THE “LAND QUESTION” AND THE HISTORY OF AFRICA
PROFESSOR HERBERT VILAKAZI
My aim in this article is to dispute the falsification of history we are getting from land-owners on the issue of the right to land-ownership. Defenders of the White landowners argue that Whites have as much right to own land because they occupied those lands first, or that Whites and Africans arrived in South Africa at roughly the same time. Let us throw the light of scientific research on who were the first occupants of Africa, and, specifically, of what is now called South Africa.
The year 1924 is honoured by scientists who study the anatomical history of Humankind. That was the year when Raymond Dart, a paleoanthropologist working at Wits, led a delegation from Wits, under his leadership, which discovered at Sterkfontein what became known as Australopithecus Africanus. This discovery was made about 50 km from Johannesburg. In 1947, Dr. Robert Broom and John T. Robinson made further discoveries of fossils which are pictures of ancestors of currently existing Human Beings (Hominid Fossils).
So many other pictures of Human Ancestors have been found in Sterkfontein, NorthWest Province, that the United Nations declared Sterkfontein a World Heritage Site, now known all over the world, and celebrated, as the “Cradle of Mankind”.
Other discoveries of fossils, closer to contemporary humans, were made later in East Africa.
Further astonishing scientific evidence has been published, tracing the first emergence of Human Beings via female-borne DNA evidence. The original Mother is an African woman who was located in the Ngwavuma area (Newsweek, 11 January 1988; Stephen Oppenheimer, Out of Africa’s Den).
The word is out: if you are looking for the site where Human Beings first emerged in history, look at what today is called South Africa and Swaziland.
Africans were the first Human Beings to occupy the world; Africans were the first Human Beings to occupy Africa; and Africans were the first Human Beings to occupy Southern Africa; and the scientific study of human languages has concluded that the first bricks in the structure of all languages in the world are traceable to an African language. Africa is the Mother of Humankind.
Between 60,000 years and 100,000 years ago, the Human Race began to move out of Africa, to all parts of the world. Remember that at that time there were land bridges linking Africa and the rest of the world. The first people to populate these regions were Africans. Fossils or pictures of African Ancestors were found all over, particularly in Southern Europe.
As the original Africans spread to other parts of the world, to different climates and atmospheres, they changed skin colours, hair-textures, size and shape of lips, etc. DNA studies show that the appearance of what is called `White’ people first became noticeable about 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. Dates for the appearance of `Asians’ and other types of Humankind differed according to various historical, environmental circumstances. The important point is that Africans, Arabs, Jews, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Asians, Indigenous peoples of North and South America, the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, and Oceanic peoples, are all brothers and sisters long lost to one another historically and psychologically.
The tragedy of human history is that some of the children of Mother Africa, having forgotten their original relationship with their Mother, particularly Arabs and Europeans, came back to Mother Africa, abused the Mother, pillaged the Mother, killed their own brothers and sisters, and forcibly took millions of their brothers and sisters to be slaves in Arabia, Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean. This inflicted a terrible open wound on the psyche of Humankind, a wound which. Redemption for all Humankind shall only be achieved when we restore the original relationship which existed between Africans and all peoples of the world.
The peopling of Africa, therefore, begins in Southern Africa. There is no logic and sense in our celebration of the Cradle of Mankind in Sterkfontein, North West Province, while at the time asserting that Africans in South Africa came from Central or North Africa. It seems most likely that the movement of people in Africa was originally from the South/Central to the North. It seems also that the Khoi and Abathwa represent probably the earliest stock of Humankind. The Khoi and Abathwa are part of the African family. The study of language shows an intimate historical relationship between the Khoi, Abathwa, and other African people.
My last point is on the drying up of the Sahara, the formation of the Sahara Desert, and its impact on population movements in Africa. Probably the largest destruction that ever occurred in Human history was the drying up of the area now called the Sahara Desert, between 9,000 years and 5,000 years ago. This is an area almost as huge as the USA. This entire area was once fully occupied by Africans, with watered farmlands, towns, cities, and cultural achievements.
Suddenly, all these people, watered farmlands, lakes, rivers, towns, cities, and cultural achievements were overwhelmed and buried under burning winds of sand. An historian asked: “how many cities and towns lie buried under those mountains of sand and rocks? We know that in a given area all farms, orchards and even villages could be completely covered over with sand in a matter of weeks” (Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization). Years later, “microwave beams of an American radar satellite beneath the sands of the Sahara” revealed “cultures 200,000 years old and the traces of ancient rivers running from this ancient African center” (Ivan Van Sertima, Blacks in Science, Forework).
This massive, horrendous event sent masses of people away from the disaster to all other corners of Africa, including to areas adjacent to the Nile River. Historian Arnold Toynbee, in A Study of History, argued that it was this challenge of `desiccation’ as a stimulant and basis for the emergence of Ancient Egyptian Civilization. You cannot understand the rise of Ancient Egypt without the influence of people from the interior of Africa, from down South, especially Nubia and Ancient Ethiopia.