Freedom of speech is what makes our country so iconic in its current positioning on the African continent. Our oldest and most valued statesman is definetly an international symbol of hope, struggle and peace. But if we are to up hold any of the values of which he (and the struggle) stood for, as creatives beings and South Africans, we should then also be allowed to openly question certain parts of his legacy, debate policies that he stood for and to challange the sometimes indoctrinated perception that we have grown understand of our iconic leader. Thus, a starving creative felt the need to share the following piece…
I was watching the news a couple of weeks ago, when a news report about Mandela was aired with the red tagline ‘Breaking News’, Mandela was in hospital again. My immediate thought was it’s time for the old man to go. My fingers were trembling as they fumbled on the keyboard while I typed in the former sentence. I mean Mandela is an untouchable he does no wrong so how can I possibly think yet alone type what I just typed? But my inquisitive mind shelled in this fragile head of mine is discovering that not everyone thinks Mandela is a saint as portrayed by our media and the international media at large.
There is a growing feeling of discontent airing its unsatisfied head amongst the black poor class (which is the majority of us) that Mandela’s policies kind of screwed us over!
History lesson time, in South Africa, peace was attained through the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESSA) negotiations. This was the platform for all political parties, religious leaders and some organizations to discuss a smooth transition into democracy. These negotiations bought about a compromise known as ‘The Sunset Clauses’ (as in the sun has set on your Sandton mansion dear black man).
These days, Mandela is recognised as an icon of peace and reconciliation; a symbol of forgiveness, he is widely adored as a sort of Father Christmas character, chuckling into old age, patting small children on the head, forging unity between people who otherwise would be at each others’ throats – Adam Robert (M&G UK, 2008)
Ok rewind back to pre-1994, for many white South Africans, negotiations for a democratic South Africa were necessary as the apartheid economy was on the brink of total collapse. For whites, central in the negotiations would be a model of democracy that would guarantee the retention of their economic privileges and dominance as captains of many industries going forward. How were these privileges and dominance acquired and developed you ask?
The system of apartheid colonialism was deliberately and systematically designed and structured to create and sustain the apartheid economy through a stream of cheap labour for all the sectors of the apartheid economy. Africans and other black people were not only excluded from governance, but also from the main stream economic activities and structures of ideological influence.
Then there was the job reservation system which reserved skilled jobs for white people, the system of Bantu Education was purposely designed to direct African people into unskilled jobs. This demonstrates that the apartheid political economy was one of white wealth and black poverty resulting from high structural unemployment of the black majority.
Hence according to COSATU, while blacks make up 76% of the population, their share of income amounts to only 29% of the total. Whites, who make up less than 13% of population, take away 58.5% of total income.
So you slow people might still be wondering what are the ‘sunset clauses’ put simply, it was a clause that stated that white people could retain the wealth they obtained illegally.
These negotiations were not mindful of the fact that black people (Africans, Indians, Coloureds) had been disadvantaged for centuries. Then there was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), where perpetrators of apartheid could apply for amnesty and not be punished for their heinous crimes (forgiven good but surely a person should still be punished for their crimes? Or am I just being a hater?). For the majority of poor blacks, Mandela, Freedom, the Black vote changed nothing.
“Mandela’s imperfections are real. Looking back, it is clear that he should have done more, when president, to tackle the Aids epidemic, which may now be killing 800 South Africans every single day. Some critics say he also caved in too easily to white South Africans, when negotiating an end to apartheid, thus leaving the black majority (mostly) poor and excluded from the economy. South Africa remains an incredibly unequal society.” – Adam Robert (M&G UK, 2008)
Mandela and his negotiations for freedom put black South Africans at a disadvantage (the reality is once we get over the nonsense that we are all equal, is that we are not equal if you are born in a poor family you will most likely end up poor – the stats support that). There’s that illusion of Mandela’s rainbow nation, I mean we have black billionaire’s now? Sadly the majority of this black elite are card carrying members of the ANC who benefited from very lucrative deals that the ordinary black man had no access to.
To break apartheid rule through negotiation, rather than a bloody civil war, seemed then an option too good to be ignored… All means to eradicate poverty, which was Mandela’s and the ANC’s sworn promise to the “poorest of the poor”, were lost in the process. Nationalisation of the mines and heights of the economy as envisaged by the Freedom charter was abandoned. The ANC accepted responsibility for a vast apartheid-era debt, which should have been cancelled. A wealth tax on the super-rich to fund developmental projects was set aside, and domestic and international corporations, enriched by apartheid, were excused from any financial reparations. Extremely tight budgetary obligations were instituted that would tie the hands of any future governments; obligations to implement a free-trade policy and abolish all forms of tariff protection in keeping with neo-liberal free trade fundamentals were accepted. Big corporations were allowed to shift their main listings abroad… these ANC concessions constituted “treacherous decisions that [will] haunt South Africa for generations to come” – Ronnie Kasril (South African Minister of Intelligence Services 2004 – 2008 )
Is this gross glorification (both in SA and internationally) justified? He was not the only one who fought in the liberation struggle, and the majority of the people who literally fought for freedom (and lost their lives) are not reaping the rewards of that freedom. Want my opinion? Mandela was a sell out!
That’s our piece and tell them you heard it from Matt “The Rat” Mkhize.