The politics of race will destroy us in the end

Muzi Kuzwayo CITY PRESS columnistPHOTO:
Muzi Kuzwayo CITY PRESS columnistPHOTO:

If we South Africans fail to evolve from the politics of race, we will wilt and die in the quagmire of history.

As the internecine verbal violence devours the nation like a voracious volcano, all progress is halted; investors flee; people lose their jobs; and the newly poor are created, nastily adding to the 27% that is already unemployed.

We must move away from the accepted culture of exclusion and living comfortably on islands of wealth in a deep sea of poverty.

Our aim should be to create a wealthy nation that can be an oasis of progress and dignity for humanity at large; an economy that will employ all and leave no room for fascism.

In his inaugural speech, Robert Sobukwe, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress, said: “The Africanists take the view that there is only one race to which we all belong and that is the human race.

“In our vocabulary, therefore, the word ‘race’ as applied to man, has no plural form. We do, however, admit the existence of observable physical differences between various groups of people, but these differences are the result of a number of factors, chief among which has been geographical isolation.”

One of the founding fathers of the new Africa, Kwame Nkrumah put it more succinctly: “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart.”

Human beings have many qualities, some physical and others spiritual, but somehow we have found it easier to elevate the importance of the skin, which can be as little as 1mm thick.

The binary politics of polarisation exposes the mental shortcomings of the present generation which has chained itself to old agendas and is unable to free itself from the racialism that governed the previous century.

We are wallowing in perverse nostalgia, fighting defeated demons of our fathers and refusing to face the responsibility that comes with freedom.

Instead of falling forward while building a better future, we are looking backwards, trashing the very midwives who gave birth to this nation while fighting primeval ideas and wolverines of hate.

Some people have even had the effrontery to call Nelson Mandela a sellout, because of the way he led the negotiations at the Convention for a Democratic SA and the policies of reconciliation that he espoused.

God forgive such myopic malice and grave ignorance.

Transformation must be underpinned by social cohesion to make sure that society does not spiral down to chaos.

Our path has focused on economic transformation, but that is flawed, because transformation should also mean a fundamental change in society and its values.

Markets cannot be the ultimate arbiters of social progress, because a society is made up of much more than bankers and consumers.

If we fail to end the polarisation, there will be hell to pay. Our economy will falter and the world powers will prescribe a new way of living for us.

They will impose austerity measures which will result in essential services, such as hospitals, descending to a worse situation.

Our dream of housing will grind to a screeching stop, because this will be seen as needless subsidies.

Our beloved state-owned enterprises, which have become the political battle ground, will be lost as the Washington Consensus demands privatisation of such.

They will also demand a liberalisation of markets. Expect a deluge of imports to destroy our local producers, sending more people to the streets.

The people who work in various regulatory bodies will lose their jobs because, as part of saving South Africa, our new bosses will demand an abolition of regulations that they see as restricting competition.

Forget the land question, it will not even be entertained, because the new cheque-writers have their own understanding of property rights.

So tolerance for each other as a people is not only the right thing to do, it is also for our economic survival.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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