South Africa at crossroads

South Africa’s transition from the monstrous Apartheid regime to a democratic breakthrough was hailed by many in the world as triumph of good over evil.

Fast forward to the South Africa of today the picture is rather gloom.  21 one years on, not a single day goes without some protest of some sort, which by the way turn to be violent. At times people can sustain injuries or get killed during clashes with police. 

At times the violence takes another form in the context of inter-rivalry conflicts either with trade union groups, political organizations, or generally the violent crime that continue to plug the country of more 53 million people.

As the media regularly reports, mainly the street protests are a result of disillusioned, disadvantaged and marginalised masses who’re trying to have their voice heard in a ‘minority governed system that is disguised as a democracy’, some people have asserted.

Age 21, being the internationally excepted stage of a person, male or female, to come off age, there is also that element in attempting to explain contemporary South Africa.

Needless to say, South Africans find themselves in a rather peculiar phase. 

Peculiar in the sense that, after another spate of violence on other humans, be they from Africa or not, we still cannot be sure of what is happening.

With the news that some of the victims of the recent attack mostly on “foreign nationals”, were actually South Africans, born and bred, it is said. I even saw a news report the other day, revealing that a Venda person was killed in the Durban attacks. An innocent person.

The SA national government on one side turns to send different signals on the nature of the violence. 

You would hear President Jacob Zuma reminding the nation of the noble contribution made by the Frontline States in particular towards South African during the struggle days, away in exile.

On the other hand the President would dismiss the notion of these attacks, as “opportunistic criminal elements”, and not xenophobia as reported. 

Please note, dear reader, that I myself am not sure what is what. I bet there are many who would say the same. You could say that confusion turns to be the norm rather than the exception.

One thing is clear, and it is that the so-called ‘New South Africa’ is not so ‘New’ after all. Thousands still die in SA today, just as the under colonial rule and in the Apartheid era.

 And the phrase ‘South Africa at a crossroads’ couldn’t be more accurate at this current conjuncture.

As I have argued in other platforms before, is that the fundamental problem emerges from the fact that the ‘transition project’ from the unbanning of liberation movements by the Apartheid Nationalist Party government in February 1990 until April 1994 has not worked.

This period involved the negotiations that led to the 1994 negotiated settlement. Initially the talks involved the now ruling ANC and the Nationalist Party government. Later it involved a wide variety of other political organizations and certain sectors of society. 

However, many other sectors, communities, civic groups and people were not part of this process. That to me was is the reason for most of what is going wrong in the post 1994 dispensation. A lot of people are still not part of the majority.

The neglect of these other structures of SA also didn’t help the healing of the maltreated black masses from the bondages of colonial oppression and Apartheid. 

The psychological, physical, spiritual, emotional, cultural and socio-economic brutality of the past by a white minority still haunts the black majority to this day.

In fact South Africa is known to be the most unequal country in the world. Obviously, this refers to the systematic and stubborn black poverty and under-development instituted by the white minority which they still very much continue to do.

 As Shephen Ellis in his book ‘External Mission’: The ANC In Exile powerfully remarks, that SA’s liberation movements, particularly the ANC, as far back as the 1950s in-cooperated the criminal underworld because of its “Networks”.

To me that makes a lot of sense but I need to add that the black criminal world in South Africa, can be directly linked to black oppression by colonial authorities, which like the ANC, continued to play a huge role in the country’s affairs even after the 1994 settlement.

Some under-world figures operated as ‘double agents’ working for the ANC while also being on the payroll of the Apartheid system in what Ellis calls the ‘Dirty War’ as many history records and books written about the Liberation Struggle can confirm.

These networks have regrettably but understandably continued to operate to this day, as many history records and recent books written about the Liberation Struggle confirm.

 One area, that is much clear though, is that South Africa’s social compact, is disturbingly unhealthy. And as a result has let the country down.

For example, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) which is supposed to be a leading player in the country’s transformation and development has failed dismally. 

As the former President of the National African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC), the Rev Joe Hlongwane asserted during the 50th celebration of this black business chamber that, the Marikana debacle, were 34 protesting mine workers were killed by police on August 16, 2012, occurred because NEDLAC failed in its duties of leading.

NEDLAC is supposed to be a forum where government meets with organized business, organized labour and organized community groupings on a national level to discuss and try to reach consensus on issues of social and economic policy. The aim being to put meat into the phrase “social dialogue”. 

Sadly, as most of the commentary has being revealing that NEDLAC is an elitists’ club and does not give much attention to the issues affecting the disadvantaged masses.

 Will NEDLAC provide leadership in the future, or at least play its part in the implementation of the country’s National Development Plan (NDP)? I don’t have good reasons not to count on this happening. Remember what has happened to Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)? A selected few still dominate this programme.

And still on the NDP, the Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe is in-charge of engaging other sectors in the execution and application of the NDP we are told, should the nation wait for him to act, or must we act first. 

Looking at the history of this country’s leadership quality, the latter would be a wiser option.

After all, it is poor leadership that allowed Marikana to occur, as Rev Hlongwane, noted.

It is poor leadership from intelligence structures and the so called ‘national leadership’ that has allowed the attacks on foreign nationals to continue.

It is the poor leadership that allows the crime to escalate including poverty and underdevelopment and the marginalization of the masses to persist.

What is to be done now? 

An option which could be explored would be the revival of the Black Consciousness Movement philosophy to work toward capturing BEE and Broad-Based BEE from the elites.

This must can be achieved through collaboration with all the structures calling for radical transformation of South Africa, through nationalization and land expropriation without compensation, to take centre stage and lead the country towards true freedom. 

After all, if the majority of the people in a country don’t own land what nation, freedom and power can they talk of?

July 2015
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