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Sikhulile Nhassengo
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Awakening the minds of black South Africans

21 January 2014, 22:30

I write this message in the wake of our National Team bowing out of the Chan tournament so prematurely. I hope with this story, I can awaken some of my black South African brothers and sisters. I am a young African man who has grown weary of the constant slamming of Black South Africans, calling us the lazy, entitled generation. I am intentionally focusing on Black South Africans, not excluding other races, but rather reminding ourselves of the important position we should be playing in our society. South Africa needs us!

I remember my father telling me a story about the legendary Jomo Sono, one of South Africa’s greatest sporting heroes. How we left his wedding ceremony to play in a final because his team needed him. It was the ultimate display of commitment, loyalty, pride and discipline. He didn’t earn a hefty salary like some of our current players, but he understood the importance of pitching up and giving the game his all. 

Jomo was never handed a kit because of his colour, but it was his hard work and determination earned him every second on that field. To this day, he is a celebrated legend in South Africa’s football history.

I vividly remember the tough days in South Africa during the apartheid era, where Africans (or Blacks) worked twice as hard to make a living. Hard work was the order of the day and we were proud of our achievements through it. I remember a butler at the Royal Hotel in Durban who wore a three-piece suit with shiny shoes.

You could easily mistake him for the owner of the hotel because of his demeanour. I am not saying it was easy or fair, but we had, as Africans, a sense of respect, dignity and pride in ourselves and the tasks we needed to fulfil.

The last story I remember is that of the Ndulis who owned a mini supermarket while I was growing up in the township. They opened their shop in the early hours of the morning so they could receive fresh bread from the bakeries and closed late to accommodate people returning from work. In my eyes, Nduli was a true entrepreneur. He never sought funding from the government, but started on a small scale, selling sweets, bread and other basic household items before long he had a supermarket.

Sadly, after his passing, the supermarkets closed its doors because the new generation never understood and appreciated the amount of work which had into making the business viable.

I have relayed three stories which most black South Africans can relate to. Where did it all go wrong? I can concede that not all hope is lost because these are black South Africans who made their mark in our history. The biggest problem is that they are few and far between and the rest of us sit and wait for the government to make a plan for us. We are regressing at an alarming speed and don’t take ourselves seriously enough. Our sense of pride has vanished along with the work ethics of our predecessors.

The three stories are proof that we as Black South Africans need some revival, an awakening of sorts. If our forefathers could withstand the most brutal regime and still become successful, then what stops us from being leaders/captain of industry?

I am sure the reader will be asking, how do we become leaders of industry when we do not even own means of production? My answer is simple: we need to start taking ourselves more seriously and moving away from this sense of entitlement.  The government does not owe you anything.  If you decide to drop out of school to become a tenderpreneur, you cannot point a finger at the government when your venture fails due to lack of skills and business acumen.

The awakening begins with one taking himself/herself seriously in everything they do.  So, in the workplace, do not wait for employment equity to kick in for you to move up ranks, but rather work hard and join industry associations, just be visible. If your employer does not appreciate you, another company will definitely notice you and reward you with a job and the appropriate remuneration.

In the field of play, while everyone leaves early, stay behind and practise free-kicks. If you put in that extra hour you will be rewarded. A scout will discover you and you might join a leading club.  

I know one can punch millions of holes in my story about hard work, respect, pride and discipline. One thing I do know is that it worked in the past and it works for other races. Let us shake off the stigma of entitlement. Vuka uzenzele (get up and make it happen). South Africa needs us   

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