When former President Thabo Mbeki (1978) was addressing a seminar held in Ottawa, Canada about the path South Africa will take, mentioned something incredible about the fact that historical events shape the current times. The president said that, “All societies therefore necessarily bear the imprint, the birth-marks of their own past. Whether to a greater or lesser extent must depend on a whole concatenation of factors, both internal and external to each particular society.” The assertions made by the president were firstly shared by Karl Marx (1852) when he stressed that, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” The words of the two great minds, echoes the fact that as South Africans commemorate 25 years of independence, they are participating on daily basis in the process of making history and ultimately building a new society.
The 27th April 1994 does not only symbolize the fact that South Africans were free, but it also marks the culmination of the already existing processes that gave birth to the post-modern societies in the African continent. This is based on the fact that South Africa is one of the latest countries in the continent to gain independence. Therefore the significance of the 27th April 1994 goes beyond the South African borders, the date signifies the birth of post-colonial African societies through self-determination that was highly motivated by various forms of nationalism.
The term post-modernity does not mean that there were no forms of modernity in the African continent prior to colonialism. But it means that, before Africans were introduced to a society that is divided based on “citizens” and “subjects” with the European protagonist declared as a “citizen”, and the African protagonist declared as a “subject.” The African protagonist had already established educational institutions, strong family units, cultural and traditional courts and forms of trade. These were later destroyed through the undesired distorted philosophical notions formed by the European protagonist about the African beings. Without any scientific evidence to its findings. The European protagonist was blinded by the purest form of idealism, expressed through the core of European modernity coined by Rene Descartes; cogito ergo sum. Which means that, “I think therefore I know.”
The shortcomings of cogito ergo sum is that the European protagonist had in mind that, whatever it thinks of the African protagonist is true, this meant that no scientific research was conducted to test the reality of the conceptions the Europeans had about Africans. At the core of the colonial project in the continent, in all its manifestations-direct or indirect is the distorted forms of nationalism formed through idealism. This form is dangerous because it manifested through stereotypes, misconceptions and hatred of mankind. It led to the emergence of the commodification and hunting of African bodies by the Europeans and created market systems that only perceived Africans as slaves.
It is important to state that the cogito ergo sum did not just remain as an idea in the minds of the Europeans, but it manifested into a nightmare for Africans. It firstly stripped off African identity in the being of African bodies, it racialized African societies, it created class in African societies, it divided African people, it entrenched systematic patriarchal elements in the African families and it introduced unscientific believes, systems and values in the social relations of African people. It is clear that, the form of modernity created by the European protagonist in the African continent is equivalent to backwardness. Therefore the nation state, created under colonialism, was nothing but a backward state, characterised by narrow nationalism-racism.
There is something worth mentioning about the form of idealism the European protagonist had, the ideas that they had in mind, about Africans did not just remain in their heads, but it lead to colonialism. The political, economic and social aspects under the colonial state were variants of colonialism. This is the African reality, it negates those that believe that the creation of the post-modern society relies on the need to decolonize the mind of Africans. We learn from the European idealism, that ideas do not only exist in the mind, but they also shape significant political, economic and social institutions. Therefore while the post-modern society is occupied, by the process of decolonizing the mind, there is a need to create the variants of the post-modern societies in order for the ideas to manifest in reality.
The building blocks towards the orchestration of the post-colonial state in the African continent consisted of a threefold struggle; deracializing civil society, detribalizing the Native Authority, and developing the economy in the context of unequal international relations. The threefold struggle is not in isolation from internal prevailing struggles; gender and tribalism. In a state form marked by bifurcated power, deracialization and curbing tribalism were two aspects that would form the starting point of an overall process of post-modernity.
Now that it is clear that the 27th April 1994 symbolizes the culmination of the political process towards the orchestration of the post-modern African society. It is important to state that African societies exist through the birthmark that emerged from the womb of the distortions of European modernity and backward idealism. This has led to supranationalism; exercised by some African states with a desire to be the regional hegemon-this is evident with the divide between the Anglo-phone and Franco-phone nations in the quest to be dominant in the African Union (AU). The division was clearly evident in the race for the chairpersonship between Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Mr Jean Ping in 2012, and in the manner in which African states acting as non-permanent states in the United Nations Security Council voted differently on the resolution taken about Libya before Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated in 2011.
African post-modernity is hindered by forms of supranationalism, because it can be best enhanced through multilateralism that is based on partnerships. The diplomatic bilateral partnerships that African states conclude, must not only exist through government offices, but the partnerships must also be created between; villages, townships, towns and suburbs between different states. This will enhance the building blocks towards progressive post-modernity, with African people as its agents.