Involvement of middle-class key

2016-01-20 06:00
Unathi Henama, Social Observer Foto:

Unathi Henama, Social Observer Foto:

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THE year 2015 can be defined by two moments: the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town under the campaign #RhodesMustFall and the national lockdown brought about by #FeesMustFall.

It is that time of the year when people make a long list of X let me call them “imaginary” X New Year’s resolutions.

This social phenomenon, the drafting of a long list of new year’s resolutions, is now firmly an institution – just like fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the expected talk of how “broke’’ people are in January after the financial slaughter in December.

Since 1994, the democratic government of South Africa has been faced with the challenge of addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Apartheid has ended, but dismantling more than 300 years of colonialism, and apartheid, is no easy task.

The creation of a black middle class has been one of the major victories of the post-apartheid government, led by the ANC. This has been through progressive policies such as affirmative action, black economic empowerment and preferential procurement for designated groups.

All of these policies have led to the creation of the black middle class, and the results are visible. Through their buying power this group has been able to change the racial stratification of society.

The black middle class, after benefitting from the progressive policies, seems disengaged from the realities of present day South Africa.

The paucity of their contribution to the #FeesMustFall was striking.

It is in times of tragedy that the middle class play an increasingly prominent role in the challenges that are facing South Africa as a whole. South Africa has immense social problems and we as the black middle class can do more.

It is impossible for government to address all the social ills. This is when patriotism is needed, but because the South African nation is still a work in progress, the project of patriotism remains a dream deferred.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum stet, in a book titled Flashes of Thought, acknow-ledges that: “An easy life does not make men, nor does it build nations. Challenges make men, and it is those men who build nations’’.

The #FeesMustFall campaign has revealed that the treasury does not have enough money to fund public higher education.

The future of South Africa depends on having a critical mass of highly educated citizens that will drive innovation in a world where human capital is a critical resource.

Higher education is one of the instruments used to create human capital, but there are also many skills shortages, for instance in plumbing, boilermaking, welding and other industries, where Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges play an important role.

The students are correct in demanding free public higher education as a means of contributing to the public good. But what is our role and contribution as the black middle class?

I write this after an engagement with a friend of mine who runs a gym.

He appreciates the drafting of New Years’ resolutions as his greatest joy, as many people sign 24 month contracts for gym membership, attend a few sessions and thereafter fail to visit the gym regularly.

The Central University of Technology (CUT) has created a CUT Alumni Bursary Fund to ensure that no poor and academically deserving student is robbed of an opportunity to study.

I was so impressed by this initiative that I have also pledged a monthly contribution, and I have put this down as one of my New Years’ resolutions.

I feel a deep sense of duty, because my fees, when I studied at the CUT, were subsidized by the government and I understand the obligation that I have towards society to give back and change the lives of others.

I guess there is no greater joy when we speak a language of love,and living a life of giving and friendship.

I would like to challenge my fellow graduates of the CUT and the community at large to contribute to the CUT Alumni Bursary Fund,which contributions will be deposited into the bank account of the CUT, and managed by the CUT in line with its financial policies.

As the black middle class, let us use the resources at our disposal to change the realities of today to create a brighter future.

Thabo Mzamani can be called on 051-507-3791 or 079-869-9559. You can also send a fax to 086-613-9979 or an email to

  • Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a member of the Black Management Forum and writes in his personal capacity.

The black middle class, after benefitting from the progressive policies, seem disengaged from the realities of present day South Africa. The paucity of their contribution to the #FeesMustFall was striking.

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