A Luta Continua or the End of Liberation? Rethinking Colonialism, Nationalism and Decolonization in Southern Africa

Due to its climatic, geo-strategic location, and natural resource endowments, southern African region attracted white settlers as early as the seventeenth century, making it one of the early theatres of colonial encounters and politics of conquest, dispossession, and displacement of indigenous people. Its penetration by agents of Euro-modernity goes as far back 1488 when Bartholomew Diaz circumnavigated the southern tip of the continent in his attempt to reach the East Indies. Consequently, the southern African region experienced settler colonialism that was accompanied not only by dispossession and displacement but by reduction of indigenous people into sources of cheap labour (labour reserves). The high concentration of white settler population and others like Asians complicated the identity question and impinged on the nature of nationalism and decolonization struggles. Racism, land deprivation and white settler brutality became major grievances informing various forms of responses, nationalisms and liberation struggles in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia; where there was high concentration of white settlers. Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland that did not attract many white settlers survived the experience of armed liberation struggles. This paper provides an overview of forms of colonialism(s) experienced in southern Africa and examines how they impinged on African national consciousness and the forms of resistance they provoked. The paper concludes by critically analyzing the current state of liberation politics today.

About the Author

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni is Professor and Head of Archie Mafeje Research Institute for Applied Social Policy (AMRI) based at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is also the founder and coordinator of the Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN) based in at the University of South Africa. He is a historian and a decolonial theorist who has published extensively in African history, African politics, and development. His major publications include The Ndebele Nation: Reflections on Hegemony, Memory and Historiography (Amsterdam & Pretoria: Rosenberg Publishers & UNISA Press, 2009); Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State (Oxford & Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2009); Redemptive or Grotesque Nationalism? Rethinking Contemporary Politics in Zimbabwe (Oxford & Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2011); Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity (New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books, June 2013); Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa: Myths of Decolonization (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2013); Nationalism and National Projects in Southern Africa: New Critical Reflections (Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 2013); Bondage of Boundaries and Identity Politics in Postcolonial Africa: The ‘Northern Problem’ and Ethno-Futures (Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 2013); Mugabeism? History, Politics and Power in Zimbabwe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, August 2015); The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and Politics of Life (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, March 2016) He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Africa Insight published by Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa and Deputy Editor of the International Journal of African Renaissance Studies published by the University of South Africa Press and Francis and Taylor.


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