In 2018, as Cyril Ramaphosa took over the Presidency, a kind of euphoria swept the country. Generated as much by seeing the back-end of Zuma, as it was by his announced “New Dawn,” many of us adopted a rather less positive approach of “let’s wait and see.” After all, ten years of been Zuma’s mainly oblivious deputy, and remembering his part in growing the trade union’s strength, as well as being a major player in the formation of the Tri-partite Alliance, were perhaps not most encouraging entries on a CV for the promise of a New Dawn.
All in all, once again at best, South Africa and its peoples were at the crossroads.
Unfortunately, our navigators seldom have got it right when faced with crossroad choices. The first was the indomitable P V Botha who, had he crossed the Rubicon, I believe may well have assured a much softer landing for our tortured peoples. Yes, De Klerk, and especially Mandela, did get it gloriously right in 1994, but after a few years even Madiba got directed down the wrong path of the disastrous “Arms Deal,” as well as too hasty Transformation through ‘AA’ and ‘BEE. Then, he let international fame seduce him away from the unfinished business of his “RAINBOW NATION,” which probably only he could have achieved. Mbeki, who seemed to promise so much, in the end did not have it, though his shortcomings pale into insignificance when viewed alongside the “Crooked Man’s” destruction of our country which may take decades to correct again, but obviously was dependent on CR choosing correctly this time around.
What he needed to do was obvious to most people, but, as far as our enormous number of unemployed, particularly our youth, who listened and believed in the populist utterings of Zuma, he has a mighty and unenviable task ahead of him. How does he now disabuse them of Zuma’s impossible and irresponsible promises without causing further dangerous social disruption? With the continuing frighteningly poor education system, coupled with the destructive tendency of our youth to diminish the infrastructures of that system, will they ever understand that they were simply the staircase to his and his cronies’ ambition for him to become a despot a la Mugabe, and them the wealthy elite!
At this point, I would like to emphasise two major factors that I believe are allowed to go unchallenged far too often in the new all-encompassing society of our country. Many of that society know them as well as I do, but today, in our overly sensitive required tolerance here, and for that matter the world over, we submit to everybody’s current populist beliefs. Thus, we choose to ignore the basic facts of life, rather than be accused and criticised of not being in sync with “so-called” current-day attitudes. Yet we must know that these attitudes have all gone far over the top. Gender equality, as though there are no difference between the two genders, LBGT people’s somewhat unreasonable demands, feminism, climate change, religious toleration, and many more, all indicate a world gone suddenly haywire. Historic norms are not necessarily wrong! Of course they should keep up with a changing world, but that hardly justifies throwing them all out onto the discard dump at the same time, as the world seems to be doing!
The first relates to the right of ownership of SA’s land. I do not want to be prescriptive as to precise boundary lines, as I believe my knowledge of such matters is limited. However, it is a simple fact that, when the White Tribe of South Africa migrated north, they met the Black Tribes migrating south, both incidentally fleeing before “oppression.” This occurred along a rough line drawn through the now Eastern Cape, Free State and Northwest, starting from the coast at more or less the Fish River. Both peoples in the process displaced indigenous people in the form of the San, Kho koi, Bushmen, call them what you will. How then, did the Black tribes displace nobody, and only the white tribes did the displacing? Then why, when a land audit was/is done, do the perceptions not follow the truth? Surely, the respective parties displacing the indigenous poorly developed population of those times was inevitable evolution leading to their assimilation into the more advanced society of their usurpers. Please do not assume this is in any way intended as a criticism of general legitimate land restitution, say from the time of the legislation and actions taken by whichever Governing Party after the creation of the Union of South Africa.
The second relates to so called “colonialism,” a term that unfortunately is applied to many forms of very different kinds of human occupation of less developed lands and peoples. It, again, was a largely evolutionary pathway taken by countries with a far higher level of culture, education and development. Unfortunately, rather similar to our erstwhile “crooked man,” such assumption of power often led to individuals exercising unfair and corrupt actions against the indigents. Sometimes the rulers of the countries, who exercised these colonialist actions, would seek only to enslave and benefit from their colonies but there were not many such examples of this behaviour. In fact, colonialism brought about the modernisation and advancement of the countries and peoples where it occurred. After all, China today is continuously re-colonializing Africa for the benefits that such countries can offer them in trade, jobs, and raw materials. The process of a continued association frequently acknowledges the need for vastly improved infrastructure, a westernisation of culture, improved economic controls, and efficient bureaucratic systems of government. In addition, so often unfortunately rather low down on the list, comes the need to better educate the country’s population. In fact, if there was/is any sin that colonialism was guilty of, it was often the failure to deliver and enact good education systems.
Two significant ironies in the above two instances are firstly, that apparently no African country, including South Africa, seems to recognise Chinese willing cooperation and support as being clearly a form of colonialism. Then secondly, apart from several other areas that require CR’s urgent attention, perhaps the ANC’s greatest failure to date is in the field of Education, and, after nearly 25 years, laying the blame on Colonialism and the Apartheid era inheritance is just utter nonsense. One cannot help but wonder how much more it would have meant to the country had the ridiculous amount spent on the unnecessary Arms deal been applied to education. This would have resulted in far more well qualified personnel to have taken the place of so many nepotistic and political appointees!!
Well, let’s then try to return to the right road, and the reparations needed along it. Surely, in listing them I am insulting most of educated South Africa. However, let us first acknowledge what many already claim as the ANC’s greatest success, which apparently CR does not feel is fully accomplished, irrespective of the enormous cost, and losses generated by it to date! That is, of course, the wished for transformation of our society. It is of course a fait accompli, as anyone can clearly see! Unfortunately, on its own, all that it has achieved is to have kept the poor poorer, the jobseekers jobless, with a small percentage of cadres and loyalists becoming the new Elite.
In a population where over 80% ensured an ANC government, all CR, and their previous leaders had to do was develop further, (what was handed to them on a plate):
A sound and progressively improving Economy;
Which goes hand in hand with Job Creation; Avoiding State Capture and a dramatic reduction of Corruption; An equally dramatic reduction in Crime, with a vastly improved and honest Police Force; Appropriate action to rectify the State Owned Enterprises, so to remove their huge financial drain on the Economy;
Some urgently needed adjustments to recent Economic Legislation,
And lastly, a superhuman effort to correct Race Relations to allow to return to Madiba’s dream of a “RAINBOW NATION” of all South Africans living and working together in harmony, without fear of Racial Discrimination or misplaced blame, whatever the colour of their skin, language, or religious beliefs.
Why, you ask, should any body listen to me, an ordinary man from the street? Well, I am over 80 years old, so can, they tell me, claim a degree of wisdom gained from so many years on this planet, mainly in this my beloved, if somewhat battered, country. At a very young age, I realised that every human on this planet, no matter his creed or colour, must be entitled to a place in the sun, due respect, and equal opportunity commensurate with his own particular abilities. Having spent much of my life in the Fishing Industry, including many years at sea where skills and ability, not skin colour, were the measure of your success, I guess I was always more liberal than the average white South African. As a result I believe I can claim that in the many companies I have controlled and/or owned, no employee of mine has ever been discriminated against based on the colour of his/her skin or gender!
It really is time that the words of critical commentators on the one hand, and excuse seeking politicians and failed management on the other, deserted their behavior and racialism of the past two and a half decades. Perhaps, then, they can together learn to adopt unified action and intent, or is it, CR, already too late?