Tim Modise

Our hopes are being destroyed

2006-09-07 14:41

Tim Modise

I deeply appreciate that I have been given this opportunity to reflect on developments in the public arena as well as on current affairs in general. I suppose this will give me an opportunity to reflect on what our society talks about on radio and television as I enjoy a sort of front row seat into the psyche of our nation.

I was approached to write this column during the month of August, a month when our country, correctly, commemorated the role played by women in the struggle for justice and freedom.

The usual but unflattering issues were again highlighted. Women living in abusive relationships. Women living in fear of violence and being raped. Women still not socially and economically empowered enough to determine power relations in the scary era of the rapacious HIV and Aids pandemic. The era where the dominant family structure is the single-parent-mother-headed home.

Fifty years before, women had marched for justice and freedom, yet they were still living in fear of, this time, their own brothers and fathers. They were now more terrified and angry with the very men who made it part of the democratic state's agenda to have women empowered and represented fully in all spheres of society.

These observations made me ask troubled questions. Why would the men who historically have been the custodians of the fate of the African people become the bogeymen of their own people? These are men who for centuries negotiated difficult and hostile environments to create communities and cultures that sustain up to today.

They resisted

For centuries they have fought to repel the colonisers. They were conquered and vanquished and pushed off the land to work in the mines run by the conquerors yet they remained unbroken. They were discriminated against and oppressed yet they resisted.

They formed organisations and they mobilised. They waged struggles through various means so that they, together with their WOMEN and children could be free. They endured all manner of degradations as forced migrants in the land of their birth yet managed to raise families and build communities. The list of their achievements against adversity goes on.

Yet it appears fate is now playing a cruel joke on them. After so many decades and centuries of fighting for their emancipation and restoration of their dignity as custodians of their cultures and country, today the black community seems to be the epicentre of all kinds of social problems.

The very women who enjoy political freedoms, thanks largely to the acquiescence to the idea by particularly black men, now live in fear of abuses and sexual violence from their brothers and fathers. The devastating pandemic seems to be largely confined to the black community.

The despondency and lack of economic opportunities seem to be the preserve of this community. The destruction of family life is becoming a way of life. Yet the custodian seems absent. We all know that racial oppression plays a contributory role, yet during the height of this oppression people trusted one another more than they do today.

Children were children

Children were children and were supported and nurtured as such. Women were generally proud of their men. The elders were respected. No one would insult the revered right reverend Tutu the way he has been by pupils recently.

As we speak there is the fear that what an array of leaders like Mandela, Biko and others fought for is going to end in the bloodiest political in fighting within the ANC ever. And where to after that? Where is the man? The lack of the mobilisation and organisation of the men who seem perennially absent in the lives of their communities is likely to become the greatest undoing of South African society.

The abdication of the responsibility to lead in the historical and cultural mission of determining the destiny of the African community to only the politicians - the somewhere out there leader - is destroying the hopes of our nation. We are spending more and more billions to imprison our own young people instead of spending any money to strengthen our community life.

Unless and until the ordinary black man is encouraged and supported to play his role in his community, the project of emancipation may yet unravel with terrible consequences for society at large.

  • Tim Modise is the chairperson of the Proudly South African Campaign and hosts a weekday show on Radio 702 and Cape Talk.

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