Friday, April 28, 2017

Mad At Mandela

I was supposed to write this post sometime last year but because of who I am as a person I ended up with three pages of nothing, it ended up being a long winded post that really had no end in sight and no actual content, so I gave up on it. But I recently read a post on one of the many pages on Facebook that I follow (very few of them are constructive, most of them are just for the giggles) my ‘la passion’ was revived.

The post was initially inspired by Sisonke Simanga’s Ted Talk with the same title. Sisonke expressed her frustrations with our democracy, the pace at which we are making progress as a country as well as the benefits (or lack thereof) that black people are enjoying from this so called freedom. What she said resonated with me, the fact that black people still have to put up with people like Penny Sparrow and Steve Hofmeyr. The fact that we are still fighting to be included in public spaces, platforms and the workplace makes you wonder (even though it may be blasphemous) if Mr. Mandela failed us and our fight for freedom. It makes you wonder if he was wrong in encouraging a peaceful transition from the apartheid government to a democratic government and if our frustration with the current economic and political standing should be in fact be directed at him (rest his soul).

There are scores of articles, videos and debates on whether or not Mandela was a sellout. Malema is repeatedly quoted saying “The Mandela we celebrate now is a stage-managed Mandela who compromised the principles of the revolution…” I assume these principles include radicalness (I dont think this is an actual word). Winnie Madikizela-Mandela expressed similar sentiments in 2010. “Mandela let us down... He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks, economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”

Some of my sisters agree with Malema and others that are of the opinion that Mandela was a traitor. One of my sisters argues that he could have done better with the redistribution policies, she argues that the willing buyer willing seller land redistribution clause was not justified, especially considering the means by which white people acquired the land in the first place. I tried arguing this point with her but she shut me down and I didn’t even get to ask what I wanted to ask (cons of being a last born). She further argued that Mandela traded peace for justice, the perpetrators and facilitators of the apartheid regime were not held accountable for the crimes they had committed. The fact that some of the apartheid leaders did not appear before the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Committee) and of those that did appear before the committee there were those that were not given amnesty yet were not persecuted. What then was the point of appearing before the TRC?  She further questions the fact that de Klerk is still celebrated today, for what?! Mandela did little to correct the 1913 Land and Employment acts that reduced black wages and stations…

Although I find the above statements to be true (we are still minority stake holders in the economy despite the fact that we make up majority of population, the economic struggles that we face today are a direct result of apartheid laws and colonial laws before that) I don’t think it’s fair to be mad at Mandela nor do I think he was a sellout. Sure, progress is slow and the freedom we hoped to achieve in 1994 remains elusive and incomplete, but we cannot blame one man for the progress of a whole country.

Mandela was a smart man, people choose to remember Mandela in his old age when he was frail and what not all. I’ve watched some of the most powerful interviews he participated in where he held his ground on South Africa’s foreign polices (i.e. relations with Cuba) and was not swayed, the man gave 27 years of his life for the freedom that we enjoy today. Sure the latter of those years he spent in better conditions, but still… Considering that he was a smart man, I think he understood that the same system that had oppressed black people for a good four decades (officially) but had been practiced for centuries wouldn’t be so eager to give up on the years of oppressive mentality that they had.

Freedom, both political and economic was a cause he was not only willing to die for but also willing to kill for (I think). With this in mind, I think he calculated that a civil war was not worth twenty-seven years he spent in prison (we can argue that it wasn’t just about him, but he was a man and by virtue of that fact alone, he was flawed) and also that it would delay the freedom of black people in general. I know it’s not right to compare South Africa to other African countries but we are doing better than most, even though our country’s democracy and economy is not in perfect health.

Furthermore, we have to understand that the ANC was working towards the right for the black body to vote in a democratic structure which would give black people political power. Political power has the potential to open many doors, one of those being the door to economic freedom. With political power you are able to implement land expropriation laws, and many social grants that are meant to empower the previously (or currently) disadvantaged.

Freeing the black man was not (and still isn’t) one man’s task. We’ve got political freedom, what are we and our current political leaders doing with it? It’s easy to blame Mandela for our economic oppression and forget that current political leaders are also responsible for continued fight for black man’s freedom. It’s not just Mandela, current political leaders have also failed us in introducing effective redistribution and justice policies. But at the same time we have to realize that the one reason that the apartheid system worked so well for so long was the fact that it crept up on us, if they had done anything drastic in facilitating the oppressive and discriminatory laws black people would have revolted (I’d like to think).

Great things take time, it’s not right and it’s not fair that we have to be so nice and lovey dovie to the same system and people that oppressed us for centuries. But I think this peaceful transition that they enjoy is not just for them but also for ourselves. We have given too much of our lives, time, blood and our energy to dedicate any more of it to the same system. The fight for freedom should not be an emotional one but one that needs to be fought strategically and hopefully with little emotion in order to remain objective and focused.

I may be wrong in my analysis of the situation. I may be “captured” by the other side, I don’t know. But I really think we’ve made progress since 1994, the cost at which this progress has come is yet to be determined. Twenty years from now I might be writing a post or an article about how wrong I was, or I could be writing about even greater strides South Africa has made since I wrote this post. But I don’t think the anger directed at Mandela is justified.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Junk Governance

I think I have spent enough of recess being (basically) useless so I might as well start writing before I have wasted all of it doing nothing. And considering the fact that over the past weekend there have been multiple protests (all of a sudden protests are not so criminal) against Zuma and the ANC, I feel that it’s about time I add my two cents to the conversation. In the aftermath of the overnight cabinet reshuffle I have read a lot of articles that fall into one of two categories:
1). Articles that explain the reasons for the black population’s rejection of the anti-Zuma protests. Or
2). Articles that give reason why the black population should, in fact, join the call for President Jacob Zuma to step down.

Me, I don’t know. I think I have more reason to be biased towards the first category and not the second. The arguments for the second, although they make sense, are weak because they ignore the history of this country and ignore all the hurts that this country has experienced. Besides that, I really have nothing to add when it comes to the question of who should and who shouldn’t protest because this ignores what is fundamentally wrong with not only South Africa and South African politics and governance but also what’s wrong with politics and governance all over the world.

Jacob Zuma is not the only being who frequently abuses his position of power. Donald Trump is another perfect example of a president who has a general disregard for the good of the country and the economy. South Korea’s first female president was recently arrested on charges of bribery and abuse of power. The fact that power abuse occurs so frequently across the world in “democratic” countries that are worlds apart in terms of cultural practices should be an indication that the problem is not necessarily with the individuals (who are, in my opinion, naturally power hungry) but the problem is the democratic system/structure that enables leaders to make reckless decision and have the ultimate power in decision making.

The problem is that the social contract that exist in most (if not all) democratic (and non-democratic) counties is between one man and the society that said man governs. The problem is that millions of people give their consent (directly or indirectly) to one man, to do with their fates as he sees fit.
I take Philosophy and Ethics as a module, and one of the topics that we discussed was Technology and Culture. This included defining technology (it’s not as simple as it might seem), the link between technology and culture, as well as technological optimism and pessimism (bear with me, you will get my point soon enough). Now, one of the characteristics of technological optimism is that it assumes that technology will not fall into the wrong hands, that everyone will use it for the good of society. The same can be said about democratic structures that exist currently. Democratic structures assume that the individual who is sworn in to manage the country (such a wild idea) is not only selfless but has societies interests in mind at all times during decision making. But time and again we see the opposite happen.

Personally, although it bothers me that the president (for whatever reason) re-shuffled the cabinet overnight I don’t think it’s a train smash that we will never recover form (but then again, I’m a layman).  What bothers me most is the system that allows him to make such big decisions by himself with no one else’s input, no fore warning whatsoever (unless I missed it) to the people. It’s the very same system that allows Donald Trump to prohibit people from Muslim countries from entering America. Unless there is something I’m missing about the processes that are involved in decision making in a democracy, the system/structure needs radical reform.

In my opinion, the president should be the face of the county instead of the main ultimate decision maker. The decisions should be made by a board (of men and women, 51 maybe, it has to be an odd number so that there are no ties) that is voted for by the people. The party that has the most member representation on the board will be referred to as the ruling party. You can argue that that is the same structure that we use currently, that would be untrue, if it were true we wouldn’t be going by junk status Ministers have very limited power in terms of what they can and can’t do. They are also at risk of being moved at any given time leaving their post vacant or occupied by someone who is ill qualified. This system might mean that decision making would take longer than it does now, but at last it will be deliberated. There is always the risk of corruption, but with a group of 51 you are more likely to have a whistle blower.

I don’t even agree with the current economic system (capitalism with a dash of communism) but that’s a post for a different day…

It’s not white people that are the enemy, it’s not black people, it’s not even Zuma or the ANC; rather it is the system that enables reckless governance that is a problem. Since South Africa is all about radical reform these days, we might as well take the same approach to governance, and government structures.

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