Wake up black child! Wake up! This is a social media hashtag often used when a black person does something that puts them at a disadvantage.
A common example is how black people will spend money on expensive alcohol and clothes while they have no assets such as a house.
The hashtag is meant to awaken our consciences and make us realise that our white compatriots are building generational wealth while we, instead of following suit, are regressing by making stupid decisions.
#WakeUpBlackChild! is not meant to show that others lack empathy about how damaged black communities are because of the injustices in the past, but rather it is meant to motivate us to work at redressing those injustices by helping to build a progressive nation.
My #WakeUpBlackChild! moment was the recent drama at the Bumbane Great Palace in the Eastern Cape, involving the abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo and his son, the acting king Azenathi.
Having to watch our traditional leaders behave in such an undignified manner is not only embarrassing, it also makes one wonder how seriously they take themselves and their roles in society.
Does it come as a surprise that when the late Xhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu died last November many young black South Africans were even shocked to find out Xhosas had a king? The same crowd celebrated Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.
Most of our leaders in society – be it traditional, political or those of organisations – do not take their roles seriously.
Even when a leader is exemplary as the late Xhosa king was, his work is overshadowed by those who make a mockery of their positions.
Traditional leaders were undermined by colonialism, which stripped them of their relevance.
Sadly the behaviour of the likes of Dalindyebo also shows the lack of accountability of regular South Africans and their ignorant attitudes about their individual roles in nation-building.
Born in the 1980s, I grew up in the 1990s in the Transkei, where I was raised by my grandmother. I was surrounded by people who did not have much but they did not go on protests if they wanted something.
They found ways to make things happen. They did not demand free houses, instead they built their own homes.
That generation was so amazing that I used to think my grandmother, who was a teacher, was a millionaire because of how efficiently she handled her finances and ran our home. Of course I grew up and realised we were far from being the Motsepes of Transkei.
But what I did take away from that generation was their sense of responsibility and how much they valued hard work. They were visionaries. Unlike today’s generation, they did everything with the intention of building a better future for the next generation.
Most importantly, they took themselves seriously, something our generation has dismally failed to do. We do not take our finances seriously.
We are always making bad decisions and hoping for miracles. We do not take our family values seriously. We have replaced logic with faith in cult leaders.
One does not need to be Albert Einstein to know that damage caused on our people by years of oppression could not be fixed in three decades.
We can accept that many mistakes will be made in a growing democracy. The transition from a liberation movement to a governing party was not as easy as the ANC thought it would be. The blunders made by our government should concern us as we have all paid dearly for some of them.
But what should concern us more are ordinary citizens’ attitudes, especially black people, because they are the face of poverty everywhere. Is there a willingness to work at building a better future for themselves or does the culture of entitlement, where people expect things to fall on their laps, reign supreme?
It has been said that where there is no vision the people perish. Perhaps living in poverty is not enough for our people to have a common vision of eradicating the poverty.
Perhaps there is a reason a parent who lives in an overcrowded four-room home would rather spend more than a R1 000 buying a pair of Carvela shoes for their son but will not invest half of that money on extra maths lessons for the same child.
The drama of the Dalindyebos reminded me of a speech by abaThembu Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima at the funeral of king Sigcawu. He urged royal families to raise their children well and to teach them what it meant to be royalty and the responsibilities that come with it.
Maybe it’s time that as citizens we encourage each other to do better because even though it might be difficult to articulate what it is that we are doing wrong, I doubt anyone can deny that we are heading in the wrong direction.
If you doubt what I am saying, ask yourself why it is harder for people who have access to running water to stay at home and wash their hands.
Why would people rather hang out in large crowds even after President Cyril Ramaphosa told them not to do so to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus? But it is easier for people to drink petrol and eat grass when a cult leader tells them to.
Mhlungu is a student and activist
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