Visions of Revision: South Africa where did we go wrong? Thoughts & Considerations for the future.

In 1989 communism collapsed. We knew it was not sustainable. But the final demise was a moment for the West to say “we told you so”. Liberal democracy had gained a final win over Marxism-Leninism and moving with almost unquestionable consensus, the liberal democratic agenda was shoved down every country that was in the process of political reform.

Coinciding with the release of Mandela, South Africa’s transformation was marshaled into the same grounds. This change exerted an effect in that moment when we were trying to re-discover the integrity of our cause: what had we fought for? Was it a just battle? Was it worth all the blood shed? What kind of future do we want? All these are questions we did not take time to ask.

We are experiencing an interesting phenomenon of societies increasingly identifying themselves as wholly middle-class. The South African aspiration is, too, structured on this logic. There is wide agreement that the solution to all our problems lies in expanding a black middle-class. [1] This, as I understand it, is an ideological orientation rather than a practicality. It speaks of the suppression of the under-classes. It speaks of the over-representation of the middle-class perspectives at the expense of the lower classes–a total elimination of the poor, while they exist and are here to stay.  This goes against social movements that characterized, say for instance the Freedom Charter, that kind of vision does not seem to have a place in today’s liberal democracy[2]. They are indeed unsayable against the furore surrounding election campaigns, strike action, demand for job creation, etc. All of which at face-value appear as legitimate demands, but what is the basis of those demands? Why have they taken a particularly violent turn?

Equality is defined against an abstract notion of the constitution, with very little emphasis on moral and ethical responsibilities that should accompany those rights. As a result the space for debate and engagement is sealed-off from other directions. People’s responses are streamlined on the basis of what is; I fear that opinions and ideas of the so-called intellectuals are too eager for the prize of fame&recognition, without the diligence and sacrifice that a bold vision of the future demands.

Perhaps one of the challenges arising from the demands is a disappointment with ourselves: that we have not done as good a job as we expected compared to our former oppressor. In some instances challenges and problems have arisen just when we thought we had arrived, problems which seem like they are not of our own doing. For example: HIV/AIDS as a social phenomenon, and its magnifying-glass on sex and sexuality. Aspects which remain sacred, even as the world attempts to make them a free-for-all. HIV has forced us to re-examine our attitudes and conversations around sex, whether these have been correct all along.

It has made visible the shame of our sin: Our father’s slept around, not every one in my family is a ‘proper’ blood relative, that families are not neatly packaged as the wedding and funeral ceremonies make them up to be, but they are rather invented on the basis of what we want from them. That there are also contrived silences and demands for order that inhibit truthful behaviour, and acceptance of one who has made a mistake. It drew attention on our motives of having sex. For the pleasure of men, often at the expense of women, as well as the oppressive norms over women that men have turned a blind eye on.

By extension, then, it also drew attention on our quest for liberation. Were we really serious about ridding our world of iniquity, inflicted by the white man? Why then did we not look introspectively and question if the way we treat our women (our wives, mothers, and girl-children) in the home is not the same, if not worse, than the humiliation we endure from the white race in public?

From this angle, we are inclined to wonder: is this sudden publicity on rape necessarily a new thing, or is it just an indication of an increase in reporting? I am thinking here about the high school girl who was raped by his teacher on the school premises in Bergville, KZN . When the father of the girl found out, he spoke to the teacher and they agreed that the teacher would pay him with a goat and a cow. Upset, the aunts of the girl told her she should report the matter to the police. This made me wonder: Did not these aunts experience the same violence at some point or another in their lifetime, and thus held the desire to see that recurring generational curse put to an end? Perhaps I am putting words in their mouths! But I want us to think about it.

In that period of transition towards 1994 elections we did not take time to ask. We had not entirely been in tune with the nature of our feelings and motives. Temptation to indulge our appetites with the infrastructure and the lavish houses of the Boers, now available to us, stood in the way. Until fully developed, our motives of self-gratification could not appear the evil thing they were—serving only to benumb our sensibilities so that we fail to hear the very things we need to learn about ourselves.

Had we taken time to ask, and to seek God for the answers, things would have been different. I am reminded of Daniel from the Bible, upon finding out that King Nebuchadnezzar was going to kill all sages, seers and the wise within his kingdom (which is the equivalent of killing all our thinkers, scientists & creative people in our democracy) if no one could tell him his dream, and what it means. No one was able to do this. Then a slave boy, Daniel came in the picture, rather last minute, and said he would consult God about the king’s dream. All that Daniel asked for was some time.

From so many learned men, none had thought to ask for more time. The urgency of the king’s request implied a quick resolution. More time was granted Daniel to seek God. The dream and its meaning was revealed to him, all the wise men were saved.

Friends: Our God will speak, He will not keep silent! We need to make time to seek Him, and give all of our hearts, our minds, and souls to this heavenly endevour.