WEALTH IS THE CENTRE OF OUR STRUGGLE

2016-05-11 02:09

Firstly I want to begin with an assumption that the News24 readership does have a basic understanding of its country, its history and laws so I am not going to repeat the history of human rights, where they come from, what they are and what they are not – I think we already know that. I will just give perspective about human rights in our context today and what is our role as the youth.

Let me begin with an assertion and say we will never ever solve the question of human rights without solving the race question in South Africa.

I say this because racism in South Africa blocks all human rights from being realised. Let us make a practical example – the Constitution says you have a right to a freedom of movement, as in you are free to go wherever you want to go to. However, can you honestly travel from here to Cape Town or the United States if you don’t have money? You cannot. The constitution says you have a right to reside anywhere in the Republic but if you cannot afford a house in the suburbs of Sandton then you won’t have a house in Sandton.

It is very easy to tell who stays where in South Africa by just looking at the settlement. If I can hit you with a rock and you pass out, and you wake up in the middle of Khayelitsha, it is very easy to tell what is the race of people stays there. That is the reality of the race question in South Africa. And, even access to opportunities, access to employment, access to capital to start a business, access to housing & residence, everything that has to do with the dignity of a human being is always categorised according to race patterns in South Africa.

I mean even in education, quality education, is also categorized according to race patterns. When matric results come out, we know with our eyes closed which school is going to be the lowest, we know which school is going to achieve a 0% matric pass rate – it’s a school with black learners. A school that is going to achieve the highest, 100%, we know the race of the learners in that school and we know where it is located in South Africa. The highest achieving school always comes from Gauteng and Western Cape and the lowest comes from the Eastern Cape. The map of education outcomes has the same map as the map of poverty in this country. The poorest province is Eastern Cape and that is where the lowest pass rate comes from and the richest province is Gauteng and that is where the highest pass rate comes from. So the race question cuts deep into the matter of human rights.

BLACK SUFFERING & ITS NORMALIZATION

Anybody who says that when we talk about race we are boring, backward and playing the race card, we must be able to say nonsense to such an individual. In a country like this we must talk about racism every day because it is a daily fundamental problem confronting society every day. Let us make a practical example:

We normalise the fact that black workers must travel with 3 taxis to get to work. We have normalised the fact that if you want funding to study next year as a black student you must protest, you must create a hashtag campaign and protest. We have normalised the suffering of a black person to such an extent that it has now become a lifestyle. We walk around as if it is business as usual. We walk as if there is no problem. Black students get excluded late February because they do not have money to register and it’s as if its business as usual.

During this graduation season in institutions of higher learning, graduation photos have been trending which is a good thing to see. But the honest truth is that most young people are graduating with a pain on their neck. A black graduate knows that when they graduate they have 2 problems which are (1) NSFAS debt and (2) unemployment.

NSFAS DEBT & UNEMPLOYMENT

Black graduates are graduating into debt and it is a debt that will probably be with them for 15 years because chances are that they still have to wait for 6 years before getting their first employment. These are the facts that StatsSA is telling us. They say it takes 6 months for a white graduate to find their first employment and it takes 6 years for a black graduate to get their first employment.

In my university there's an email called Gradplace that students receive advertising jobs. White students don’t read that email because it is not relevant to them. The person who looks at newspapers for job advertisements is a black graduate not them. Unlike black graduates, they have access to private sector racial networks of uncles, grandparents of grandparents who have been running banks and industry in South Africa and they get employed quicker than black graduates through that arrangement.

A black graduate probably had to serve in house committee structures in order to increase chances of being employed one day. Most white students are not involved in house committees, societies etc – they are not student leaders anywhere, they are not leading the SRC, they leave the university without any involvement whatsoever in student leadership structures but suprisingly they get employed quicker than the involved black student. That is a problem  and society cannot operate as if it is business as usual. Many students are a problem on campus competing for positions because they are desperate to make their CVs attractive to the employer in future.

So people are graduating into debt and that debt is going to be with them for a very long time. In fact, by the time they get employed and they want to pay the NSFAS debt, there is pressure once more on their neck that they need to have a place to stay and a car to drive. They are not buying the flat but rather they are renting it. They are also buying the car on credit. They are basically adding debt on top of another debt that they already have from NSFAS. Basically, they own nothing – they are owned by banks. They are a walking zombie.

As a black graduate, you are walking zombie.

THE CENTRALITY OF ECONOMIC RIGHTS

Yes many rights are listed in the bill of rights such as the right to protest, right to movement, right to freedom of speech, right to vote etc. Let us always remember that at the centre of the struggle for liberation  was the land. At the centre of the struggle was to take back full control and ownership of the wealth of this country back to its rightful hands of the black majority. The full restoration of true African humanity, that is what is at the centre of the struggle.

At the centre of our struggle are those economic rights such as

(1) right to free quality education

(2) right to land

(3) right to housing

(4) right to property

(5) right to shelter

(6) right to employment with a dignified wage.

Those are the economic rights that were fought for and will liberate the African majority. These rights give the constitution a progressive character that is intended to make it dynamic in nature, and facilitate social and economic justice.

Do you know why people are fighting for those economic rights so much? It is because they can see what those things do to a person who has them. They can see the lifestyle of a person with access to quality education, a high paying employment, property, money, wealth and land. The lifestyle that some white people have is so great to such an extent that the aspirations and dreams of some black people are to be white one day.

So at the centre of the struggle were economic rights. Liberation was not fought for just to put an X on a piece of paper or to have children or associate on the same beaches – that is a by-the-way issue. At the centre of the struggle was to take ownership of the wealth. Wealth gives man proper dignity as an African. Wealth is power. Wealth is dignity. Wealth is respect. Wealth is humanity. That is the centre of the struggle today.

MOVING FORWARD

There are solutions to inequality in South Africa that can be solved immediately by a united student movement and youth movement working hand-in-hand with the government that has a serious political will and other sectors of civil society - something similar to the 2015 #FeesMustFall campaign.

We can pay the necessary attention to

(1) labour

(2) decent wages

(3) high-quality education and

(4) access to property

# ON LABOUR & DECENT WAGES

Regarding to work for a decent wage, I think the discussions that South Africa is having right now about the introduction of a national minimum wage is extremely important and I think from this historical and comparative experience, I have, in my view, if we are able to find the right level of the national minimum wage, then definitely South Africa could and should introduce the national minimum wage.

There are countries in the world – not only in the rich world, but also emerging countries like Brazil – who have a national minimum wage, who were able to find the right level for the national minimum wage. Although these are much bigger countries than South Africa, with 200-million inhabitants, a lot of geographic disparity, and I think that South Africa should be able to find the right level for the national minimum wage. This is a way to avoid a situation of extreme exploitation of low-skilled workers

# ON QUALITY EDUCATION

The solution mentioned above of the minimum wage will not solve the key problem, which is the inability to access higher-paying jobs, and so here is a second important effective thing that needs to be strengthened, which is the right to high-quality education together with the right to adequate public infrastructure, including cheap transportation infrastructure.

Regarding public education, I think it is fair to say that the quality of public, primary education and junior and secondary education that is available to the most disadvantaged groups in this country is not satisfactory, and that this should be a national priority and a lot of progress could be made in this direction. What has worked in history, in order to have sustainable and equitable growth is to have a well-functioning public education and health system, and the country should go in this direction.

NB: The quality education offered must speak unto the structure of our economy and immediate needs. Our economy is mineral-energy-complex based and needs a vibrant manufacturing and industrialization based economy with black entrepreneurs in the main. Therefore, our economy must produce cars from platinum, toilet paper from wood, microwaves from cooper, computers from gold, cellphones & earphones from silver & bronze.

Our government departments and state-owned enterprises must be serviced by youth owned and female owned black companies that are excellent in plumbing, painting, welding etc. These skills are essential because they will empower people, have them employed and independent from government grants and grow our economy. To heal a patient, for every doctor you need a 2 physiotherapists and 8 nurses. For every ocean pilot, you need a diesel mechanic and a oil expert. Let us invest in the right skills to empower our youth

# ON ACCESS TO PROPERTY

This is probably one of the more complicated rights, because it involves very difficult and sensitive issues, including land reform. Let me just say that if we take a broad international historical perspective, we see in many countries, in history, much more ambitious land reforms than what we have seen in South Africa since the end of apartheid. I think it’s fair to say that black economic empowerment (BEE) strategies, which were mostly based on voluntary market transactions and market values were not that successful in spreading the wealth and limiting the extreme concentration of wealth. So I think we need to think again about a more ambitious land reform program.

We also need an audit of property in South Africa particularly personal estate wealth. Who owns what and how much? How much does the people of South Africa actually own? So that we can know what we are dealing with and begin to expropriate what cannot be explained for the benefit of the poor majority.

PEDRO MZILENI

JOHANNESBURG

11 MAY 2016

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