Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Class Politics in Mda's Ways of dying/Klassepolitlek in Mda Se Ways of Dying

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Class Politics in Mda's Ways of dying/Klassepolitlek in Mda Se Ways of Dying

Article excerpt


Zakes Mda's analysis and expose of nationalist politics in "Ways of dying" reveal that the unitary vision that characterised the national liberation discourse suppressed some dissonances, contradictions and disunity around the question of class. Mda probes the ironies and contradictions of the liberation struggle and by so doing questions the meaning of freedom for the ordinary South Africans. He then scrutinises the role of the colonised and oppressed in delaying their own total liberation due to the camouflaged interests and motives of the nationalists that were not in the nation's interest. His analysis of the class silences in his critique of the liberation struggle brings to attention concerns of the masses that had been marginalised in the liberation struggle. To their disappointment, after sacrificing and fighting for national liberation, the masses now realise that the postapartheid state is far from being what they hoped for. Their plight is exacerbated by the fact that they are still as oppressed as they had been prior to independence but now the oppressors are also some of their former comrades in the struggle.


Zakes Mda se ontleding van nasionale politiek in "Ways of dying" toon dat die eenheidsvisie wat die nasionale vryheidsgesprek gekenmerk het, bepaalde dissonansies, teenstrydighede en onenigheid rondom die kwessie van klasseverskille verbloem het. Mda ondersoek die ironiee en weersprekings in die vryheidstryd en bevraagteken sodoende die betekenis van vryheid vir die gewone Suid-Afrikaner. Hy kyk indringend na die rol van die gekoloniseerdes en onderdruktes in die vertraging van hulle eie totale bevryding weens die verskuilde belange en motiewe van die nasionaliste wat nie in volksbelang was nie. Sy ontleding van die klasseswye in sy kritiek op die vryheidstryd vestig die aandag op die meerderheid wat in die proses gemarginaliseer is. Hulle vind nou uit, tot hulle ontnugtering, dat nadat hulle geveg en opofferings vir nasionale vryheid gemaak het, die postapartheidstaat ver te kort skiet van dit waarop hulle gehoop het. Hulle lot word vererger deur die felt dat hulle steeds soos voor bevryding onderdruk word, maar die onderdrukkers sluit nou van hulle eertydse strydmakkers in.

1. Introduction

The reality of the current state of affairs in South Africa challenges Kwame Nkrumah's conviction that once political power is in African hands all else would follow. To date, millions of South Africans live in abject poverty, without adequate shelter, security and food. If that is the case, Mda believes that something must have definitely gone wrong for freedom in poverty is not what South Africans had hoped and fought for. This article seeks to explore what Mda perceives to be the perpetuation of poverty in spite of the myriad of promises by the nationalists to end it. It explores the dynamics of the liberation struggle, and the double standards implicit in nationalist literature. The double standards often manifest themselves in the suppression of critical discussions on class dynamics and politics. Being conscious of this malpractice by the nationalists, Mda's Ways of dying (1995) reveals scepticism with regard to the assumption of political power by the African petit bourgeoisie. This is because the socioeconomic framework in South Africa is essentially unaltered. Mda, accordingly, probes the consequences that this would have for the struggle of African peasants and workers for a better life and consequently "confront[s] the burdens of expectation" (Austen, 2005:85).

2. The primary causes of class politics: colonialism and land dispossession

Mda identifies colonialism, particularly land dispossession, as the primary cause for the suffering of the black people in South Africa. The double standards of the nationalists is revealed in their opposition to colonialism and apartheid theoretically for the liberation of all the oppressed but practically for the benefit of the elite. …

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