We play ethnicity politics at our peril

2014-01-19 14:00

We can no longer entrust the unity of our diverse nation to the ANC. It has sold its soul to power and wealth accumulation, and its leaders will stop at nothing to stay in power.

The ANC’s financial backers are calling for the exclusion of their own citizens from economic participation because they belong to a wrong ethnic group.

The disgraceful call to disenfranchise citizens of Indian descent must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

So, too, the shameful witgevaar tactics of ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who threatened those who did not vote for the ANC that this would allow “the boere” to come back and oppress us again.

This is sad coming from a man whose contribution as a key architect of a Constitution we were so proud of.

President Jacob Zuma’s shocking response to a call for an audit of the competencies of the teachers who marked last year’s examination scripts also poses a danger to our nation.

To suggest that DA leader Helen Zille is calling for this audit because she does not believe black people can pass in such large numbers is to fan the flames of racist stereotypes.

The reality is that Zuma’s government has allowed the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) to get away with refusing to test the competencies of their members before they are chosen to mark scripts.

Such tests are standard practice to protect learners from being unfairly treated by markers not having enough knowledge of the subject. There is nothing racist about the call to audit the performance of markers against their competencies.

The ANC has always chosen to protect Sadtu members from accountability over the future of our children.

Sadtu has destroyed quality teaching in our schools by consistently refusing to have competency tests for its members. This is the real issue the ANC must explain to our citizens?–?not fictitious racism.

The reality is that it is the ANC that has no confidence in the capacity of poor black children to excel. It is the fear of the failure of black children that led it to set the pass mark at 30% for three subjects and 40% for the rest.

The lack of belief in the ability of poor children explains why the government has set the bar so low. This is a shocking dereliction of duty to nurture our talent?...?government has failed our children.

We must address this failure now. Parents must insist that all teachers responsible for teaching our children must have their competencies tested as a matter of standard procedure.

Teachers found to be inadequate must be given the choice to be trained to become confident and committed professionals. Those unwilling to undergo these measures must be helped to move to more appropriate job opportunities. Teaching must resume its pride of place in our society and teachers must be supported, rewarded and encouraged to nurture talent.

South Africans must not allow the ANC government to undermine the precious gains made under the sterling leadership of Nelson Mandela.

We must not allow the use of the race fig leaf to cover the failure to create a society where all can prosper and become the best contributors they can be.

We were bold enough to confront and reconcile our ugly divided past, and build a future we could be proud of. There is more work to be done to ensure that the hard-won political freedom that we enjoy expands economic freedom for all.

We need political leadership to inspire us to acknowledge that the legacy of the past has scarred us. Feelings of inferiority are still widespread among black people who were excluded from opportunities to develop themselves. Poverty and inequality 20 years after the dawn of democracy adds salt to the wounds of poor people – most of whom are black.

Global and local studies show that quality education and training are tested ways of eradicating poverty, and closing the gap between rich and poor.

The ANC has missed the opportunity in the past 20 years to create a more equal and prosperous society. The ANC government, not white racism, must take the blame for the growing gap between the achievements of all young people in the post-apartheid era.

We also need a government with the will to create an environment in which we can tackle the persistent superior feelings among some white citizens. Our failure as a society to reimagine our cities, rural and residential areas reinforces the divisions of the past.

The continued gap between the quality of life in places where white and black people live reinforces the stereotypes of white superiority and black inferiority. It should not be surprising that so many still believe white people are successful because they work harder and are more intelligent.

The true transformation of our society demands that we invest in a shared future we can all be proud of. This requires actions to make economic freedom a reality in the lives of ordinary people. As the largest landowner, the state must transfer land to the landless in urban and rural areas.

No one should have to live in a shack or an RDP house – many of them are unfit for human habitation.

Poor people have to be a part of the planning and building of settlements that provide mixed- income homes. The poor must also enjoy the amenities of our cities if we are to create them as homes to all. Rural towns must be revived and run efficiently to cater for the daily needs of rural people.

State land in rural areas must be transferred to those who can develop agribusinesses and grow our economy.

We must deal with the superiority complex of some white people by helping those with it to realise what they are missing. They are denying themselves the joy of engaging with diverse cultures. There is so much we can learn from people of different backgrounds.

Exposing white people to the diversity of their country’s people in residential, working, schooling and playing environments is likely to help open their minds to the poverty of their closed minds.

Transforming our economy into an open one has never been more urgent. Unfortunately, the BEE approach has reached its ceiling. Its unintended outcomes include the polarisation of our society through the continued use of apartheid racial categories. The call to exclude Indians from government procurement is a case in point.

We need a programme of action to open up our economy to the majority through entrepreneurship promotion and growing small and medium enterprises for a bigger economic cake.

BEE has largely been about slicing the existing shrinking cake. A larger cake will create an inclusive economy in which an abundance of opportunity is the norm.

»?Ramphele is the leader of Agang SA

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