Young people should be probing why the ANC finds it acceptable to use 1994 as a yardstick with which to measure progress, writes Ntando Sindane.
With May 8 in sight, it is apt that we have a light-hearted discussion with young people of South Africa who insist that they are going to vote for the ANC. These are young people from different class backgrounds; from unemployed back youths of our country’s townships, to the ones on various middle-class university campuses.
All these young people, notwithstanding the various class realities, are conjoined in their unequivocal support for the ANC. Even the ones who claim higher consciousness or portray themselves as woke youth activists, come out strongly to put their weight firmly behind the ANC.
Of this ilk, notable names that come to my mind include Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, Mcebo Dlamini and Chumani Maxwele. These are young people who shot up to fame in the aftermath of 2015/16 'fees must fall' student protest. Educated in the country’s leading universities and with relative “struggle credentials” one could reasonably argue that these young activists represent the future leaders of South Africa.
What sayest thou when the future of South Africa firmly supports the ANC?
There are a thousand inferences that could be teased out from this question, but for the purposes of this engagement I shall limit it to two possibilities: (1) these young people are neck-deep into the cesspool of colonial logic and reasoning; and (2) they suffer from the chronic yet soft bigotry of low expectations.
Colonial logic says, "Give a black man/woman anything, and he/she will mess it up. Black man is not good enough to handle his own affairs, imagine what would happen if you allow him to run his own country!" This is the reasoning that continued to mischievously justify apartheid long after South Africa’s independence from British colonial rule. Steve Biko observed that one of the inherent attitudes of white liberals, is that they always want to provide “guidance” to the black folk. They immerse themselves in black movements, masquerading as ones in solidarity with the struggle of black people, but their main purpose is to police how black people respond to oppression.
Biko draws from Fanon’s assertion that to whiteness, the black body remains a perpetual infant.
Articulated more contemporarily, the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (in his PhD thesis titled, "Permanent juniority: black youth politics in the Vaal under late colonisation") explains that apartheid colonialism practically affected both Fanon’s and Biko’s observations, by entrenching a state of permanent juniority in the youth of South Africa. The essence of colonial reasoning, remains the benign driver behind prevailing neo-colonialism and coloniality that supervenes Africa and the rest of the global South today.
The 1994 democratic breakthrough, presents South Africa with a new opportunity to have a majority government. To put it bluntly, the government of the ANC is a majority government, voted for by a black majority. The government of the ANC is supposedly a representative of the black body’s pride, skill and prowess, post-independence. However, contrary to revolutionary expectations, it continues to validate the racist colonial idea about black people.
Leading the country in a downward spiral
With the benefit of 25 years post 1994, it is commonplace to assert that ANC continues to lead this country in a downward spiral. The senseless butchering of black bodies in Marikana, the Life Esidimeni massacre, rampant growth in crime rates, massive joblessness, the consistent rise of the price of fuel, extremely poor service delivery and other socio-economic inequalities, are just some of the examples of how the ANC has validated the silly colonial reasoning that when given a country to govern, the black body will burn it to ashes.
The black body, according to this racist logic, in a permanent state of juniority, cannot think deeply about challenges facing society and is incapable of planning for the future.
More pointedly, cities don't fall out of the sky and do not automatically form themselves through some long-drawn and uncontrolled process of migration, urbanisation or industrialisation. All major cities of the world were planned for, and designed by the respective governments of the countries within which those cities are situated. Establishing a city from scratch requires inter alia a government with extremely incredible foresight, political will and a high level of technical sophistication.
Cities, once fully functional, become drivers of economic growth, through job creation, knowledge production, tourism and many other factors. A country that is serious about creating sustainable economic growth for the future, should already be investing in plans to establish new cities.
A fish swimming in a jungle
This is of course too much to expect from the ANC. They can barely establish a mere university from scratch, hence asking for a city from an ANC government would be wanting to ask a fish to swim in the jungle. The ANC is out of ideas and this is largely characterised by its lack of depth in responding to complex societal questions.
Even in the National Development Plan (NDP), you hardly note any workable or substantively implementable plan of action. For instance, the NDP states that 70% of all academic staff in universities should be holding PhDs by the end of the year 2030. To this end, government splashes billions of rands every year in NRF funding and towards university bursaries for PhD candidates, but that's where it ends.
There is no substantive and comprehensive plan to deal with other historical bottlenecks and obstacles in doctoral studies that lead to a low throughput, especially among black academics. The money that is set aside to realise the goals envisaged by the NDP gets lost in corruption, either through a NSFAS system that is riddled with structural ineptitudes or brazen corruption or endless tender fraud that is administered by greedy and untouchable university councils.
The example of cities and universities is just a tip of the iceberg. Upon closer inspection, one will be distraught to note that the ANC doesn’t have a single comprehensive plan or solution to any challenge facing our society. Recently, this reality has gotten so worse, such that the ANC that always claims to be “a leader of society” has been seen copying and pasting EFF policies word-for-word.
From Parliament, to Nasrec, and even to election strategies; it has become a norm that once EFF leader, Julius Malema will addresses a rally, then a few weeks later ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, regurgitates Malema's sentiments word for word. This is a trend that started with EFF’s policy on land, nationalisation, mass industrialisation and others, then proceeded on copying even the simplest of things, such as Twitter campaign methods and/or hashtags.
Young people should not be satisfied with 'bare minimum'
I insist, that there isn't any self-respecting, upright and conscious young black person who will vote for the ANC on May 8. Pardon the older generation, who lived through apartheid; whose present experience is that of a paradise. To them, free RDP houses, social grants, no fee schools, the continuously bulging black middle class and other banal things such as the abolition of racial segregation in public facilities symbolise an arrival to the proverbial Canaan, but for young people all of these things [should] present a bare-minimum.
Young people should be probing why the ANC finds it acceptable to use 1994 as a yardstick with which to measure progress. It should be trite that the National Party government was a crime against humanity, and a government that expressly excluded the black majority. Wanting to therefore use National Party standards to measure your own progress, is to willingly stoop to the lowest of the low.
Ideologically and historically, young people should always expect better, strive for better and be better. This is a fact that was authenticated by the youth of Tehran University in Iran in 1979, who after the revolution and the overthrow of the Shah were achieved, took it upon themselves to further ransack the American embassy, hold it hostage, and demand for the return of all Iranian money stolen by the erstwhile regime.
This is but one example, of how young people elsewhere in the world have pushed much further for freedom to be realised in its truest sense. The complacent black youth, that continues to vote for an ANC of pensioners, should perhaps be reminded that Steve Biko was merely 30 years old when he was murdered; Anton Muziwakhe Lembede was 33 years old when he died and Fidel Castro was 27 years old when the July 26th movement was formed. Yet in their youth they championed the struggles of the people, without adhering to colonial logic or embracing low expectations.
All these former fees must fall activists, and young people generally, who vote and campaign for the ANC should be named and shamed for who they really are; sell-outs, colonial subjects and persons with low expectations for themselves and their country.
- Ntando "Chairman" Sindane is a postgraduate student at Unisa's department of mercantile law. He writes in his ideological capacity.
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