MJ Mojalefa says his listeners want an apology from the British Royal Family

The 22-year-old DJ wants his large young audience to share their thoughts on the legacy of the British Empire, which once included South Africa.

“We were colonized by the British and [the Queen] has never changed the nature of that relationship,” one caller tells him between the boisterous baselines of Amapiano’s music.

MJ Mojalefa says his listeners want an apology from the British Royal Family

Photo: BBC

“People have moved on and the past is the past,” says another.

As for MJ Mojafela, he wants from the new king Charles III. apology: “Most people say the Queen hasn’t apologized – and that’s what they wanted her to do.”

South Africa became a republic in 1961. Until then, apartheid racial segregation had been enforced by law for 13 years, nine of which were under Queen Elizabeth II.

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For many young South Africans, history has led them to struggle with how to reconcile a painful past with the present.

That’s the sentiment heard again when he spoke to artists Mzoxolo “X” Mayongo and Adilson De Oliveira. Their work focuses on decolonization.

“When we look at the history of South Africa, we don’t just look at it in isolation,” says De Oliveira. “One thing leads to another.

When talking to his grandmother about the experiences of living under apartheid, Mayongo focused on this. “You can’t remove scars. And how do you heal those wounds?” he asks.

But both say the moment represents an opportunity for King Charles III to build a new relationship with the continent.

“We’re not all doom and gloom,” says De Oliveira. “We think that the future relationship that the monarchy could have with Africa could be one of taking responsibility – coming to the table to have this conversation with African countries.”

When asked what that would look like, both said they wanted talks about reparations, the return of artifacts and the return of minerals, such as the largest diamond ever found – the Star of Africa, which is now part of the crown jewels of the British royal family. .

These calls by the British monarchy for restitution for colonialism are echoed further north in Nairobi.

Kenya experienced its own transition this week when William Ruto was sworn in as the country’s fifth president since independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.

Despite the obvious focus on their own changing head of state, the Queen’s death continued to make headlines in Kenya. It also led to a renewed debate about the country’s relationship with its former colonial ruler.

“It is sad that we have lost our soul,” Nelson Njau, 30, says outside the 60,000-seater Moi International Sports Center where President Ruto was sworn into office.

“But what they have done to African culture, to African peoples, to our wealth, to our organization of society – they really need to come forward and apologize to us.”

Next to him, 29-year-old Sammy Musyoka nods his head in agreement: “We still feel like we are treated as subjects, not as equals.”

This feeling of being treated as a subject is rooted in historical trauma. Just a few months after Queen Elizabeth II. became monarch, Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion against British rule was brutally suppressed, with the Kenya Human Rights Commission reporting that 90,000 people were executed, tortured or maimed.

In 2013, the UK government agreed to pay 5,000 elderly Kenyans $22.6 million (£19.9 million) in compensation for abuses they suffered during colonial rule.

Many older Kenyans, unlike their younger counterparts in the crowd at President Ruto’s inauguration, think fondly of their former colonial power.

Caroline Murigo, who says she is in her 50s, tells us the news of the Queen’s death was sad.

“She’s someone I’ve known all my life. It was sad, but her time has come. We wish the new king, King Charles, all the best.”

While 46-year-old Mary Muthoni thinks the monarchy is still relevant to Kenyans today. “They will help us improve our economy and improve our infrastructure in our country.”

Official messages of condolence from the continent’s leaders and representatives were almost unanimous in their praise of the Queen’s rule, her duties and her long association with the continent. In Uganda, where she last visited Africa for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2007, parliament held a special session in her honour.

One of the legacies of British colonial rule is that Nigeria is home to one of the world’s largest Anglican communities. The Church of Nigeria has held a memorial service for Queen Elizabeth in Abuja, where its head, Most Reverend Ali Buba Lamido, said that as the head of the Church of England, the Queen is also important to Nigerian Anglicans.

A BBC reporter who attended the ceremony said the mood was somber but that many did not want to go on the record to express their condolences – perhaps a reflection of the heated debate over the legacy of the British monarchy in Africa.

Back in Nairobi’s Mathare informal settlement, 32-year-old Douglas Mwangi thinks the Queen should be celebrated for her work for the Commonwealth, which she has led for 70 years. It is a loose organization of 56 countries, mostly former British colonies.

In 2018, he visited Buckingham Palace to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from the monarch. He receives training and funding from the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which helps his organization support young people with IT skills. He says the trust has helped more than 14,000 people in Mathare since 2014.

“This [award] has given us credibility. We’re learning best practice from what’s happening across the Commonwealth and seeing how we can improve our model. Her late Majesty the Queen became Queen at a very young age and she believed in leading young people. ”

But not everyone feels the same way. Mr Njau, a businessman who returned outside Kenya’s national stadium, says he doesn’t understand how the Commonwealth is helping him: “It’s crazy that we’re even in such wealth – whatever the Commonwealth is – I’ve been trying to research how we’re benefiting from it . Kenyans by being in the Commonwealth and it looks like it will only benefit a few leaders, a few people.”

The debate that has followed the Queen’s death on the continent is a clear sign that there are many unhealed wounds and traumas from colonial times, and many believe that now is the time for Britain and its new king to have an honest conversation with Africans about how to cure it. painful past.

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