It is time to blow off your gasket again, with the hope that we will not start doubting our identity. Today I tackle the contentious subject of INFORMATION and its purpose in society.
My aim is to show you how elites use information to make us sheep and followers to what is being said and to accept everything as if it was from the holy bible or the Koran. The manner in which society (governments, capital, and others) manage information would make you realise that democracy is a myth, and that elites actually prefer repressive systems of government rather than those that encourage free flow of information.
Elites are always fearful of the power of blacks in South Africa. A revolution by blacks is not around the corner because they are psychologically managed. Imagine if the whole of Soweto and Sebokeng were to occupy farms between Johannesburg and Vereeniging.
Who can stop them?
Yet blacks stay put in Zone10, Orange Farm and Phiri-Mapetla as if their power is not in their hands. Nobody has a gun or whip to control these masses but they continue to behave.
Information is a great tool to control minds of society. In a democracy, in particular, you don’t need guns or the military to control crowds but words. Let me demonstrate how powerful the use of information is and what propaganda has achieved to date.
The struggle for liberation in Southern Africa and other parts of the was to fight European imperialism and to regain lands lost. Other things were secondary, and I will go as far as saying irrelevant. The first wars fought by the Khoisan and many other tribes or kingdoms residing along the African southernmost east coast, what is today South Africa, were against brutal incursions by Europeans and to drive them out of their lands.
Remember that there were no pounds or rands to worry about. There was also no dependency on whites to feed Africans. So, arguments like a depreciating rand or food security did not hold.
Africans acted out pride and need to protect their lands and people. There was little or no space for brown envelopes. Sekhukhune gallantly battled the Portuguese. Langalibalele, Bhambatha and Basotho tribes fought against English imperialists. Dingane dipped his spear in the heart of Voortrekkers. Labour was needed in mines and agriculture. Land was needed for agriculture and development of a modern capitalist state.
Blacks were hard to conquer until Boers and the English got together to form the Union of South Africa in 1910, under strict instructions from London. This is when the real conquer started, commencing with the Land Act of 1913 and all the way to the creation of the apartheid state in 1961. Britain was instrumental throughout.
In fact, London maintained a double agenda. The English collaborated with Boers to subjugate blacks, this is the part of the story that is known to all of us. Britain also collaborated with black liberation movements to manage aspirations of blacks. The English-speaking community in South Africa was placed in the minds of blacks as “liberal”, meaning that they are or were as not venomous or racist as their Afrikaans-speaking counterparts. That made it easier for them to infiltrate the struggle for liberation by the African majority.
The founding of the African National Congress (ANC) was a splendid idea which had the support of King Dinizulu, whose Zulu monarch had lost large swathes of land to the English and others in northern Natal and Southern Mozambique (Delgoa). The struggle was going to be led by “sanitized” blacks who had received their education abroad. The assumption was that these men still carried the fire of Zulu and Pedi soldiers who had fought Europeans in the 19th century. This assumption was correct but also flawed at the same time.
Indeed some of the leaders still identified with the struggles of ordinary people, but in the main many had been absorbed into the side of Britain. In terms of managing information, it is necessary to manage the “enlightened” (today’s version of clever blacks) and to use them to manage howling crowds, the black majority in South Africa. Blacks had serious aspirations of driving out whites and to regain control over their territories. Their political ideals were however watered down over time using different strategies, primarily force and manipulation of the mind.
The establishment concorts lies and misinformation (also called propaganda) with a view of attaining certain political outcomes.
A progressive theory of liberal democratic thought is based on the premise that there is a need to “manufacture consent” – this is achieved by using sophisticated techniques of propaganda by bringing in “those who are smart enough to figuring things out”. In the black community these smart ones were later roped in to lead the SANNC in 1912. These erudite individuals were smart enough to understand the inner workings of politics, they knew what were white men’s interests in South Africa, and by extension the entire region. They therefore had the capability to know things that “eluded the general public.”
The progressive theory of liberal democratic thought is similar to Leninist thinking that argues “a vanguard of revolutionary intellectuals take over state power, using popular revolutions as the force that brings them close to state power, and then drive the stupid masses toward a future that they are too dumb and incompetent to envision for themselves.” So it was logical to educate enlightened blacks at the time and to solicit their support in containing feisty and warring black tribes.
The likes of Langalibalele Dube, John Tengo Jabavu, Pixley ka Seme and Sol Plaatjie are amongst the most famous names desired for the execution of the project. Jabavu was drawn close to British capital by Cecil John Rhodes in efforts to manage revolutionary aspirations of the black majority.
Jabavu worked closely with white politicians such as James Rose Innes, who was later elected to the Cape Parliament. He also worked with Rhodes in the creation of a Xhosa language newspaper called “Izwi Labantu“. This collaboration did not end there. The duo of Rhodes and Jabavu were instrumental in the establishment of the University of Fort Hare.
Fort Hare was instrumental in the expansion of the elite political class that was going to govern in post-colonial Southern Africa.
Moeletsi Mbeki in his book titled: Architects of Poverty: why African capitalism need changing notes that English capital did not trust blacks enough to create a black capitalist class to run the economy. Instead, this was reserved for Afrikaners – the English injected capital to Boerevolk companies and government to continue safeguarding British interests. The attempt to share the pie with blacks created via BEE has flopped. Hence, the agitation to see economic transformation now.
The ANC was fully “captured” long before the Second World War.
One doesn’t need to take a wild guess which side they supported, General Jan Smuts and the allies. Towards the end of the war, a document titled: “Africans Claims in South Africa” was unanimously adopted by the ANC’s annual conference on 16 December 1943 to declare, “full aspirations of the African peoples so that their point of view will also be presented at the Peace Conference.” Under Dr A.B. Xuma the ANC tried to re-occupy its space the voice for African people. Xuma’s tenure saw the birth of the ANC Youth League and the Women’s League.
The emergence of the “young Turks” with the formation of the ANCYL in the 1940s was an attempt to catch the rot within as a result of the British agenda. The “pacificist” ANC had been in the pockets of English capital for too long and the wheels of the revolution were too slow as a result. Mzwakhe Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo rose into prominence because they felt that they needed to redirect the struggle. These young leaders were instrumental in the adoption of the Programme of Action in 1949.
The Programme of Action “called on the ANC to embark on mass action, involving civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts and other forms of non-violent resistance, similar to the 1946 Passive resistance campaign mounted by the South African Indian Conference (SAIC).” Notwithstanding the fact that the Programme of Action was adopted and that the trio of CYL members Sisulu, Tambo and Mandela were elected to the party’s national executive body, the key brains behind the internal revolution in the ANC Lembede had died under mysterious circumstances in 1947.
Lembede died with his Africanist element which disliked the presence of white liberals and communists, who by the way, represented the antithesis of the British continued control of the South African state as it were. English capital supported the struggle as it supported Afrikaner nationalism. The radicalisation of the ANC took place at the same time as the rise of the Nationalist Party, which finally took over the reigns in 1948. Still not to be deterred, British capital persisted in managing the ANC through the white-only South African Communist Party (SACP).
The SACP played a key role in two areas. Firstly, it managed to sway the clever blacks of the time into accepting that South Africa was not black by declaring that it “belonged to all who lived in it”. The Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955 as a blueprint to guide the struggle going forward. Nonetheless, the Freedom Charter was a significant victory for the British because this meant that the ANC (as a leader of black masses) had accepted land ownership by whites as de facto. Lembede’s colleagues such as Robert Sobukhwe and Zeph Mothopeng did not agree, and established the Pan Africanist Congress in 1959.
Secondly, it was instrumental in the ‘militarization’ of the ANC with the formation of the armed wing Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) in December 1961. The adoption of the 1949 Programme of Action and formation of the PAC and MK was supposed to follow the upward trajectory of removing the black struggle from white influence. But it was never to be. British capital was worried about militant erudite blacks who already did what Lenin despised. For example, the opposition of Pass Laws had to be met with a barrel of gun. The Sharpeville Massacre in 1961 was a response to cooperation between smart blacks (the vanguard of the revolution) and the masses.
A second plan was devised to divide the revolution through banning of the PAC and MK (miliritarised smart blacks), in particular. The ANC was back in the hands of white capital but it had to be banned nevertheless. Otherwise, the propaganda to claim that both the PAC and militant blacks within the ANC were dangerous would have been defeated had the ANC remained unbanned.
Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, president of the then banned ANC, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 “for advocating non-violent resistance…” Clearly, this was the first recognition that he played his part in toning down the liberation struggle, and this also indicated that the ANC was forever going to steer away the masses from their political ideals. Militants were banned, killed or jailed. But this does not present the real going-ons in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
To this day people still ask pertinent questions:
(a) What led to the PAC’s demise in exile?
(b) Why was the anti-apartheid movement strong in England and less in other parts of the world, especially in the Non-Aligned Movement countries? Why was the ANC a preferred partner by the anti-apartheid movement to other liberation movements?
(c) Why capitalists approached only the ANC in efforts to negotiate talks with the apartheid government? The ANC was not the only organization representing blacks in exile. There was also the PAC and Azapo, among others.
(d) What were direct links between the ANC and the unbanned United Democratic Front (UDF)? The UDF inexplicably ceased to exist as soon as the ANC was unbanned, and “donated” its leaders to the ANC.
(e) Why Mandela’s imprisonment appears to have been much more easier than that of most political prisoners like Harry Gwala who lost functionality of his arms, or many PAC cadres who still served their terms after 1994? It is possible that the pact reached in the 1940s to 1950s spared Mandela and others from harsh prison life. In anyway, the onslaught of liberation movements was to kill militants and Africanists. As for the rest of us, we were impacted by “friendly fire”.
(f) Also related to the UDF was the rise of the labour union movement, particularly Cosatu. Cosatu grew in the margins of English capital in mining areas and industry in the metropolitan regions such as Durban, PE-Uitenhage-EL industrial complex, Witwatersrand and Cape Town. It is inconceivable that capital would have allowed trade unions to grow without supervision because they always represented political and economic interests. Cosatu went on to join forces with the ANC and the SACP after their unbanning in 1990. In addition, Cosatu-affiliated unions went on to be major shareholders in companies operating in sectors where they organised. Trade unionists also became members of the political ruling class; and some are serious proponents of free-markets.
The propaganda of the establishment helped us to understand the political struggle in South Africa the way we do today. The main aim was to control “bewildered herds” (or masses) to follow a specific pre-determined destination rather than what their forefathers yearned for when they fought the Battle of the Blood River, among others. At the end, the struggle for liberation delivered democracy and no land. Isn’t suspicious that blacks have to demand “expropriation of land without compensation” from the Constitution that they never wrote or formally adopted by means of a vote?
Also, one tends to question why did black people engage in a very prolonged struggle for liberation if land, control of the means of production, and restoration of their dignity were excluded in the Bill of Rights?
The release of Mandela and subsequent push for him to be elected as president and the adoption of a neoliberal constitution that does not speak to the aspirations of the Black majority were major achievements for British capital. Although blacks were said to have won political power, which I doubt, the economy and were left intact under English capital. The “servitude” housing Afrikaner capital was equally protected.
The black masses walk under tight management and supervision of the ANC. Capital and the Fourth Estate simply compliments the mind rape of the unsuspecting black majority.
Since taking over in 1994, the ANC has avoided real and tangible discussions with the black majority in order to divert the struggle. Instead the focus has always been turning South Africa into an exemplary free-market state where rights of investors rank ahead of the black majority, that continues to be poor to this day. From GEAR to courting ruthless global corporations, the ANC still uses old-style propaganda that it is a true vanguard of revolutionary masses.
American left-leaning political scientist Noam Chomsky sheds some light on how the propaganda machinery works. It works from the premise that “masses of the public are too stupid to be able to understand things. If they try to manage their own affairs they would cause trouble. Therefore, it would be immoral and improper to permit them to do this.”
As such the elites have a compelling reason and duty to manage “bewildered herd,” by not allowing them “to rage and trample and destroy things.” This is basically the same logic to say it would be irresponsible to allow a three-year old to run across the busy M1 highway, linking Johannesburg and Pretoria, on his own. Blacks cannot handle their own freedom!
Starting from the 1900, then the Freedom Charter, the banning of the PAC and militant blacks, the negotiations for black freedom initiated by white capital, the neoliberal constitution and all the way to the democracy of free-markets, the British/English capital kept everything together through information. The propaganda is a glue to join what appear disconnected, unrelated and even contrasting together. Struggle for liberation and apartheid government had a single boss, British capital. Britain facilitated the negotiations to end apartheid, and already knew what path liberated South Africa had to follow. The direction was always going to advance or protect British interests.
A democracy works on information but such information must be sifted and controlled. Masses have to be given what they need to know, and nothing more. Every media gives the value of the rand and prices for major commodity prices. That is enough to manage your mind. Once masses are told that, for example Britain has no single gold mine but sets the price of the bullion masses would demand reasons to this anomaly. Also, nobody will tell you that minerals get mined in South Africa but only those in America and Europe get to enjoy profits on the backs of African labour.
Propaganda means that the masses have to be entertained. No wonder International sporting bodies decided to award rights to South Africa to hold the rugby and soccer games, in 1995 and 2010 respectively. The masses thought our country had finally arrived while they were being managed away from asking too many questions about what really happened to their struggle for liberation. On top of that popular culture helped to keep the masses entertained and to forget about politics. Political consciousness must be muted.
In a democracy, the bewildered herd have to distracted and also “indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it.” Elites see themselves as best judges of public interests. Gupta shenanigans were promoted ahead of the Steinhoff scandal. Evergreen contracts at SOEs continue to be hidden as corruption but Nkandla and Trillian sagas were reported on for many weeks and months. Without the use of force, the public followed suit and believed all they were told.
That is a masterstroke of propaganda.
In a totalitarian state it is easier to control information flow, by either restricting it or punishing anyone who accesses “bad materials”. In places like Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, you just hold a bludgeon over the heads of people who act on the basis of their misjudgements. In Saudi, beheadings and stoning’s are used as capital punishment. However, as society becomes free and democratic, this capacity is lost when you want to silent masses. But can you do to make them keep quiet? “You have to turn to propaganda,” Chomsky suggests.
Propaganda is to democracy what bludgeoning is to a totalitarian state. Just walk around in your neighbourhood and living area and see if you can’t see open skulls. Television, newspapers, advertisements, syllabi in schools and universities, political rallies and other forms of communication have damaged our heads for the benefit of the powers to be.
Motapo We’Zigidi holds qualifications in global affairs, economics and management. He is a political commentator. He manages the international relations portfolio for the department. His scope includes dealing with governments, government organisations, business, trade unions and non-state actors. He is a PhD candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal