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Beyoncé and Jay-Z perform during the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 at FNB Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100)
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Strategic interventions from individuals and institutions in our society are important but the government must be cautious of outsourcing its responsibilities, writes Mcebo Dlamini.
Many have had
different takes on the Global Citizen initiative and its potential
impact on South African politics. Many supported and attended
the philanthropic initiative which had as its goal "to eradicate
poverty, fight inequality and create a united South Africa".
The concert which
had many international acts such as Beyonce, Jay Z and Pharrell Williams
was punctuated by speeches by various influential figures such as Oprah, the
Mandelas and even President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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What seemed to be
the motif of the speeches was the need to preserve Mandela's legacy of a united
South Africa and the creation of a land reform program that will benefit
both black farmers and their communities and white farmers and their
corporations pledged financial support amounting to billions of
dollars. For unsuspecting and uncritical masses this might seem like a
noble cause but a closer look reveals that it might not be what
it presents itself to be. Philanthropy in many instances is used by capitalists
who exploit the people and extract resources from countries then give back less
than a fraction of what they take in order to give the impression of humanity.
They do this to conceal their greed and sometimes to evade taxes.
initiatives like Global Citizen appear well meaning but often there is an
ulterior motive behind them. In the speeches given during the concert there was
emphasis on the need to create a land redistribution program that will benefit
both blacks and whites. This happened just as there are heated
debates in the country around the expropriation of land without
compensation. What became clear to me during the concert was that the land
expropriation without compensation narrative is prone to be captured
by individual capitalists who will now have the power to determine the terms
and conditions of how it is carried out.
How can they not
do this when they have donated billions towards the program?
Thomas Sankara has already taught us that those who feed you always
have the power to control you.
The problems that
South Africa faces are structural and they cannot be solved through donations.
The rainbow nation hogwash that Global Citizen is attempting to forge will not
be successful because regardless of the donations that are made the conditions
that make poverty and inequality possible are still intact.
A united South
Africa will only be possible through redistribution of land (land
expropriation without compensation) and an incorporation of all black people in
the economy (nationalisation of mines and all strategic sectors of the
Failure to do this
will bear no fruits because the very same companies that have pledged
donations exploit the people and subject them to lives of poverty and
How is it logical
to expect these companies to be genuinely invested in solving the problems that
they create? In fact, the survival of these companies that donated
billions of dollars is dependent on the exploitation of
black labour for super profits.
interventions from individuals and institutions in our society are important but the government must be
cautious of outsourcing its responsibilities to individuals. The government has
the responsibility of adopting and implementing policies that will address the
concerns of the people on a structural level.
Our people should
never at any point be reduced to charity cases. Charity in its
nature is unsustainable and creates dependent citizens. Our people are poverty
stricken not because they are incapable of helping themselves but because the
current socio-economic setup of our country does not offer opportunities
and in certain circumstance makes it impossible for the poor to
escape the web of poverty.
What we saw in the
concert is potentially dangerous because it gives room for arrogant people with
money to assume the role of government outside of government. Should this not
be curbed we run the risk of having an elite group of unelected individuals
deciding the country's fate. Such should not be allowed.
sometimes work for the people and at times works against the people. It has a
dual role of either pacifying the people or agitating them. We can either dance
into oblivion or into consciousness. It is this malleable character of culture
that makes it an important and powerful instrument.
Citizen understands this and that is why they brought popular
international figures of black culture to perform while they peddled their
rainbow nation propaganda. An unsuspecting and uncritical youth saw these
performances as just entertainment but that was not the case. The acts had a
specific role to play and it was to lull the masses while instilling in them
question in this country is the land question. Any attempt to unite the country
without addressing the skewed land ownership patterns will neither be
successful nor sustainable.
interventions will not solve the problems that our country faces. Capitalism is
the problem. Our government has to assume its role of serving the people and
address the problems in a structured manner. South Africans must also be
critical and not be gullible. This means that we need to see things for what
they are. Interventions will only be helpful once the government has put
sustainable policies in place to eradicate poverty and fight inequality.
- Dlamini is a former Wits SRC leader and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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