Sometimes I envy the departed. In their passing, they automatically transcend the pettiness, cruelty and inhumanity that are very much characteristics that define this world. When death finally sets in, terminating life from the bodies of the living, and subsequently leaving nothing but pain, misery and poignancy in its wake, I have come to believe, in a weird and twisted way that the departed have been rescued. Of course, in that same breath, for those who are left behind, the thought of never seeing a loved one ever again, their physical being taken from them forever, stabs the soul like a knife to the heart. But this heartache does not extinguish the naïve thought that I sometimes entertain: that the dead, for they are no longer part of our realm, are free from the hell of this world.
Thus, when you are confronted by the news that Africans, in the year 2017, are once again being sold like goods over the counter, you begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, Africans have no place in this world. You begin to think that maybe, like the dead, Africans will find eternal peace in the next life. Here, in this world where you and I are currently visiting, walking with confidence like we belong, is no place for Africans. Of course, some amongst us, as it is their job to do so, in their naivety, will say we are making a mountain out of a molehill. They will accuse us, as they are paid to do so, of blowing things out of proportion. In their sleek and glossy language patted with questionable scholarly theories, they will accost us for being unreasonable for saying Africans have never been treated as cherished and beloved members of the global family. As it is their duty, they will call us out for passing lived experience as facts that can never be denied for the world has been unkind to us as Africans. And finally, when we tell them that we are not imagining these things, they will indict us for not being objective.
One Hunter S. Thompson, in a blistering obituary, titled He Was a Crook, dedicated to the former president of the United States of America, Richard Nixon, imparted the following lesson with regards to hiding behind ‘objectivity’ like a meerkat while things fall apart. He lectures us thus: ‘Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.’ These, who are quick to tell us to maintain silence while human life is wasted away, will once again emerge from the woodworks to try and pull one over us. In their silver tongues roasted in spin and confusion, they will inform us that the suffering of Africans in Libya and elsewhere is a tragedy while they shield those who are responsible from any form of accountability.
In 1969 when a teenage Muammar Gaddafi took power to govern Libya, the desert country was just another typical story of a poor African country with a vast wealth of resources. Under Gaddafi, that story would change. He transformed Libya from a sorry state into a well-functioning nation that richly benefited its citizens. In the Libya of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, poverty was nothing but a foreign concept. While Colonel Muammar Gaddafi lived, the people of Libya learned of unemployment in books, newspapers and magazines. That a citizen of Libya could die because they could not afford healthcare was a strange and shocking tale that was passed on to Libyans when visitors from other countries paid a visit to Tripoli. When a student wished to study abroad, the Libyan government allocated them sufficient funds to do so without having to worry about food, clothes, shelter and other amenities that every human being deserves.
This normal existence that was a way of life for the people of Libya under the administration of Muammar Gaddafi, which seem and sound like miracles to useless governments, is unfortunately a story of the past. Today we speak of a progressive Libya under Brother Leader like it is fiction adapted from a children’s book. We sit around the dinner table and sports bars to discuss a Libya where free healthcare was a norm as if it never happened in our lifetime. We lament the present Libya because ‘those of us with the gift of knowledge’ know that under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was a warm home that catered to Africans from all walks of life. We speak of the modern Libya, the Libya that today sees black people as less than human beings who don’t deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, because we know that during Brother Leader’s time Africans from Juba to Johannesburg were welcomed with a red carpet when they arrived in Tripoli. Today, a Libya that ensured that every graduate was placed in a job, is now a relic of the past. A mere part of history.
Dear reader, Africans are being sold off in Libya like apartheid South Africa never happened. My people, my own kith and kin are being traded in Libya, the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi, as if colonialism never robbed Africans of their languages, culture and intelligence. In 2017, hundred years since that great African from Nkatolo, OR Tambo, was born, his people are being peddled to the next bidder in Libya as if OR Tambo never lived and espoused ideas for a better humanity. But while we are outraged about Libya, pulling hairs from our scalps to emphasise our anger, Tripoli is not alone in their exploitation of Africans. Tripoli can never be charged alone in the tragedy that is Libya today while Washington, London, Brussels and their gangster allies go on about life like they did not impose their own will on Libyans. The anger that is directed at the present Tripoli can never be just while Barack Obama, David Cameron, Nikolas Sarkozy and their band of thugs stroll about as if they are not responsible for the crime scene that is Libya today. It could never be that we are only incensed now about what is happening to Africans in Libya because to feel otherwise would amount to not being cool to your friends on Facebook or your followers on Instagram and Twitter. Our dramatic outcry on social media and the general media can never be genuine while we, in 2011, allowed for the lifeless body of Muammar Gaddafi to be paraded in the streets of Sirte by thugs assisted by murderous foreign governments. It would be disingenuous of the writer if he described the theatric uproar he witnessed in the past few days as caring when we as Africans celebrated with foreigners when they plastered the defenseless face of Brother Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, on the front pages of The New York Times, Washington Post and The Guardian as a sign of victory and a symbol of triumph.
In 2017, the year that Hip Hop sensation Cassper Nyovest filled FNB stadium, Africans, those that look like you and I in colour, are being traded off as instruments of labour. The year that marked the tragic end of that African patriot, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Africans are being shipped to Europe and other places to be used as garden boys and girls, domestic help and prostitutes. In 2017, the year that we pledged to preserve the memory of Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo and uphold his teachings, Africans in Africa are subjected to the most humiliating acts that should offend all human life. Having witnessed this gross injustice meted at Africans, and having learned from my elders that history has never been kind to my people, I truly envy the dead; for they departed from our world of horror, a stage where every ugly act of inhumanity is played out, and are finally free. Perhaps, in their quest for freedom and equality, Africans should look someplace else; because here where we are, is not a suitable environment for the people of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba. This world is hostile to the kith and kin of Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews. Hopefully, in the next life, Africans, the people of Lebo Mashile, Lebohang Pheko and Sisonke Msimang will find eternal peace and permanent joy. Kgotsong!