The so called "Social Cohesion Summit" was good. Such a conference was long overdue. It was the first attempt at nation building. However it was doomed because denialism about truth is embedded at all levels of this sick society.
There is no disagreement that South Africa is a very sick nation. Zwelenzima Vavi, of COSATU, has just opined that we have no less than 20 demonstrations a day now, about failed delivery of services. We all know about the crime statistics and that over two (2) million households are now headed by a child … just for starters. It is now nearly two years since Vavi correctly observed that a situation has been reached where the new elite are “spitting in the faces of the poor”.
What we simply do not agree on is the reason(s). The ANC support camp is always vociferous in blaming everyone and everything else “Whites, colonialism, imperialism …” except our ANC government. Black political commentators, and the media, are more objective, in correctly ascribing responsibility to government. However this is always done “gingerly” and with good dollops of political correctness. White commentators, like Prof Pierre de Vos, are even more tactful.
As a people we are just not identifying, admitting and addressing the fundamental drivers of why we are a very sick society. On Redi Tlhabi’s 702 talk show this morning (4 July 2012) psychologist and struggle stalwart, Dr Saths Cooper, very eloquently said as much labeling, South Africa as a very “abnormal” society. Society we are; nation we are not. Why?
Like everything else, whether it be a house, a dam, a bridge, a road or a society, it must start with the “fundamentals”. These are always critical. So let us confront the main fundamental with brutal candour ... for the first time I dare say.
On day one of our new democracy, in 1994, the dominant majority decided to define its members, not as human beings, but as a colour; the colour “black”. It did this, despite the fact that this “label" came with really terrible credentials. It is no more, no less a racist social construct conceived in the cause of oppression. It was conceived and nurtured in the old slave owning, plantation owner dominated USA to lump everyone, not of pure Caucasian genes (Negroid, Hispanic, mulatto, quadroons, octoroons .. etc), into one grouping. The infamous JimCrowe “one drop” rule was a natural by-product.
Of course the label “black” had great utility during the Civil Rights era. Since all non-whites were rejected by the dominant White group, unity of purpose to rebut racism was unavoidable. However such utility was simply not indicated once liberation was won in 1994. It has little relevance in the USA to-day, where a whole people have voted in a colour blind way to install a man, Barrack Obama, to the most powerful position in the World, purely on merit!
That people should be seen and treated as humans, and NOT as colours, was long overdue in South Africa. It was also at the heart of the struggle against apartheid, because treating human beings as colours was at the heart of the that culture. However, instead of dumping the apartheid culture, and this racist social construct, we adopted it, embraced it and embedded it in our transformational model.
So we posted this as central to Affirmative Action, and we gave our socio-economic empowerment model the label “black”, i.e. Black Economic Empowerment. In the result we can now post this plaque in the very heart of South Africa- “On this farm, as regards jobs and contracts, a Black MUST be favoured; a White MUST be discriminated against; a Coloured/Indian/Chinese MUST be discriminated against unless defined/accepted as Black”.
Now for the apartheid model, just reverse the colour coding! Our transformational model is an EXACT mirror image of the apartheid model. That is the grim reality. You cannot deny it. You cannot wish it away. We have the same absurd, immoral racist approach as that of one of the most evil political systems in history. We all know it. But NO ONE is saying it. No one will go there. We are a truly cowed nation.
In this model the black majority has become “us”. The White minority has become “them”. The rest have become “the other”. After 18 years we do not have a nation. We have groupings of people whose psyche is pre-occupied with difference, and the notion “Black good, White bad, Coloured/Asian not too bad/good”. It is like a growing cancer, eating away at the very fabric of society.
Instead of making “subsisting disadvantage” the criterion, in a drive towards social justice, NOT so called "social cohesion", we made the colour “black” the criterion, in a drive towards “transformation”. Instead of saying that “a person who is still disadvantaged on account of apartheid will be affirmed/empowered" we say that advantage MUST accrue to even a multibillionaire, if he/she is black, and disadvantage MUST accrue to a White, even if he/she is a pauper, had nothing to do with apartheid, and might even have opposed it. The same disadvantage MUST accrue to a Coloured or Asian person if he/she rejects the label “black”. This is mind boggling vomitus stuff! We know this. But we are silent.
BEE was gratefully accepted, by a new Black connected elite, as a wonderfully packaged gift from the same sector that propped up apartheid. The colour “black” became a commodity/currency to be traded in for fabulous personal gain. We have a plethora of entities that have labeled themselves as “black”, e.g, Black Management Forum, Black Lawyers Association … etc. We have companies that specialize in certifying the level of your “blackness” under BEE accreditation. This is ludicrous in the extreme. George Orwell must be wincing in his grave. We know this. But we say nothing.
Obviously evil begets evil. So it is not at all surprising that it has not worked … not at all. That is why we are still a very sick society, 18 years after liberation was supposedly won, at terrible cost and human sacrifice. Black fat cats voraciously exploited BEE and joined their bog business sponsors ... leaving millions still stuck in apartheid poverty. The gap between rich and poor widened. SA achieved the shameful distinction of becoming the most unequal society in the world.
Given the fatally flawed "transformational" model, its objective too was fatally flawed. That is why we have no mention of social justice in the national discourse. If social injustice was the evil of apartheid, social justice is the reversal. A government that is obsessed with race/colour/ethnicity is divested from even starting to understand that the real objective is social justice. We don’t know that this is the objective. We don’t know it because we are stuck in an apartheid mentality. We are stuck there because we choose to deny the obvious. That is why we are dabbling in curious concepts like "social cohesion" and economic freedom". A thoroughly cowed populace refuses to see what is staring it in the face.
It was Joe Slovo who stated that “the effectiveness of freedom vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege” , i.e., BEE. But you cannot understand people are not free if they are defined as a colour. You cannot understand that social justice is “colour blind”. When you define human beings as colour you are doing it for a perverse vindictive motive, not justice. When you attach rights and privileges to that colour you are being racist. We all know this. For God’s sake, we should, as victims of apartheid! But we are silent.
We are in a state of denial, massive wholesale denial. That is why social justice is not within our understanding. It is not an objective. It is not in our discourse. We divested ourselves of this level of understanding on day one.
There are consequences for this lack of understanding of social justice. We can name a few. It is why we are “comfortable” with our President taking as many wives as he likes, even though this is certain proof that women are still unequal. It is why we all gleefully celebrated the 2010 World Cup, even though the country could not afford it and it meant squandering scarce resources needed for our poor and homeless. It is why not one person will even suggest that the deaths of some 300,000 victims of HIV/AIDs, on account of the willful, arrogant, purposeful denial of drugs, was a crime against humanity. To suggest this of such an important member of the “Black” majority is taboo. It is why so many are happy at the singing of the song “Dubula ibhunu”. It is why we acquiesce in the fact that a woman or child is raped every 20 seconds. It is why we connive and collude at the miles and miles of shacks and shanty towns in which human beings live like rats. It is why the Khoi San’s rights to reparation are not even mentioned. It is why the deaths of 62 people on account of xenophobic violence has no official acknowledgement. It is why the police have become militarized. It is why the ruling party locked horns over “economic freedom” instead of social justice. It is why the wise counsel of Dr Mamphela Ramphele that we need to “walk together” has been ignored with seeming contempt. It is why right now there is a conference, named “a social cohesion summit”, about the future of SA and no mention is made of social justice in the pitch or discourse. The President is quoted as saying that “it is time to build an inclusive society”. The statement is irreconcilable with a society that is defined in terms of colours. No one is saying it!
We need to understand that Lady justice is blindfolded for very good reason. She was not always so. Mankind took centuries to realize that she needed a blindfold. What we have done in South Africa is to take the blindfold off. We ask her to see difference. We ask her to make her sacred call on the basis of colour.
It is not justice, It is madness. We need to stop denying this! The so called “Social Cohesion Summit” is already fatally flawed. We need to start thinking about President Kenneth Kaunda’s concept of “humanism” liberally spiced with our very own ubuntu.
When in doubt, just tell the truth. Mark Twain.