News of the painful killing of George Floyd in the USA by the American racist police touched every corner of the world. Media reports and social media shared the rage we all felt, we all united behind the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Black people from different countries demonstrated their anger and in other countries, they even went as far as destroying the symbols of racism which included the statues of former colonial leaders who presided over oppression and the displacement of black people across the world. Social media in Africa and South Africa was not left behind, political organisations spoke out and condemned the killing of George Floyd in that brutal manner.
Coincidentally, South Africa had just lost Collins Khosa who had died in the hands of soldiers, he was a man from Alexandra in Gauteng, one of the many townships in South Africa that monumentally represent the historical and existing class inequalities that characterise South Africa. Black people everywhere else have a similar past of oppression and subjugation. I wondered why here in South Africa there was so much outrage and protests for George Floyd than for Collins Khosa. These two were black men disenfranchised and condemned by racism and police/army brutality because of the colour of their skin. But why did we not get equally angry for Collins as we did for George? I felt this was an indictment on us as black people with our inherited prejudiced classism also perpetuated by ourselves. If black lives Matter, George Floyd matters as much as Collins Khosa matters.
I think the conversation on black lives in Africa and in South Africa is very relevant and if channelled properly, it could address the self-hate by blacks and also black on black violence. Though black on black violence has historical connotations as a weapon used by a minority racist oppressive regime to polarise and defeat the black majority unity, we have sustained it even at a time where we govern and we are now democratic. This is evident by the rife tribalism that we experience daily. Tribalism is worse in political circles. For as long as we continue to perpetuate tribalism, politically, economically, professionally or in any other structural and systematic ways, then we have no moral standing to proclaim black lives matter.
South Africa has successfully built for itself a bad name in Africa for being known to look down on other African nationalities. This perception is cemented by the continuous xenophobic attacks that are usually spin doctored and called all sorts of names to justify them. It is in fact racist xenophobia because it is inflicted on only foreign nationals of African origin who are black. It is Afrophobia because the white European or American who invests in big corporate spaces and stays in suburbia never experiences the kind of Xenophobia black Africans experience in South Africa. With the past Xenophobic attacks and the stigmatisation and criminalisation of all African foreign nationals, my conscious revolts when I attempt to proudly say #BlackLivesMatter. If black lives really matter, Afrophobia has to fall.
While we were busy with lectures and programmes on black lives matter and our fight against racism, we received the news of the killing of Naledi Pangindawo from Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape. Naledi was slain allegedly by her boyfriend. We also received news of the killing of the eight months pregnant Tshegofatso Pule who was stabbed and hanged, also allegedly by her boyfriend. There was also Mikateko Vukeya from Giyani in Limpopo who was allegedly burnt with spirit by her boyfriend, she is currently recovering, though her face and body will never be the same. So during the lockdown in South Africa, women have been raped and violated even more. Women and children die in the hands of men every day. My observation is that whenever there is the outrage for the killing of women and children, we stand alone as women especially young women.
The men don’t sufficiently stand with us when we call for #WomenLivesMatter. Black men want us to commend them when they call for #BlackLivesMatter when they always turn a blind eye to #WomenLivesMatter. As a black woman, I think my life matters as much as I am black and a woman. I call on all progressive men to get angry whenever a woman is killed in the hands of a man. I call on them to openly and unashamedly condemn and fight other men who kill and violate women. For black lives to matter, women lives must matter!
Lastly, black lives will really matter the day we give the displaced majority back their land. It will matter the day we change the structure of the economy to the hands of the poor majority. It will matter the day we develop the skills of the majority and decolonise education. Black lives will matter when we change the social positioning of the poor majority. Black lives matter when we commit to fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment. Black lives matters when the people are treated with dignity and hunger and homelessness is fought. Black lives matter when we fight corruption and we don’t steal from the people. Indeed black lives should matter.
Precious Banda is the National Convenor of the ANC Women’s League and a Member of the YCLSA National Committee.