The fight against assimilation is too far to be won


It is quite interesting to see young people in South Africa and across the African diaspora trying with all their might to free themselves from the firm grip of assimilation. In fact, everyone has a right to know and preserve his identity.

However, the fight against assimilation is as old as the mountains. And anyone who tries to put up a brave fight against it is likely to emerge from the battle, not only with serious cuts and noticeable grazes but his wishes are also likely to return to him relatively void.

To give just a few compelling examples, the honourable former President Thabo Mbeki tried to think out of the box when he claimed to be a pan African as he delivered the popular I AM AN AFRICAN speech in Cape Town on 8 May 1996.

Honestly, Mbeki tried and continues to shine as an intellectual, but what he failed to understand was that the fight against assimilation was and will forever remain an abortive attempt on the basis that whatever we do as Africans indicates that we were entirely westernized.

To be frank, the language he used when he wrote the speech was the language of his former colonizers. And he really contradicted himself by lacing the speech with a British accent. For this reason, one could correctly argue that though his tenure as the President of the republic of South Africa proved that he was an optimist, whose upbeat thoughts and unwavering beliefs could triumph over assimilation, history narrates a completely different story.

In spite of the aforementioned talented son of the African soil, Mobutu Sese Seko, the former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo also tried to decoloze himself by changing his name and by forcibly imposing his thoughts on the Congolese people.

Anyway, they could not reject or condemn his manipulative tactics and persuasive tricks when he told them that they had to stop embracing and following Christianity on the grounds that it was not their identity. As if it was not enough, Mobutu went as far as changing the name of the country from Zaire to Congo.

His people let him go unchallenged as he convinced them to refrain from wearing European dresses. Ironically, he was looting the money of the tax payers and buying nice suits and fashionable shoes in Europe. The only thing for which he could pride himself was the hat he always wore, since it was made of a leopard skin. To tell the truth, it was quite clear that he liked the hat because it symbolized his authoritative rule over the Congolese people. 

When we listen to the voices that are lamenting no further than the Southern African region, we hear that uncle Robert Mugabe tried unsuccessfully to climb the very same mountain as he implemented the infamous Operation Murambatsvina, which eventually inflicted pain on the innocent white farmers.

But when his economy plunged into crisis he shamelessly ran to the International Monetary Fund IMF before he turned his face to the World Bank. Sadly, his remorseful cries had come back to him fruitless since the two institutions could not wipe his tears. Consequently, scores of the  Zimbabwean people were displaced while he, together with his wife and children, were enjoying fresh milk and honey.

To simplify matters, we need to stop thinking as if there is no way for us to measure the size of the problem, for our daily steps and deeds are the most reliable tools through which we can prove that the roots of assimilation have gone deeper in the marshy grounds of our societies. Why can’t we realize that our wedding parties imply that we, in some measure, emulate our white counterparts?

Surely, the issue at hand is the most delicate matter. And we need to understand that the manner in which we deal with this virus is the measure of our  narrow mindedness on the basis that every measure we take to address this problem we see a certain degree of wisdom, but the fact remains that since we decorate our fingers with wedding rings and celebrate on the Valentine’s day the battle is too far to be won.

It is of course foolish beyond any measure of reason to subscribe to the thinking that we can decolonize our minds because every child that is born to a middle class African family receives the cardinal principles of his parents in English. Hence, the future seems fairly uncertain, but it does not prevent us from digging, at least, a shallow grave so that we can bury the problem.

To outline the position, we need to start to teach our newborn babies the right things. In that manner, we can measure our hope that the winds of change will sooner than later begin to blow. In closing, it is very imperative to say that a closer look into this issue clearly suggests that, unless we Change, no African child in the current generation can angrily cast stones at assimilation and remain victorious. 

Milton Bongi Sibiya is both an author and educator based in the District of Amajuba, Kwazulu-Natal