By Jaco Oelofse
Policy is regularly referred to as a set of tenets that give explicit direction to an organisation. It can be seen as a set of guiding principles that help with decision making processes and ensure a fixed bearing within the framework of an organisation’s objectives or ideologies (Anderson 2005). The state is considered to be the main policy actor. With regards to South Africa our national and provincial governments are the main institutions who act on policy, including Parliament and the Presidential Cabinet.(Anderson 2003: 2) Policy actors faced many issues in the first years of the “New South Africa” with regards to transformation and reconciliation while at the same time building our economy and various industries. The African Renaissance is not a policy per se but an idea or ideology that gives way to various policies. (Ramose 2007)
2. African Renaissance Policy in South Africa.
The term African Renaissance was first used by African Historian and Anthropologist – Cheikh Anta Diop in his book “Towards the African Renaissance: Essays in Culture and Development, 1946-1960” (Ujaama 2002).
There are many debates on the meaning and value of the African Renaissance, what it has become or what it still will be, but its pecuniary intentions and agendas are an undeniable fact. As stated in the article: South Africa and the African Renaissance, reference is made to the so called Globalist Interpretations. (Vale & Maseko 1998:278). The latest understanding of the African Renaissance, or rather- the African Renaissance as President Mbeki understood (and desired) it to be, relies heavily on neoliberal economic principles of the Free Market System and privatisation, systems that have been in place since the Apartheid era; sustaining the vicious cycle of poverty and inequality (Terreblanche 2012). This statement is also supported by the fact that South Africa’s extremely wealthy elite are exceedingly welcoming of the idea of an African Renaissance (Vale & Maseko 1998:279). Important to note that thecreation of a Black Elite is not conductive to transformation especially when it is exclusionary of large sectors of the previously marginalised; it is merely the “conservation” of capitalism in Africa.
The infamous G.E.A.R. (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) plan further entrenched SA on the road of neoliberal capitalism. Due to the “triumphant” attitude of the USA in the early 1990’s, our ANC government was convinced to abandon their stance on Socialism and mass state intervention resulting in President Mbeki’s desertion of the RDP economic plan (Terreblanche 2012: 65). This was highly unpopular with the Left of South African politicians and many African political activists. It is generally accepted amongst the political left, critical academics and radicals that the African Renaissance is just a pseudonym for American and European imperial ambitions into the Eye of Africa (Terreblanche 2012: 68). After all, those who control South Africa’s vast economy, control Africa thus the position of South Africa with regards to the African Renaissance is a baleful one.
When we look at the ‘African Renaissance’, the actual christening of the concept is critical. The action of naming something makes it present, and adheres to a traditional process of seeking representation of its essence (Derrida 1995: 34). Additionally it’s an inappropriate term because it is obviously christened in the image of the European Renaissance. Africa is still being subjugated to the so called Northbound Gaze resulting in the denial of Africa choosing its own experiences, identity and interpreting its own history and politics. It further perpetuates that Africa will always be defined and described by others, in other words, it creates a Euro Centric view of Africa (Ramose 2007).
3. “Who is an African?”.
Of course when dealing with African politics, philosophy, law, economics and history the temptation to ask “Who is an African” is simply too overwhelming for most to resist. The list of answers can be derived from Pan Africanism, Marxism, African Humanism, Critical Race Theory, Ubuntu and many other strains of thought. It is without a doubt a knotty question, especially in the current political climate due to the lack of addressing the issues of power, identity and racism. Nevertheless, following a Bikoist tradition, the answer is simple; all those who are born in Africa are African. Thus the answer lies in geographical location (Biko 1975: 68). Important to note that the Bikoist answer lies adjacent to what most liberals would answer, however the two are so separate in reality that it merits its own clarification. The liberal answer is grounded on the ideals of multi- culturalism and colour blindness making assumptions that we live in a world that is post- race or post racism and denies the existence of institutionalised racism or white privilege. (Ansley 1997)
To give further clarification it is important to understand that the question; “Who is an African?” grows from racism and racial paranoia. Identity and Identification are the two main concepts that will help with the clarification process.
African identity can be determined by those who are born and live in Africa; however one must look at the concept of identity through a post- colonial lens. Is it race that defines us as African? Then of course we must address the issue of white supremacy that guarantees the socio- economic, civil and political dominance of white people that vests the majority of power, minds, ideas and thoughts into the support and maintenance of the dominance of white people. Thus the psychological effect it has on “other” Africans is irrefutable, it creates a world where people live on top of each other, at the bottom- the poor or Proletariat, a hungry people who is starved of basic human needs, a people of “niggers and dirty Arabs” (Fanon 1961:30), while the “settler’s quarters” (Fanon 1961: 30), majority of the white community, bourgeoisie society and capitalist elite live in all manner of possession. With Repressive State Apparatuses, the society is split into- classes and races and forced to remain as they are. Can we then still call white people African when they benefit from things that are so obviously un-African e.g. white-supremacy and the legacy of colonialism and apartheid?
Africans are a people determined by their experiences not race, especially around the mass confusion that Africa is black or for black people only (obviously, Pan- Africanists will disagree) (Frick 2006: 235). J.H. Clarke- one of the founders of Pan-Africanism states (Adams, Barbara 2011); one must take into reflection that being black (blackness) determines how people look, but fails to explain who these people are, Africana on the other hand relates people to land, history and culture. Thus the Bikoist answer of geographic location makes sense even to the most radical of minds. The concept of identification states that those who identify themselves as African are African. Identification can be explained as those who commit themselves to Africa, all who live in it and believe in the equal sharing and upliftment of the continent (Shahadah: 2009).
It is imperative that South Africa and Africa as a whole start on a long journey of decolonising its mind. The people need to free themselves from Euro-centric idealism and work and strive towards an “African ukusindiswa” the rebirth of Africa and its spirit. Of course this might seem very promising but the practicalities of a new Africa free of its mental and physical enslavement is a whole question on its own.
- Adams, Barbara E. John Henrik Clarke: Master Teacher. New York: A&B Publishers Group.
- Anderson, C. 2005. Internet: http://www.bizmanualz.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-policies-and-procedures.html. Access: 19 August 2013.
- Anderson, J.E, 2003. The Study of Public Policy. Public policymaking: An introduction. Boston: Houghton.
- Ansley, F.L. 1989. Stirring the Ashes: Race, Class and the Future of Civil Rights Scholarship. Cornell Law Review 74: 993ff.
- Biko, S. 1978. I write what I like. Northlands, Johannesburg: Picador Africa.
- Derrida, J. 1995. On the Name. Stanford University Press.
- Fanon, F. 1961. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Penguin Publishers Ltd.
- Frick, J. et al. 2006 History: Learner’s Book. New Africa Books.
- Maseko, S. & Vale, P. 1998. South Africa and the African Renaissance. Royal Institute of International Affairs, 74(2):279.
- Ramose, M. 2007. In Memoriam. Griffith Law Review, 16(2).
- Shahadah, ‘A. 2009. Internet: http://africanholocaust.net/news_ah/africanrace.html. Access: 19 August 2013.
- Terreblanche, S. 2012. Lost in Transformation. Sandton: KMM Review Publishing Company.
- Ujaama, I. 2002. Internet: http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=5993.0;wap2. Access: 19 August 2013.
 Fanon referred to “others” as European settlers, according to him the ruling class (race) is those who come from somewhere else, who are different from the original inhabitants of a country (Fanon 1961: 31). I used the term others in a reverse due to many black Africans being treated as “others” in their own country and land.