Vukuzenzele- Get up and do it yourself- Muka uzviitire

2015-10-15 10:31

My family is from Zaka in Masvingo (where the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are located). Close to where we stay there is a bus stop called “Muka uzviitire” meaning ‘Get up and do it yourself’ or ‘Vukuzenzele.’ Having been in South Africa for the past decade, I have been exposed to diverse peoples and cultures. During this period one of the major concerns I’ve often expressed to people I interact with is the presence in many communities of a Dependency Syndrome- ‘An attitude and belief that a group cannot solve its own problems without outside help.’

“In development theory, dependency is the antithesis of development approaches that aim at empowerment, participation and sustainability. The term dependency is often used in the context of debates around the problematic idea of some sort of transition between relief and development, with relief being seen as intrinsically undesirable because it creates dependency. A specific concern raised in this context is that relief interventions will undermine ongoing developmental programmes. Once people have become accustomed to receiving free commodities, the fear is that they will be less willing to make contributions to community development projects without being paid” (Humanitarian Policy Group, 2005)[1].

South Africa has celebrated 21 years following the end of Apartheid. Parallels have been drawn between the nation and an individual with 21 being a ‘coming of age.’ With this in mind we can look at the different stages of development of a person vis a vis our nation; dependence (baby/toddler) > independence (child/young adult)> interdependence (adult). Tied with this is an often quoted saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Dependence

As a baby one is reliant on others for their sustenance i.e. eating, drinking, washing, moving from one place to another etc. This is akin to the point of being given a fish- which meets your immediate needs. A person’s continual reliance on receiving fish has potential in making them dependent on the one giving the fish. They will only be able to receive that which is sufficient for their daily needs.

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is mandated by the South African Social Security Agency Act of 2004 to “ensure the provision of comprehensive social security services against vulnerability and poverty within the constitutional legislative framework.” Grants are targeted at categories of people who are vulnerable to poverty and in need of state support. These are older people, people with disabilities and children. Also, the Social Relief of Distress award provides immediate temporary assistance to people in dire need of financial support and is given to people in the form of vouchers, food parcels or money for a three month period (Ground Up, 2015).

A few months ago I once wrote an article outlining the state of the Social Grants landscape in South Africa. As of June 2015 there were 16.78 million people on Social Grants in South Africa, representing 32.9% of the population and amounting to R10.51 billion.  Such a situation whereby a third of the country is on social grants is not sustainable.  I am not in any way against helping those who are underprivileged. On the contrary, my mission in life lies in working towards the eradication of poverty.

Independence

The expectation for any child is for them to grow and move to a place where they are able to do things for themselves. Failure to get to this point results in the caregivers becoming concerned due to problems in that child’s development process.

While I do understand the need for grants such as Old Age and Disability grants, I do not fully agree with the Child Grants. Although this will most likely touch a raw nerve, as adults we are the ones who have a choice with regards to how we plan our families. Burdening the national fiscus (read: taxpayers) to look after other people’s choices is not something which I ascribe to. People need to take responsibility for their actions and the ‘results’ (children).

The same can be said when it comes to certain service delivery protests which more often than not end up with destruction of infrastructure. Without undermining the issues which the communities protest about, it does not make sense for them to engage in wanton destruction of property- which they themselves are beneficiaries of.

Knowing how to fish for oneself is a state of being where people make decisions knowing the consequences which their actions will bring and being prepared to bear these- instead of expecting someone else to.

Interdependence

This is a place of knowing and acknowledging that no one is an island and that in order to produce anything worthwhile, we need to work together to harness the skills, experience and expertise possessed by others. Although there is a major push by people for independence, interdependence is more beneficial

We are now at a stage in the nation where more than ever before there is need for society to awaken to the need of working with each other in order to create a strong society. Despite the many failings which the government has, there is so much being done in different sectors, support available etc. Ultimately as people in this country there is a need to rise up and do things for ourselves and for each other. All that is required is unity of purpose. The same way people joined forces in order to bring an end to the apartheid regime, we need to work together to ensure the challenges we are facing together as a nation are addressed.

These major issues include high levels of unemployment, low literacy and numeracy levels, high levels of inequality, high crime levels. Rather than just waiting on government to ‘create jobs’, we need to utilise the resources at our disposal to look at becoming job creators. There are many business opportunities around us. Within our communities we can work to stop criminal activities from happening. A case in point being the xenophobic flare-ups which arose in the country where some communities took a stand against would be rabble-rousers and protected foreign nationals from being attacked.

There needs to be an overhaul of the education system in order to produce individuals who are not just waiting to be employed but who are truly empowered to stand on their own two feet. Although the graduate unemployment rate is lower than the national unemployment rate, the presence of unemployed graduates is an indictment of the education system. It is most likely that these individuals are ‘waiting to be employed’ instead of seeking to become employers.

An addition which I work with to the ‘give a man a fish...’ quote is, “teach a man how to farm the fish for himself and you’ve empowered him to feed himself and future generations.” Although it is good to teach the man how to fish so they can be independent, they are not truly independent until they own the factors of production. If they are still reliant on someone else for them to get the fishing gear, they are not yet standing on their own feet.

[1] http://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/277.pdf

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