Khaya Dlanga

What is wrong with the Eastern Cape?

2010-10-19 09:00

A few days ago a friend of mine, Nandi Mngoma (perhaps I am being liberal with the friend label because I have never in fact met her. I have only ever met her in the cyber world of Facebook and Twitter) sent me an e-mail saying the following: "Eastern Cape is a Province that inspires me so much by the amount of success stories that come from this humble province, yet it makes me sad that there are so many influential people like Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, (the list is endless) who have grown up there and yet the amount of poverty that the province faces is inhumane. Although it’s not my home province, I don’t understand why E.C struggles to provide itself with the bare necessities. Why?"

And she is a Zulu from Kwazulu-Natal.

It is an excellent question. Why? Why is the Eastern Cape the way it is? In many respects, the Eastern Cape has been very successful in providing human, intellectual and cultural capital for the country. The wealth of people it has provided to guide and lead the country is impossible to fathom, yet the poverty of the area where these people come from is equally impossible to fathom.

Some may blame the legacy of apartheid, which resulted in the formation of the homelands. The Eastern Cape had two large homelands, Transkei and Ciskei. Unfortunately these two homelands became universities of corruption when Transkei was under KD Matanzima and Ciskei under the guidance of Sebe. We are still paying for their sins.

The corrupt government departments and the lazy government officials seem to take pride in their corruption. It is a competition to see who can be more corrupt. Competition is a good thing if it is to ensure efficient delivery for the people. There are many good and honest people in these government departments but they are drowned out. It’s hard to be a clean pig in a pigsty.

Some of the first schools built for black people during the colonial era were in the Eastern Cape, which explains the awaking consciousness that led so many Xhosas to move to Johannesburg to revolt against the oppression they saw. One such school is Clarkebury, which was generally recognised as the highest learning institute for blacks, according to Nelson Mandela in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

Then there is the world famous University of Fort Hare, which has produced numerous leaders of the struggle, most of them from the Eastern Cape itself.

Why is it that the Eastern Cape, with its advantages of education right from the 1800s has been unable to create a prosperous province? As early as the 1840s it had produced intellectual giants such as Tiyo Soga, who at the age of 17 left for Scotland to study. Why is it that this advantage of having access to education earlier than any other province has not translated into economic supremacy for the province?

Today, some of the worst performing schools are to be found in this province. Instead of trying to fix the Eastern Cape, many of us who were born there put our hands up in exasperation and move to other provinces like Gauteng and the Western Cape to provide intellectual capital for them. The brain drain is evident in Gauteng as one hears Xhosa everywhere one goes. We leave our home in tatters. What is to be done to improve the situation because clearly, the government isn’t doing much to sort out the problems faced by that province?

Two of our three democratically elected presidents were born in the Eastern Cape. Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Mandela, not wanting to be seen to be favouring the Eastern Cape because he didn’t want to cause an iota of tribalism, “neglected” the province in the interests of uniting the nation and all its tribes. The province was neglected in the interests of nation building, even though the province was the one that needed the most fixing.

When Mbeki was elected president he was faced with the same dilemma as Mandela. Again, the Eastern Cape was left on the back burner.

Corruption is a way of life. A blind eye is turned as self-entitled government officials suck the lifeblood out of the province. What is wrong with the Eastern Cape? Does anyone know?

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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