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ancestors of ontological infidels - in conversation with mzala nxumalo

ancestors of ontological infidels - in conversation with mzala nxumalo

they still refer to you as Nobleman. well, to some it's a convenient invocation, but to others it's not just a name but also, and most importantly, a symbol of a critical body of work that characterised your labour of love Mzala.

what else can i talk to you about - hmmmm? well, nothing much. this is not meant to be some heavy talk; so relax, lest you take out your intellectual sledgehammer and smash this fragile body and mind of mine, i'm still ideologically wet behind the ear Mzala.

but tell me Mzala what was your hedge against despair and anxiety during apartheid to a point where you could use the pen to unsettle the powers-that-be and collaborators of the enemy?

what did it take to wield the pen for such a dangerous mission instead of turning the coat and becoming an askari like some? in the first place were you aware that you were "bellying the cat" Mzala? don't look down, i can see that you want to evade this question.

I’m asking this Mzala because in these days of ours wedding bells have been tolling for quite some time but the revolutionary bride does not come through, or perhaps it is a proverbial case of waiting for Godot? i don't know Mzala. i really don't know. and please don't ask me to explain more.

by the way, i requested this session with you when i saw a poster on social media to commemorate you. that time if i may tell you i was at the outskirts of the concrete jungle called Jozi, battling it's uncompromising stench.

i have not been feeling well for the past two or three weeks, i needed a refreshing walk. so i had to blaze across the dirty Joburg CBD. as if the street vendor knew that i was sneezing heavily she came straight to me and sold me a handkerchief - please don't laugh Mzala hawu, you see i won't say more because wena uyangihleka.

by the way i’m doing this with the firm belief that this is a classified conversation between me and you Mzala - if it leaks it will either be me or you, you hold me accountable i hold you accountable. deal? perfect!

let me first say this - i should have started with it by the way - look Mzala pardon me for summoning you over here and granting myself the powers to say the things i have said and i'm still going to say.

look, you won't believe when i tell you that the living are involved in a rat race. it's weird Mzala. mutual understanding amongst comrades has been sacrificed at the altar of competition. generally, the capitalist mantra of "time is money" is the order of the day. did i say anything about paying bills? no, how can i not.

heee Mzala, uyazi nowadays the bottomline is to pay bills, yes to pay bills. self-preservation has become a creed. as long as individuals are able to pay bills they are fine, anything else is unnecessary and therefore not worth their attention - so it has come to be believed. i see you want to ask about the project of national liberation and the struggle for socialism, i see.

well, nami angazi, angifuni kuthiwe ngitheni. but what i can say Mzala is that neo-liberal capitalism is running amok and those who are supposed to seriously tamper with capitalist imperialist power relations merely yell in microphones _ well, say "performative rage". and the following day it's bussiness as usual. it is the reign of "we did not struggle to be poor" mindset perhaps, particularly where the democratisation of the dividends of freedom is anathema.

that time dialectics are shelved somewhere. in this, Lenin and Marx are toys that are conveniently fetched from the drawer when the wrecking crew posing as ideologues want ideological legitimacy, after that they shelve them back so that they cruise nicely without a sense of shame or guilt in the ship of neo-colonial and neo-liberal and neo-liberal decadence. no Mzala no, i did not mention deployment to cabinet, that comes from you, i didn't say it. but i agree that too is the case - you are still sharp Mzala, i see. tell Miriam Tlali, Muntu Ka Myeza and Chris Hani all these things.

wait Mzala i want to finish this point, i can see that you want to say something, i won't be long. well, let me first swiftly wipe off this sweat invading my palms, these things are not easy to utter, my body is fragile, but let me try summon some articulatory stamina, for these things cannot go unsaid.

okay. okay. let's go...

we are trying to continue your tradition of using the pen to offend power; those with the paint brush, the microphone, the palette _ and many others _ are determined to join the combat zone. for instance, i met Ntando who performed a poem at the Market Theatre in 2021 its title was "For Mzala Nxumalo". i met Nozibele who came to the launch of the two volumes of Socialism Nomuntu Omusha - Taking the Oath of the Revolution in 2022, she is conducting research on your life and works. we have Mandla Radebe who has written a well-researched book titled "The Lost Prince of the ANC" about you and your work.

yini uthuswa yini? ya some want to bury your legacy but there are people, young and old, who love you and your work Mzala, who are inspired by you, believe it or not. you left an indelible mark in people's lives Mzala to the envy of some.

unfortunately, we now also have to riot with the pen against your Cdes who should know better. these are your Cdes who have become a wrecking crew that conveniently uses your name for legitimacy. why raise eyebrows? yes, i mean your Cdes, not anyone else.

uyahleka, you think i'm joking. we are living in the era of capitalist decadence Mzala, which forces people to say, "f*** ideology, a man for himself, and god for us all". a situation where ones tribe is more important than others. i see you are grinning. yes, Cabral's invocation that for a nation to be, a tribe must die is slowly losing its gravitas _ if it had ever been properly understood and genuinely embraced.

ya, you see, that nod of yours of disbelief is what we also do when we come across many inconceivable things done by your comrades.

may i say this Mzala, while some people try, the hearts of some of you Cdes are heavily dipped in neo-colonial political orgies despite the convenient invocation of revolutionary phrases here and there to win over unsuspecting folks.

the ink has been turned into a sedative substance; people are petrified? guess by who? well, let me say Mzala by those who should know better. by the way, tell Biko that his invocation that "God is not in the habit of coming down to solve problems for human beings" is mindlessly trampled under foot by leaders who believe organising a prayer when there are crises is the be and end all. they trade the power given to them by the electorate for some divine intervention. typical folly of politicians perhaps?

i have been wondering Mzala as to what it means for the disgraced elite to seek the grace of the Almighty Lord? what it means for proponents of perfidy to seek heavenly spoils? what it means Mzala for divine providence to be cowed to the logic of neo-colonial decadence?

well, perhaps, i'm being crazy i don't know. but look Mzala, the power that was supposed to be used for people's emancipation has become nothing else but a franchise of grief and gratuitous violence. it is never exercised to heal the colonial class, gender and racial wounds, rather it perpetuates them. see Sandton and Alexandra, Fourways and Diepsloot, Clermont and New Germany/kloof/Westville etc. the "masses of our people", as it has come to be known, are wallowing in shacks, shanty towns and violent townships, while "leaders of the masses" live in mansions. the latter have the privilege of whiskey dispensers and the former fight over a tap of water in a community of more than 200 people.

those who are supposed to spearhead transformation are shareholders and non-executive directors of the very companies that entrench colonial and apartheid power relations. i don't know much Mzala, i hold no big, long and heavy papers on the subject of economics, but how can this be accounted for?

the price of cabbage is determined by the markets, your Cdes bask in the glory of perks and benefits. the market is the god worshipped by all and sundry. i see you want to ask why can't the government, for instance, put a price cap on basic commodities, nami angazi Mzala, angazi...

the dominant voices that justify the colonial, capitalist imperialist system offer us crimes that are beyond critique. and so Mzala there are crimes that are beyond reproach; see, no arrest are ever made when white people and the political elite violate national laws and steal billions meant for people; yet steal a bag of mealie meal from the shop as a commoner and you invite the wrath of the oppressive apparatus of the power structure.

so Mzala we no longer just have a chief with a double agenda, we have your cdes with many agendas. they indicate left and turn right. of course, some weird and needless long extractions of Marx's works are mobilised to cover up this hypocrisy. i'm sure you know the "marx said..." brigade. but Mzala i can tell you that there are daring souls here and there who have grown to separate ideological wheat from rhetorical chaff. they say if they have to pay the price for that let it be.

look Mzala, i'm not part of the lost generation, my generation is not lost; we may be living from hand to mouth, we may struggle to make ends meet, but we are not lost. hear me out Mzala, see the context of what im going to say.

well, im not going to say we must burn ABSA, FNB or Old Mutual and call it revolution, no. why open your eyes so wide as if i come with some out-of-the-world, dangerous suggestion or claim? relax and allow me to make this point.

one day i went to a meeting, one of the leaders used a very captivating metaphor, he observed, "comrades, apartheid and liberation forces were elephants, we know that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers, the grass were people, and attaining our democracy means the elephant that is the liberation forces won, we must celebrate this comrades, let's celebrate". this to the applause from the house. i could not help but stand up and ask a question, "...fair enough we must celebrate the democratic breakthrough, but what does the fact that the grass, thus people, continues to suffer even when the elephants are presumably no longer fighting and the liberation forces reign supreme"? well, the rest is history.

again, look Mzala, me and bottles of beer had kissed our relationship goodbye, but recently the relationship has been re-established, albeit reluctantly. this is because i rather stand the noise and cacophony of strangers in shebeens and taverns than listen to those who always say, on podiums, that we must enter the battle of ideas and write yet are the first to disown us and work with the political elite to destroy us because our writing offends the political sensibilities of their masters. we live in an era in which, as a cultural worker mphutlane wa bofelo would say, "an injury to me is an insurance to you".

oh no, it's getting late, i won't get taxis after 7pm; look Mzala, if tommorow you will still be here, i will come by to finish my story... perhaps let me paint you a picture of the gutter i'm leaving for Mzala. see now that it is getting dark, this community assumes a specific behaviour, we keep ourselves busy with different kinds of activities before we kick the proverbial bucket. this is the anthem of the happenings in the specific area of the gutter reflective of the wider logic of the gutter though. let's put away the expedient political speaks and say:

in that club house, where we 'push time',

the DJ booth is a precarious cage, smaller than a cell of a birdcage in a zoo, and once in a while bottles are flung against the metal bars having missed a head of a would-be victim by an inch.

looking about, familiar bruised faces of jobless vagabonds that can be missed in any crowd sip on Milk Stout in gangs, each greedy gulp causing rage to the one who bought the beer. blood is always about to curdle here, and as anticipated a rumble begins rhythms of House Music wizardry, dust rattles tin roofs and shacks shake on their poles.

there is always nose that bleeds among some gang of frantic big-spenders, plonk in floral boxes waved over braided heads of women fighting other women, men settling scores with other men, and eventually everyone fighting with everyone, hurling bottles and plastic cups at each other. remember Mzala we had long observed in the text Meditations from the Gutter that the "gutter is the cemetery of the living" who "die today, tommorow and forever", death is no longer shocking, it has become an ethic.

a drizzle sometimes begins to save the music from drowning under thunder, but haunted streaks always continue to crawl ragingly across the more-often-than not biliously clouded sky; yet other measures to keep life living in the context in which dividends of democracy are a far cry. perhaps khahliso matela, zion vilakazi, kush mahleka, lerato likopo, luleka mhlanzi, levy pooe, mhlonishwa chiliza, nkululeko ngwenya, nhlanhla mkhwanazi, mzoxolo vimba, mbasa sigcawu, ayanda yaya mokwana, and many others best articulate, in righteous rage, these existential predicaments afflicting ontological infidels in the gutter in their works.

as a parting shot Mzala i think, given the circumstances already painted above, remember i did not say unemployment, underemployment, exploitation, exploitative internships, homelessness, poverty, indebtedness, anxiety inducing workplace power dynamics, i believe that both the pot and the rice you spoke about have been stolen by your comrades in cahoots with the power structures of monopoly capital for private use and consumption, one can therefore ask: what of the people's revolution?

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Molaodi Wa Sekake

Molaodi Wa Sekake

Molaodi Wa Sekake is the author of an upcoming two-volumed book "Socialism NoMuntu Omusha - Taking The Oath of Revolution".

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ancestors of ontological infidels - in conversation with mzala nxumalo

ancestors of ontological infidels - in conversation with mzala nxumalo

well, nami angazi, angifuni kuthiwe ngitheni. but what i can say Mzala is that neo-liberal capitalism is running amok and those who are supposed to seriously tamper with capitalist imperialist power relations merely yell in microphones _ well, say "performative rage". and the following day it's bussiness as usual.

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