder and material deprivation have been the lot of Haitians. Is it possible to say that in the face of the catastrophe that is the nation-state of Haiti, would slavery have been preferable? Eewoo! Taboo-taboo! Unspeakable and unsupportable.
A new book calls us Africans and others to look at this matter closely once again. The book is entitled Dare Not Linger by Nelson Mandela, Mandela Lang’s and Graça Machel. This book comes out at a point in which the prime instrument of Mandela’s struggle, the African National Congress, is a disgrace to its history. It’s present leadership has opted for corruption and greed and self-destroying political competition as against the beautiful ideals spelt out in the Freedom Charter and the new South African constitution.
Dare Not Linger was the autobiography that Nelson Mandela was working on as he finished his single term of five years. He never finished it. Mandela Langa, a veteran of the South African struggle as well as a renowned novelist has taken the incomplete autobiography along with the extensive notes of the late President and completed the book. Mandela’s widow Graça Machel wrote the prologue.
In contemplating the autobiography Mandela wrote: “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
Will this book answer the question: Did Mandela do enough to ensure that his vision for a liberated South Africa would survive? In a situation in which the rebels as well as those the rebellion was against are complainants, who can forgo the trickster’s chance and affirm the social formation? The product description says that the book is “a vivid and inspirational account of Mandela’s presidency, a country in flux and creation of a new democracy. It tells the extraordinary story of the transition from decades of apartheid rule and the challenges Mandela overcome to make a reality of his cherished vision for a liberated South Africa.”
Whatever the deplorable present situation of the social formation that is South Africa today, before liberation and after liberation are not the same. The demand that both should be the same was the wish of the Belgian general who handed over to Patrice Lumumba the independence of what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is no liberated space that is the same after liberation. But liberated for what purpose?
Is it to placate the defeated oppressors the way Haiti had to borrow money from France to pay France for the destruction of the plantations of slave labour? Or was it to allow the president to grant sunset clauses to the functionaries of the oppressors? Or is it to repair what slavery and apartheid destroyed, the humanity of the African person by ensuring the availability of material comfort? To restore to the African person the enabling space to be human? What did Mandela do wrong to produce a Zuma ANC? This article was first published in October, 2017.