Saturday 17 April 2021
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Justice: the need for a new narrative

Upon reflection, one would realise that Africa’s talk and search for justice is something that has been on the table for centuries. However, there has not been a deliberate interplay between conceptualisation, narrative formation, and progressive enforcement.
Many African youth today are offering narratives of urgency to address the effects of the history of injustice, but those in power are busy strengthening neo-colonial structures. These youth are starting up new activists movements that are providing us with accounts of oppression, but their lack of ethical depth continue to leave the masses in political black holes.
While there are elaborate and scholarly talks about justice, these talks have not found a conceptual basis that identifies with ordinary African struggles. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of an ethical basis that would paint and demonstrate the meaning justice with narrative that reflects the wishes of the ordinary persons. In fact, a number of youth movements that affiliate with neo-socialist or neo-Marxist ideologies, are themselves victims of elitism. They portray themselves to be on the side of the masses while gradually becoming peers of the very people and institutions that are delaying or denying justice to ordinary people.
Few of the embarrassing sentiments one would encounter in a public discourse or the academia is to be told that you do not know what you are talking about. That your sincerity and commitment to a specific cause are not based on sound intellectual judgment and that what you are doing is simply being a puppet and worsening matters. This is how I feel about many who speak of justice, to them it’s simply a subject pulled out of the archives of the history of socialism and Marxism and their university discussions. Such that the justice cause for them becomes but another project for self-promotion and insulting those who do not agree with their perspectives.
The talk about correcting the injustices of our history of colonialism and apartheid and those being perpetuated in the post-apartheid era  – often have no ideological narrative that reflect the wishes of the ordinary people. In the absence of this, we the plethora of social injustices become a ripe platform for power hungry movements, all coming in the name of fighting for the poor. These socio-political scoundrels are sadly manifestations of governments that have long lost their own mandate to govern, except for being constantly voted in by an ignorant and hopeless majority.
Current governments have failed to implement measures that would correct the socio-economic sediments of injustice; current activists are now being the political snake oil men. Both are equally guilty of lacking to emancipate itself from a borrowed narrative of justice.
For example, let us talk about the current land distribution and genocide reparations debates that are making unsettling headlines. Both of these issues are deeply buried in concepts of economics and purely materialistic. The debates do not engage anything transcendental about the collective victims of history. It is made to feel as if the crimes against them were purely economic and with the restoration of land and reparations money, somehow history would be corrected. But this kind of thinking fails to realise that it is advancing a narrative that sees human life and dignity only in economic and material terms.
Groups such as the Affirmative Repositioning, Landless People’s Movement and Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters etc, like the government are ideologically groping in the dark. We cannot do justice to the painful consequences of history, by borrowing concepts of a world and era that does not have any regard for our context. The African narrative for justice, primarily, needs to be founded based on our common humanity and experiences as Africans. Such experiences should initially translate into deep self-reflection and that self-reflection should lead to the formation of the kind of justice that we need.
With the inability to articulate our own narrative of justice, we are doomed as a people. This is why cannot trust that our politicians who are barely able to conceptualise our political system would miraculously bring about the results we need for social justice. Unless there be a deliberate move towards writing our own narrative, that sees us as humans who deserve to live in dignity rather than poor masses that need the intervention of a big brother, we are fighting a lost cause.
With a view towards life that is deeply buried in habit of ideological and practical transplantations without need for the contextual narrative, justice remains but an illusion. Land reform policies, the most radical as we have seen in Zimbabwe, will not solve the issue of socio-economic inequalities unless we have a narrative of our own through which we seek to reform such a system and not just accord ourselves money and land. We cannot think that we would put ourselves on the path of development that would earn us a place of respect in the world, when we do not have the decency and courage to design our own path of how we wish to be known.
Ordinary people need to see justice that restores that human dignity but this can only be when the elite activists and politicians stop treating the masses as if they were projects. There’s need to pursue something that transcends money and economic power, which would give the people a sense of purpose and drive to become productive without being lured with false dreams of land. What we need is a narrative of our own making, to write out own course of history and development and put ourselves on that course knowing that we aim to achieve something bigger than money or land, the discovery of ourselves and making our mark.

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