We need to rediscover our sense of self

2011-10-08 12:53

Freedom has had unintended adverse results.

I was reminded of this unpalatable truth by Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya’s F-Word column titled “Don’t hate, learn from AfriForum” (City Press, October 1 2011).

Moya writes that “there is nothing stopping black people from establishing an organisation such as AfriForum and taking on the interests of their people the same way that AfriForum takes care of white interests”.

He is right and his assertions cannot be faulted. After all, the same Constitution that protects the right of AfriForum and any other lobby group to exist, has to be good enough to allow blacks to form similar groups.Except black people are free and have a government of their choice, generally speaking.

And that, unfortunately and rather strangely, is exactly why black people have become even more disadvantaged after apartheid.

After centuries of oppression, once black people tasted freedom, rightly or wrongly, they abandoned that Steve Biko mantra Moya reminds us of: “Black man you are on your own.”

Now with a government of our own, we have consciously or subconsciously decided to give all responsibility for our happiness, wellbeing, education, sanity and wisdom to government.

Today, black people look to government for jobs, housing, hospitals and schools.Our dependence on government has so emasculated us that we even expect it to doctor the lottery so that only black people can win it.

If I cast my eyes to a period between the 1970s and 1980s, I remember how black people were activists involved in every aspect of their lives.

We started our own healthcare projects and ran our own Saturday and night schools.Protest theatre was the order of the day, as were self-help projects for the elderly, the infirm and the unemployed.In fact, as a result of self-reliance (and of course necessity) a few industries were spawned.

Chief among them was the taxi industry, and stokvels or savings societies.In fact, I think the success of football was another one of those black successes born out of necessity to make our weight lighter.

During this time, the white community, the very community for which AfriForum purports to be representing from “die swart gevaar”, were carefree.They had a government that took care of them.

A government that provided houses and safe streets. A government that guaranteed quality education, services and amenities. A government that dished out jobs and cheap labour.

A government that bought white farmers’ produce even if it was not worth the price.Fast forward to just under 20 years of black rule and the tables have turned.

Now the white man is on his own and the black man is looking at government to take care of him.Except this time the black man will lose again, not because government does not care or is not committed to creating a better life for all.

And therein lies the rub. This being a government for all and not some, blacks are not going to get houses, schools, jobs or hospitals at the expense of whites.

And certainly we will not get cheap white labour nor will black farmers get tracts of land and a guaranteed market from government.If we accept this reality and if we also accept that government can only do so much, then black people must revive the civil movement of the 1970s and 1980s and take responsibility for their own lives.

Black people should start their own schools, maybe this time like AfriForum, to protect African languages. They should “buy black” as they did in the 1980s to support black entrepreneurs.

They should publish their own papers like Voice, Frank Talk and Grassroots. We should start our own rugby and cricket teams if we think we are not welcomed into others.In short, blacks should stop complaining and take responsibility for their own lives, success and wellbeing.

This because no government, however well-meaning, is going to do that for them.And no amount of anger, hatred and disdain for AfriForum, the Springboks, the Proteas or the “white” media will free us.As Bob Marley once said: “None but ourselves will free our minds.”

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