By Kobedi, one of our avid readers sent us this piece….He argues that Blacks can learn much from the universal language adopted by #FeesMustFall movement and hence its success. The narrative was neither White nor Black and for that reason drew the attention of all races…
As with many issues of society, when politics take over, there is always a level of misdiagnosis of the underlying problem, which automatically leads to incorrect prescriptions of solutions.
As a society, we can either have a universal conversation about issues affecting South Africans and gain universal support or have a conversation that is restricted to favour particular people thereby alienate others.
Can we talk about poverty and unemployment without invoking the Black colour? Do we have to invoke the Black colour? Does it work? Has it worked? Have we ever gained solutions to societal issues on the basis of attaching the “Black” handle?
Before these questions evoke emotions in you since I know they do, stop for a moment and think about it: Whether you attach a Black handle to poverty or not, the first beneficiaries of poverty alleviation will automatically be Black. This is because poverty is located amongst Blacks. You don’t have to put that in a conversation in order for people to know that and that includes whites too.
Before you get upset with me, please think for a moment about the beautiful revolution that students waged two years ago and contrast it against the many campaigns we wage.
The Fees must fall movement was successful. It was successful in that it got the whole country to stop and pay attention. Not only that but it got government to recognise that there is an urgent problem which government had to address.
The private sector also recognised the power of those students. Politicians from all walks of life tried, unsuccessfully, to piggyback on the momentum of the #feesmustfall because they recognised its power. It was the kind of power last seen in 1976 during the June 16 Student uprising.
The success of this movement for me does not lie in whether or not the students achieved what they asked but rather lies more in the fact that they managed to push their issue to the forefront of public discourse. The campaign came out of nowhere and commanded attention.
The question IS HOW DID THEY DO IT?
How did the Students who are the AFFECTED STUDENTS, manage to successfully wage a protest that garnered the support of NON-AFFECTED STUDENTS?
Why did they attract so much support and buy-in even from students from elite families such as those of Vice Chancellor Max Price’ son, Brian Molefe’s son, Bishop Thabo Makgoba’s son, as well as Reverend Frank Chikane’s son? Why is it that even the parents of these students were also supportive of their children’s campaigns? Price (a white man) is on record as saying that he is proud of his son for participating in #feesmustfall. (https://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/max-price-i-am-proud-of-my-son-1934118)
Again how did they get it right?
The answer: THEY WERE FIGHTING A UNIVERSAL BATTLE.
They fought for UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION and not just “Black” Education EVEN THOUGH WE ALL KNOW IT BENEFITS BLACKS. They also refused political interference in dealing with universal issues.
We can do the same. We can depoliticise poverty. We can depoliticise unemployment. But we can only do so by having proper narratives.
The big challenge here is how we raise issues in a manner that attracts the support of people who would naturally not care because they are not affected, as well as make them prioritise our issues.
I am in no way suggesting that we burn things the way students did but there are other approaches, such as consumer boycotts, that cut across racial lines.
It’s in dealing with issues that affect majority Black people without making them about Black people that we will succeed. By so doing you are getting the buy-in from white people some of whom are already poor.
The country is currently divided. You have white people dealing with their poor, unemployed white people on one side and Black people “attempting” to deal with their poor and unemployed Black people on the other.
You have white people’s companies donating to Knysna when it burned to support their kind in a time of need while not donating anything to Imizamo Yethu in Cape town when it burned because it’s a Black community.
We Blacks blamed the whites for not supporting Blacks in their time of need but no one stopped and asked where the Black billionaires and millionaires were. No one asked why they were not donating to their kind at Imizamo Yethu and elsewhere.
We are paralysed by seeing everything in Black or white.
I will be blunt in my approach to this issue because everyone who ventures into this topic becomes vilified but someone has to say it because we are going around in circles, divided in our differences instead of uniting behind what we all agree on.
It is a fact that Black South Africans have been grossly disadvantaged by Apartheid policies as well as the subsequent slow progress of Transformation in this country and the honest truth is that even many white people know this and acknowledge it, however for some reason we are convinced that by hammering a Black and White narrative we are going to achieve something.
Poverty and unemployment have no colour but we have given it a Black colour correctly because it affects Blacks more than any other races in South Africa but has this Black or white conversation helped us? Has it delivered anything at all except to further divide us?
It is my opinion that as Black people we will not be well served by advocating a Black or white narrative. Of course it will raise awareness of some issues however a solution, I doubt can happen with this approach.
WE HAVE CRAFTED OUR CONVERSATION IN THIS TOPICS IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT PUTS WHITE PEOPLE IN A DEFENCE MODE.
These are same white people we need to open up industries and create employment. I am not suggesting in any way that they are superior in economics but I’m merely saying they have the resources currently. Resources we desperately need.
The narrative we are throwing out there suggests, rightly or wrongly, that Blacks want to alleviate their poverty by making whites poor. Otherwise why would white people be united in their defence against transformation if it did not appear to pose a threat to their livelihood?
Transformation does not threaten the interests of white people because it brings strength in diversity however the way we sell it to them in our conversations threatens them.
Do white people reject transformation just because they don’t want to see a Black man succeed? Then why do they allow other Blacks to be billionaires and millionares and not allow everyone to have at least food on the table and shelter?
The answer is that their rejection is based on the fear that the Black man wants to succeed by taking them out, instead of building together.
We are having a wrong conversation ABOUT THE RIGHT ISSUES because our conversation is not universal.
IT CAN’T BE CORRECT THAT EVERY TIME WE SPEAK OF UNITY WE EXCLUDE WHITES IN THAT UNITY.
We have very good examples of white people who do not have the interest of Blacks at heart but they are not a representative of all whites. We have Blacks like that too.
We need Radical Economic Transformation but we have to communicate it properly so that it garners the support of everyone. We need to sell it’s diversity as an advantage to all.
Now here is the proper approach:
Instead of talking about Black poverty, Black unemployment, many other Black this and Black that, how about we start talking a universal conversation and wage war against all forms of poverty and unemployment including white poverty and white unemployment.
How much support do you think we will get from poor whites? And if we have this UNITY, the kind demonstrated by our students around education, don’t you realise the power we can yield?
We are making enemies from people we need as allies thereby opening a window of opportunity for our real enemies outside South Africa to infiltrate us through our differences.
That brings me to the topic of our real enemy.
The Real enemy of South Africa does not live in South Africa. He lives overseas.
He is not anti Black or anti White but anti Human progress. He thrives and succeeds by exploring the differences inherent in every society regardless of the colour make up of that society.
Why do you think the Holocaust, a very vicious atrocity of such historical magnitude was a white on white violence? Yes, German whites who had exactly the same skin colour murdered their fellow white citizens who had exactly the same skin colour wholesale?
Why did this happen?
Let’s come back home?
Why is it that the Black people of Rwanda murdered en masse their fellow Black brothers just because they were of a different ethnic group?
Why is it that even now we have countries where people have the same skin, they are from the same Ethnic group but still they murder each other on the basis of Religion?
Think about the historical war in Nigeria between the South and North.
Do you see a pattern?
The enemy is invisible, he does not come with divide and rule tactics as has been suggested, he finds divisions which are small at the time and exploits them and amplifies them and uses those differences to achieve his objectives.
This same enemy has got only one thing that he fears: A united Country that leaves behind the things that divide its citizens and focuses on the things that unite them. When we fight, they will give us resources to kill each other. They are more than willing to do that.
In conclusion, we need the support of many white people, especially those who are poor as well as those who have escaped our poverty, to tackle the issues of this country. Our real enemies fear unity.