The UKZN Griot. Of Decolonisation and FreedomLaw and Management Studies

Keyan G Tomaselli*

Social media notwithstanding, graffiti remains the subversive medium of choice for any true revolutionary, especially if painted on historic buildings. Forget Twitter and consult the nearest wall. Graffiti on campuses (excluding toilet walls depicting acts that would embarrass Playboy) finally exposes the ultimate culprit. An enemy hiding in plain sight, it has infiltrated everywhere. Our rainbow-tinted exuberance suckered us into believing that apartheid had been the enemy. That once we could establish freedom, democracy, BBBEE, EE, NEDLAC, NEPAD, stricter visa regulations, and a non-racial society, everything would be hunky dory.

How blind!

Vanguardist campus activists have liberated themselves from false consciousness and exposed the true enemy: colonialism.  (This is a one-size-fits all demon that forgets that every society everywhere at every time has been brutally colonised - often successively). This realisation is a game-changer. Transforming from apartheid is first base, building our society was second base, but playing with decolonisation moves into the big leagues.

Transformation just tinkered with racial targets.  But once colonialism is the target, then everything is up for grabs. The ‘decolonising methods’ ball I have been leading enthusiastically in my curriculum reform, in forging new critical indigenous methods and new theories-from-below. Less keen have I been with de-colonising statues and road names, as we need to remember who the historical villains are.

Once decolonisation has replaced HIV as the ‘new struggle’, the National Development Plan can really build progress because, at root, everything in settler economies has colonial origins. A Roman Dutch judicial system undermines government at every turn, and sectors of a hostile Anglo Saxon media are now owned by the state pension fund, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).  Yet, PIC  approved the colonisation of the true blue South African Breweries by nasty imperialist brewers, enabling shareholders to laugh all the way to the bank – until Brexit knocked them to hell and gone.  This capitalist system is linked to a Westminster ‘Parliament’ that is just an excuse to embarrass our President.

And what about those nit-pickety settler folk expecting refugee status in the Western Cape?  The First People in all Capes are largely ignored in their pleas that Afrikaans be recognised as indigenous and no-one talks about restoring their historical claims to most of Southern Africa.  If the First People were indeed the first, disagreements over Homo Naledi notwithstanding, then the rest of us are second, third and fourth, eventually to the power ‘n’.  The further down the time-chain the less rights we should get. In going back this far, the campus decolonisers themselves will need decolonisation.  In the US, the whole point of Trump-o-nomics is to decolonise the USA of Mexicans, Moslems and good sense, to punish American business gone global, to engage in Big Wall tenderpreneurship, and to keep out Mexican narco-colonisers who, unlike Aztecs religious sacrifice, simply kill to secure market share.  Xenophobia and markets knows no bounds, whether in Gauteng or anywhere else. 

In this fiery path to African righteousness, we lose nothing. Our Gini co-efficient reflects barbaric economic inequality. So enthralled are we by economic growth in China and former colonies like Brazil, India and Singapore, that we forgot African solutions to resolve so-called African problems.

To the north, war veterans have proven that the ultimate victory against colonialism is eradication of currency itself, returning to indigenous bartering practices. Unleashing the anti-colonial Genie makes the very concept of Gini a moot point. Without currency it is impossible to measure Gini-co-efficients.  The outcome is to return to a state of timeless nature and ultimate freedom from the yokes of colonialism, imperialism, neo-liberalism, capitalism, and any more re-runs of The Kardashians or the memory of Mzilakazi. This, even as the killers of currency drive through and over their inconvenient serfs, 95% of whom are unemployed,  in expensive bullet proof sedans imported from Europe and protected by bodyguards with imported Russian weapons.

This great victory has restored the dignity of the poorest of the poor.  The obverse, of course, is that the richest of the rich shop in Europe, get medical treatment in Singapore and buy property unaffordable to anyone else in the Western Cape.

Comrades, I leave you with an extract from War Veterans in Zimbabwe’s Revolution, by Zvakanyorwa Sadomba. He poses the conundrum: ‘Zimbabwe’s revolution sets a new agenda and raises anew the intriguing question “what are the people of Africa trying to free themselves from and what are they trying to establish”?’

While we figure this out, the world moves on.  Europe is absorbing millions of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. South Africa resents the thousands crossing the Limpopo, and xenophobia is re-emerging everywhere.  But that’s OK, because we know how to destroy.  Once everything is destroyed, then we’ll have equity.  Except that some folks will have stashed their goodies behind fortified compounds, in Swiss banks while exempting themselves from global institutions of accountability.

Keyan G Tomaselli is a Witsie, a UKZN Professor Emeritus, and a University of Johannesburg Professor.  He can be de-colonised at

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.

Keyan Tomaselli