The village of Seabe, which is located in the greater Hammanskraal, north eastern part of Pretoria, has given birth to an unsung hero: a celebrated prolific author, poet and essayist. His name was Marks Rammitloa. To many of us from Hammanskraal this name, Marks Rammitloa, doesn’t mean much. You may ask why?

The reason is that Marks Rammitloa was forced by a banning order imposed on him by the apartheid government that prohibited him from publishing a book or any piece of creativity under his real name.

So many people just knew him as Marks Rammitloa even after moving to Johannesburg where he became a community leader – heading Abahlali baseMjondolo (meaning the residents of Johannesburg), an organization that fought for the rights of residents of informal settlements around Johannesburg; and a trade unionist. Abahlali baseMjondolo fought fierce battles against the apartheid draconian law, Group Areas Act, that prevented black people from living in the cities by restricting them to live in the townships and bantustans.

But few knew that Marks Rammitloa was the person who also produced literary classics as a world-renowned novelist and poet. His books, which are read across the world in academic institutions, included the novel, “The Marabi Dance” (1973), and “Dispossessed” (1983), which is a collection of poetry and essays. He had to adopt a pseudonym that he used as his pen name.

Because of this, this pseudonym became attached by everybody across the world as the author of these acclaimed publications and also attaching it to this heroic history of the struggles of ordinary people in Johannesburg against forceful removals.

The pseudonym is MODIKWE DIKOBE! Very few of us, including contemporary historians, know that the real name of Modikwe Dikobe was Marks Rammitloa – the man who was born in 1913 here in Seabe, a village in Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality!

It is high time that as Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd we embark on a campaign to accord this most illustrious son of Hammanskraal, Marks Rammitloa, the recognition and respect he deserves – the kind that he gave up to Modikwe Dikobe when he adopted this pseudonym!

It is worth noting is that we are proud the local municipality there is named after our legendary leader, Dr JS Moroka, who was once the president of the African National Congress (ANC). We celebrate this.

The best way for us is to launch an annual multidisciplinary festival that we will utilise in celebrating Marks Rammitloa’s superior and impeccable artistic prowess. We hereby propose we adopt a poetic licence and borrow the international limelight from his novel’s title and name our festival “The ‘Marabi Dance Cultural Fest”! The novel, “The Marabi Dance”, eloquently captures the rhythm of life of our people in their quest to live a full comprehensive life as they faced the brutality of life. The message communicated through was that the heinous crime of apartheid couldn’t succeed in depriving them of their right to be happy!

Limpopo has succeeded in according the prestigious accolades on their unsung hero, Moses Mphahlele, who though he composed the Sesotho version of our national anthem and published it in 1942, his name was silenced as all the composition credits were accorded only to Enoch Sontonga. The province has just turned his grave in Ga-Mphahlele into a heritage site.

Although we’re not in any way suggesting it isn’t befitting for Dr JS Moroka to have the local municipality named after him, we are saying there was nothing that could have stopped us from granting such an accolade to our local legend, Marks Rammitloa, if we could have been privy to such history. As a Hammanskraal people, we have to correct the wrongs attributed to the non-recognition of such a legend by beginning to celebrate his life and times. We owe it to our children to introduce them to one of our own: the man whose star shines brightly in the cultural night of our country.

This music festival, “The Annual ‘Marabi Dance’ Cultural Fest”, has to pay homage to the son of our soil: Marks Rammitloa/Modikwe Dikobe! We will invest part of the proceeds to erecting a memorial stone on Marks Rammitloa’s grave. And we will use the music festival as an opportunity to inject energy into our local economic development! 

We are confident that within a short space of time, this cultural jamboree and the related local economic development programmes shall have developed into a sustainable brand that will indeed attract thousands of people into Hammanskraal. We have done it before if one has to look at the success of Dinokeng. This, plus Carousel, will ensure revellers stay within the broad Hammanskraal precinct. By the way, Hammanskraal is the epicentre of four provinces: Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

What also could be seen as a value add (in addition to our list of deliverables) is that we will conduct an economic impact analysis after the annual event to account for the success of our programmes. This includes looking at how the programmes impacted on the local tourism industry (the number of beds booked; revenue generated by our businesses such as restaurants/garages/bottle stores during the weekend of the festival; revenue generated by local service providers such as cat companies and security companies who will be sub-contracted to our programmes; and so on and so forth). 

Our project management services which could be summarised as follows:

Conceptualisation and development of the strategy coupled with the implementation of the operational plan – as it outlines programmes and related projects.

Development of a sponsorship strategy and plan. These will also outline benefits for the sponsors such as brand visibility; creation of brand awareness; developing brand affinity for the sponsors among our stakeholders; and thus development and building of customer loyalty towards the sponsor brands. Our conceptualisation of sponsorship is not based on the disempowering notion of begging for injection of resources into a project as part of the sponsor’s social responsibility – a “cap-in-hand model”. But our conceptualisation is based on us selling a branding opportunity to a participating “sponsor” – we will offer them a credible platform through which they could access their target customers and thereby gaining an opportunity to generate more revenues.

Conceptualisation of local economic development programmes that are standing on two main strategic thrusts: community development and empowerment; and enterprise development.

The programmes and activities alluded to above will sync with the local economic development strategies and interprovincial spatial planning of the Hammanskraal precinct. Another local economic development project will be the Annual Marabi Dance’s Isiko Art and Craft Market. The market, held in a marquee, will provide a platform for our art and craft producers through which they could sell their wares. We will be targeting music revelers who will be coming to attend the concert. Furthermore, we will produce a coffee table book that will showcase the artistic talents of our artists and crafters. The book, produced in print and electronically as an e-book, will extend the reach of the cultural festival.

Linked to the stalls that will be selling artifacts, we will have an exhibition space. We will approach BMW to occupy this space. This automotive company has supported our legendary isiNdebele painter, Esther Mahlangu, by offering her an opportunity to use her impeccable craft skills that were then embedded into the design of the car’s interior. Esther Mahlangu’s participation will be our way of paying tribute to our legend while preserving our indigenous cultures.

The irony of the post-apartheid politics is that while trying to invest in those transvergent programmes, as academics refer to them, that endeavoured to look at the cultural synthesis that originated from what brought us together or what was common among us as a people, it has also disinvested from our unique tribal heritage that characterised us into who we were. This tribal characterisation has indeed neglected what Stuart Hall referred to as the “culture dialectic” – that is, looking at what we have become. Here I am in the headline photo donning the Vusenga bangles of vhaVenda – and by the way, breaking traditional taboos as they’re historically worn by women.

Although politically we are against tribalism, our argument is that we also need to preserve our heritage. This realisation was brought to the fore by an argument in the arts and culture circles that the brand name of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture should begin to celebrate the trinity of the creative industries: Arts, Culture and HERITAGE! We hereby commend the leadership of the African Union by having declared 2021 as “the year of the arts, culture and heritage”. This therefore means we have to invest reasonable resources into developing and maintaining such institutions as the isiNdebele Cultural Village in Mhlanga. Investing in such heritage does not in any way advance tribal arrogance but encourages a post-modernist acclimatisation of our heritage as BMW has done with Esther Mahlangu.

The fact that arts and culture has been repositioned as part of the economic cluster nationally should tell us that we need to treat the sector as an industry through which our people could make a living from it. As much as the arts are food for the soul, equally so, they have to be food for the stomach. It’s for this reason that development of arts, culture and heritage have to be one of the critical strategic focus areas of our local economic development strategy. This sector drives tourism as domestic and international tourists will always be in search of what is indigenous to the places they visit. The sector, just like indigenous cuisine, enables tourists to discover and connect with the soul of the locals.

Yes, while recognising our heritage, we will continue celebrating the dialectical nature of culture as we will fully embrace the cultural synthesis that has emerged from amalgamated cultural identities with a strong global slant.

I can’t sign off before sharing with you my highlight of this week. Perhaps I should first congratulate Brand South Africa (Brand SA), South Africa’s official nation brand agency, for organising such a successful “Nation Brand Forum 2021”. A hybrid event (that is, attendance both physical and virtual) was hosted in Sandton, Johannesburg – Africa’s economic capital. The venue was within a Sandton precinct described as Africa’s richest square mile in the Gauteng City Region that ranks as the eighth biggest economy in Africa – yes, bigger than the economies of 46 African countries. Besides the reverting speeches, panel discussions and reconnections with many professionals I haven’t physically seen since the outbreak of COVID-19, it was indeed a privilege for me to have an opportunity of engaging, virtually of course, directly with Simon Anholt, the world’s foremost thought leader on competitive identity. Those who read my commentaries or have read all my previous post-graduate dissertations will attest that he’s the one author I make reference to religiously although, through the academic distance I maintain, I’m able to critique him. Yes it was a pleasure to also engage with Thebe Ikalafeng, another branding luminary whose contribution to brand Africa is unparalleled. Yes, my former boss, Clayson Monyela: Deputy Director-General – Public Diplomacy at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation was there.

I was extremely elated when the latter debunked the myth of the R500 billion stolen by corrupt South African public servants peddled by one business leader that I have so much respect for. Although the plausible explanation I can perhaps give in his defence is that we’re all vulnerabilities to be gullible to believe what the mainstream media feeds us, we should still never lower our guard as critical readers. Sarah Lipton put it succinctly: “The well of gullibility has to be primed through frequent repetition especially with backing of seemingly authoritative sources.” I have previously in this news portal argued unashamedly against an emerging parasitic culture of intellectual howling and sloganeering among some commentators hoping to win currency and legitimacy from the establishment by willfully criticising African governments. Monyela also decried the inadequacy of research undertaken by some of our critics before they present such as fact. Yes, these are the people who make foreigners brand Africa as a snake that bites and poisons itself. This justifies the clarion call made by Brand SA for South Africans to play their part as the country’s brand ambassadors.

Do read the speeches of H.E. Wamkele Mene, the Secretary General of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, and H.E. Pinky Kekana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, which we have published verbatim in this week’s edition. Quite interesting for me is the SG’s coinage of the “pancession” – a pandemic-induced economic recession.

We notice with a tinge of disappointment in the article on “Mapped: The fastest (and slowest” internet speed in the world”, that African countries are ranking poorly out of 180 countries. The researcher indicates that the key factors that impact on a country’s internet speed are the quality of the infrastructure; proximity to the undersea cables; the size of the country; and the amount of investment government makes in prioritising internet accessibility.

In the ranking on “fixed broadband internet speeds”, South Africa ranks 78; followed by Ghana at 83; Madagascar, 88; Egypt, 89; Cote d’Ivoire, 101; Senegal, 103; Seychelles, 107; Morocco, 117; Liberia, 121; Lesotho, 122; Burkina Faso, 123; Congo (Brazzaville), 126; Mauritius, 127; Western Sahara, 128; Cape Verde, 130; Gabon, 136; Togo, 137; Mali, 138; Rwanda, 140; Nambia, 141; Nigeria, 142; Tanzania, 143; Djibouti, 144; Kenya, 145; Benin, 148; Cameroon, 149; Libya, 151; Angola, 154; Zimbabwe, 157; Somalia, 158; Uganda, 159; Ethiopia, 160; Malawi, 161; Equatorial Guinea, 163; Sierra Leone, 164; DR Congo, 165; Mauritania, 166; Zambia, 168; eSwatini, 169; Botswana, 170; Tunisia, 171; The Gambia, 172, Algeria, 173; Burundi, 174; Sudan, 176; and, Mozambique, 177.

And the same applies to the ranking on “mobile internet speeds” in 140 countries. Only eight African countries feature in the top 100 – namely, South Africa which is at number 47; followed by Togo at 59; Mali, 64; Morocco, 65; Botswana, 69; Mauritius, 76; Tunisia, 77; and Cameroon, 79. A few more feature between 100 and 140 – and these are are Egypt, 102; Angola, 103; Nigeria, 105; Ethiopia, 106; Senegal, 110; Kenya, 111; Namibia, 116; Mozambique, 117; Uganda, 121; Cote d’Ivoire, 125; Algeria, 127; Libya, 128; Zambia, 129; Sudan, 132; Tanzania, 133; Somalia, 134; Zimbabwe, 135; and, Ghana, 136.

This is nerving considering that the majority of micro, small and medium enterprises, particularly in Africa, have to rely on digital platforms such as social media to promote their service and product brands against those dumped into the continent by multinationals with huge advertising budgets, so we have to call on our governments to invest resources into bridging the digital divide and to ensure the quality of our infrastructure delivers the kind of speeds required for internet downloads.

Another highlight for this week for me will be my speech this afternoon to the “Global Sustainable Development Summit 2021” which is organised by the India-headquartered Global Centre for the Promotion of International Trade (GCPIT). Unpacking the tenth United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), the topic of my speech is “Equitable distribution of resources as a strategic mechanism to redress societal ills: A brand architect’s perspective.” I’ll share my speech in next week’s Publisher’s Comment.

Let us all wish Nigeria, the biggest economy in our continent, a happy Independence Day today.

By the way, to take a walk, go on a trail or a guided tour of the Brandhill group, download the electronic business card below which will introduce you to all our services and products.

Enjoy the journey.

Saul Molobi