Thursday, 18 September 2014

An Inconvenient Reality

I am passionate about positive change in South Africa. Given the high levels of poverty in the country one can be forgiven in thinking that the drive for change would be gathering momentum and support.

Having spent time in the ghettos, rural villages, townships and suburbs, I have come to a conclusion that the drive for change in South Africa has lost momentum. One can see the remnants of apartheid in all our communities. There has been very little improvement in the living conditions of the people previously marginalized despite statistics that show that GDP per capita has increased. The levels of service delivery leave one angry and corruption is rife. Growing levels of apathy are evident among the population,  the youth are not interested in the vote, and the poor continue to grow in numbers. Racial integration and transformation are as elusive as winning the lottery.

I am generally one who adopts a positive mindset but this is at risk of changing. In my neighborhood, the majority of youth are unemployed and they are drug addicts. The drug peddlers are friends with law enforcement and there are blurred lines of who is protected by the law. The local municipality officials behave as demigods and remain inaccessible to the people. When I visit friends in suburbia I am stopped and searched by the police because as a black man my identity is profiled as that of a criminal.

Democracy is indeed strange I conclude. It has not yielded any change for many poor people. Instead, it protects white privilege and labels me a racist when I point out the many ills in our society. The promises of freedom are daggers that kill our dreams for a better tomorrow, so too are the numerous accusations of being a racist when trying to speak of the hardships I see.

Change and freedom are synonymous in South Africa; both are just as evasive as the lottery. Those who drive change are sidelined and told to remember their place on the hierarchy. Red tape, bureaucracy and backlogs are the new buzz words hurled as excuses for non-performance and non-delivery in our society.

There are voices who cry for change, even from the white population. While these cries are perceived as solidarity, experience shows that this is merely a ploy to keep things as they are: a way to keep black people marginalized. This is perpetuated by the media which makes us disillusioned in thinking that it is the voice of reason and morality. Its numerous headlines of the many wrongs in our society send subliminal messages that blacks can't do anything right by themselves. The media has contributed tremendously to degrading the black man and ultimately his social status. I dare say that the media has done exceptionally well in entrenching whiteness as a social standard.

So then, given the dynamic forces at play, how do we get back on track with driving change? I think the first step is for us to acknowledge that as South Africans we still have a long way to go in as far as reconciliation is concern. While I cannot speak for all black people there exists a real perception that reconciliation is a path that black people are walking alone. This goes without saying that every white person is against reconciliation either. The hegemonic maintenance of whiteness is an impediment to change, and I can imagine why it is difficult to allow change to happen. White people, generally speaking, will not advance change while they still enjoy the privileges that come with whiteness.

With this simplistic assertion one can begin to craft a new wave of change but only time will tell the type and magnitude of such change.