We caught up with one-half of Cape Town’s socially conscious hip hop duo, Jargon Music. He tells us why he’s voting EFF and why you reading this must get your ass to the voting station tomorrow.
LIVE: First, how can you describe the current political climate in SA?
Ncedisa: Since just after ‘94 SA politics has been characterised by sterile bourgeios anti-black and anti-poor politics best represented by how ANC capitulated in CODESA and accepted compromises that left the vicious legacies of apartheid and colonialism with us in the presence unchanged. Now this untransformed situation created a socially separated population, with whites still dominant in society living decadent lives in the suburbs (like during apartheid times) and blacks still trapped in hellish townships with decreasing life chances i.e. no jobs, badly educated, and suffering from endemic hopelessness, as the post ‘94 miracle turned nightmarish for poor black people. In all that, strands of an emerging black (majority) left liberation project were emerging PAC and AZAPO (progressive yesteryear parties struggling for relevance today), and many social movements – landless people movements, abahlali basemjondolo (before their indefensible merge with the DA), and September National Imbizo, and many such small but vibrant groups. But the emergence of the EFF has energised SA politics and politicised a lot of apathetic youths especially in the townships.
LIVE: You are an overt EFF member. What is it that the party is bringing to the table that is “new”?
Ncedisa: Essentially EFF isn’t bringing anything new if you have an appreciation for history. What EFF has or is doing (successfully that is), is to put again land as a topical issue, remember PAC and Black Consciousness movement politics have always been centred around this issue. Now with EFF, historically unresolved questions re-emerged again but now after they start with the Youth League of the ANC and they are rejected. So EFF are, as I have said, asking us to go back and open up the land debate in order to solve most of the social ills that afflict this country. The newness would maybe be how the EFF has been able to invigorate the youth and have them engaged in pro-black left politics – a situation like this has not happened since the Black Consciousness inspired children’s revolution in 1976.
LIVE: Speaking of land, would you support Zimbabwe-style land grabs in SA?
Ncedisa: Yes. But firstly we must fix how we talk about issues relating to land – land return by indigenous people cannot be called land grabs as if it’s not a social justice issue. Land grab as a way of characterising land return criminalises land-hungry poor folks. And this blame-the-victim logic must be stopped – the land belongs to the indigenous population and any attempt to redress this must be seen and characterised correctly. So going back to the question; land expropriation is necessitated by how ANC policy on land, which is not against market pricing tricks to overprice land, is unable to speak to the land-hungry masses and this deadlock creates the problem as the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle is used to delay and circumvent the cries for land by big business and ANC government. So this is why EFF comes about interestingly because of the slow process in land redress among many other issues. So, essentially as a rule of thumb we can safely say without fear of contradiction; failure to transform land ownership creates this land grabs you speak of.
NB: By indigenous people I mean blacks – Khoisan included, not as an exceptional case as some Khoisan chauvinists would like us to believe.
LIVE: Moving on to the youth and their attitude towards politics – most are abstaining and others spoiling their ballots. What are your thoughts on that?
Ncedisa: Look I’m a radical. By that I mean most of the problems afflicting SA can only be solved not by small incremental reforms but by unfortunately uprooting this society and institution and rebuilding them to respond to the majority’s interest. Now with voting I see it as a problem and a solution at once. Like how the internet is good and bad for the music industry. Now voting is bad when there is a situation where there are any strong pro-poor alternatives e.g. in 2009, voting, for me was useless like I see it in America right now – where you have two sides of the same coin – Democrats and Republicans. But now with the EFF’s emergence as a strong black left-lead alternative, the picture changes and voting makes sense – now this is the art of politics. If the situation is good for a good poor people-rooted organisation at the level of theory and practice as well as policy voting makes sense. Now the youth have be taught to give away their power since ‘94 and just to “turn up” and dance and live the politics to the politicians and grown folk. This is bad and a new thing in SA history. Check even the eighties with the klipper goies who made SA ungovernable. Now the spoilt the ballot thing is bad on all sides especially now as I’ve said before, it only makes the moneyed parties win easily and anti-young folk policy passing parties to win.
1. Voting is good if any alternative to rich-people obsessed parties is available. Now EFF has emerged hence I feel [that] now voting is good. If the political space was made of ANC and DA only, I would say ‘no don’t vote, rather build from the ground up the alternative’.
2. The youth has been known to move mountains when they are aware of the importance of politics and how its power can be used to change society. In SA, the ruling party has created a situation where youth think to engage in politics is to lose your coolness and this is a political ploy which keeps it in power – when the young eventually reach voting consciousness, they don’t have the necessary voting education so they opt for the most visible party which is always the ANC ‘cause of its dominance on TV and radio etc.
3 Spoiling your vote changes nothing, and I think it’s a useless exercise
LIVE: Speaking of “losing your coolness”. Jargon Music has been accused of going from a hip hop outfit to a – and I quote – “political party”. What can you say about that?
Ncedisa: That’s untrue and a lazy-minded accusation. What are those accusations based on? And is Dead Prez a political party, is Lowkey a political party? Immortal Technique? Jargon Music has always been political from our first EP to the last mixtape. What people fail to grasp is that hip hop is a platform for many ideas, and Jargon Music uses it for political ideas among many ideas, so it’s very simplistic and foolish to call us a political party. Seriously? *Laughs really hard*
LIVE: So how successful have you guys been in that endeavour?
Ncedisa:In what? Politicising our music? Well firstly I need to address the first question. Since its inception Jargon Music has been about understanding the link between politics and art, and how a black aesthetic, i.e. lyrics, idioms, and so on work with this tension – now this is an old problem. How does art and power wrestle with each other and how do those with artistic abilities resist being co-opted by power etc. Now after the Marikana Massacre as a group, we underwent an ethical crisis. We asked ourselves – how can we be silent when such atrocities are going on? This explains the political activism that strengthens in our music which has been seen erroneously as us being “a political party”. *Laughs* Now what these people fail to understand (and I feel sorry for them), is the difference between a political activist in hip hop and a political party.
Now we have lost some supporters and gained others and we are not to having sleepless nights about that because some supporters are fickle, and it’s a problem we know and accept. Political party = Jargon Music *laughs* I’ve heard it all uphi UFrizz to laugh at this with me oh god? *Laughs really hard*
LIVE: Okay, in closing, and this might be very cheesy, but what advice can you give to the young people as we go out to vote tomorrow?
Ncedisa: An equally cheesy and cliché answer, though it’s true. Vote ‘cause many died for just the ability to vote but more importantly, vote for a party that represents your interests. Now, as someone who believes free education must happen in our lifetime, I shall vote EFF. Thanks
Images courtesy of Ncedisa
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