Make the circle bigger

2010-04-11 13:53

YOU’VE got to love us. Instead of war, we made fun of ourselves.


The terrorist AWB representative Andre Visagie provided the best television in ­decades when he stormed out of e.tv’s Africa 360 programme hosted by Chris Maroleng. Apoplectic with rage at Lebogang Pheko for interjecting while he spoke,Visagie tore off his mike and threatened all in sight.


The aggressive right-winger threatened Maroleng, who ­responded: “Don’t touch me on my studio.” The incident has gone viral, causing a national bellyache, especially if you watch the version set to the hit song “Make the circle bigger”.


The Skierlik shootings and the Reitz Four incident, where black workers were humiliated by Free State university students young enough to be their children, are two recent examples of where civil war was predicted but failed to break out.


There is everyday violence and anonymous death that stalks rural South Africa.


Workers and farmers are slain as neither side can ­survive in the feudal set-up that continues to define the ­countryside.


Because civil war has not broken out, and because ordinary people continue to go about their ordinary lives as best they can, does not make this a rainbow nation.


The lesson of this week is that we all have to make the circle bigger.


In the past 14 years, few South Africans have stepped out of their laagers, making race relations worse than it was at the democratic elections in 1994.

The latest Reconciliation Barometer of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation found that just under half of all South Africans felt that race ­relations had improved in the past year. Fewer said they ­socialised across racial lines.


But it has to go beyond braaing together. The circles of prosperity and ownership must also be made bigger.


Land reform has failed, by and large, with more than 90% of restituted and reformed land lying fallow or flailing. This means there is no significant black land ownership, which shows property and power relations have not changed.


Farm labourers remain serfs – underpaid, fearful and often victimised. The farmers ­remain the overlords, but they too are buckling under the pressure of lower market prices and are cowed by the high levels of rural violent crime.


In the cities, it is no different. A recent United Nations report found that Johannesburg is the world’s most unequal city, with our other metropolises trailing close. Square this with statistics that show that ownership and management are still largely white and male, and it’s clear that the economy still locks out blacks. It’s testament to the South African spirit that we are not at war, but each successive brink we go to displays the need to make the circle of prosperity much, much bigger.


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