“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors…”
– Plato (Ancient Greek philosopher – City Press).
How I wish Plato was here!
So he could marvel at the wealth of evidence for his premise. South Africa would be his playground. Plato would die from laughter because though he may have coined and penned this premise, he certainly did not expect it to be so true so many years after his death, when we have been accorded ample warning so many years in advance.
I would force Plato to take a DNA test not only to verify if it is definitely him but also verify his ancestry. You see we live in a world that automatically accords European lineage to everyone who achieved anything historically worth mentioning. I would be frank with Plato and inquire if he or any of his tutors ever went to Egypt or received their enlightenment there. I would listen to each syllable and every word as he gives accounts of his travels and gawk at the audacity of certain elements that have attempted to write out great individuals from history and airbrush Africa’s glorious past.
I would ask Plato who coined the phrase – ‘travel broadens the mind’ and suggest it may be a person of Greek lineage on his way back from Egypt.
Being in South Africa, I would ask the Scorpions, damn they were banned for actually doing their work effectively. So I would be forced to plead with South African Police Services (SAPS) to take his finger prints without any glitches and use the prints for forensic investigations into the theft of African thought and concepts by others, in order to clear Plato’s name because all Greeks and Romans and their ilk are suspects.
After clearing up any misunderstandings, I would show Plato what cowards look like by hosting a black tie gala dinner in his honour and invite all the best and the brightest academics, philosophers, poets, musicians, writers, etc and charge an obscene cover charge and use the funds raised to correct the Miseducation of Jeff Radebe. On the Voices column of the City Press (22 September 2013) Jeff takes you on a nostalgic ride to Athena, he also churns out accolades to the ancient Greeks for discovering democracy and how his organisation intends to allow people to participate in selecting representatives to parliament without ever doing away with proportional representation.
What Jeff Radebe and all who think like him miss is that I and many other South Africans do not want our country to be a Small Chicago, Chinatown, Little Italy, Klein Athena or a satellite state of the European Union for that matter.
I for one would like to see South Africa become a model African country which utilises successful principles -be it they are from Africa or abroad: a land where everyone in authority is of service to nation, an African country with a Constitution that embodies the spirit of people and reflects their aspirations.
I would like present day South Africa to resemble a time when all where gainfully employed by society to assist in the building of a nation, a time when the creation of human capital was a national priority, when families stayed together, when children knew what parental responsibilities are, when uncles did not rape nephews and nieces, when women ruled the roost without belittling men, a time when being African was a mark of honour, a time when brides married in order to have children, a time when fathers built homes for their families, a time when we were going in the right direction – a time when we did not question the logic of our forefathers.
I do not expect a Minister of Justice, 20 years into democracy, to be reinforcing Western stereotypes of Africa or perpetuating thought patterns that belittle the power of the African intellect and the greatness of its heritage. Yet I concede that Jeff Radebe’s limited view may be a result of systematic Apartheid education and socialisation. What really hurts is that the very flawed education is being fed to future generations to this day, promoting Eurocentricity and placing Afrocentric thought and approach on the back burner.
In South Africa today there still are no African schools. There still is no sporting activity or facilities at black schools.
Plato would probably ask the Honourable Minister where he was when President Thabo Mbeki gave his iconic ‘I am an African’ speech or if he is au fais with the concept of the African Renaissance or if he has ever read a book on African history that was written by black man with an African perspective.
As a parting shot, I would give Plato books by Biko, Sobukwe and many other revolutionary South Africans in order to remove the myth that Nelson Mandela was a lone Rambo like character who fought single-handedly for the liberation of our people, as a matter of fact Plato would realise that the Struggle for the emancipation of the black majority started before Mandela was born.
Radebe is right, the ANC has many Greek tendencies; such as the ability to steal the glory of others and write out certain key contributors of the Struggle for freedom. Plato would be tempted to sue the ruling party for copyright infringement.
What Radebe and his groupies forget is that not all of us were born yesterday!