Shoot HIV-Aids, shoot crime, shoot for jobs ...

2011-04-16 12:01

Some of us were born a few years before democracy dawned on South Africa one morning.

We get a glimpse of the ugly past through tales told to us by our uncles, aunts, parents and grandparents.

We are told that in the hands of white people the black community endured excruciating ­experiences on par with those Nazi Germany ­unleashed on Jewish people.

In the spirit of retaliation, they composed many volumes of struggle songs that served as forces of unity against their then enemy.

These struggle songs were reflective of the opinions, moods, ­living conditions, desperation and aspirations of the then oppressed black community. They had to be sung as a matter of necessity.

Had I been there myself I would have contributed my best ­soprano rendition of whatever struggle song was being sung in pursuit of my human rights.

The now controversial song Dubhul’ ibhunu, known to many as Shoot the Boer, was one of those. It was sung in response to the brutal ­conditions to which whites, especially Afrikaners, subjected black people.

As pressure mounted against the apartheid ­regime, we are told, politicians, big business and the international community at large agreed that that evil system had to be dismantled.

Every stakeholder in the apartheid project sat down as equals in what was to be the Convention for a Democratic South Africa.

This South Africa that was under negotiation, we are told, was one that would be ­constitutional, democratic and respectful of ­human rights – even the right for white minority groups to be protected from songs about shooting at them – was included.

With these human rights guaranteed for South Africans, the grounds for freedom and democracy – which I and my generation ­enjoy today – were laid.

The moral of this article is that songs are powerful forces of solidarity for a cause or against a social ill, just like religious people sing in praise of their God and in spite of their figure of evil.

Shoot the Boer cannot be a song that unifies people today.

If anything, it plants the dangerous seed of a victim mentality even after one has been granted freedoms and rights.

It also implies that white Afrikaners are still the national ­problem threatening doom for all in this country. The relevance of Shoot the Boer back then ­contributed to solving the apartheid problem.

But now it has become irrelevant and those singing it are obviously shooting at the wrong national problem.

In a country troubled by crime, HIV/Aids, ­illiteracy, corruption and unemployment, we should ­actually be crafting songs to unify us in the quest to defeat these national problems.

It could help a lot to start songs about how fed-up we are that some schools have no ­textbooks, tables and desks despite government having allocated a budget for that.

Or maybe a song about how some ­government officials stole money that was meant for social development.

Or a song about how the National Youth ­Development Agency spent about R62 million on a festival on the backdrop of high rates of youth unemployment and the lack of access to capital to enhance their entrepreneurship ambitions.

South Africa is just a fragile patient in rehab, recovering from a grossly inhumane racism binge. Songs like Shoot the Boer do not help heal the damage but relegate the country back to its days of addiction to racism.

They make us shoot at the wrong national problem, if not at our feet.

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