Black South Africans can still blame Apartheid

2013-04-12 13:21

Minister Trevor Manuel did not know if he will spark such controversy when he told public servants that we cannot longer blame apartheid for South Africa’s problems. Instead, they should take responsibility and start solving then. With his statement, Trevor made the already anti-ANC media happy and they used this to their own advantage. This then poked response from Jacob Zuma defending why we can still blame apartheid to FW De Klerk telling Zuma and his other ministers to stop blaming apartheid. I was not going to fall in the trap and respond with a blog to media that always mistranslates what ANC ministers and leaders say and respond to the “we can no longer blame apartheid” from Trevor manual because I know in which context he was referring that to. What Trevor Manual was saying to those public servants was that they should not blame apartheid for their failures. They should not blame apartheid for maladministration, corruption and the misuse of public funds. This was in the context of advising public servants who head municipalities and our public entities.

Minister Trevor Manual is behind the NDP; a policy that emphasize the need to re-address past and present inequalities. The NDP also puts it clear what apartheid has done to blacks; Trevor and his team were well aware of the legacy it has left in South Africa in their construction of the NDP.

To simply put a blanket statement and say that Trevor meant that it’s all ANC government’s fault that blacks are still suffering its simply and ignorant statement that one needs to self-address. As Trevor knows there is still a lot more we can blame apartheid for; read the NDP and see what he says to see this.

De Klerk or any other person white or black really have no moral, logical and rational ground to stand on by saying we can no longer blame apartheid.

Every day, in our education, labour marked and society as a whole we are still confronted by the legacy of apartheid yet we are asked to forget and stop blaming apartheid. Why?

I am a 21 year old black South African. I don’t come from that few black elite or from a middle class family. I come from a poor family with my mother having no education or skills that are required by the labour market.

And this is a case for many black South Africans who are still poor today. Our parents and their parents were never given the opportunity to further their education. Through Bantu education, the apartheid government made sure that the only skills they will get are knitting, typing or woodwork. If one was lucky they would become nurses, teachers or form part of the police services. But the other majority will go and work in mines, other be domestic workers of the other privileged group.

Our parents who were a generation that grew up under apartheid are unable to pay for our school fees, our varsity tuition fees and they struggle to find jobs in today's over competitive labour market.

Many of us poor black South Africans depend on government “no fee” schools and use financial loans to finance our tertiary education. Our parents cannot afford.

When we do finally graduate, we don’t have fathers that own companies nor have friends that do. We get thrown back to the highly competitive labour market. That time my white friend who I graduated with has more chances of going to work for his dad because of the positive apartheid legacy they were left with.

If I as a black South African do finally get a job; I will have to help with the education of my siblings and pay the financial loans I got while in varsity. This means, I won’t be able to buy myself a car, a house or do my own savings for my own children’s future education as fast as I would like. Whereas my white friend I graduated in varsity will be quickly able to do so. My economic poor status will still define my abilities even after I graduate. Apartheid’s exclusion of our black parents from getting proper education so to get a good jobs will still haunt me even after I have graduated. My friend often makes a joke. “Esethu, you know we black people are still going to struggle for a long time. Look, for my birthday the only thing I get from my mum is a HAPPY BITHDAY wish. Some of my white friends get cars or even their parents buy them houses’ This is a simple but yet a joke that shows how unequal South Africa is and it’s really hard to laugh at it. Whites today earn 6 times more than blacks. This is despite the fast growing black middle class boosted by government’s policy meant to redress past inequalities.

Despite the progress being made by government it’s the black majority in South Africa that continues to be confronted by poverty, unemployment and inequality. The labour market and the private sector are still largely controlled by white South Africans. Analysts argue that it will take until 2061, that’s 48 years from now on until black and white families bring home the same salaries.

This is not because they are clever nor have more tricks than blacks. It’s simply because the apartheid system favoured them and allowed them to get the kind of skills our parents we excluded from getting.

Today because of the positive apartheid legacy left to the privileged human that happened to be in a white skin, whites can afford to pay fees for their children’s “private” education. They can also pay tuition for tertiary education for their children.

Their children have access to computers at home and at school. This is an opposite for us black people who relied on no fee schools public schools that hardly have infrastructure and resources needed. The kind of education the black child gets is far worse than that of a white child.

What now De Klerk and some black and white South Africans are saying is that we must pretend like apartheid never existed. And that the unequal society that exists today cannot be blamed on apartheid. Yet even the born free generations still lick the wounds of apartheid passed on to them by their parents.

The transition to democracy was not a magical moment like most South African think. The transition did not instantly by a whip of a magic stick give blacks the education and skills they needed. I did not instantly equate public and private schools. It did not transfer the economic power from whites to black. It did not in an instant eliminate poverty.

1994 simply signalled a start to economic freedom. No one said it will happen in 20 years, also no one said it won’t happen within those years. I am not in any way blaming whites for what they have today I am blaming the apartheid system. If it never existed I don’t believe South Africa would be as unequal as it is today. White people should not feel guilty for their privileges and start telling blacks to stop blaming apartheid. Their mere fact that one had a white skin colour made them more privileged than blacks without even consideration of their support or opposition of the system. And being privileged does not mean you're wealthy. Even the poor whites under apartheid benefited; they had better public transport  better access to resources, better schools and more chances of getting jobs. I don’t want an apology from whites nor do I want a“white tax” suggested by Tutu. I simply wish that all white South African could acknowledge their privileges that still shape their economic and social status in the new South Africa and stop expecting blacks to forget apartheid when it confronts us today.

I am not a previously disadvantaged South African; I am still disadvantaged and believe me or not my skin colour still has something to do with it. But with the help of no-fee schools and government financial loans I will be able to break the poverty cycle at home. And again, this is a case for many black South Africans.


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