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Why Forsake People?
How Nice People Lost Out In Durban!

September 10, 2001

By Bukka Rennie

Being "nice" never pays the bills, never feeds the multitudes. African people both on the continent and in the Diaspora tend to be the most significant victims of their own bigness of spirit. We forgive and forget too easily. We need to be more single-minded in purpose and focus, and probably we may need to learn to hate our enemies and what they represent much more.

Look at what has just happened at the Durban Conference. After having successfully pulled off probably the largest international mobilization of progressive forces and concerned humankind via a United Nations sponsored programme to discuss the ramifications of slavery and colonialism and the demand for reparations from those countries that directly profited, the effort was significantly minimised by the attempt to be "all things to all peoples".

The issues of "xenophobia, Zionism and the Jewish/Arab" conflagrations were thrown into the mix and only served to cloud the spinal focus on slavery and reparations allowing the USA, Israel and others to cowardly weasel themselves out of any significant commitment to this most worthy and morally deserving project. Zionism and the Jewish/Arab conflict should have been kept separate and targeted for another international UN-sponsored conference sometime in the near future. And this blurring of issues in order to escape accepting responsibility for past deeds should have been anticipated given the fact that it has now become traditional for most people in the world to gloss over the realities of 300 years of African chattel slavery.

In the heady days of the Black Power Movement as an international social phenomenon, everyone wished to advice African people to forgive and forget slavery. Particularly the Jewish people, even as they themselves vigorously promoted remembrance of the Holocaust, prepared their Jewish Defense Leagues, taught even their wives and daughters to use sophisticated weaponry, organised the most efficient Intelligence Network in the world, hunted down Nazi War criminals from the 1939-1945 period, raised funds (e.g. in Montreal in 1967 when the 7-Days war with Egypt broke out, they raised 30 million in half an hour) and were prepared to rush from anywhere in the world to physically defend the State of Israel only established in 1948 carved by the British out of a piece of Palestine. Yet the advice to Africans is to forgive and forget. Africans need to do as everyone does to ensure self-preservation and continued development rather than do as they say and advise.

Germany was made to pay reparations to the Jewish people for the Nazi Holocaust. And that in everyone's view was just and historically justified for the physical annihilation or collective genocide of six million in the course of the few years of the war.

Ironically, Germany did not repay or compensate the Jews in terms of territory, but such a lot has fallen on the Arabs of Palestine who today have to bear the wrath of Jewish aggression and resolve that never again must they ever suffer at the hands of other human beings. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of Africans were either annihilated directly or indirectly, maimed and/or physically brutalised in the course of 300 years of collective enslavement and bondage which by definition also involved exploitation and psychological degradation and humiliation which continues in various forms even to this day. And at the end only the slave-masters and the slave-owning colonies were compensated to the tune of some 200 million pounds for "their loss" due to emancipation of African slaves.

Africans are the only people who have never been compensated in any form. The "mule and forty acres" in the Afro-American experience was systematically taken back at the end of the Reconstruction Period after the American Civil War.

The situation in Zimbabwe and South Africa today says a lot in this regard. After all the "loving-up" and "Truth and Reconciliation" charade during which even Ian Smith himself sat in Parliament and people even had the audacity to bring Winnie Mandela to answer charges, in other words even after Whites in both situations were allowed by the new constitutions to virtually maintain their previous privileges, the masses of Africans were still left without any means of sustained development.

Being "nice" did not get the Africans anywhere. It is fashionable today to condemn the seizure of White-owned farms in Zimbabwe but no one recalls that Kissinger's US "Agenda for Cooperation" to promote a negotiated settlement in Zimbabwe established a billion dollar development fund to "induce Whites to stay after majority rule" was established or that the West German government offered $150 million to South American governments(e.g. Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay) willing to resettle some 30,000 families from Zimbabwe who were of German origin.

Everybody else is always compensated. The point is that the new constitutions in both Zimbabwe and South Africa never encompassed any practical mechanisms for the advancement of the African masses. Land has always been the basis of wealth generation and accumulation upon which social development can be designed. As was said elsewhere there is always grave danger when a progressive force achieves power by way of a process that does not itself dismantle the State. Nothing fundamentally changes.

All the old relationships and arrangements remain intact and self-perpetuate. That's the problem both in Zimbabwe and South Africa. In South Africa the Department of Labour's Manpower Survey in 1977 indicates that only 95% of the management class was White, while 93% of the miners and 86% of the labourers were African. Over 96% of the apprentices in the electrical trades were White, as were 91.5% in metal and engineering, and 86% in the motor industry. There is virtually no skilled African strata existing. And very little has changed to date. Reparations for slavery and apartheid must address the question of mechanisms to guarantee advancement or else the blood-baths shall surely come. It is a pity that the Durban Conference just never got around to establishing its required bearings.

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