'We will not mourn Queen Elizabeth': Colonial past divides opinion on legacy
Friday September 09 2022
While leaders from every corner of the globe have briefly united in mourning and celebrating the long life of service of Queen Elizabeth II, some reactions have been divided about the legacy of the monarch.
For many in England's former colonial territories in Africa, India and the Caribbean, the queen’s death has revived memories of a bloody past while evoking the monarchy’s role in the slave trade.
For instance, hours after the announcement that Queen Elizabeth II had died, the South African opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), broke rank with most of the world by declaring that it would not be among those mourning the British royal. The party, led by activist Julius Malema, said it would instead use her passing to highlight what it termed as her contribution to a tragic period in South Africa, a former British colony, and Africa’s colonial history.
The South African party added that the monarchy serves as a reminder of a very tragic period in the history of Africa.
“Elizabeth Windsor, during her lifetime, never acknowledged the crimes that Britain and her family in particular perpetrated across the world. In fact, she was a proud flag bearer of the atrocities because during her reign. When the people of Yemen rose to protest British colonialism, Elizabeth ordered a brutal suppression of that uprising,” the party said in a statement.
The Red Berets, as the party's members are commonly known, said South Africa’s interaction with Britain under the leadership of the British royal family has been one of pain, suffering, death, depression and dehumanisation for black people.
“She willingly benefitted from the wealth that was attained from the exploitation and murder of millions of people across the world. The British Royal Family stands on the shoulders of millions of slaves who were shipped away from the continent to serve the interests of racist white capital accumulation, at the centre of which lies the British royal family,” it added.
EFF Statement On The Death Of Queen Elizabeth pic.twitter.com/YlBhG2uXno— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) September 8, 2022
The British monarch died on Thursday at her residence in Balmoral, Scotland.
Her eldest son Charles, 73, immediately became king upon her death, as well as the symbolic head of the UK and 14 other realms, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
But while Britain begins to observe 10 days of mourning in honour of the queen, opinion is still split, especially on social media, over what her legacy should be in its former colonial territories.
For instance, a Carnegie Mellon University associate professor who expressed disdain for the monarch came under fire from some Twitter users, while others expressed support for her views.
If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.— Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) September 8, 2022
Her initial tweet was criticised by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and has since been taken down by Twitter for violating the platform's policies.
Prof Uju Anya, who is of Nigerian descent, doubled down on her views, and her employer has since distanced itself from them.
Still, some social media have been critical of the coverage of her death.
not yall rebranding colonialism as long-standing relationship https://t.co/2EOarNLufO— Siffy (@sifanelepotwana) September 8, 2022