Dear Britain: This is not a “fun fact” at all.

HM Treasury tweet

On the 9th of February 2018, the British government’s economic and finance ministry, HM Treasury, tweeted what they thought was a “surprising #FridayFact” (see screen-grab above). They then promptly deleted it .

In other words, to them it is something of a fun fact (“Hey, Did You Know…”?) that Britain accrued nearly two centuries of debt partly to perpetuate the wealth of slave owners and their descendants, with the bonds used to compensate slave owners only completely paid off in 2015. Some tidbit, this.

And the creditors raking in the money all these years – who were they? Who were the descendants being compensated for their ‘losses’ until a few years ago. How has that money been reinvested?

But, even more incredibly, descendants of slaves, who themselves never got any compensation, have literally been compensating the descendants of slave-owners. What evil logic is this?

In other news, blackbodies all over the world are being told to “get over it” whenever they raise the issue of slavery, empire and colonialism.


Why the notion of “State Capture” is a hoax

The reason the notion of state capture is illogical is that there has, in South Africa, never existed a state to capture to begin with. If we agree that colonialism and apartheid are the highest forms of state capture possible, we have to look at the negotiated settlements of 1910 and 1994 and ask: was the state ever restored? Were these settlements about the restoration of the state? Was the purpose of these accommodations ever state restoration? Indeed, what is a ‘negotiated’ settlement? What does a negotiated settlement negotiate? What does it settle? The answer ought to be unequivocal. Rhodes, the Randlords and the powerful global interests behind them never for one moment intended to restore the state to itself. Their goal, as Lord Milner put it in the immensely revealing Milner Papers, was merely to “sacrifice the nigger, and the game is easy”. By the same token, the powerful interests behind the South African Foundation (formed in 1959, and known today as Business Leadership South Africa) never intended to relinquish power. Nothing about the two “South Africa” Conventions of 1910 or 1994, therefore, was about the restoration of the state. It was, rather, the complete opposite: to negotiate and settle the principle of bequeathing a shell of a state – the pretence of governmental power – to the politicians, while retaining the “crown jewels” in the hands of an ineffable powerful economic elite. Not only was there no state to restore in 1910 and 1994, but – essentially – it is impossible to restore states after capture. Indeed, state capture is a necessary requirement of nation-state formation: a state must be captured before it emerges as a state. States are captured prior to being states, not after they become states. That is, a state that is not captured is not a state. This launches us into a paradox: that states actually don’t exist. Rather, the state is always already a chimera. Basically, we have to begin to see power as spectral, not spectacular. In the forensic approach of Apartheid Studies, it is monumentally foolish for anyone to believe that power is ever negotiable. That is, even Foucault does not go far enough in his description of power as being in essence distributive, as opposed to being prohibitive. The core feature of power is not that it is distributive. It is, rather, that power is completely spectral and ineffable. As George Orwell put it, “no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it”. The current hysteria in South Africa around state capture, therefore, is exactly that: hysteria. It arises due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of power. If we are looking for examples of movements that come closest to stripping naked the ineffable heart of state capture, we must return to 2015 and 2016: to #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall. Hidden in those slogans is a fundamental truth: that there has never been a South African state, and never will be until Rhodes falls and fees fall.

Why Did Slave Owners Receive Compensation?

I have been trying to wrap my head around this for years. I must say I’m still trying to wrap my head around it even now.

Why were slave owners compensated?

So slavery is “abolished”, at the beginning of the 19th century, because it is a vile practice: but the slave owners get paid billions of pounds (at the current exchange rate) to compensate for their losses.

They called it compensated empancipation:

The British Empire enacted a policy of compensated Emancipation for its colonies in 1833, followed by Denmark, France in 1848, and the Netherlands in 1863. Most South American and Caribbean nations emancipated slavery through compensated schemes in the 1850s and 1860s, while Brazil passed a plan for gradual, compensated emancipation in 1871, and Cuba followed in 1880 after having enacted freedom at birth a decade earlier.

The British enacted the Slave Compensation Act of 1837 to oversee this process. The Act empowered the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, “under the direction of the Treasury, to either pay the compensation that was still owing to slave owners out of the West India Compensation Account, or to transfer a proportionate amount of 3½% government annuities”.

Slave owners were paid approximately £20 million in compensation in over 40,000 awards for enslaved people freed in the colonies of the Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope according to a government census that named all owners as of 1 August 1834

Whoever has an answer to my question will probably have answered the follow up question that I have, concerning all forms of stolen wealth drained from around the world, and from Africa and Africans, since the 1500s.

Essentially, what conditions warrant awarding a thief compensation? Should a thief get compensation?

Is theft ever a business transaction?

Is theft, and looting, covered under contract laws? What is its contractual basis?

Is stolen property covered by property laws?

That is, are the proceeds of theft protected by property laws?

Yes, or No?

Help me understand.

While you are at it, please take a peek at the work of the The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slaveownership


What are Apartheid Studies?

“Apartheid Studies” is a term coined by University of Johannesburg academic, Professor Nyasha Mboti. The term refers to the generation of a body of theory about, and the systematic study of, apartheid. 5 Apartheid Studies projects are currently underway:

  1. Book project: Apartheid Studies (Africa World Press, 2017).
  2. Book project: Apartheid for Dummies (Africa World Press, 2018).
  3. 10-year Encyclopaedia project: An Encyclopaedia of Apartheid, vol. 1-5 (Africa World Press, 2018-2028).
  4. Video project: Apartheid in 30-seconds – Database of short videos clips on the various meanings of apartheid.
  5. Online Masterclass: Readings in African Thought

The Very Serious Function of Racism

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Toni Morrison (1975)