Where is my country heading?

2012-02-04 10:22

It’s the conversation many black professionals dread.

The one in which your white employer or even colleagues ask: What direction do you think the country is going?

It is a slippery road for several reasons – some not as obvious as others.

In the run-up to the ANC Polokwane conference, I was asked by a white ­colleague what the elevation of Jacob Zuma could possibly mean in light of her recent purchase of a new home. Should she now ditch it and divest her interests here and flee for Perth?

How could this have happened to Thabo Mbeki? And what would the world now think of yet another African president with a primary school education? Surely not for South Africa?

In these conversations, as a black person, your opinion is sought not necessarily because you are qualified to speak on the subject, but purely for the fact of the colour of your skin.

One white colleague even told me that I have a material interest in these matters because: “You do know that when they are done with mines, they will come after your stuff!”

Who is “they”?

But the assumption is crude to say the least. It is Afro-pessimism in its basest form. Or is it?

I now have a stock answer to these mysteries. I say South Africa is going through a process of normalisation. After a virtual police state under apartheid, we are finally enjoying the benefits of true democracy – such as a free press and therefore, the exposure of the corruption of our political elite is to be expected.

Oh, said one colleague recently. So the raping of babies, the collapse of public services, the looting of state coffers is also normalisation?

And that was all it took. I was trapped. The conversation could only disintegrate into racial epithets and insults.

Of course, go to any watering hole where black diamonds gather and the chatter is the same.

Racism is still ­rampant in corporate South Africa. No matter how much the government may try to enforce BBBEE and transformation, the ugly truth of colour ­remains the dividing factor.

All the surveys confirm this – life for whites in South Africa has never been better.

There are many in these circles who agree that the media is wrong in exposing the misdemeanours and sometimes the crimes of our leaders.

They think that there should be a press tribunal. They worry about counter-revolutionary agents.

All of this became relevant to me while on holidays in my home province of Eastern Cape. I was at first shocked by what seemed to be a general sense of lawlessness on the roads. Not only excessive speeding but if I didn’t know better, I would have assumed all the drivers were part of a drag race.

The are apparently no road signs in the province, no driver etiquette – the guy with the biggest truck or SUV has right of way.

So as I start the new year, I am no longer sure what to say on behalf of the country’s blacks. I rather want to ask a few myself.

Where are we going?

» Bingwa is a journalist, radio and TV presenter 

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