I was listening to SAfm the other day when Ashraf Garda played a clip of the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture held in Wits University annually. I had sinned incessantly the previous day and was patiently waiting for the arrival of a merciless hangover when I heard one of the speakers say, “we should praise or blame ourselves for the actions of our leaders, for they are what we have allowed them to be”. At the time, it sounded like tedious drivel. Come to think of it, everything sounds like tedious nonsense when one is battling with the tight grip of a hangover.
The speaker, some academic from Nigeria, I never bothered learning his name, had based this comment form Steve Biko’s manifesto and biography I write what I like and addressing African leaders alike. I could feel stage two of my hangover beginning to take hold: gagging reflexes where the oesophagus feels like bursting and the eyes get teary. Stage one is of course denial.
African leaders, as claimed by my friend with no name, have a tendency to blame everything on colonisation. And yet the truth is that Africans have become their own worst enemies by changing profiles from the victim to the victimiser. We toss about dangerous metaphysical terms like “being African” with such ease and little thought and we assign this to be some collective ethnic identity. It baffles when people say that “it is the African culture to not speak ill of the dead”. Firstly, they are passed away and they really do not care. Secondly, there is no such thing as an African culture. Being African is not an ethnicity. I never understand forms where they ask to tick whether one is African, Indian, Coloured or White. The fact here, the undisputable fact is that the Indian is as much an African as the White person born and bred here. Pigmentation and melanin have nothing to do with being African. I might be paraphrasing here but in the words of Max du Preez,” I am African because I say so.”