Desperate colonial madness

ON February 16, speaking in a purported “new South African” Parliament, a former member of the National Party who is now leading the opposition Freedom Front Plus claimed that Africans were not the original inhabitants of 40% of Azania. This Azania is what colonialists called South Africa on September 20, 1909.

His name is Pieter Mulder and he is the deputy minister of the Department of Agricultur­e, Forestry and Fisheries in the ANC government led by President Jacob Zuma.

Mulder posits that Africans, whom he calls Bantu, never in the past lived in the whole of South Africa. “The Bantu-speaking people moved from the equator down south, while the white people moved from the Cape, to meet each other at the Kei River.” He does not disclose that the colonialists came from Europe. Their sole purpose was to take African lands by force.

This reflects a despicable attempt to falsify African history and conceal the genocide that colonialists perpetrated on the Khoisan people. They were not only in the Western Cape but all over Azania, as were various other African people.

The Khoi Africans in the Western Cape under King Koebaha Heijkon maintained trade links with the Xhosa-speaking Africans to the northeast of the Cape. The Dutch officials kept records that show that Europeans were amazed that the Khoi Africans traded copper ore with the Xhosa-speaking Africans. The Khoi also traded in goats with the Batswana.

Hendrik Witbooi was a king of the Nama section of the Khoi Africans who lived in parts of both Azania and Namibia. This was before colonialists gave colonial names to these African countries. It was also long before the Berlin Conference boundaries drawn up by European imperialists. In July 1892, Major Curt von François of the German army ordered King Witbooi to surrender his country to the Germans.

The Khoi king replied: “Africa belongs to us, both through the hue of our skin and our way of life. We belong together. And this Africa is entirely our country. The fact that we possess a variety of diverse lands and variety of kingships does not mean any secondary division and does not sever our solidarity. The emperor of Germany has no business in Africa.”

Before Jan van Riebeeck

The beneficiaries of European colonialism have no business claiming an inch of African soil. Long before Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company established a provision station on the southern tip of Africa (Western Cape), the first war of national resistance against European colonial aggression was fought in this part of Azania. The colonial aggressors were Portuguese. Their war of aggression was led by Dom Francisco de Almeida. The Khoi people, with a section of Xhosa allies, won this war. This was at the Battle of Salt River. It took place in 1510. All the Portuguese colonialists were killed.

It was after the arrival of Van Riebeeck through the Azanian Sea (now called the Indian Ocean) that Africans fought several wars of national resistance against colonialism. One of the first was fought beneath Table Mountain. This war was led by a Khoi leader called Doman. Colonial wars were waged against the Khoi in 1657, 1659 and 1673-1677.

These three wars by Khoi and San proved that the bravery of these sons and daughters of Africa was no match for the military terrorism of imperialist aggressors.

Even then, a Khoi African king in today’s Western Cape asked Van Riebeeck: “If we [Africans] were to come to Europe, would we be permitted to act in a similar manner [to the way] you act here? It would not matter if you stayed at the provision station, but you come out here in the interior. You select the best land for yourselves. You never ask us even once whether we like it or not or whether it will disadvantage us. You say land is not enough for the pastures of your cattle and sheep as well as ours.

“Tell me, Jan van Riebeeck and your colonial settlers, who then, with the greatest degree of justice, should give way, the natural owner or the foreign invader?”

Empty land theory

Colonialists are hungry for the riches of Africa and they have desperately tried to make their own wishful thinking the history of Africa ever since they landed here. In 1961, the prime minister of South Africa, Hendrik Verwoerd, told an audience in London. “More than 300 years ago, two population groups equally foreign to South Africa converged in rather small numbers on what was practically empty land. Neither group colonised or robbed the other by invasion.”

The colonial empty land theory has no historical credence. It was conceived in the womb of imperialism. Mulder suggests that the records of the Boer trekkers must be consulted to prove his ridiculous point of view. This would be like asking the European Allies in World War 2 to consult Nazi history records.

British academic Shula Marks has pointed out that carbon dating from central, eastern and southern Africa revealed that the first Iron Age African farmers arrived here in the first millennium and not as had been previously assumed, relatively late in the second. Marks further stated: “The earliest dates we have for the Iron Age in South Africa go back to 1 200 years before the Portuguese rounded the southern tip of the continent of Africa.” This would be about 286 AD. When it is considered that there were some Europeans who passed through this country earlier than the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, the date is much earlier.

Heinous atrocities were committed against the Khoi and San Africans to the extent that they were exterminated. There are a few Khoi in South Africa today, but hardly any San people. The San had to flee to Namibia, Botswana and Angola to survive extermination by the settlers.

It is estimated that the population of the Khoi people when the colonisers arrived in the Western Cape was over a quarter million. Their extermination was not only by colonial guns. Leprosy introduced from passing European ships decimated them.

The colonial settlers, having subjugated the Khoi Africans and dispossessed them of their land, employed them as labourers on their own robbed farmland. They paid them with food, old clothing and alcohol. The liquor is said to have been “hot ten tots” a month; hence, the new colonial name “Hottentots” for the Khoi people.

No animosity

Another false theory that colonialists and their historians have propagated is that there was deep hatred between the Khoisan and other Africans.

Marks wrote: “Contrary to much of the mythology which dwells on the inveterate hatred between them … there is much archaeological as well as linguistic record of long peaceful interaction between them. The clicks characteristic of the southern Bantu languages, that are characteristic of the southeastern Bantu languages, that are unique to this family, also bespeak a long and intimate relationship between Khoisan and Bantu speakers. Oral tradition in many areas recalls the intermarriage even of Bantu-speaking people with Khoisan women.”

The historical fact is that the colonialists exterminated the Khoisan Africans. Loss of land results in loss of national sovereignty and nationhood.

When the Pieter Mulders, the Hendrik Verwoerds, the Eric Louws and their historians talk of “empty land” they provoke very deep emotions in the hearts of the African people who were dispossessed of their land at gunpoint and are still dispossessed — as seen in the rampant poverty among them, whether they be Zulu Africans or Khoi Africans.

Professor James H. Evans of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in the United States has asked: “Why does the white myth of South Africa differ widely from reality?”

He hits the nail on the head when he says: “The answer to this question in part is that the invaders found it necessary to justify historically their invasion of a large portion of a black continent. By controlling the history of the region, they could control its inhabitants … the sole aim of which is keep the black majority in slavery.”

• Dr Motsoko Pheko is author of several books, including The Hidden Side Of South African Politics and How The Freedom Charter Betrayed The Dispossessed. He is a former member of the South African Parliament and ex-president of thee Pan Africanist Congress.

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