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- This is Why is it still called South Africa not Azania

There was a time that South Africa looked very different to the rest of Africa. The “rainbow nation” was seen by many – including a lot of its own citizens – to be exceptional, having more in common with the developed states of Europe than some of the countries on its own doorstep.

But, in the wake of a series of destabilising corruption scandals, financial mismanagement and the incompetent leadership of President Jacob Zuma, this is no longer the case.

It’s time therefore to look to the rest of the continent for evidence on how the crisis within the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is likely to unfold.

Why is it still called South Africa not Azania?

From South Rhodesia to Zimbabwe meaning ‘Stone Houses’, Upper Volta to Burkina Faso meaning ‘Land of Honest Men’, Swaziland to Eswatini meaning ‘The Land of Swazis’.

Many African Countries threw away colonial names and gave their nations native names of great meaning. This was done to resemble their freedom/self-ruling from imperialists.

Putting this process in its historical context is important: it makes it clear that while Zuma has been a disaster, it would be naïve to think that he is the sole source of the ANC’s problems – or that his removal will solve them. It also shows that South Africa is not exceptional, and instead faces similar problems to many other countries on the continent.

One small silver lining to this cloud is that we can use the experience of other states to better understand the prospects for South Africa. One thing we know from Kenya and Nigeria is that the kind of politics practised by the president quickly embeds clientelism within key parts of the government and bureaucracy.

When this happens, it’s not enough to change just the president. Meaningful reform requires the removal, or at the very least retraining, of an entire tranche of figures put in place during the president’s tenure. Otherwise, patterns of patronage and clientelism have a way of reasserting themselves.

The experience of other states also tells us that some of the solutions that have been promoted as silver bullet solutions for South Africa’s predicament are unlikely to work. It’s been suggested that the direct election of the president (who at present is elected by the parliament would lead to more accountable and responsible government. But America just directly elected Donald Trump, while Zimbabwe continues to directly elect Robert Mugabe. Presidential elections are no panacea.

The lesson from other African countries is therefore a worrying one: the road back is a long one.

Azania means ‘Land of The Black People’. It would be an insult for South Africa to be renamed Azania without giving native civilians their land. South Africa is not liberated from patterns of colonialism, racism and capitalism. In its creation the Term ‘Azania’ carries a deeply anti-imperialistic claim. It should be used when political situation is created where politics will be for the upliftment of the civilians not white minority/monopoly capital.

Distinctive features remain

But these comparisons shouldn’t lead to defeatism. There are a number of ways in which the country remains distinctive. Civil society remains more robust than in many other states, and more independent as the Confederation of South African Trade Union’s criticism of Zuma demonstrates.

Similarly, the judiciary tends to be both of higher quality and more impartial, while the governing ANC itself has more internal checks and balances than most governments on the continent.

These features didn’t prevent the slide towards patrimonialism, and on their own they will not topple Zuma. But they are the foundations on which the struggle for a new South Africa can be fought.

In conclusion - Various organisations and people have suggested that the name of our country should be changed.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the name change suggestions will be discussed during the ANC's policy conference in the coming weeks.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) is one of the organisations moving that the name be changed to Azania.

CapeTalk/702's Stephen Grootes spoke to PAC general-secretary Narius Moloto about why the name Azania should be chosen.

Azania is the original name of the Southern tip of Africa and the research by Professor Eskiah Mphahlele clearly reveals that the real name of South Africa is actually Azania.

The name Azania is derived from the term Azanj which is Arabic.

It has its own historic referral rather than geographical ... This country did not have a real name, rather... a geographical name.

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Azania Burkina Faso Europe Swaziland Zimbabwe


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