Thursday, June 7, 2007


Last month I attended the graduation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former president of Haiti. UNISA awarded him a doctorate in African languages for his investigation into the relationship between isiZulu and Creole, his native tongue from Haiti. Aristide is exiled to South Africa after he was kidnapped and carried out of Haiti by US, French and Canadian forces. President Mbeki and the first lady, Zenele Mbeki, attended. I was seated right behind them and Smuts Ngonyama, head of the Presidency, a very warm and gentle person by the way, was sitting in the same row as myself. Barney Pitanya, Black Consciousness activist and Vice-Chancellor, was the master of ceremony. Given the importance of the relationship between Mbeki and Aristide, to emphasize the ties between the diaspora and the African continent, forging alliances across the global South and showing solidarity with those who advocate pro-poor policies, the theme of Africanization was written all over the ceremony. Speaker after speaker drove the point home about the importance of African languages and the dire legacy of colonialism. At times, I found the ideology of the speeches quite overbearing. While the need for redress is quite evident in South Africa, and there is certainly a steep road ahead to achieve this, one should be careful not to short-circuit history and the complexities of cultures for the sake of ideology. The irony is that this is the same UNISA where some refuse to teach certain important European literary works deemed too subversive, ie. communist! Too much ideology, not matter from which corner, can do no good.


Adam N. Mukendi said...

Hi Thomas,
Happy that you attended such ceremony and got the groove. JB Aristid has a good ideology for Haiti but I am not agree with him when he still seing himself as president. Why black politician think that they can serv better their country only if you're the head of state? Instead of running a risk of pushing people in rebelion he could act in opposition. South Africa has been of great help for him but He shouldn't take of bad-habits of African leaders.

Thomas Blaser said...

I think Aristide would like to return but not as president. But the pity of it all remains. He was an elected president who got removed by outside powers.

Roti said...

Hi Thomas,

It's the first time i reached your blog. I'am french people living in Paris but I have a big passion for South Africa.
You will often see me now in your blog.
I look forward to navigate through your site.
As you know, french people are not very fluent in foreign languages. So excuse my english which is not perfect.

Thomas Blaser said...

Hi Roti,

thanks for visiting my site and commenting. Don't worry about the language: I can understand very well what you are writing and to practice is always a good thing. I am looking forward to read more from you.

Best, Thomas.

Valentin said...

Thomas, this is true.
Too much ideology is not a good thing!
However, given the history and present realities in South Africa, it won't be possible to eliminate politics and ideology out of any discussion or topic in the context of South Africa.
Remember, all these events and functions are "political games" in one way or another.
We understand this sooner or later if not immediately.
At the end, it looks like everybody in fact is pursuing their own agenda. That's why a society needs to be critical of itself, as you know.