Community, Protest and the New African Today!

community
Taxi drivers in Cape Town, protesting against Uber, July 2016 © Afropolitan Explosiv

Nothing beats community. Every good business or creative idea has as its lifeblood the communities whom it must serve.

The passion to change our communities is not only for NGOs and development agencies.

You have an obligation to your community, a “what can I do?” A “what can I bring that is of value?”

Only then will you reap the rewards of belonging to community. You can never fully live out your desires, dreams and aspirations, until you find the thing that you can bring forward. It must necessarily hinge on the people you serve.

Your thing, that which you seek is in someone else’s hands, your solution is in someone else’s lips. You will not find it in isolation, you will not find it in your misery.

Generations

“Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.” James Baldwin

To reach out to the wider limits of what is possible and can be achieved is the challenge of every generation. It is our duty to search for the direction, like those people on a Star Trek mission.

Yes it is true, circumstances may overwhelm. Sometimes those who have suffered much, reward themselves by resting on their laurels once they have attained. But these issues will catch up with you. You are part of something big. Ungazinyezi.

It is not just the lucrative positions in government and in business that we want, but the reconstruction of a new African—whose identity (including aspirations, behaviours and ideas) is not established out of the oppositional relation once held against the oppressor. Based on lasting principles of mutuality; in a way that favours the complete fulfilment of the individual’s abilities to effect change, in a way that does not sacrifice the society’s desire for better communities, better friendships, more open business relationships, honourable pastor-congregation relationships, tolerant neighbourliness.

That is the task for our generation. It is not to replicate that cycle, by which leadership is approached from an adversarial manner towards workers and constituents. It is not to promote the kind of leadership that is born from the capacity to incite fear (ukufuna ukwesatshwa).

In the words of Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire:

“Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one. The man or woman who emerges is a new person, viable only as the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is superseded by the humanization of all people. Or put it another way the solution of this contradiction is born in the labour which brings to the world this new being; no longer oppressor nor longer oppressed, but human in the process of achieving freedom.”

Dropping-out

The unrest we have witnessed at Technical and Vocational Colleges (TVETs) and universities seems to be calling for precisely this vision.

Many of those who have been involved in protests feel they have been stunted by an unyielding system. For this reason, theirs is a worthy cause, but my fear is that the expectations we seem to be demanding from the anticipation of transformed institutions may not give us what we were looking for in the first place. In fact we can become so committed in the task of transformation that we forget the diligent work and sacrifice it required from us to make it where we are.

To have made it from the 1.1 million who started grade 1 together with you, to the 50% of that number who were able to make it to the grade 12, and to have made it to the even smaller number who have managed to enter university or TVET college is no small achievement. It cannot be taken lightly.

For even just one student dropping out because of the protest is a huge loss in our intellectual capital and to the long term goal of transforming our communities. The impact of your hard work may be experienced in something as simple as being able to buy your mother her first home, now that you have graduated and are economically active.

Such milestones make true revolutions!

To put it in economist terms, we have a duty to maximize on our limited resources. This is in order to achieve the best effort in our lifetime.

In our commitment we must not become blind, out of meaningless loyalties, outmoded ways of expressions of identity. For to say that oppression exists is one thing, but that is no longer a dazzling conclusion as it may seem. But to say that ‘yes it does indeed exist, but I also want to gain something that moves me forward,’ is another story altogether. We may find that that responds more to the oppression than it itself may want to hear.

Responsibility

A utopian vision of a nation free of inequality will not emerge by the mere elimination of our perceived oppressor. It will require the ongoing evaluation of our own agency.

Whites have a responsibility to listen carefully at their own perspectives. To ponder the genesis of the assumptions they may be making. They have to ask themselves: How do we learn to love again?

The emerging leadership of educated blacks, on the other hand, has a double responsibility:

  1. Of charting a new future through dynamic processes that invite participation of the poor as equals—as comrades.
  2.  They also have the introspective responsibility. A responsibility of ensuring that in their actions, they do not inadvertently defer the same violence that was once imposed on them to the quiet majority. For it is this group, according to Frantz Fanon, that often acts as “the moral teachers, counsellors and ‘bewilderers’,” who separate the exploited from those in power. In so doing, they become “the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native.”

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