Max du Preez

Shouldn't we replace fake outrage with radical action?

2016-07-12 07:35

Max du Preez

South Africa is filled with outrage and anger. Everybody in South Africa is raging about some injustice and makes sure we all take notice.

The predictions brewing up from the outrage are dark: either we face a bloody revolution, or we face a Zimbabwe-style collapse.

It would be an understatement to say we are not a healthy nation right now, so much of the fury is probably justified.

But too much of it is based on a fake, manufactured powerlessness and a blame game. It heightens the political temperature and polarises the nation without taking us closer to any resolution or progression.

The land issue is a clear example. The president, the governing party, the EFF and every activist worth his/her salt rage about it daily that white South Africans own just about all the land that they had stolen from the black majority.

Land ownership is indeed a major issue, a serious injustice that hasn’t been corrected. But it is too important an issue to be used as a political football.

Instead of simply pointing fingers and threatening darkly, we should ask the real questions about who is to blame more than two decades into our democracy.

I have no doubt that there have been white landowners that tried to put a spanner in the works or work the system, but it is clear as daylight that we should first blame the successive ANC governments for not correcting the land imbalances during the last two decades.

If all the money spent on land reform since 1994 were used to buy commercial farms on the open property market, we would have reached our national goals of black ownership some time ago.

We can only conclude that billions and billions of rands were wasted through corruption and incompetence.

To only blame the small number of remaining white commercial farmers for the problem would be to fake powerlessness.

To further support this powerlessness, people lie about the statistics. We still hear the old story of 87% of South Africa’s land being in white hands, but the truth is that only 67% of our land surface is in the hands of private commercial farmers.

Government hasn’t done a proper, credible land audit, but indications are that about a third of this is already owned by black people. This is a result of the state’s land reform that has transferred about eight million hectare to black owners, of reform initiated by white farmers and agribusiness and of black people buying farms with their own money.

It was reported just last week that about 300 000 hectares of farmland were bought by black owners during the twelve months ending in March 2016.

When the president or cabinet ministers rage on about the “dangerous” situation with land ownership, I say they’re faking powerlessness, because if they had used the means, the legislation and the political power at their disposal properly, the picture would have been much, much different today.

Inequality, especially racial inequality, is another cause for outrage. Again, I share that outrage. The inequality in our society is dangerous and immoral.

Inequality is a notoriously hard problem to solve in any modern economy, but the first place to start the war against inequality is education, especially education of the children of the poor and dispossessed.

If that had been done properly after 1994, many black youngsters in their 20s and 30s languishing in squalid ghettoes today would have been engineers, doctors or business people. Instead they face a life with little hope.

It is the stark truth: we have failed dismally in implementing the one sure-fire way of combating inequality. Most white children today still get a good quality education, and most black children still get a vastly inferior education.

Rage against that.

I have publicly supported the student movement that arrived on the national scene late last year. I’m still excited about some of the activism from that quarter.

But sometimes I listen to the extreme rhetoric about decolonisation and I wonder why I don’t ever hear students rage against the criminally bad education given to the majority of black youth.

I often hear activists being angry about the Eurocentric syllabi at schools and universities and the scant attention given to African and black history. I’m waiting for them to actually drop the fake outrage and do something real about it.

The debate around white privilege is an important one, one that we need to push white South Africans on much harder.

But when we’re angry about poor healthcare and dehumanising housing for the marginalised, shouldn’t we first address bad governance, tenderpreneurship, corruption, empire building and political vanity projects? If need be, let’s tax the rich even more, but then let’s spend that money on those who need it most.

No, I’m not excluding white South Africans from this theme. Jacob Zuma and his clique deserve harsh criticism, but if one listens to the daily whining of so many white South Africans, one would think they’re all destitute and living in a dangerous failed state.

Too few of them face up to their own privilege and the legacies of the past; too few acknowledge that the quality of their lives had increased hugely since 1994.

Instead they allow racism among them to fester and too many of them resort to racial stereotypes when they look at our decaying state.

Here’s the question to my black compatriots: have you ever considered that you’re giving the tiny white minority far too much power by fixing all your anger on them rather than taking the initiative and leadership and getting stuck into changing what needs to be changed?

Shouldn’t we replace fake outrage with radical action?

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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