Let’s move forward, from victims to victors

2012-03-17 09:04

South Africans are a wounded people. We’ve been traumatised by our past and remain frustrated by our present.

This has stifled our capacity to reconcile with each other as citizens of a democratic nation.

But reconciliation – the ability to extend trust beyond the narrow confines of a racial or social group – is the key to our future.

It is the primary means by which we will be able to harness our greatest resource: human capital.

These were some of the thoughts that Dr Mamphela Ramphela – one of our country’s most gifted academics, businesswomen and activists – shared with the Democratic Alliance parliamentary caucus recently.

I had asked her to speak to us so that we might gain wisdom from her insights and experience, as I have done with other thought leaders from all walks of life.

But Ramphele’s frank discussion of black South Africans’ sense of woundedness reminded us of how much work remains to be done before many South Africans feel that they have moved from victims to victors.

Our woundedness is often expressed in self-defeating ways. First, many of us cannot shake the feeling that we are somehow lesser than others.

However, we also know that this lingering sense of inferiority is unwarranted.

It is the sad legacy of a lie that has been thoroughly discredited by our inspirational triumph over racism. The best antidote to this feeling is the very thing that it threatens: achievement.

When we take the risk to act, and succeed, it is then that we confirm to ourselves and others that we are worthy.

That is why education is so important, because it provides the means by which young people can confidently tackle the future, free of psychological fetters. Sadly, our public education system – where most black children go to school – plays just as much a role in limiting students’ opportunities as it does in expanding them.

The second, and perhaps ironic, sentiment that arises from our woundedness is a sense of entitlement. Our victimisation acts as an emotional and moral claim to special considerations.

We end up nursing our suffering so as to claim that we should enjoy greater rights, privileges, perks or access than others.

Again, this is understandable and makes intuitive sense when thinking of “balancing” things out.

While this is useful for assuring that blacks achieve redress for the wrongs of the past, at a personal level it can be quite debilitating.

Entitlement is the haven of mediocrity, the place where innovation and ingenuity go to lie down.

That’s the problem with an entitled mindset. It does not spur thoughtful or challenging responses to one’s
circumstances, but relinquishes problem-solving to the state.

It makes us passive and brittle, when we should be pro-active and open to new opportunities.

Lastly, our woundedness can make us brittle about failure.

Rather than own up to the fact that we are not living up to our potential, we call for lower standards so that poor results end up being hailed as successes.

This is what we’ve done with education, celebrating the mediocrity of students “passing” a test with a 30% mark.

A key indicator of our maturity as masters – not victims – of our fate is that we can acknowledge our failures and make a plan for moving forward.

We do not want to forget the past, but we want to learn from it for the sake of the future.

We do not want to deny that we have been damaged by apartheid, but that experience by no means defines the fullness of who we are.

We – yet again – hold the key to our own liberation. We need to use that key to move from a state of victimhood to mastery of our environment and our lives.

» James is chairperson of the Democratic Alliance 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Fascinating facts about dogs

Think you know a lot about dogs? How many of these facts do you know?



Perfectly captured cat snapchats!
Fascinating facts about dogs
Out with the old dog, in with the new
Play with your pet when you're not at home
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.