When Tunzi, Noah and Kolisi become the Yardstick for Black Success

Following the advent of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa—not Azania—in 1994, something has dramatically changed in the character of the youth, especially from the black community.

Now that the world is their oyster, they are told they can be anything they want to be. Or so we are led to believe.

You see, Siya Kolisi [Captain of the winning to team at the Rugby World Cup 2019], Zozibini Tunzi [recently crowned Miss Universe 2019] and Trevor Noah [Comedian and TV-presenter in the USA]—without taking anything from their much vaunted success and achievements—are NOT the yardstick to measure the advances and progress, if any, of the black youth in the last 30 years.

Siya Kolisi, South African Rugby Team Captain

Presumably they are part of the Lucky Talented Tenth that cannot be more than 10% of the youth population that have found a foothold in the ruthless dog-eat-dog capitalist system.

The General-Statistician is in a much better position to provide details. But we have an increasing number of a truly Lost Generation that could be 10% of the youth population.

These are school drop outs that are consumed by drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime and general hopelessness.

Then there may be over 30% that are marginalized and suppressed. They are in the death throes of poverty, unemployment and hunger and everything that goes with it. These are the ‘noma yini’ people who are willing to accept and settle for anything to immediately abandon or lose as soon as they have found it.

Easy come easy go.

Then there is over 40% that are at risk. They are doing the best they can in a bad and hopeless situation. They are battling to reach the greatest heights but there is no place for every Tom, Jabu and Mapula at the top.

They have to battle with the pincer grasp of racism and heartless capitalism. Many are found at ‘new age’ plantations like Call Centres or casual jobs. 

So these children, who were born into freedom and democracy, are condemned to a relatively hopeless situation. In fact, we parents are helping to mould them through cheap talk about entrepreneurship, the importance of education and pop-psychology to fit into the new consumption driven, capitalist South Africa.

Worse we rub the rags-to-riches stories of people like Bok [South African rugby team] captain Siya Kolisi, Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi and renowned comedian Trevor Noah in their faces.

They new mantra is: you can make it, too. If not, don’t blame supremacy, patriarchy and ruthless capitalism but yourself.

We have reached a very dangerous place in South Africa today!

We make it worse by holding up Tunzi, Kolisi and Noah as the yardstick to measure black youth advancement and progress. This is a wrong and misleading narrative. 

They are NOT the barometer of black success and achievement.

Nelson Mandela said: you can judge a society by how it treats it’s children. Let us seriously think about how we treat our children and youth.

If we continue this way, South Africa has no future except for the Lucky Talented Tenth.

We will remain the most unequal society—like America and Britain—for centuries to come.§

Sandile Memela

Cultural Critic/Journalist

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