A sense of family

2010-10-27 00:00

ONE of South Africa’s best attacking midfielders who goes by the name of Surprise Moriri won the Premier Soccer League’s player of the year award. I was not surprised that he had won.

What surprised me was what he said he would do with the prize money. In his unassuming way, he shared with the South African public that he would give the money to his father to buy cattle. The money was about R200 000. By any standards, this is not an amount to be sneezed at.

In a world where young people and those who have just tasted fame go for all the latest trappings of wealth, it was pleasantly surprising to find a football star who said he would give his winnings to his father. I mean, in these days of independence, who still gives money to their parents?

Worse still, for the parent to use that money to buy such old-fashioned and out-of-style assets as cattle? Indeed, Moriri had sprung one on me, at least.

Fast forward to the recent announcement of the winner of South Africa’s version of So You Think You Can Dance. Generally, I am not into these reality television competitions. M-Net’­s Idols put me off a long time ago when Ayanda Nhlangothi, who I thought had the voice of an angel, did not win the competition. Seriously, there was no competition.

But I digress. Back to the winner of the dance competition. It was by sheer luck that on a couple of occasions I was able to watch the show and the few episodes that I watched convinced me that a certain imposing, articulate and nimble woman should win. Unlike Idols, the woman came tops and won herself about R250 000.

When asked what she would do with the money, she did not hesitate to say that she would use it to buy her mother a house. She would not get herself a convertible car or shop herself into a stupor but would buy a house for her mother.

The two incidents, although not exactly the same, challenged the outlook of many young people and how we relate to our parents and, importantly, responsibilities. I have watched with despair how certain households have deteriorated in my neighbourhood in K-Section in Umlazi.

When you grew up in the township, if you were of humble means, as we were, there were certain families that you looked up to for inspiration. These were the people who had the first battery-powered, black-and-white television sets and at whose homes, literally, the whole neighbourhood’s children (10 to 15 children) would converge to watch the latest offerings from SABC.

These were the families who, in the early eighties, plastered and painted their houses which stood out in a row of nondescript four-roomed houses. I talk here of households who bought the first fridges in the township which soon became the cold room for three or four more households. Some stuff got lost, but that was the price that those of us who were fridgeless had to pay.

Unfortunately, when one goes home, one is pained at the sorry sight of what used to be the best households in the neighbourhood. Of course, there are many reasons these families have fallen on hard times but I have my own theory.

The deterioration of these households is, in most cases, inextricably linked with the fact that some of my peers who came from those households gave school a wide berth, perhaps because they felt they had it all and so never developed a strong work ethic.

I think the important principle of ensuring growth and development of a family and of a household was never instilled in some among us. Yes, we were chided and punished for bunking classes but I can recall a time when many of my childhood friends could stay at home and not go to school, and nothing would happen to them. Most dropped out just as they entered secondary school and it was fine with the community.

The sense of responsibility, I think, was lost then. No one wondered or even cared about where their family and household would be in 20 years time, for example. Now that our parents can’t work anymore, those of us who are supposed to take up the mantle and continue the growth and development of our families do not have the wherewithal to take the legacy of the family to a higher level. It is a sad situation.

So, when I saw Moriri dedicate his winnings to his father and Mlangeni promising to buy her mother a house with her prize, hope was rekindled in me. I felt that, perhaps we could still become parents who would anchor resilient and productive family units that would, in turn, build strong and innovative communities leading to a winning country. Any chance that our country stands of being a world beater depends on how well the family units do. A strong emphasis on a culture of building a family legacy cannot be overemphasised if we are to attain our objectives.

It is not enough to criticise the rampant culture of wealth accumulation and doing better than the Joneses. Indeed, parents have a responsibility to inculcate a culture of pride and a yearning for achievement among their children. Our forebears understood this responsibility and created a social system of peer review (ukubuthwa), as well as instilled a sense of pride and responsibility among the youth.

It is time that we internalised and practised the lessons that the past has taught so that the future can be a sustainable one. We cannot throw up our hands in despair. There is just too much at stake. The time to build our nation is now and we are way behind schedule.

• Harry Mchunu is the general manager for communication in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism. He writes in his personal capacity.

 

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