Bantu imperialism

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by Dan Roodt

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I was still pondering the implications of “black colonialism” as set out in a previous column when it struck me that some of South Africa’s ethnic categories are completely wrong.

Afrikaners were the first group in the country to refer to themselves as “Africans”, as long ago as 1707 when Hendrik Biebouw said: “Ik ben een Afrikaander.” However, today Afrikaners have been defined as an out-group by South African legislation that simply classes them as “whites”.

Most of our affirmative-action legislation has been imported from the USA and BEE is just an adapted form of what is called “minority procurement” over there. So there is nothing “African” about the current race-classification system!

In German, “Afrikaner” means simply “African”, yet the current laws define Afrikaners as Europeans. The ultimate irony is that ANC and especially SACP ideology has been constructed by recent immigrants from Lithuania (like Joe Slovo) and, of course, Britain.

Imposing racial quotas on everything from the medical schools at Afrikaans universities to the Blue Bulls rugby team is bad enough. But stripping us of our age-old Africanness by legislative fiat represents the ultimate insult, making us interlopers in our own country.

Searching for answers, I reread Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech, but it is simply a fanciful restatement of American multiculturalism, with echoes of (Swedish) Gunnar Myrdal’s “melting pot” idea. So nothing “African” there, either.

We urgently need to bring back the term “Bantu” and I have begun to recommend its use on social media and everywhere else. There seems to be a certain squeamishness about using this word, meaning “people”, which is unfathomable. Even the famous Xhosa definition of “ubuntu” contains it: “Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu.”

Anthropologists, linguists and other people in need of proper definitions have never stopped referring to the “Bantu peoples”, “Bantu languages”, etc. Even Bantu education has been rehabilitated by such leading authorities as Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and a lecturer at Wits Business School, Mr. Rabelani Dagada, both of whom consider it better than the current schooling system.

The first ANC-supporting newspaper in the 1920s was called Abanthu-Batho and today there is a clothing brand which is thus advertised: “Abantu is a ladies wear brand which creates timeless pieces which speak to the South African audience.”

The Bantu peoples inhabit East and Southern Africa. For them or their Lithuanian theorists to arrogate unto themselves the sole right to being called “Africans” is not only intellectually unsound, but also unfair. After all, there are 200 million North Africans, including Egyptians, Arabs, Berbers, Copts and so on, who are Africans, by definition. West Africa too, is given the cold shoulder by Bantu imperialism.

In the nineteen-twenties some leading German and French anthropologists claimed, upon the basis of very ancient mining activity in these parts, that whites may have inhabited both South Africa and Zimbabwe as long ago as 3500 B.C. They must have been the first Afrikaners and we should venerate them as our true founding fathers, together with the Khoi and San.

Either we must qualify for affirmative action like other “Africans” – and even the Chinese! – or the Bantu must clearly announce their pretensions to being a kind of continental nobility with special privileges.

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This column also appeared as a letter in Business Day.