Ferial Haffajee

Dear black person

2012-08-16 13:52

This is for you, my brother or sister, who penned that piece of cods wallop yesterday, entitled "Dear white people". A mild, if racist, salutation led to an ominous end: watch yourself, white people when the masses get angry, you wrote.

Unlike you, who presumed to speak to all white people, all five million, on behalf of all black people, all 45 million odd of us, this note is for you, for your myopia which is yours alone.

Also, the ignorance is yours alone. 

SABMiller, for example, is now a dual-listed multinational, yet you assume it to be a white-owned company. The company here is publicly represented by Vincent Maphai. Google him. You might learn a thing or two.

Tiger Brands, another company that gets your back up, is represented by Bongiwe Njobe and run by Peter Matlare. Both black when last I checked.

My point: transformation has been much more successful than your diatribe suggests.  Why a presumably successful young black person like you should go out of your way to suggest it is a complete failure leaves me scratching my head.
What you do is dangerous for your narrative makes the work, effort and experience of black leaders like Maphai, Njobe and Matlare count for nothing.  I could add the efforts and success of mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, the mobile millionaire Phutuma Nhleko, the steel leader Nku Nyembezi-Heita.

Yes, the numbers of black captains of corporate life are still small, but we are not at Year Zero. The black middle-class you decry as an indebted mirage is also wrong. Yes, some may be in trouble, but studies last year showed black middle-class people have been astute and disciplined about buying property, retirement plans and other assets.  There has been substantial black wealth accumulation. Enough? No, but again your portrayal of nothing having changed is simply wrong. Do you read, or do you simply rant?

You threaten our white compatriots, my friend, that the masses will one day get angry and will come for them. If you read City Press, have a look at a piece we ran last week called Protest Nation which revealed there are more protests every day this year than there ever have been before.  I think the masses are already angry.

Their protests are about electricity (non-existent, too expensive), water (unaffordable, sporadic), corruption (endemic) and housing (slow to arrive, though it's worth noting that various studies have shown the democratic state has built a mind-boggling number of houses every day since 1994).
I've not seen protests staged against white people, though of course wealth and privilege often still wears a racial face as does poverty and unemployment.

Our compatriots on the streets are targeting their resistance against those whom we elected to make our country better - our black-led government. Your analysis fails to engage in more than simplistic ways with this important fact. Why has more not been done? How effectively do our representatives spend lots of money? Why is corruption still rampant? Why did our democratic representatives make such able students of yesterday's teachers in power's seductive ways?

The danger of your kind of writing and analysis (and it is surprisingly common) is that you set up a false comparison.  It is a writing that assumes there are an equal number of black and white people in South Africa and that one half is sitting on the other half's money. You lead our next generation astray, thinking there is a cargo of loot in white hands. There may be, but even if you take it by force, it will not lift our country to levels of prosperity we need to make a happy dent in our biggest problems.

As a black person, that loot is neither here nor there for me. If white-owned business (often a misnomer, as it is more accurately described as listed loot controlled by fearful fund managers) is not investing, the challenge is for public and patriotically controlled funds to be invested for our common prosperity.

The challenge is not to threaten and insult or cajole for a larger slice of an old pie. I'd rather live in a country where our common challenge is to grow the pie to employ the three million young people who would like to work. 

Look up from the navel you gaze at, my young black brother, and see the Mzansi there for us to make. If you want to spend your days venting your spleen at white people, do so. But do you really think that entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane, athlete Caster Semenya, comedian Trevor Noah, diva Lira, banker Kennedy Bhungane, social entrepreneur Shaka Sisulu and activist Heather Sonn (to name but a smidgen of young black South African success) did what they did because white people gave it to them on a plate?

Go Google guy, and see how wrong you are. 

Sincerely, Aunty Ferial

- Ferial Haffajee is the editor of City Press. Follow her on Twitter: @FerialHaffajee




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