Opportunity Advert: Applications from white men will not be accepted

2015-11-10 20:06

I recently came across an advert for a Henley Business School scholarship tenable in South Africa. The first line on the eligibility notice reads " only previously disadvantaged South African citizens shall be eligible to apply".

Such an advert disqualifies a white man, regardless of his socio-economic circumstances. And places a white woman at the bottom because she is a white woman. If she was a black woman, she'd be right at the top. This is derived from the degrees of oppression suffered by blacks, and women are believed to have suffered more. Even so, the white woman would have enjoyed some privileges that were not enjoyed by other women, and men of colour. Thus she is at the bottom in the redress hierarchy. Her prospects improve when there is no black person suitably qualified for the opportunity. Or in the case of the SAPS, we can wait until there is a suitably qualified black person.

The white men on the other hand might as well move to Australia if you see such adverts, unless he possesses one of the scarce skills such as Engineering or is a health professional, he might get the opportunity because the government will not let patients die due to a shortage of black medical professionals. But then again our government might just let them die, with Zuma at the helm, are there any limits to logic defying decisions?

Back to the advert though, it means that Bulelani Mfaco can apply for the scholarship. Piet who may be living in a squatta camp in Pretoria does not qualify because he is white. But Piet does not have the financial means to access  the MBA programme which costs around R219 500. 00... What should Piet do? Is this fair? Well if you were Piet you'd say it is not fair, but if you were Bongani living in Khayelitsha, you'd say it is fair because for centuries, blacks were subjected to white supremacy from slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid. And their deeply entrenched legacies need to be redressed. We are not swearing at you white person when we shout 'transformation' are we?

I hear AfriForum saying but Piet is not responsible for slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid... Why is he being punished? Oh dear!!! This is very difficult to understand for anyone at AfriForum. Because they were never on the receiving end of such oppression. And they could probably tell you many 'inspiring' stories of how they had to 'work hard' for everything and that blacks just want a free ride, everything for mahala.

At least they had the opportunity to work hard without exploitation and actually had rights when the majority was denied citizenship along with the privileges that come with it. We forget homelands, a home affairs officer asked me for my homeland when I applied for an Identity Document in 2006 and I said, without hesitation, Transkie. Still fresh in the memory of young South Africans because the legacy of such oppression lives.

Many forget that when the union of South Africa was established, one of the first parliamentary committees would convene a meeting to discuss the medium language in the schooling system. The options being looked at were English or Afrikaans, completely ignored those who were referred to as natives and constituted a majority in the country. Because the development of bantu languages was not a priority for the State, we are still forced to learn in a language that is not our home language. No, Zuma can't help us there, he is not capable.

And later more oppressive laws would be passed from the Land Act which deprived natives of land ownership to the Group Areas Act which forcibly moved people from areas that would be designated 'whites only' residential areas with only those blacks providing cheap labour for the white dominated economy allowed to remain in the city's townships. Today you read headlines about white men still dominating certain positions in some sectors, such are legacies of a system carefully designed to preserve white supremacy for years to come (Siedman, 1999: 422).

The difficulty here is that we would ideally like to live in a society where Piet and Bongani can actually compete for an opportunity with success being determined only based on merit. Now it still seems unfair to deprive poor Piet of such a wonderful opportunity purely because Piet is white, something he cannot change unless he can afford plastic surgery, (Michael Jackson did buy white skin, wait... its not skin, its plastic).

But we do not have that ideal society. And no Piet, having a government led by blacks for 20 years doesn't mean much. Because when the constitution was negotiated, the black man walked away with political power, and the white man with  firm grip on the economy. Don't start with amounts of ZAR lost to corruption since 1994, the suffering of black people at the hands of whites cost much more than you can imagine. And those ZAR, although they would help, would not be sufficient to end black pain. Black pain AfriForum refuses to acknowledge through their denial of white privilege. What white privilege? Piet can't get an opportunity because he is white? I give up.

But maybe we can uplift black people without alienating Piet. By re-looking the use of race as primary criterion for redress opportunities. And no this is not Helen Zille writing. See in 2009 I together with a group of young South Africans were trying to raise money to fund a trip to attend self-help programme organised by an NGO. I won't tell you the name of the organisation ke...

When the umbrella organisation was approached for funds, they were willing to pay for me. Because I am 'previously disadvantaged' or simply put, black. And they would not pay for one of the white volunteers who had dedicated much more of her time to the cause than me. I had a job and could actually afford to pay for the trip but hell if the self-entitlement horse is still moving, why not ride it into the sunset nje?

See when we use race alone as a criterion for redress, you have that risk of Bulelani abusing the self-entitlement horse. Take away race, and replace it with socio-economic circumstances for some opportunities and you have taken away Bulelani's ability to abuse the self-entitlement horse and have people who are actually in dire need of assistance getting the opportunity to better their lives.

But then it is the Bulelanis who give EE/AA/BEE a bad name with their greed when such programmes have had a positive impact on the lives of many previously disadvantaged individuals. Therefore removing race as a criterion simply because a few greedy individuals exploit it may actually make the odds much worse for black people. How so? Think about the fact that competing against other black people for opportunities is already getting tougher by the day with black women being legally the number one candidate for redress, now you want to increase the competition by adding poor whites? Hayikhona!!! Why didn't those whites enrich themselves in Apartheid RSA? Because they didn't support Apartheid? Hayi andazi!

If a white person is complaining that they are poor and denied opportunities because of their skin colour, welcome to our black world, it is tough. They must apply for RDP houses (race is not a criterion there, income is) and wait 20 years+ for that RDP house, only if you've never owned property. Caravan park too much? Try a shack or live under a bridge somewhere, careful with public open spaces, some have sprinklers that go off at night so you may not have a peaceful rest there. If you want municipal services, you may have to protest a couple of times to get attention from your municipality, burn a few things, close roads, throw poo at airports, you'll eventually get them. Steal electricity form Eskom power lines if they won't install a prepaid box in your new shack, if you die of electrocution then tough but every informal settlement has an electrician who can get the job done for you. Good luck finding them. And they might cost a fortune but think of the investment, free dangerous energy until they decide to give you a prepaid box.

You need healthcare? Go queue at the day hospital, you'll get help if you are lucky or die on the queue, I know blacks who get there by 04h00 in the morning because the queues can be very long. Don't shout at the nurse if they tell you to come back the following day after waiting for the whole day, or that there is no medicine, she is not responsible for ordering it.

Social grants? Only if you are a pensioner, disabled, or qualify for one of the child support grants, to apply for them, you have to go through long queues again, best you wake up at 04h00 or 02h00 if you going the offices in Umtata. Wait... sleep outside the offices, that way you may be number one and get the application done. And always attend the community meetings, even if they are organised by ANC affiliates, you'll never know when the government will be giving something for free to the poor, you know, food parcels or blankets and things. Just chant Viva and amandla to whatever the comrade says. Be actively involved (wear the t-shirts and attend rallies/marches), you may end up on one of the committees, when freebies are coming, you'll be the first to know, you also get to influence resource allocation through community forums.

What of education? If you have not shared a classroom with livestock then you can't complain. Seriously shut it. University?  So you are one of those whities who have done well in matric, want to study further, you have limited chances of getting into some of the programmes where blacks were excluded or had limited admission with quotas (yes Apartheid used quotas to limit the number of blacks into certain programmes) but possible. Find a degree that has fewer blacks applying for or that is not considered a critical scarce skills like engineering. Start with Pretoria, Stellenbosch, or UCT. Also consider UNISA. Don't tell me about your dream of becoming a doctor. I had that dream too and so did my mother, we got screwed because we were black so you are being screwed because you are white, you may have to let go of that dream if you are not one of the few whities who get into medicine.

Get a part-time job while you are studying (good-luck with that, start with friends and family). Then once you've completed your degree, if you cannot get a job, study further. They may complain about lack of black academics but a graduate degree can set you up well, more so if you are considering leaving the country. I'm not saying you should leave but hell if you are Piet, you are kinda screwed if you do not have a network that can help you get somewhere. That is becoming the case for black people too. If you don't know somebody somewhere, forget about your application. The security guard you gave your CV to might just throw it in the bin and ensure that only his pals submit applications. We are grateful to have companies that use online application systems.

But then you may also try to find a list of companies that report slow progress on EE/AA implementation at the Department of Labour. Approach those companies, they refuse to comply with EE/AA. But best of luck, I am not sorry your are being discriminated against for being white Piet, I am actually glad, because it limits my competition (no that was a joke). I am glad because finally you get a little glimpse of what black people had to put up with for centuries. And I hope you can then begin to acknowledge the suffering they had to endure to get us where we are today. And from there I hope you will appreciate how accommodating black people in South Africa have been over the years. You would not have wished to be white in Zimbabwe during the land-grabs or white in Congo Zaire during the Congo Crisis.

Our transition has been very peaceful considering grievances and the number of people who feel aggrieved. While it is understandable that such discrimination is new to you and may be hard for you to accept, it is hoped that you will learn to live with it just as millions of black people have had to live with their grievances.

Cited Article

Seidman, G. (1999). Is South Africa different? Sociological comparisons and theoretical contributions from the land of apartheid. Annual review of sociology, 419-440. Retrieved 10th November, 2015, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/223511.pdf?acceptTC=true

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