African relational philosophy at the heart of global movement…new generation misses link of promoters’ interests


By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

WHAT some of our lazy and ignorant brothers and sisters dismiss without examination as antiquated and oppressive ‘culture’, in fact, forms the heart of what is called the new ‘integral culture’ needed for survival of the entire human species.
For instance, the value system which David Korten in The Post – Corporate World: Life After Capitalism defines as the required new culture is exactly what I tried to outline in my last instalment.
In a chapter called ‘Culture Shift’, Korten quotes Duane Elgin and Coleen Le Drew who wrote that:
“An integral culture and consciousness is a new way of looking at the world.
It seeks to integrate all the parts of our lives: inner and outer, masculine and feminine, personal and global, intuitive and rational, and many more.
The hallmark of the integral culture is an intention (community-based) to integrate – to consciously bridge differences, connect people, celebrate diversity, harmonise efforts and discover higher common ground.
(An) integral culture takes a whole-systems approach and offers hope in a world facing deep ecological, social and spiritual crises.”
There are, in any society, daily rituals which teach, celebrate and enforce this culture.
There are competing daily practices and rituals which teach the exact opposite. That was the point of my last instalments on the dariro versus the queue as teaching structures.
There is a profound link between technology and rituals as well as protocols of place and space.
Take for example the profound rituals which the discovery of fire technology unleashed: From the burning bush of Genesis to the Olympic Flame; from the altar candles to the combustion engine and the astronaut’s space craft; from the mother’s hearth to fires for sacrificing sweet incense to the highest God; from the match-stick to the beacons that guide air planes for take-off or landing.
African living law therefore requires the youths to embrace their imagination and harness technology in accordance with the living laws of hunhu/ubuntu.
Technology has to be adapted and grounded to serve vanhu/abantu in terms of the laws of hunhu/ubuntu.
This means African youths must scientifically examine and evaluate the protocols and rituals which are being constituted and instituted, for instance, through the common misnamed social media and other developments which the latest technologies have brought about.
They must also examine and understand the purpose and interest of those who promote certain gadgets and platforms as opposed to others.
– What are the promoters’ interests and objectives?
– What are our own interests and objectives?
– How do we establish and agree on them?
I have mentioned the vast array of rituals and protocols which the discovery of fire unleashed to enrich human life.
In Ushaba, Jordan Ngubane gives us some insight into the reasons apartheid man and the white slave master (in Africa and in the West) universally feared and banned a simple instrument — the African drum (ngoma).
“An African theologian, trained in Europe, recently delivered a sermon in the Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town and stated that the (African) drum (ngoma) constitutes the key into the understanding of the African; that it is his bible, his theology and his ritual (of place and space) rolled into one; that when he beats the (ngoma), God arises in him.
The African theologian told his white audience that what white Christians need most is to cultivate the capacity to respond to the elemental message of the drum beat; to grasp the implications of the truth that when the African beats the drum, he issues a command to creation; when he dances – he involves himself in the process of commanding creation; in the elemental harmony which makes him (a munhu).
This was communism (to the slave master and to apartheid man).
A fortnight (after the sermon), the theologian was banned; it became a crime for him to preach from any pulpit or to attend any gathering of any type or to have anybody in his house other than members of his immediate family, his doctor or lawyer (and) of course any policeman.”
The teaching which the African theologian attempted and which resulted in his banning and house arrest, is part of the African curriculum in African living law which, in Zimbabwe, had to be evacuated to the pungwe in the liberated zones during the Second Chimurenga.
The story gives us a glimpse into the whiteman’s response to African indigenous knowledge, indigenous technology and originality.
This is in great contrast to the common slogan telling youths to just ‘embrace technology’!
Unfortunately for us now, African youths are being told to abandon and forget the pungwe and all its rituals and protocols.
They are being told, instead, to just ‘embrace technology’ regardless of whose technology it is or what it does.
These are some of the messages in the local press which bombard African youths today:
‘African culture collides with basic human rights’, Sunday Gazette, April 10 1994; or,
‘Do we still need Chimurenga narrations’? The Star, Voice of Mash West, June 18 2014; or,
‘Yesterday died last night’, NewsDay November 30 2010.
Chimurengas were fought on the basis of African living law precisely because all the guerilla armies and the rural communities supporting them were terrorists and outlaws in terms of the prevailing Roman Dutch Law and English Common Law in Rhodesia.
This was made perfectly clear in Rhodesian Foreign Minister P.K. Van Byl’s letter of appeal to the US Government against the African freedom fighters on January 12 1979.
The 1998 book called Pursuing Grounded Theory in Law: South-North Experiences in Developing Women’s Law, went some way to recognise the continuing vibrancy of living African law in Zimbabwe, but the authors could not free themselves from the derogatory or pejorative language which has become conventional among non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics and lawyers when describing indigenous African knowledge and practice.
The authors made the following observations, for example:
“If the (legal) researcher starts with a research design to collect data on the interviewee’s knowledge of the content of legislation, the finding at the end of the research might be that there is ignorance of the law, but this could be a very misleading finding for a number of reasons.
Some individuals may not be able to articulate their knowledge in the formal sense (and in the alien language being used) but may have (more than) adequate perceptions of the relevant norms in their practical consciousness, norms that have been internalised in the course of the socialisation process and followed without deliberation or reflection.
Ordinary individuals are aware of norms and often debate their content and defend their perceptions of local norms.
But they do not usually articulate these as norms or legal concepts (familiar to those steeped in Roman-Dutch or English law) but (they articulate these) as information they have acquired from various sources or imbibed as part of the community.
Thus, both formal law and customs and practices can be among the (southern African) population as detailed and precise discursive knowledge or as applied unconsciously assimilated knowledge.
In other words, the researcher is in danger of mistaking her own ignorance for the ignorance of those being interviewed.
To avoid falling into the trap of assuming ignorance of the law when there is knowledge among the community of norms and practices, the researcher should ask a number of fundamental questions.”
One of the fundamental questions is: How could a people wage a liberation struggle as outlaws for over 50 years and succeed without law of their own?
How can the same people behave (after independence) in such a way as to suggest that they have no law of their own and they must now be taught Roman Dutch Law by their former slave master?
The authors also admitted that:
“It has also to be appreciated that approaches (to law) that suggest that law can be explored and captured from among the people, based on evidence of consistent and recognised practices, is foreign to the Western trained legal mind.”
On page 75, the authors tried to define ‘living law’.
“The sociological school of jurisprudence maintains that the main objective of legal science, regardless of whether the aim of research is the description and interpretation of statutory law, common law or customary law, is in reality an investigation of ‘the living law.’”
Then the authors gave a definition of living law:
“According to E. Ehrlich, ‘the living law’ is ‘the law which dominates life itself even though it has not been posited in legal propositions’.
He postulates that ‘the concrete usages, the relations of domination, the legal relations, the contracts, the articles of association, the disposition by last will and testament, (all) yield the rules according to which they (the people) regulate their conduct’.
A main concern of Ehrlich’s sociological jurisprudence was to bridge the gap between evolved positive law and ‘living law’. Thus to prevent jurisprudential analysis of law from slipping out of this social context, it is suggested that legal science should pay attention to the legal traffic which takes place through harmonious human interaction in various (day-to-day) walks of life.”
Applying this insight to African existence over millennia, we can conclude that the law which has dominated African life for the longest time is the law of the relational dariro as opposed to the law of the adversarial queue.


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