Celebrating being African means opposing Xenophobia

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KwaZulu Natal police Commissioner Khombinkosi Jula. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Today is Africa Day. The same politicians that repress popular organisation and make deals with capitalism and imperialism are all making speeches. As they make these speeches they forget that Pan-Africanism was a radical movement, driven from below, with a vision of a united and free Africa in which wealth and resources are shared and people’s dignity restored. They forget that from Algeria to Zimbabwe it was ordinary people that made the revolutions against colonialism.

In South Africa, the same politicians that encourage and enforce xenophobia from above are saying how much they love Africa. But what does it mean to say that you love Africa when you are sending the police to round up people from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, beat them, steal from them, and then take them to rot in Lindela before they are deported? What does it mean to say that you love Africa when you always put the profit of multinational companies before people?

Across the continent, the majority remain impoverished and states are neo-colonial formations rather than instruments of the people. From Nairobi to Harare and Johannesburg the Covid-19 crisis has been misused to abuse the poor with state violence.

Africa continues to be exploited by an alliance between imperialism and national elites who plunder resources leaving environmental and social devastation in their wake. War continues in the eastern DRC where many people are killed every day. Libya and Somalia are still faced with civil wars that are caused by those who want their resources. In Zimbabwe, the dictatorship continues. Many of our countries continue to starve while our resources are extracted by imperialism.

The decolonisation demanded by the people was never achieved. Everywhere popular movements were repressed and progressive leaders targeted. Amilcar Cabral and Chris Hani were both assassinated on the eve of the achievement of democracy. In the Congo Patrice Lumumba was removed from power in a coup and then murdered in 1960. In Ghana Kwame Nkrumah was removed from power in a coup in 1966. In Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara was also removed from power in a coup, and then murdered, in 1987.

No state can stand against imperialism on its own. We need to build popular democratic power from below. In our movement, popular democratic power has always been built from the strength of families, neighbours and communities. We have always understood that the politicians fear this power and will try to divide us by turning neighbours against each other and dividing communities. We have always refused this and worked to build unity in struggle. Our record on this question is clear. We are not only Africans on Africa Day. We live and struggle side by side with our comrades from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Membership and leadership are open to all. We believe in the words of Kwame Nkrumah ‘I am an African because Africa lives in me’. We believe in solidarity and internationalism.

We all know that the borders in Africa were created by colonialism. We all know that before colonialism people moved around a lot, and that popular politics often took the form of moving away from an oppressive leader to create new communities. However, the ANC embraces these borders and spends millions to build fences and police the borders. The struggle for land, freedom and dignity might take some different forms in different countries but everywhere you find the same struggle.

You cannot say that you support Pan-Africanism or internationalism while you are simultaneously pursuing a top-down politic of state xenophobia. We will remain committed to building a bottom-up politics of solidarity that unites the oppressed in the struggle.