Monday, 31 December 2012

Indod' enkulu (The Big Man)

The heroes of June 16 1976 are ordinary people we see on a daily basis. Now without giving you a history lesson, the point of departure for the youth of 1976 was the blatant refusal to comply with an order that made Afrikaans the medium of instruction in their schools. The aftermath that followed remains entrenched in our memories; and as young people we continuously search deep within and around us, trying to imagine what it was like for those young people who found themselves in the midst of all the action of June 16 and the days that followed.
Perhaps one thing that we overlook about the youth of 1976 is that a lot of them are still alive. Some of these answers we seek can be given by the people who were alive during that time. They are our parents, our uncles and aunts or our older brothers and sisters. They are everywhere around us. Take my neighbour, Indod’enkulu, as we affectionately call him. He is approaching his fifties and unemployed. He is too young to be a beneficiary of the old-age grant, 'too old' to be employed, and to make matters worse he has no post school qualification.

He tells me that he was in standard 8 (grade 10 in today’s system) when the riots broke out in Soweto. Although he was in KwaZulu, the echoes of what happened in Soweto were heard where he was. He says the boycotts were the norm those days such that his schooling didn’t receive much attention. "What was the point?" he asks me. "We were not going to amount to much under the apartheid regime even if were educated."
He admits that change has been slow in coming, especially for people in rural areas like ourselves. He complains that he can’t turn to the government for help. As I engage with him more I realize that his reluctance is a result of apathy and loss of faith in the government. Of the economic opportunities in our area he shrugs his shoulders. “You can’t even get a decent job here, you must go to the cities. Even there the situation is tough. Why can’t they give us some form of subsidy?”

His words leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Thoughts of our current situation as young people confirm the need for us to do something real for our people to give them hope. But hope alone is not enough; it certainly won’t put food on Indod’enkulu’s table.  I contemplate silently that he could turn to crime as an option. He would be confirming the stereotype if he did. I am grateful that he has not opted for this route and this gives me hope. After some enquiries I learned that he has a piece job in the neighbourhood.

He walks past my house in the morning to return at midday and my pride wells up each time I see him. Who am I to complain of my unfortunate spell when others less fortunate make ends meet? He is an example of how we can move forward given our challenges. Living in South Africa is a bitter-sweet experience.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Absence of Black Intellect in Universities

The very notion of a black intellectual baffles me; in fact I find it pathetic. Such a thing does not exist. It’s rather ironic or downright shocking that the idea of a ‘black intellectual’ is preached within institutions of higher learning, especially in the democratic dispensation which we find ourselves living in. And while you’re reading this, don’t get me wrong. The breed in question exists.

I’ve looked in mainstream sciences, the media, the slums, and the ghettos. The results are conclusive and hard to stomach, given the freedom afforded the black individual to emancipate himself and exonerate himself in the process. The black man as a subject of study has been through many dilemmas. His upbringing is that of a savage. His education is deemed an inconvenience and a disturbance to the ‘order’. His cries for help fall on deafened ears, his efforts to fend for himself seem immaterial as the world looks on from ivory towers. When he does anything correct it is because he has had some superior assistance, at times from a superior race. God forbid the assistance to be from Him! The savage knows no means to bring himself closer to such a being.

The black as a member of society is constantly on the back foot. Before he leaves his home, or rather, for the purposes of being politically correct; his shanty, he has three strikes against him. The first strike is for him being born black. The second strike is for him being relegated to inferior status in society where he is regarded as an animal. The third strike is that regardless of how hard he strives to lead a decent and honest living, he is always your suspect when something goes missing. All these three strikes summed up are called Blackaniah. Simply put, the black is a rare type of breed.
The winds of change are forever blowing. The latest developments have seen the black being regarded as a rare commodity. His constant manipulation for the purposes of acquiring wealth and capital remains the main reason why he is often afforded humanistic characteristics. He is thought to be a beast in as far as physical labour is concerned. His kind is constantly seen employed in mines where the safety standards are appalling. If not in mines then you will find more of his kind doing piece-jobs or riding around at the back of a van or pick-up truck while his master’s pet enjoys view from the front seat.

Those of his kind that work hard enough have their offspring enrolled in universities and institutions similar to them. It is believed by the black that this practice of enrolling the young in universities will see the cycle of misery and gloom broken. The truth of the matter is that such institutions are mere reservoirs where the new ‘recruits’ are chosen and drafted into the ‘highly competitive’ job market. His offspring is expected to go through university with the utmost ease. The reality of it is that his offspring has tremendous strain trying to grasp the Euro-centric content of the curriculum. His limited exposure to literature and his lack of reading acumen make it virtually impossible for his offspring to be truly independent and self-sustaining. As a result, his offspring regularly replicates the knowledge reproduced for him. Thus a cycle of mediocrity is established.

Let it not surprise you then dear reader when you find that the notion of black intellect is at a steady yet alarming decline. This is a systematic breakdown of the black so that he remains in his rightful position- at the feet of his master! So dare nobody question me when I say that there is no such thing as black intellect, the black has his master to assist him in matters that need such!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Response to the notion: Freedom is not free

A friend wanted me to expand on the notion that freedom is not free and the following is my first hit at it.
In my earlier correspondence I had spoken about freedom in the South African context. Without giving you a history lesson, I am of the opinion that the freedom and emancipation of the oppressed groups of people in South Africa was a hard-fought struggle. Whether that struggle is over or not remains to be seen. There are members of society who share opposing views on the realisation of this freedom.
In unpacking the cost of this freedom let us first consider the number of lives that were lost while fighting. Hector Pieterson is one name that comes immediately to mind. There are many others like him. Some were lost outside South African borders, in exile, fighting for what they believed in. Others were ‘taken out’ by the security forces of the previous regime in an effort of fighting against ‘terrorism’. Others fell victim to allegations of being ‘izimpimpi’ and were subsequently ‘silenced’ by the liberation movements concerned. Let me add that on the latter not much has been said. I am however, reminded of the story of Stompie and the links of his death with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Secondly, we can consider the cost of this freedom under the idea of foregone opportunity. By this I mean the cost of oppressing certain groups of people from fully participating in the running of the country. It is a well known fact that we have capable people who contribute positively to society. These people come from all the racial groups that form this country’s population. Had these people been allowed to contribute instead of being relegated to second class citizens, perhaps our country would be at a far better position than what it finds itself in currently.
The third lens that we could apply when interrogating the cost of this freedom is one where we consider the ‘brain drain’ factor. Many people left the country during the apartheid regime’s tenure. These people left the country citing political instability and moral reasons for their leaving. Some of these people that left were of European descent. Without sounding as if I am praising one group at the expense of another, I am of the opinion that these groups of people could have contributed positively within the borders of South Africa. By the same token, I do not mean to undermine their efforts in advocating for change in South Africa while they were outside the borders. I am reminded of many campaigns based abroad that highlighted the plight of oppressed groups, the release of Nelson Mandela, and the unbanning of political parties and their subsidiary organisations.
Time is another factor worth considering when taking into account the cost of freedom. Time lost is time that can never be recovered. The amount of time it took for the apartheid regime to be ‘overthrown’ is something that we are aware of. My point of departure is on the basis of what could have been achieved during this lost time. I will not expand further as I feel that this is self-explanatory.
I could go on and list other cost factors such as pain and suffering, the breakdown of family structures, the degradation of the education system through Bantu education, etc. For the purposes of this response, I hope I have painted a formidable picture depicting that freedom is not free indeed. While I’m at it, I can’t resist the notion of voting as another cost. Seemingly, the cost of being ‘free’ nowadays has come down to voting for a black face for the presidency once every 5 years. The architects of this use pseudo-psychology to get the majority of the poor to vote. Anyway, I tend to digress. Excuse me for that. The crux of the matter is that freedom is not free, and will not be free in the near future. Till then, the struggle continues!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Thought for Walter Sisulu University (Letter to the Daily Dispatch: published 15 October 2011)

Dear Editor
The recent closure of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the resignation of its council (October 11) raises concerns for young people like me. I refer to your article "Fresh start for WSU?" as a reminder of the challenges that continue to plague that institution. I dare not mention the thousands of students who were in their final year of study who were expecting to graduate next year. I dare not mention that a significant percentage of these students come from families that bend over backwards so that they can send their children to universities in search of what seems to be ‘an ever-elusive’ dream. The high unemplyment rate is testamentof this.
I dare not question the quality of the education that they receive in these institutions of higher learning, especially those institutions that were previously disadvantaged. I know the lack of funding that these institutions continue to battle with, but our government continues to drag its feet in addressing this.
Mandela said that education was the key that lead to success. With that assertion, the efforts made by our government in ensuring that the poor (the majority being black people) receive a quality education are evidently not the government’s priority. South Africa continues to show least improvement when compared with other countries in the primary schooling level. I shudder when I think about the levels that come after.
I can only hope that the intervention that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande will announce soon will bring revived energy towards a quality education.
Nqaba Mpofu