This draft essay is part of my Notes for The House of Plenty*, a collection of interviews, articles, poems and other insights highlighting the confluences, interconnections and potential convergences of struggles and potentialities in the Southern African Developmental Community. While the primary focus is on the Creative and Cultural industries, as a matter of necessity we shall also deal with economics, politics and relationships.
The Essence of Revolution
Some of my best friends are revolutionaries. It is quite a daunting calling, some may say it is a necessity or even a res[responsibility. Revolutionary engagement is something that one enters into almost voluntarily and usually without expectation of any compensation, except of course for the realization of ones mission. When I was ‘rising’ as a young Rastafarian in the late nineties and early 2000’s, I would read a lot about Afrika’s various struggle or liberation heroes from the pre- and post-independence era. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Queen Ndzinga, Nana Yaa Ashantewaa/Muhumusa, Sol Plaatje, Marcus Garvey were among them. Yet I was fascinated by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I … One of the key phrases that Haile Selassie I would frequently use in His speeches was “Collective Security”; I really wanted to understand fully what this term meant in practical ways. While studying towards my Marketing management diploma at the then Natal Technikon, now named Steve Biko campus at the Durban University of Technology, I would spend more time reading Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and other Afrikan writers in the library, but books on the Rasta God-King were very rare, even among the Rasta’s themselves. What was readily available was a journal called JAHUG …and this could be found among Rasta’s of various mansions and walks of life. Among the most scholarly and zealously revolutionary Rasta’s I came know in the township I was born in, was Ras Mxolisi, called Ras Judah or simply Judah; this was of course his proto-Israelite name as most Rasta’s were known by their ‘Tribe’ ( expand); his real name is Mxolisi Majola and he has since followed in his father’s calling and became initiated as a Healer or Inyanga. Judah had the books. I would spend countless hours at his home devouring all the esoteric and political material he had in his library. I was developing my own sense of being as a Spiritual being as well as a Socio-Political activist. Majola’s books made me feel as if I was waisting precious time at school. Yet unlike many other Rasta’s this man was a qualified Civil Engineer and instead of labellng the schooling system, Babylon brainwashing, he encouraged me to get my qualifications and contribute to the ‘Collective Struggle’ to free Afrika from its chains, among which ignorance was the main culprit. He insisted that we Need knowledge of self as much as we need the technological skills presented in those white owned institutions and we must know that as Haile Selassie I always said, we are the government of the future, we are the heads of state of tomorrow and Malcolm X taught us to prepare for that future today.
So Mxolisi Majola had everything from the Ethiopic Book of Henok/Enoch, the Egyptian Book of the Dead ( The Book of Coming Forth From Night Into Day); the coveted Power of the Psalms, the esoteric Keys of Solomon as well as numerous copies of the aforementioned JAHUG. Unlike many others, Judah was not stingy with his books or even the sharing of knowledge, for many nights we would share a steam chalice of Ganja herbs and delicious ital stews prepared by his wife and we would reason about Afrikan history, presence and future prospects, he would explain why he transitioned from being a political activist into a more spiritual existence without really losing sight of the revolutionary imperatives or pressing matters of the day. He taught me that while today is important, we must not be too attached to temporary solutions, but build the capacity of individuals who can one day contribute to a better society. We also spoke about Rastafari developments and lack thereof, about philosophy, magik and what is required to liberate Afrika or the whole Black world from colonial chains. The question of Revolution and Collective Security came up many times. What I got from the eloquent and patiently articulate rastafari elder was that , it was all a matter of contexts. What Rastafari or Haile Selassie I meant in the 1930’s, 40s and 50’s had a lot to do with securing a place for Ethiopia in the then League of Nations and ensuring that His nation was protected from the many aggressors or invaders. But what the term meant in the 60s and 70’s had a lot to do with a Pan-Afrikanist vision of a strong continental and global Afrikanist alliance or partnership to secure political, economic and cultural sovereignty for the newly or soon to be liberated countries. Suffice to say that Ras Mxolisi Judah Majola was/is a staunch Pan-Africanist and a member of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania. Since things have been far from ideal for the PAC since 1994, many members had gravitated towards AZAPO, BCP/M and even the ANC, some quit political activity all together and chose to stay vocal only on social media and even to censor themselves. Being conscious Afrikans, it is difficult to not be involved in any sort of political activity. The conditions for the Afrikan are enough motivation to become involved in some way or the other. the poverty, landlessness and lack of quality education – the whole system appears to be dysfunctional and the two words – the collective and the security seem rather dreamy and elusive at times. Black people in general exist in conditions of constant insecurity.
Even though there are several institutions that exist to deal with the visions of Afrika’s total liberation and self-realization, it is clear to many that the Afrikan-Union, Pan Afrikanist Parliarment and the scores of Nationalist, Leftists political parties and organisations are not achieving their missions sufficiently. They are not united in their purpose, premise and methods, yet many of their leaders purport to be students of the Revolution, they or we all claim to be dedicated to the freeing of the Black masses from the tyranny of white racism and self-loathing.
Each party, each country, each region and each business entity appears to be pulling away from collectivist or communal responsibility. We are all claiming to serve Afrika, but many of us are either students of French, Russian or European revolutions. We pay lip-service to the Haitian revolution and the Cuban revolutionary pros and cons. It seems as if once a person tows the socialist or Marxist ideological line, she or he must defend anything that is done in those countries, without properly listening to the ground or considering facts as they are. It has become a matter of ‘the enemy of my friend is my enemy’, even if the friend has long ago abandoned the cause of friendship or the basic principles of whatever revolutionary line were.
We hear talk of Sankarisms, some love Nyerere and Nkrumah or Garvey and Lembede, but really and truly worship Lenin and Marx and Mao. The worst part is that the former liberation movements have since independence from colonial rule, plunged into complex and utter states of corruption and depravity. While revolutionary writers have written many brilliant works warning against the traps and trappings of neo-colonialism, the majority of the political class, made up of many men and women who used to be activists while they were younger, have now become gatekeepers in the new colonial masters house. The noise we hear and see on social media has hardly ever been turned into serious civil disobedience, insurrection – let alone revolution.