WHO is African, and how is this defined? This question comes to mind on reading Thandile Petshwa’s letter (“Entrenched views make reconciliation impossible”, The Herald, July 7).
The long and the short of it is that all mankind is of African origin, whether they live in (or came from Africa to) Europe, Asia, the Americas or Australasia.
The concept of an African continent is as recent as Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India, and the peoples of Africa are more diverse than those of any other continent on earth.
So let’s be a bit more precise: the aboriginal inhabitants of Africa south of the Zambezi are the Khoisan – that is to say, the Bushmen (insultingly named San by the Khoikhoi) and their ethnic kin, the Khoikhoi. All other peoples living in the subcontinent have come in from elsewhere.
The Khoikhoi came from no further north than the Zambezi.
Their cattle, and their cattle culture, were acquired from a Sudanic people (distinct from the Bantu-speakers that now dominate Central, East and Southern Africa).
The Bantu-speaking peoples originated in the Gulf of Guinea region and spread southward from there.
Along the way they intermarried with, and acquired the bloodlines of, native peoples including the Khoisan.
It is misleading to refer solely to Bantu-speakers as African, as it suggests there are no other Africans. In fact, vast regions of the continent are the homes of non-Bantu Africans.
Petshwa’s outrage over the so-called historical inaccuracy of correspondent Melius is matched by his/her own blithe misinterpretations.
His/her remarks about white settlers deny the Mfecane, an entirely Bantu-speaking movement (Nguni and Sotho) which killed many thousands and left vast areas – including the later Natal Colony, Orange Free State and parts of the Transvaal – largely denuded of human inhabitants in the 1820s and ’30s.
Nor were these white settlers aliens.
They belonged to a community that had lived on African soil for 180 years and was, by descent, also partly Asian and African.
Perhaps Petshwa would be willing to share his/her opinions on the many African refugees who now live in our country.
Many Bantu-speakers regard them as undesirable aliens, even if they are Bantu-speaking, like the Zimbabweans.
Vast numbers of them (West Africans and Somalis especially) are not Bantu at all.
As a white native South African I welcome their spirit of enterprise and look forward to their prosperity in this country.
Some among them, though, are here for criminal purposes and should be deported.
Jock, Westering, Port Elizabeth (full name supplied)