The Quest for a Non-Racial South African Society!

In response to the National Question, ‘blacks in general and Africans in particular’!

 

It is in the period since 1994 that we have the collective task of giving content to the non-racial social paradigm; therefore perhaps the time has come to remythologise the identifiers for the collective SA citizenry.

 

It is said if we are going to appreciate our collective future we must attempt looking at the past that shaped our present. Yet the looking at the past will quickly unearth a past in pasts and a past understood in a more recent past. That recent past spans the democratic era.

 

This musing argues for an opportunity for the South African citizenry to articulate a self-defined identity in democracy; such a self-concept for identity is anchored with the intent of living a meaning-filled life.

 

I shall argue the first step in remythologising the current identity markers of the South African societal expression is for human agents who embody its content and structure to claim and demand the opportunity to construct their identity. Equally such self-concept must be freed from the overwhelmingly uncritical acceptance of race as its primary premise.

 

Equally the markers for identity in democracy have been uncritically appropriated and internalised as permeating all spheres of our societal expression. Thus the identity markers are drawn as constructed from an unequal SA past.

 

I light my proverbial candle from the flame of Anton Gramsci as we begin this conversation on race immanent in ‘black’ and ‘African’ as a nation in transitioning from the toxic combination of colonialism and apartheid.

 

Gramsci on the subject of societal transitioning reminds us that transitions are the most painful and dangerous periods in the life of a nation because the old is not yet dead and the new has not yet been born. In South Africa the transition from an earlier colonial and more recent apartheid State(s) sees the espoused non-racial reality and race-free identity of a Democratic State as pregnant, yet not born. The old race rhetoric for identity formulation and configuration proves terminal yet refuses to die.

 

In order to appreciate my wrestling with the efficacy of interpretation of what constitutes political identities evidenced in ‘black and African’ as articulated in the **Umrabulo** on the National Question, 23, 2005, I am consciously compelled by way of introduction first to relook at the notion of ‘black’ as used in description of “general”. The cultural studies scholar Barker notes, “Identity is best understood not as a fixed entity but as an emotionally charged discursive description of ourselves that is subject to change”.

 

A promise to my late father

 

Let me therefore put my disclaimer upfront, I irrevocably remain to a greater degree eternally indebted to my late father who when I was merely 16 years old chose to introduce me to the subject of self-define. He took the liberty to engage me in a conversation which at the time I did not fully understand nor had the appetite for. His words were simple but poignant: “I won’t tell you who you are, all I request is when you do find out who you are, afford no one the luxury of ever attempting to define you”. These words over time gained intensity and relevance as I continued to journey through life.

 

True to the educator he was, with his astute mind he had me commit to this when I had no true comprehension of what he was saying. From that moment I have taken exception to anyone who remotely attempted to define me. It became my lifelong pursuit to self-define. If I understood my dad correctly, he had the foresight and understanding to distinguish that whilst I am a product of his loins that did not afford him an inalienable right to deny me the opportunity and right to self-define.

 

This first seedling became the premise for my later academic research work on the current challenges of the National Question in this time.

 

I am consciously not black!

 

My conscious dissonance and incongruence with ‘black’ for an identity marker for myself has very little to do with a superfluous denial of how mixed my blood protests. It equally has nothing to do with a form of shame as some ANC and even fellow African intellectuals or leaders have pontificated that for example ‘Coloureds’ must embrace their blackness. (Interesting enough this confirmed demand is never made of Indians, as if Indians have remained pure since they arrived in SA, but that is a topic for another day). It equally is not a denial of the role Black Consciousness and its twin Black Power from across the Atlantic Divide played in the liberation narrative of South Africa in a particular period.

 

Neville Alexander assists us when he in arguably his last published work in 2013 asserts “…societies and the global village have changed so radically that to continue to analyse and describe things as though we were still in 1848 or 1948 or even 1984 is to be woefully blind and self-defeating”. When Alexander remonstrates for a new vocabulary, it is more than prophetic since we appear stuck in the quagmire and paradigm of analysing and describing things not cognisant how much has changed. In the same vein we analyse and describe people with markers for their identity configured with the unscientific race-based notion more than seventy years after eugenics was declared defunct.

 

Nina Jablonski helps us to appreciate the evolution of race as a formal construct when she articulates the following: “the first person to formally define races was the noted philosopher Immanuel Kant who in 1785 classified people into four fixed races, which were arrayed in a hierarchy according to colour and talent. Kant had scant personal knowledge of human diversity but opined freely about the tastes and finer feelings of groups about which he knew nothing”.

 

Jablonski continues to assert that “for Kant and his many followers, the rank-ordering of races by skin color and character created a self-evident order of nature that implied that light- colored races were superior and destined to be served by the innately inferior, darker–colored ones”.

 

My research entitled “Black Identity and experience in Black Theology: A critical assessment” is a rational attempt at questioning the usage of the epithet ‘black’ from a socio-historical and theological perspective. In such I have made the case that the marker black for a people’s identity is plausibly not originating from those who are today black. In such research I have postulated that there appears a conflation of identity and experience with the adoption of black for a denotation for a people’s humanity.

 

I further argue that perhaps people were subjected to a black experience at the hand of those who wanted their false white supreme identity to count, until people became what they were subjected to.

 

Having attempted to deal with the borrowed identity marker of ‘black’ in comfort of exchange between the USA and South Africa in a particular season and time captured as 1960s to late 1970s, I have concluded that the construct as used in black theology remains one uncritically borrowed from that experience. I have further contended that when Stokeley Carmichael stood up at Berkeley California in 1969 and declared with a clenched fist BLACK POWER he was not defining black, but attempting to define a responsive power. The construct black already existed and those for whom this identity marker became their being, had very little to do with the origin of the construct.

 

…Black in general and African in particular… conundrum

 

In **Umrabulo** 23 of 2005, a cardinal aspect of the National Question is articulated as “the liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular”. This articulation, later policy and ultimately law, has shaped the ANC in philosophy, governance, resource allocation/distribution, attention to detail for a mandate of governance and attitude.

 

Perhaps we must also at this stage in an adumbrated sense allude to the linkage between the National Question and what has been termed the “developmental state”. The notion of a developmental state advances a “National Democratic Revolution” which in turn must answer the following identified 5 key aspects as articulated in **Umrabulo** 23: Page 34:

 

  • To firstly liberate black people in general, and Africans in particular.
  • The struggle to evidence and bring about a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united South Africa.
  • To search and work for the unitary South African Nation with a common overarching identity.
  • To work for the eradication and resolve of antagonistic contradictions between black and white.
  • To deal with ethnic oriented, race-filled feelings of any form of ethnic chauvinism.

 

We equally must not shy away from admitting that the diaphragm for that theoretical platform in prevalence is an accepted Marxist dialect in custodianship. One may therefore ask what happened when the famous Berlin wall collapsed in 1989. It appears that more than the constructed wall came down and the residue of that destruction still envelopes the ANC, because of the influence of Marxism-Leninism that has over a long period been the backbone of the ANC’s ideological identity architecture. Hence we now attest in this season an opaqueness of ideological presence and direction.

 

It would appear at the heart of what is deemed the National Question must be the search for a coherence of social and political realities and life out of a history of colonial and apartheid rule, in a confined geographic space regardless of persuasion or preference if we understand politics to confirm the organising of a society.

 

In his definition of an ideology of Black Nationalism Dexter B Gordon asserts, “the ideology of black nationalism emphasizes black self definition and self-determination in contrast to the continuing efforts of white Anglo America to define blacks and determine their role in the debate about race.”

 

The Democratic State’s uncritical adoption of the National Question.

 

Perhaps this uncritical adoption of a National Question has us looking at our collective future through the limited review mirror of our past.  When one asserts a limited review it is in recognition of the fact that the 1910 Segregation / Colonial State and the 1948 Apartheid State identified their respective clients. Following a serious of commissions the obnoxious 1913 Native Land Act entrenched that political identity determined for a people by the 1910 Segregation/ Colonial State. In a similar vein Act 30 of 1950 Section C, defined a people that always existed as ‘Coloured’.

 

Deborah Posel reminded us, “The architects of apartheid racial classification policies recognised explicitly that racial categories were constructs, rather than descriptions of essences”. It would appear whilst apartheid’s architects of racial classification explicitly recognised racial categories as constructs, the democratic state with its policies appear to be attaching a description of essence though directly eked out of these apartheid constructs. If racial policy categorisation constituted mere constructs then they can be subjected to question and their relevance can be challenged, particularly in a different time and space.

 

Not only was their choice of ‘Coloured’ to identify a people ambivalent, but equally the very filling of that content is anchored in otherness. Thus the construct ‘Coloured’ remains dubious and laced in ulterior motive. It attests an otherness from those who thought themselves ‘white’ and superior, yet it also was an otherness that separated those they defined as ‘Coloured’ from those the Colonial State in 1913 defined as ‘Natives’.

 

Thus a systematic and careful analysis of the apartheid mind on what is a ‘Coloured’ is laid bare whilst a false identity is created, propped up by the claims of otherness. This otherness later will mature in the very group when they too become blinded into acceptance of filling the content of their identity with an otherness.

 

It is thus troublesome that the Democratic State accepts an identity marker for this group. We must still find out what the aim of the Democratic State is with embracing these notions of ‘Coloured’, ‘black’, ‘Indian’ and ‘white’ beyond the coagulum of a claim of redress. It cannot be that the Democratic State shares the epicentre and circumference congruent to the apartheid state.

 

Alexander extrapolates further on the back of what Posel concludes: “that, because of the life-and-death seriousness with which the apartheid strategists and ideologues viewed the issue of race, their attention to detail brought them face to face with the anomalies and idiosyncrasies of racial identities”.

 

Even if one understands the logic of the Democratic State of 1994, to identify its constituents in a moribund and mellifluous sense, we nevertheless did expect the Democratic State to afford an opportunity to self-define. The Democratic State thus could have lit its candle from the same vein of my late father’s foresight to recognise my inalienable right as a 16 year old to self-define, and in equally in line with Alexander’s call for a new vocabulary.

We thus find the Democratic State in harmony and sanguinity with both the Segregation and Apartheid States for its identity configurations of its citizenry. This is a clear contradiction from where I stand.

 

As South Africans we must utilise the right to engage in an open and transparent conversation to develop the much-needed new vocabulary, freed from constricted and lame constructed colonial and apartheid racist ideology premises.

 

 

It has to be cause for great concern that the Democratic State, even if it justifies it on the grounds that it is necessary to measure and ascertain the quantitative index for change and transformation have continued in that same trajectory as its predecessors.

 

I have elsewhere contended that the Democratic State should stand by the principle and tradition of the 1955 Freedom Charter (our Magna Carta) that articulates unequivocally ‘we the people’ in the context of hosting conflated groups.

 

It is therefore perhaps time to begin to ask how plausible, widely canvassed, honest in pensive reflection, practical in sustainability is the National Question in its articulated form? Also can a leading political party with a mandate to govern continue along this uncritical embrace of a National Question?

 

 

Mbeki’s speech and the ANC’s National Question in dialectic tension

There is an undeniable dialectic tension between what the ANC articulates as the National Question and the progressive humanitarian values embodied in Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech.

The former contradicts the notion of a constitutionality of what makes for an African and equally reduces the identity of African to a specific group. We thus stand before the reality of either rejecting “I am an African” as at best a mythical poetic expression if we are going to honestly reflect on and critique the national question in the South African revolution. We can no longer continue the attempt to make both stand.

 

Slabbert comments that in the book **Africa Define Yourself**, a compilation of Mbeki’s speeches edited by Essop Pahad and Willie Esterhuyse, Mbeki fails to in a serious sense address the challenges he raises on the African identity.

 

I concur with Slabbert when he asserts that as soon as one uses the term ‘Africa’ or ‘African’ for more than just uncomplicated geographic references, one enters a world of value-loaded and ideological agendas where arguments can become so convoluted that one may choke on one’s own assumptions.

 

Another challenge we are confronted with is the uncertainty as to who defines the identity of ‘African’. We are simply not clear if this is directly borrowed from a constricted history in which apartheid minds declared this identity and exacted a suffering measurable to the degree it determined.

 

Furthermore it appears the challenge with upholding the binary distinction of general and in particular is its ontology of racist practice leading to a form of eschatology of racist practice. Regardless of whether the idea of ‘Africans’ is used as an exclusive or inclusive term, it fundamentally informs societal interaction at all levels as a trapped identity in a scripted history of colonialism and more so apartheid.

 

I am not alone in holding this stance. To quote Van Zyl Slabbert, “of die regering die begrip ‘Afrikaan’ in ‘n ekslusiewe of inklusiewe sin gebruik, het egter wel ‘n regstreekse impak op beleid and help vorm die interaksie tussen die verskillende gemeenskappe”. Loosely translated, Slabbert asserts, irrespective of the State’s usage of the construct ‘African’ in an exclusive or inclusive sense it has direct impact on legislation and assists in defining interaction between communities.

 

It thus cannot be that the term ‘African’ in a postmodern democratic state is used as a means to justify opportunity, chance and moment exclusive to those who do not share the determined African claim for an identity marker, when we have not engaged the construct ‘African’ in calmness and honesty of mind and heart.

 

If we earlier asked who determined the African identity, we now must ask what informed the content for an African identity in the National Question?

 

Fundamental errors in relation to the National Question.

It would appear to me that the National Question as articulated by the ANC commits at least five immediate and perhaps fundamental errors.

 

Firstly it uncritically gives credence and veracity to the false race informed identity markers for people who are South Africans however culturally, socially and politically defined. If read in concert with the struggle for a non-racial society, it uncritically continues with the debunked and unscientific notion of race as the anchor tenant for identity configuration, albeit in using race as a social construct. One would hope the burden is on us as a collective to challenge the veracity of the notion of a ‘social construct’ usage at this time in our history.

 

Secondly, it conveniently engages in what is called a form of exceptionalism if not separatism. Exceptionalism, because in the National Question the term ‘African’ is rendered an apartheid convenient exclusive identity. Separatism, because the black is separated from the African with exacted pain as the premise. One who suffered under that brutality of an apartheid regime can never be accused of making light of the exacted pain, yet to uncritically accept and adopt apartheid’s myopic classification of an African identity as the yardstick to define a people in exclusion of others in a democracy regardless of exacted pain for the measurement of progress must militate against the known inclusivity of an Africa in geographic setting.

 

Thirdly, it continues in the trajectory of the exacted pain in configuring people’s group and individual identities out of the entitled residue of an Apartheid state.

 

Fourthly, it is devoid of careful analysis and of objective scrutiny; thus it narrowly promotes the excluding of people in the ‘African’ identity definition, when the African identity warrants a thorough and not an emotional unpacking.

 

And finally, it inadvertently engages in what I have termed identity- doublespeak when it espouses a yet to be filled non – racial reality whilst it denies firstly the opportunity to engage in public facilitated sense the subject identity construction. It as a by-product of the denial of a state facilitated initiative for self-define, a critical aspect of our collective liberation narrative to be buoyant in a democratic atmosphere and space.

 

Our questions.

We thus raise questions relating in particular to the use of the term ‘African’ in the ANC’s understanding of the National Question. These questions emanate from its origin, and its ethnographic loadedness.

Perhaps we have a right to know from the propagators of the National Question in whose interest is the assumed and veiled need for a form of intellectual hegemony for a precise understanding on the National Question.

Can we establish who and what determines the African identity as articulated in the National Question? When Umrabulo gives us the National Question we are compelled to ask, exactly who determined the description, term and construct?

We must also ask when the ANC excludes others from identifying as Africans, what is the yardstick used to come to that conclusion? To put it bluntly, is it different from Apartheid?

We need to know is the statement of an African identity as used in the National Question, a statement of ideology advanced as a statement of fact? If an ideology from where, if a statement of fact how?

We want to know if blackness is only defined by or in relationship to whiteness, and whether African-ness is only defined by our counter to European-ness?

We also must ask is this African identity espoused in the National Question as articulated assuming a geographic or ethnographic context? If it is geographic how then can others however defined be excluded?

If it is ethnographic how does that make sense of fellow Africans who have made their way from as far as Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria into South Africa’s borders? If these our fellow Africans who clearly have definite links with Italy and France as a form of claimed origin and home are Africans how are the ‘blacks’ from the Southland in the National Question denied an equal African Identity?

Are we to assume our brothers and sisters from the aforementioned Africans States and those from Ethiopia, Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal are also Africans in the same myopic sense as apartheid defined a people when it thought it correct to exact a suffering exemplified in the debasing of others because it wanted its false ‘white’ superior identity to count?

Our conclusion

In conclusion, if we understand the key tenets for a developmental state and the essence of the National Question as understood within the 5 pillars that make up the National Question; and if we appreciate its historically known Marxist dialect of engaging a past with the hope of eking out a tomorrow; then we cannot but accept its relevance in claim for redress.

 

Yet whilst we may acknowledge the relevance of such we are compelled to ask in this season how sustainable is the national question with its black in general and African in particular notion when it therefore excludes one from claiming an African identity of being, which one rightfully identifies with from an uncomplicated birth-right geographic reference disposition.

 

Is it not then fair to ask has the National Question in 2016 not divided us in apartheid anthropology, thought life practice and perhaps unwittingly doomed us to a future of a confirmed race-laden and thus by extension racist SA?

 

I do not purport to have the answers, yet I am compelled to give expression to these my musings in the hope of finding the path that will let the ideals of my full humanity count, devoid of my history in which colonialism and apartheid states took the liberty and latitude to define me. This would be distinct from my current situation in which a democratic state refuses to break with the same racist labels of my common humanity. I dream of making my full humanity count in harmony of my self-defined identity and a future emancipated from the burden of a race label.

 

If I have overstated anything it is purely due to the fact that I carry an immense burden placed upon me as committed to my late father not to permit anyone to attempt to define me, once I have discovered who I am. I am further more persuaded that I too have to let my three growing sons have that right to self define as sacrosanct, thus I am obligated to challenge us all to engage the subject of identity as articulated in an ANC National Question.

 

It would appear we must rise beyond the proverbial picket fences of romanticising about an uncritical black identity, and less so in a lyrical soliloquy of an African identity when the latter is seldom engaged honestly and with definite intent to give content to the non-racial identity notion. It is here I dare caution that we run the risk of what McWhorter calls victimology, where we deem it our inalienable right to red flag ‘whites’ on their hardening racist attitudes when we in doublespeak refuse to honestly engage our own anomalies of identity construction and re-configuration in post-apartheid society.

 

Whilst I portend to have found my seminal voice on the rejection of  ‘black’ configuration for my identity, I am now in pursuit to test the efficacy of how I am denied my claim to be an African. It appears the road to this end for the latter must needs go through the proverbial biblical Samaria where I am denied to claim it at least in the National Question because someone unilaterally has declared me ‘black’ without my permission and equally in exclusion of being African without my consultation, at the hand of apartheid anthropology and identity construction.

 

I must therefore ask beyond the poetic expression, and license Mbeki took in 1996 to attempt defining the African identity he understood it to be, why I am not an African if the exacted claim of degree of suffering under a brutal system of apartheid is not the yardstick?

 

The obligation to afford South Africans an opportunity to self-define is upon us less in romantic claim but in seriousness of the hour to give content to the non-racial identity and reality so easily claimed. Self-define is a right and that right must count particularly in democracy.

 

Was Mbeki’s cry purely poetic never to be filled with content? Is the non-racial notion also a mirage that remains opaque and bereft of content? Furthermore in whose interest is this uphold of racist identity markers for our collective human agency of ‘black’, ‘coloured’, ‘Indian’ and ‘white’? For these regardless of viewed from what side intrinsically remain relational terms that carry racist loadedness because in south they mean more than cultural distinctiveness but attests economic value.

 

We then must hear Alexander when he warns us against analysing and describing things and may I add people as if we are still in 1848, 1948 or 1984.

 

For how long can we consciously continue with the malfunctioning out-dated race-based configurations for identity markers and classifications for a common South African citizenry? How much longer can we engage in what I labelled identity doublespeak in which we espouse a non-racial reality when we live in all aspects of societal a race-infested South African life in democracy?

 

Let it be known today, as always I am African!

Clyde Nicholas Stephen Ramalaine

October 31, 2016

References

  1. Alexander, N.E: 2013: **Thoughts on the New South Africa.** Auckland Park Jacana Media Publishers
  2. Barker, C: 2008: **Cultural Studies Theory and Practice**. London: SAGE Publications
  3. Brockman, J, ed. 2015: **This idea Must Die: Scientific Theories that are blocking progress.** (Edge Question series) paperback – February 17, 2105 (Pages 80-83).
  4. Gordon, D. B: 2003: **Black Identity – Rhetoric, Ideology and Nineteenth Century Black Nationalism**, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville.
  5. Gramsci, A: **The Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935**.
  6. Maylam, P: 2001: “South Africa’s Racial Order: Some historical Reflections ‘ (a paper presented at the conference on the burden of race “Whiteness and Blackness in Modern South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 001)
  7. Mbeki, T. M: 1996 ‘I am an African’: http: //www.anc.org.za.
  8. McWhorter, J. 2000: **Loosing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America**. New York: The Free Press.
  9. Posel, D: 2001: ‘Race as Common Sense: Racial Classification in Twentieth Century South Africa’, **African Studies Review**, 44 1 (2001) 87- 113, 109,
  10. Ramalaine, C.N.S: 2015: **Black Identity and Experience in Black Theology: A Critical Assessment** NWU University
  11. Slabbert, F.V: 2006: **Duskant die Geskiedenis, ‘n Persoonlike Terugblik op die politieke oorgang in Suid Afrika**, Tafelberg, Jonathan Ball Uitgewers
  12. **Umrabulo** 23: 2005: The National Question, ANC Publication 2005. http://www.anc.org.za

 

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Victims? Or people conscious in their choices for religious freedom?

Victims? Or people conscious in their choices for religious freedom?

 

– Is our claim of others as victims and abused not attesting our intolerance-

 

It can be argued all if not most traditions we uncritically treasure today immanent in religious expression were at some time in our past considered strange, unacceptable, inhumane, and abusive as first practices. It must perhaps first be accepted that the practising of a faith persuasion or religion imbibes the notion of gullibility and acceptance of what is considered strange if not untenable for others.

 

We are back here and it appears we have learnt very little from the previous incidents of 2015 The most recent incident of a 24-year-old Pastor from Limpopo who sprayed congregants and those who visited his Mt. Zion General Assembly service with doom as a means to demonstrate demon exorcising brings us again to engage what we perhaps thus far have been avoiding.

 

Today we are increasingly confronted with the fundamental question of who decides for people they are abused or render them victims in ignorance when they exercise their right to freedom of association as it relates to an association with a specific religion?

 

Let me then in the beginning nail my colours to the mast, off course I am dead against spraying people with doom, like I am against instructing people to eat rats, snakes, grass or drink petrol. No different to allow people to lay flat and have a ‘prophet’ walk all over them. I am equally against many other accepted practices in all religious formations that have come to define church in the 21st Century. Some of them uncritically accepted and seldom questioned.

 

We have seen an ever-increasing series of occurring incidents or shall I call them ‘first practices’ that may over time become full practices, despite our collective outpouring of disgust be it from human rights or theological tradition premise, these practices flair up from time to time. Our collective condemning of these incidents remains challenging particularly when constitutional rights diaphragm of freedom of religious association is made to stand. We thus find ourselves vacillating between constitutional rights, norms and unacceptable practices / traditions that we as society have come to accept over time.

 

In each of the incidents recorded since last year the CRL has been rightfully very vocal, yet notwithstanding the vocal condemnation, the CRL finds itself almost having to beg “victims” to come forward.

 

What does this tell us, it perhaps tells us despite the CRL’s condemnation and inviting of ‘victims’ to come forward, notwithstanding all the passionate requests none has come forward, to lend the CRL its constitutional power in mandate to act against an individual or religious leader that instigate the crime.

 

Perhaps the CRL as I have said in November 2015, must attempt not to be seen to be blindly preoccupied with the Christian Faith and its new or foreign expressions, but consider the practices, traditions, and norms of others within the Christian and every other religious expression in order to appreciate a considered opinion on what is acceptable and why. We must desist the knee-jerk reactionary responses and perhaps make the time to consider the religious plateau of SA in traditions and customs.

 

Not so long ago social media was abuzz when some felt it not right to have anyone pay R4500 per person to attend a single service of a USA based Bishop TD Jakes. Some expressed grave reservations and disgust at the organisers for charging people to attend an ordinary church service. There was an outright uproar in claims of the people are ignorant, abused and victims. One person who had paid for his ticket confirming he was going to attend the event put it cogently ‘I am not spending your money, why are you worrying that I am abused, I do this knowing what I am doing and I can spend my money anywhere I would prefer, I do not dictate where you spend yours.

 

This mouthful said two things for me, one the person was definitely not ignorant, did not see, or regard himself abused or a victim. Instead he was exercising his rights in consciousness therefore emphatic in not needing a self-appointed champion, however defined to protect him from a claimed greedy abusive bishop or organizers. This person made this choice not as so called rural uninformed and lack in intelligence frame. What was indisputable was that nobody was forcing him to spend this kind of money on an event attendance.

 

 

Not so long ago we had another case when Pastor Alph Lukau from Alleluia Ministries put up an event for single women in which they had to pay an amount to attend. Their paying of this fee was seen as a ‘seed-offering’ for a future husband. Again the media had coverage on this in which many condemned this as a moneymaking racket in which the single ladies were abused and thus rendered helpless victims. Yet many women interviewed who live in upmarket Johannesburg as educated, self-supporting and economically active individuals expressed the same sentiment as the gentleman in the Bishop TD Jakes case event.

 

I still hold the view that the people in both cited instances must be respected for their conscious adult choices and we must desist the temptation of trying to act as self-appointed adjudicators even overbearing parents of others equal to us in treating them as helpless children, who are susceptible to abuse and victimhood at the turn of every corner.

 

As the earlier cases highlighted, we dealing with confirmed consciousness on the part of those who were willing to pay, why can’t we respect the consciousness of those who participate in these practices strange for us yet normal for them.

 

 

It’s here that we have to ask some tough questions. Can we really call people victims in this instance, what is the legitimate frame for this victim claim? Who determines their victimhood? Or should we not accept they practice their freedom of association immanent in religious practice consciously? If not consciously according to us, who and what determines the premise for arguing these believers are being abused? Are we also going to attempt to police in claim of victims and abuse people the rights of people to give their money to their religious structures, programmes, initiatives?

 

It is clear we haven’t learnt there exist a dialectic tension between what we understand our constitution presents itself in rights, in this instance the freedom to associate in religious practices, and what we as citizens often find unacceptable as norms with ourselves as the base for such assessment. It appears those who raise their voices against this actualization of a human right uncritically assume the people who participate in these ‘unconventional practices’ are not in sanity making these choices, but are victims therefore helpless as abused, illiterate, incapable to rationally think as individuals, when they eat grass, drink petrol or have them sprayed with a pesticide.

 

 

We claim the people who got sprayed with doom had their human rights violated, we claim their lives are at risk and they are being put in harms way. Perhaps the harms way may be true if we accept that doom is poisonous, yet we do not accept they made these as conscious choices.

 

A close examination of most religious practices across a broad spectrum of faith expressions quickly leaves us almost hypocritical when we can accept the practicing of equally untenable and life threatening practices in some faiths without raising an eyebrow.

 

 

Permit me to cite a classic example of such, namely fire-walking which was also practiced in classical Greece, India and China, a religious ceremony practiced in many parts of the world including the Indian subcontinent Malaya, Japan, China, Fiji Islands, Tahiti, Spain etc, is practiced also in South Africa. Equally we have religious practices that see people having their tongues gravely pierced with needles and pins as a means of their faith persuasion.

There are many faith groups who practice the handling of poisonous serpents, scorpions, and other reptiles as a key aspect of their faith. They extract these from their sacrosanct Scriptures in which it is categorical one may pick up these with no fear they that they may harm one if you have the faith for it. We normally refer to these groups as sects, yet every mainline church today was at some time in history considered a sect.

 

 

Some religious persuasions compels the eating of blood, at the slaughtering of an animal, for others an absolute no. These practices naturally would fall into the category of inflicting pain, harming the body and could bring about even death. Can we place these as acceptable traditions, which pose no threat to the lives and human rights of the individuals who participate in such? If these are accepted as normal, not offensive and no hullabaloo is made of it, why do we find comfort in them and fail to fulfil the same vocal custodian role of self-appointed adjudicators over the participants choice.

 

Not to belabour the point other faiths have baptisms, be it in sprinkling of water (rantizo) on infants or the submerging of the full soma (baptiso) of adults, often these take place in swimming pools and rivers, where we see people drown. Baptism for that particular faith persuasion presents a cardinal aspect of their faith, yet baptism by itself presents the possibility of loss of life and poses thus a threat. Have we ever questioned why frankincense as used by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Israelites and numerous cultures as religious rite is used at funerals in a modern society where bodies are embalmed. Off course the argument will be made its harmless, as an aroma with many other benefits, yet that is not the subject, the subject is the practice of waving it in church may have been in its historic ontology be seen to be offensive and strange even unorthodox, yet we over time have come to accept that as standard for some faiths. We must ask how we have come t accept these practices which today are century old tradition and norms that are seldom questioned. Fasting is practiced by most faiths and often people are subjected to 21 – 40 days of fasting, we have had casualties in this regard. Are we to consider fasting a violation of the human rights of those whose religion prescribes it? Annually Muslims who can afford leave on a holy pilgrimage for Mecca where they amongst others participate in the throwing of stones at the devil. That may be questioned for some as not intelligent behaviour, yet more so we have seen people die in Mecca because of the stampede. How will we deal with these are human rights practices?

 

I guess I am trying to argue, do we not miss it when we rush to conclude congregants of these church formations evidenced in what we term strange practices are abused, therefore victims and necessarily must be helped because they are not exercising their conscious choices but are misled? Are we not acting as self- appointed adjudicators over the religious practices and traditions of others in which we afford ourselves the right to want to think on behalf of them from the comfort of our own uncritical religious prisms?

 

Can we not honestly interpret the fact that not one individual despite the many calls thus far has come forward to complain, as a sign and confirmation of their conscious choices in participating in these practices? If we are a true democratic and constitutional society why are we so intolerant to others out of our understanding of what is an acceptable religious practice, norm and even a tradition.

 

By what power do we feel it our inalienable right to want to direct them when we have over time come to accept religious practices that equally may prove challenging in threat of harming and life.

 

Does the state, or the organs of state such as the CRL therefore have a right to prescribe what this victimhood and abuse in a religious practice entails- if so how? Do we need a hegemony of understanding on what the right to religious freedom of association entails, if so why? Are we not perhaps seeing for the evidence of a glaring disjuncture between the aggressive egalitarian constitutional expression of SA’s immanent in rights in clash and contest of the reality of a society that is still seeking to free itself from a role of chaperoning and guiding others in their rights from the upkeep of a dominant vocal group almost in an apartheid or colonial sense?

 

It would seem if we take serious the subject of protection of human rights, we will to attempt to prove consistent in challenging equally the very ones we have come to embrace uncritically our of a history of traditions or for which we turn a blind eye.

 

It also seems for me unacceptable that outside the frame of denominationalism some what was formerly termed mainline churches can assume it their right to adjudicate others when their own practices are not questioned or subjected to scrutiny.

 

On the subject of money, every major and minor religion has money as an integral part of its faith expression. The believer are taught they must love their God more than anything meaning they will be willing to give for their religions evidenced in a multiplicity of causes. No place of worship in edifice, welfare programmes or ministries of help for the needy are possible without the giving and receiving of money from the believers in a religious context. Yet a vocal percentage of our citizenry condemn Christian pastors for upholding a biblical instruction of receiving tithes (10%of income) and offerings for the upkeep of the church and those who labour in such. They do not question the fact that Jews practice the very same and give to their religious society graciously at both individual and business levels. Will we therefore let the vocal percentage determine the rights of others where and how to spend their income, in a form of parental control only because we assume them victims of unscrupulous religions and religious leaders?

 

It seems we as citizenry have not yet understood and grown in our appreciation of what these our constitutional rights of freedom of association means. We the public are outraged in parental sense at the acts of such claimed insanity yet those who are participating in these are doing so in full consciousness of choice, and have no objection to the practices that plausibly over time may like all others become traditions.

 

We dare not deceived ourselves in not accepting that religious practices norms and traditions are seldom fully free from claim of challenge of unacceptability.

 

One can appreciate that the majority of CRL cases will have perhaps an unintended Christian base, out of its natural dominance in our society as informed by a our last census. Yet it is exactly here that I wish to reiterate my caution to the CRL again to not be seen to be obsessed with the Christian Faith, but to attempt to appreciate the gambit of the evolution of all traditions of all religious formations as sharing ontology of questionable strange, unorthodox and unconventional practices. It at times appears the CRL with its current narrow focus is yet to appreciate the scope of religious practices for the multiplicity of faith expressions and religious formations in SA. It appears there is perhaps a need to research the evolutionary track of how we arrive at religious traditions and exercise the CRL for is mandate may consider a necessity if it seeks to educate the SA citizenry on tolerance of others in religious expression.

 

Instead we have seen an over eagerness to rush for regulating. We have heard mutterings and even threats of regulating of religious practices, in perhaps knee- jerk reaction around the public making of these practices. I am one of those who are vehemently opposed to the notion that the State or its organs can direct people in regulation of their faith. It will make a mockery of the claim of a democratic state and the State will be ill advised to pursue this path. Thus the CRL must attempt to straddle the proverbial grey areas of law, rights, and traditions, and must be seen to firstly understand or be educated on the latter. The CRL must also free itself from an uncritical look at formerly mainline churches practices as the standard, and therefore attempt an open mind to appreciate the forming of traditions. I would assume that the CRL’s role of educating and informing as one of the pillars of its mandate in this season warrants finding a confirmed conscientious footprint in our discourse.

 

I concur with the CRL on the mushrooming of many church formations aligned with the Christian faith. I also concur we cannot afford visitors to our country on visitors visas to overstay their visits and form church expressions in SA as means to earn and income. It must be the work of the Department of Home Affairs and all security cluster sister departments to develop the systems and means and implementation to tighten control and let the sovereignty of SA in visa control count with the unapologetic ejecting of those who have overstayed their visits. Yet that does not militate against the right of individuals to associate in exercising of their constitutional franchise.

 

I therefore am not pleading for people to be abused, their lives placed in harms way or be rendered victims by any means, whilst I am equally pleading for us to respect these congregants of their respective faiths to be exercising their conscious choices in which they nowhere appointed us or the State and its organs to speak on their behalf.

 

We must be vigilant that our so-called care for people is not perceived as rooted in the bedrock of encroaching on their rights out of our intolerance for their conscious choices.

 

Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine

Writer, and commentator

 

Beyond November 8, we must ask what community produced Trump.

Beyond November 8, we must ask what community produced Trump.

Wolfram Kistner reminds us, “The society and the religious or ideological community or cultural group which has contributed towards shaping the mind of the offender shares in the responsibility of the offence and is in need of repentance on its part and forgiveness on the part of God and the victims with the view of facilitating a process of healing and taking precautions against a religion of the offence.

I thought of these words of Kistner as we in the last day before the 2016 USA presidential elections pondered on a Trump candidacy. I have elsewhere contended this 45th presidential contest was one of firsts. Americans will in less than 24 hours know who will occupy the White House and whether it’s 45th president is the first female or another pale male.

Beyond November 8, upon America rests the burden of looking at itself and asking tough questions if it has any dream of freeing itself from what truly divides it as this election have shown. As a society, America remains a highly polarized community and a denial of this is simply a dishonest analysis.

Much has been written opined and shared on a Trump candidacy from the most lewd to the most ridiculous. However what baffles many is why Trump for having blatantly offended many African Americans, Latino’s, Mexican, Africans, women, the disabled, veterans and the poor in stereotypes of racist and misogynist utterances coupled with a known opaqueness of clear policy remains popular.

It is as if America in this election is afforded a chance to look in the proverbial mirror and see what stares back at her. We heard throughout the period of this contest be it in the primaries and ultimately as GOP candidate people support Donald J. Trump because he tells it as it is, he is not part of ‘the establishment’ he speaks their mind, and he is not a politician but a businessman. What cannot be disputed at this late hour is Trump has more than traction in the USA to the extent that the election is polled as an undeniably closely contested race.

If we in the least are offended by Trump, if we bear the marks of his utterances against our collective humanity and if we have been hurt by Donald J Trump we must accept Trump is not alone. It would be a grave mistake to assume Trump stands in the shadow of himself.

Trump stands on the shoulders and finds meaning in a community, a society, an ideological and cultural context that has produced him and has shown and acceptance of his candidacy despite it protesting everything in opposite of conventional elections.

Trump’s thoughts actions and articulations represent the sum-total of a particular community’s persuasions.

We know that all communities form values, we also know that these values over time take the form of norms. Yet, these values and norms assume and define definite choices for what is desirable. In a sense, we can therefore consider these choices as informed by a class struggle if the Marxist philosophy holds sway, motivated by Maslow’s psychology of a hierarchy of needs and underpinned by what cultural theorists determined as ideologies of race and or gender.

We can today accept the community Trump represents has made a choice for a form of separateness. This choice is made despite 250 years of a Declaration of Independence a choice for separateness. That choice is on the one hand a choice to be separate from, whilst it also is a denial of, an equality of others to share the identity they claim for themselves.

Not only is theirs a choice, by extension a norm for this community, but also it is contextualized with race as its premise and departure point and final destination. We know race, as a classification of humans into confirmed immutable biological categories with qualitative differences among them is a discredited enterprise.

We must therefore ask again as Dexter Gordon reminds us why race and its attendant and chromatically inaccurate color descriptors especially black and white enjoy almost universal usage today, though often with the pernicious assumption of the innate physical, mental and moral superiority of one group over another.

Not only has this community made a choice which is a norm in race but it equally extended that to a religious setting, in which it’s choice for separateness affords it in an alienable right to deny others their faith as first amendment right in the USA. Their choice for their separateness finds expression in their choice of denial of equal humans to practice and share their faith in an environment of true equality.

For it is now a norm to see the Muslim faith as its enemy, therefore this community is naturally unnerved by and proves intolerant of this faith out of that confirmed choice of their separateness. This community then thrives on the rhetoric of fear to engender an impending Muslim faith reality that threatens their livelihood as that which must be stood against.

This community of religious expression therefore thrives on an intolerance of other faiths only because they choose to accept their own faith as sacrosanct and thus by extension the true faith that must count when they know America is a secular state with many Christian believers.

This community’s choice of separateness is anchored in racism. Rachel Dolezal in her 2015 TEDx interview helps us conclude ‘…it is racism that gave race meaning.’

To appreciate Dolezal here is to appreciate that race is not a benign worldview that somehow was twisted and led to racism. The belief that some humans are biologically and behaviorally superior or inferior to others created the idea of race. Therefore, it was the very hierarchical worldview of white supremacy that mythologized race. The need to control, dominate, discriminate, etc, justified itself by manufacturing a worldview of the race hierarchy.

One therefore sees an umbilical chord that starts with race and courses through religion and ultimately finds expression and resonance in a gender to define this separateness. Never before is America so plagued by the reality of an articulated non-acceptance of a woman to lead, this is done in line with the mind of otherness that otherness in this season is evidenced in a Hillary Clinton being a woman.

The community that produced a Trump wrestles with the audacity of a woman to have lifted her hand to contest. Their judgment of her is not her known skills, her undeniable three decades of administrative experience, and her technocratic abilities to steer international processes and initiatives.

They struggle because the value of being woman, the evidence of a choice has long been defined and is now a norm. The content of that value intrinsically denies any woman an inalienable right to run for high office more so in the world where patriarchal dominance claims an eternity of presence. Therefore, their trapped ideology and disregard for women as equals protest this this season against the reality of the hour.

This very same community produced and ultimately gave the USA a Trump as its face of separateness in this season. It therefore cannot be that we afford this society, community, and religious and cultural groups to be given a free pass as if Donald Trump is a freak or a phenomenon in his own right.

This community however defined must own up and warrant being held responsible, since it offended African Americans, Latino, Mexicans, and Africans and all those who identify with the aforementioned. It consciously insulted women, mothers, and daughters by reducing them to objects of lustful desire, sum-totaling their common humanity as objects.

This community owes the minorities an unreserved apology borne from nothing less than a repented heart. We therefore cannot blame Trump as an individual in ignorance of denial of this community.

The trouble in the USA is not Trump but the community that finds complete salience and resonance in him. America has at least 40% of people if the polls are anything to go by that makes up this community.

A community of intolerant, racist, sexist bigots who desires time slavery. A community that truly assumes its livelihood is threatened by the presence of minorities be it the African American in Chicago or the Hispanic in Texas. This community undeniably understands America’s problems through the prism of race as the premise and base. This community believes America will be great again after an African American was in the White House one whom they blame for the problems in the USA.

When Trump and this community remonstrates in shouts of a slogan “make America great again,it’s in the undeniable sophism of a pretext that at some stage America was great. It’s on the populist rhetoric frame of a claimed believe that America must be brought back to what it was in greatness of claim as advanced by Trump and this community. They fail to tell us when and where this greatness of America existed and under whose political leadership.

Hearing Kistner is to appreciate the fact that we are not deceived to isolate a Trump for these offenses, we must prove more conscious to appreciate the wider reality of a racist America.

An America that has in the last 5 years experienced the murdering of hundreds of African American young men and women at the hands of police brutality. A reality of hardening attitudes of intolerance towards migrating others despite the fact that everyone in America shares a history of migration to the land.

Another interesting dynamic with Trumps surge for high office is the public role of the evangelicals who have shown their unreserved support, tolerance and love for a Trump. This community of religious definition must own up to the statements of Trump.

This religious group cannot disown themselves from Trump when he calls women ugly and fat, when he takes the latitude in stardom to claim a right to grope them and assault them. This community must own up when Trump calls Latino’s murderers drug peddlers and criminals. This community must own up when Trump says of African Americans you lazy, useless and know only how to make babies.

The proverbial gun may be fired from the weak hand of a Donald Trump but the gun and ammunition came supplied by this very community. The identified object and target for the shot is equally that of the same community’s target and object.

This community dare not in a sense of convenience perform attempt, the Pontius Pilate ritual, in washing their hands as if they innocent, we say to this community you are as guilty as Trump in fact you produced a Trump, you are Trump.

Russel Botman in his piece “Offender and the Church” in reflection on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission unequivocally warns us “one of the great ethical dangers of South Africa’s process of reconciliation is that it may leave us with the impression that the atrocities of apartheid were the deeds of ” the disturbed few. The most crucial of acts, however were done in public, and under the approving eyes of many Christians in the Afrikaans and English speaking churches. Perpetrators were also members of these communities. But the TRC faith hearings did not adequately explore the way the consciousness of the perpetrators was shaped therein. ”

Therefore if we want to write Donald J Trump off as what is deemed the “disturbed few” we will commit a grave error since he stems from an approving community comprising those defined as religious, ideological and cultural a society.

It is this society that we must red card, it’s this group we in this season must sent to the proverbial sin-bin of reflection. It’s to this group of religious in particular evangelicals we must prognosticate the wrongfulness of their choice for a separateness informed by that, which is oppositional to the claimed governing supreme scriptural text of their lives namely the Bible.

We must call this community out for what it is and thus allow them time to reflect in the ambience of hopeful conviction and pray penitence to let new values count.

Yes, values and norms of an inclusive, equal and same humanity actualized in an atmosphere of tolerance where the appreciation for difference is celebrated and not as oppositional but as a mosaic of diversity.

When we advocate for a new set of values and new norms it is not out of myopic judgmental adjudication but from a deep and sincere conviction that all of us are equal before our creator and we share the believe that humans can transform into that which serves the greater good.

It is also in stark awareness and acceptance that the American society is incomplete without all and daily must live and share the geographic space they are assigned to as determined by history.

It is in that environment Americans must seek to eke out a living for a common humanity free from the toxic race and gender laced identities for such humanity.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine