By The Maytrix. Find him on Twitter @themaytrix23
The South African miracle rising and falling pattern makes for an interesting inquest. A rainbow nation of chickens seemingly reluctant to hatch, or just hoping to indefinitely delay the coming out. The question of which came first very relevant in the current discourse. Do we first seek stability then effect change afterwards? Or do we effect change then seek stability thereafter?
In 1994 we seem to have opted for stability first with a view to changing overtime. To be more blunt, South Africa chose peace above change. It is not that straightforward though. Peace itself was change. De Klerk speech upon the fall of the Soviet Union gives insights into the apartheid leadership psyche at the time of going into democratic South Africa. To them, peace was the actual transformation. To black South Africans, transformation is the elusive reality that seems to have been compromised for peace. Whoever accepts this viewpoint has to live with the burden of a double-whammy being thrown at black South Africans. It means they have lost twice, during and after apartheid. Stability not only means that everything remains in-tact. It also means that the desire to change is reduced. To get a thing stable, you have to get it to function normally. Why would you fiddle with anything that is properly functional? Things that are stable are also harder to change. More effort is required to break them up. Stability means that nothing radical should happen in terms of the economy. Stability means we should keep economic activity and participation as is (whites atop with Africans at the very bottom).
Today we discuss leadership qualities when we really mean management abilities. Specifically, leadership has become double-speak for ability to manage the status quo. “This one is not articulate”, “She does not inspire confidence”, “The markets do not trust him”, “Investor confidence will take a knock”, et cetera. Herein lies the issue with assimilation.
To inspire confidence in the investor community (euphemism for white capital) you have to be somewhat assimilated into their ways. A Hlaudi Motsoeneng or a Jacob Zuma, even a Vytjie Mentor could never be considered statesman-like, except when one of them is being used to try to bring down a fellow black leader. A Trevor Manuel or a Sipho Pityana on the other hand, tick all the boxes of assimilation not just in how they articulate themselves, but in what they articulate.
The politics of possession football have touched on how such blacks can be used to retain the status quo. You can just send them out to present a front of change when they are really just managing the stability of a system hell-bent against change to accommodate a majority. Better a leader reciting Irish poetry than one who sings about “our land”. Speaking of land, the proverbial willing buyer, willing seller finds parallels in barriers to entry for blacks into the socioeconomic rainbow nation. Before we even talk about land, big business is buying black leaders out of the struggle to act as managers of the status quo. These blacks are willing sellers of such agency, “managing” the people during times of push for socioeconomic change. South Africa has seen consistent economic growth since 1994. This only coincides with growth of the super-wealthy’s income. Predictably, top 5 richest South Africans are white. You could backdate the ranking to pre-1994 and you’re likely to end up with the same names in the top 5 richest South Africans then. Inequalities continue to rise with the black majority bearing the fieriest brunt of it all. Any hint or suggestion of reform gets met with warnings against implementing populist policies. The rating agencies are getting ready to return to perform an appraisal of our investment attractiveness. The story goes: “We need to demonstrate sound management of the economy (in it’s current form) so that we can appeal to those who wish to sell us more debt”.
We are pulling-out all stops to make sure that we are in a strong position to buy the very debt. This same debt will again be used against us should we decide to transform the economy at a later stage. Rainbow chicken metaphorical for we chicken out of giving birth to a new South Africa which is inclusive of all races that live in it. We are chicken because we aren’t courageous enough to confront the real issues that cause race-based divides in our society. We are chicken because we do not want to do the necessary as that may upset the markets and/or rating agencies. We are chicken because we would rather wallow in a rainbow of ignorance, even as it lacks bliss just because we are afraid of what the consequences of the necessary and long overdue change may bring forth.