How can we speak about an African Renaissance when some people are being excluded from what it means to be an African
The Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League statement on AFRICA DAY includes a statement on the conviction and sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for 14 years hard labour. So far Abahali baseMjondolo are the only non-LGBTI / HIV/AIDS specific movement / organisation to issue a solidarity statement against the conviction of Steven and Tiwonge and LGBTI people across the continent.
It is this idea, the idea that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, an idea that is also there in the Freedom Charter of 1955, that we have to hold on to when there is any discussion of who is an African.
This is the 5th year in which South Africa is holding the African Renaissance Festival in Durban. Africa and Africans have been discriminated for a long time and it is good that Africa and Africans are now celebrated. But can we speak about an African Renaissance when some people are being excluded from what it means to be an African in South Africa?
As we speak there is a case that is pending in Durban whereby one ANC councillor was involved in the attacking of the immigrants that came to South Africa to seek refuge. Is South Africa the best place to host this event, bearing in mind the way people from the African continent are being treated in this county? Is our government doing enough to protect our African brothers and sisters? As far as we know we are not because even those who are supposed to protect them are the very first people to torture them and arrest them if they don’t give them money. Where is Africa, where is the spirit of Ubuntu in all this? Is being African to be defined by colour, race, gender, class or nationality?
What happened to the idea that South Africa belongs to all who live in it? What happened to the idea that Africa belongs to all who live in it? What happened to the idea that our heroes should be those that fight for the full inclusion of everyone and never those that fight to exclude some people?
Right now two Malawian gays have been sentenced for 14 years for coming out. None of the African heads of state have stepped forward to condemn this doing of the Malawi government. When we ask why it seems that the answer is because they all believe that ‘being Gay is unAfrican’. But there are many Gay people in Africa and therefore it cannot be ‘unAfrican to be Gay’.
As the Youth of Abahlali baseMjondolo we are sending solidarities to that Gay couple who will face 14 years imprisonment for being who they are, having the courage to be open about who they are and to believe in what they believe in. It is so wrong that innocent people who have harmed no one are sent to jail while the criminals are being protected outside and allowed to continue abusing innocent people.
In conclusion we would like to argue to the poor community that we must be very aware of the price of our silence in these times.
Some will say that they did not speak up when they came for the street traders because they are not street traders. Some will say that they did not speak up when they came for the shack dwellers because they are not living in shacks. Some will say that they did not speak up for the people born in other countries because they were born here. Some will say that they did not speak up for the full freedom of women because they are not women. Some will say that they did not speak up for Abahlali baseMjondolo because they never wore a red shirt. Some will say that they did not speak up for the Gays and Lesbians because they are not Lesbian or Gay.
The first price of our silence is that if we do not speak up for others then there will be no one left to speak up for us.
The second price of our silence is that an injury to one is always an injury to all. Gay and Lesbian people are our neighbours, our relatives, our colleagues, and our comrades. We must never forget that the struggle is connected in different ways.
Lets us unite and defend the democracy that our forefathers and foremothers have fought for. Let us show the government and those who try to fight for their place in society by attacking others what real democracy is. Let us insist that Africa belongs to all who live in it.