Slavery: The greatest legal, political hoax in history?

Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa Correspondent
Not long ago in 2007, there was the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the so-called emancipation. Why was the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the legal abolition of slave importation by the British the greatest legal and political hoax in history?

It is because that proclamation did not end slavery at all. Slaves continued to be imported from Africa.

Slaves continued to be sold within and without the British Empire, the USA and other places. In fact, certain aspects of slavery were upgraded and became more inhuman. This is not to suggest that this step was small. It was some victory, and symbolically gigantic. But not to the extent that it has been claimed. This article discusses this theme.

The British for example, the alleged emancipators, having allegedly emancipated slaves, decided to embark on the greatest colonial escapades known to humankind. They decided like all other colonial powers to go and enslave Africans and others in their own countries. Instead of importing only Africans, the British and others decided to go and get the same unpaid or lowly paid labour as before, not only in Africa but in India and other parts of the world.

Instead of only acquiring human labour for free, they decided to triple their acquisition as well of the natural resources of those other countries. Pillaging of human and natural resources replaced mere pillaging of human resources. Where was international law, another creation of the colonial countries?

Slavery continued in the Americas unimpeded by the British or by anyone else. When slaves were supposed to be freed in 1833, they weren’t. When slaves were supposed to be freed after the US civil war in 1865, they were not but instead were transformed into sharecroppers who were as dependent on the master as during the slave days.

They were promised eight acres and a mule each, but none was given any. Instead, their former and now new masters were rewarded with thousands of dollars in insurance and state funds to make up for the loss of their property (slaves), the property they continued to exploit through low wages if any or through sharecropping.

Haiti, the first country to free itself from French slavery and colonialism in 1804 is still paying reparations for this freedom up to now and as a result of paying these reparations to France, it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Forms of sharecropping in the US survived and continued into the 20th century at the same time that colonial slavery continued in India and Africa. This was the same slavery as before but in new territories.

Colonialism was the continuation of slavery in another form. Settler colonialism like in South Africa, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Namibia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile etc was akin to settler-based slavery.

The Aboriginals in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and elsewhere still live in reserves. Their treaty agreements with the dominant societies have been violated repeatedly. These countries have become permanent colonies, otherwise permanent slave occupation. There is just no other way to get around this nomenclature.

The vestiges of slavery just ended in countries like South Africa but the echoes will continue into eternity.

Congress of the United States and the courts everywhere have refused to address the lingering injury of this monumental crime against humanity. The legal and political hoax of emancipation continues. On the 200th anniversary of this hoax, the question should have been posed: when did slavery really end?

  • Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa practised law in Canada for 25 years. This article is reproduced from the African Executive.
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