Clifton Beach: A Betrayal of African Customs

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Written by: Dumisani Kili

On 28 December 2018, protesters flocked to Clifton Beach in Cape Town to protest alleged racism by a private security company and residents in general. At this protest, a sheep was sacrificed to ‘cleanse off racist spirits’.

There is a lot to say about the protest in general, but this article will be dealing with the case of the slaughtered sheep, and how the protesters have not only desecrated African customs, but did so for petty politics.

The Folly of Prophecy

Nongqawuse was a Xhosa prophetess born in 1841 near Gxarha River in the independent Xhosaland, close to the border of the recently colonised territory of the British Kaffraria. She grew up under her deeply religious and vigilant uncle, Mhlakaza, after her parents died while she was still very young.

Around April 1856, a 15 year old Nongqawuse and her friend Nombamba, who was 8-10 years old, went to scare birds from her uncle’s crops in the fields by the mouth of the Gxarha River in the present-day Wild Coast area of the Eastern Cape. When Nongqawuse returned back home she told Mhlakaza that she had met the spirits of three of her ancestors. She claimed that the spirits had told her that Xhosa people should destroy their crops. She further claimed that the ancestors who had appeared to them said the dead would arise and all living cattle would have to be slaughtered, having been reared by contaminated hands.

Nongqawuse managed to win over her uncle and most of the other members of her tribe with this story. This resulted in the killing of between 300,000 and 400,000 cattle and only the Amagogotya/Amagogonya (the tribe of the stingy ones) people in Xhosaland refused to destroy their wealth for no other reason than the words of a 15 year old child. Nongqawuse would later blame the Amagogotya for the failure of her prophecy to come true. They were the blockage in the toilet, if you will, and no plumber was forthcoming from her divine ancestors.

I was reminded of Nongqawuse when I saw the nonsensical spectacle at Clifton Beach.

A sheep was literally made into a sacrificial lamb in order to cleanse the beach of so-called demonic racial spirits, just when I thought we had learned from our history, and tomorrow would be slightly brighter than yesterday.

It turns out that the past just had a better fluorescent light, and was lacking only in electric ballast to limit the damage. We have the Black People’s National Crisis Committee (BPNCC) to thank for this fiasco — a group of peace-time, self-absorbed and self-hating celebrities masquerading as the heroes and heroines of black people.

Betrayal

The BNPCC has in fact, betrayed their ancestors, just as Nongqawuse did. They define themselves in terms of what white people do and how they react to their actions instead of spending their time doing things that will actually make things better for other black people.

Nongqawuse destroyed her people by convincing them to commit suicide. The BNPCC turned sacred African customs into nothing more than political theatre, an object of ridicule. A black man who defines and identifies himself under the banner of what they call ‘Black Excellence’ is a fuming, livid and foam-mouthed man committing suicide in broad daylight. He does not know who he is and seeks validation from pieces of his past which he does not properly understand.

African Customs

My black ancestors do not care for Clifton Beach and have no interest in knowing it. When they were among the living they spent their days under the glorious African Sun building their civilisations and a better future for themselves, instead of spending money on a holiday called Christmas.

If there are African ancestors at Clifton Beach, my custom dictates that those young people who are part of BNPCC first needed to be introduced to those ancestors through the slaughtering of a sheep by people who knew them or had themselves been introduced in such a manner. The place where the ceremony itself takes place has to be introduced to the ancestors as the family/clan altar.

African ancestors didn’t just do things haphazardly. They had their own laws which they adhered to and continue to do so.

Two years ago my younger brother underwent initiation into manhood. The first phase of this ritual involves slaughtering a goat in order to introduce the young man to our ancestors. I and my older brother could not perform this introduction at my house since the house itself has not yet been introduced to our ancestors. We had to go to my father’s house since it had been introduced to the ancestors long before I was born.

The Clifton Beach saga was an insult to African ancestors and the customs they left behind for us.

The events of Clifton Beach are nothing but an anti-black publicity stunt and an excuse to have a party, with the added benefit of shocking white people. How dare anyone slaughter a sheep in a place unknown to our ancestors?

What are you actually cleansing? Certainly, black ancestors are out of the equation. Black ancestors don’t cleanse foreign spirits such as racism. They introspect and cleanse themselves.

Steve Biko left you with this message:

“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppressor — the blackness of their skin — and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude”.

The likes of Chumani Maxwele and BNPCC do the opposite of what Biko said.

They fight for the renaming of airports and streets and call it decolonisation. That is a lie. Pre-colonial Africa didn’t even have airports — the first airplane was invented in 1903, long after colonialism was well and truly underway. These so-called activists just want to find a niche for themselves in a white man’s world without first understanding who they are.

At least Nongqawuse believed she was fighting for her people and her land, the likes of BNPCC are fighting to further entrench the colonialism already running rampant in their minds.

* Dumisani Kili is a soldier with a rank of private 1st class in the South African National Defense Force. He writes in his personal capacity on matters of black consciousness and Africanism in general.

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