Economic freedom: The new Swart Gevaar

September 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Originally appeared on my news24 column, 2011-09-06 08:15

Perhaps I should start off with some shocking numbers, which I’m sure some will tell me I haven’t put in line with population numbers, education levels and other such factors. Well, there are other societies in the world that are similar to ours but hardly as unequal.

In 1995, just a year after the demise of apartheid, the average white income was R48 387, R9 668 for coloureds, R23 424 for Asians and a whopping R6 525 for blacks. Fast forward to 2008. You think things might have improved because you see lots of black folks driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants, right? Let’s see if you are right. White per capita income in 2008 was R75 297, coloured was R16 527, R51 457 for Asians and a bling, bling R9 790 for blacks. While a white person makes R100 a black person makes R13.

This is after BEE, AA and all sorts of other acronyms we have decided to put in place. None of them have made a dent. In fact, adjusted to inflation levels to the year 2000 per capita, blacks still don’t make as much money as whites did in 1917. Whites made R13 069 per capita in 1917. In the year 2008, blacks were only making R9 790. These stats are Leibbrandt, M et al (2010), “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid.” I didn’t make them up. A white person made them up. I promise.

When then deputy president Thabo Mbeki made his “Two Nations” speech at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on “Reconciliation and Nation Building” in 1998, some accused him of being divisive, there was no such thing. Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

For those of you who are too young to know history (you know history, that thing that happens in the past so that you can have a future and that subject you hated in school ), Swart Gevaar is what the fears of a black revolution was known during the apartheid era. Swart Gevaar, the Black Threat. Free blacks were a threat for some odd reason.

It is also known as black entitlement these days. Not to say that there is no such thing as entitlement. There are people who feel like they are owed something by someone, people that feel they don’t have to work for anything. Unfortunately some want to paint all black people with this brush. It is not true. We don’t mind working hard to get what we want, but we mind having to work extra hard just to get a fraction of what a white person gets. But if it means we must work extra hard, we do it anyway.

It is a mistake to think that economic transformation is a black issue; it is a South African issue. Every South African should be trying to make it happen. We can no longer afford to delay. The longer we delay, the closer the day of destruction moonwalks.

It is the will to transfer skills, it is to teach others how to create and make wealth. It is about ensuring that we avoid the day when a populist, charismatic and angry leader will lead angry, hungry masses on the streets. On that day, it won’t just be the whites who will lose out my fellow black brothers and sisters, it will be everyone who lives in Sandton and any other such fancy abodes.

This is why economic liberation is the duty of every South African. If you forget the forgotten for too long, they will make us remember them. Woe unto the haves if that day comes. Again, it won’t be a black and white issue, it will be about the have nots, the majority which is black of course.

In the 1920s, in the Eastern Cape, black people started talking about having their land back and opposition to white rule was mobilised. A series of crop failures, cattle disease, locusts and drought put pressure on people. A newspaper of the time wrote, “These are the general conditions of life; poverty growing into hunger, debt with no hope of escape. No people under the sun who have not been tamed and weakened by centuries of low diet and despotism can fail in such conditions to get into a state of unrest.”

Maybe what we can say about today is that poverty is growing into hunger into anger. There it is up to the private sector to be proactive to ensure that it is opening up to grow the pie so that more can access it. The private sector is very quick to point fingers at government when it does naught. The private sector needs to do more to aid government before it is forced to by legislation.

Black economic liberation is essential for the survival of this country and continued white prosperity. Those who think that economic transformation is about taking from the whites to blacks don’t get it. I believe that economic freedom is about giving everyone the opportunity to create jobs and to make money.

We are not trying to take from the whites so that they have nothing. We just want a chance for as many people to be prosperous, not just to showcase a few wealthy black people and pretend that is true economic transformation. It’s not. It’s black economic window dressing.

All black people want really is the ability to make money in their land. They want to feel like they own their own country by owning its wealth. That is all. There is no need to fear black prosperity. No need for the Black Economic gevaar.

The Freedom Charter clearly says, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land.” As you can see, it doesn’t say, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land but the blacks.” Let’s fix this.

You sold out, not Mandela!

July 18, 2012 § 29 Comments

Originally appeared on my news24.com column on 2012-01-13 08:00

People like to say that Nelson Mandela is a sell-out. That he sold black people down the river. That he lived a cushy life in prison. That he turned soft in prison and decided to sell out. That he alone is to blame for the fact that black people are still talking about economic freedom today.

Saying that he sold out demonstrates a lot of people’s ignorance when it comes to the history of the ANC and the negotiation process. By claiming that he “sold out”, this crowd indirectly suggests that there was no ANC without him; that Mandela, in a miracle to rival the virgin birth, singlehandedly negotiated a free and democratic South Africa by himself. According to this heretical thinking, in the beginning was Mandela and the ANC. Through him all things were negotiated; without him, nothing that was negotiated was negotiated. These haters of Nelson Mandela do not realise that they have turned the man from a him into a Him. God. He is no God. As he said on the day of his release, “I am your servant, I am not your messiah and I am not your saviour.”

Often, those who want to raise him to the level of deity always praise him alone as though there were no other people involved in the peaceful transition. Even Mandela himself has said: “I must not be isolated from the collective who are responsible for the success.”

What about those who blame Mandela for the negotiations? Perhaps a history lesson is in order. Thabo Mbeki led the negotiations for the ANC and his deputy was Jacob Zuma. According to Mark Gevisser’s biography, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, in the first week of August 1991, while Nelson Mandela was in Cuba, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were in Cambridge, Cyril Ramaphosa convened the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) while the trio were out of the country. In that meeting, Zuma was replaced as head of ANC intelligence by Terror Lekota, “and Mbeki had been replaced as head of negotiations, by Ramaphosa himself”.

Mandela was livid upon hearing that Ramaphosa had Zuma and Mbeki replaced whilst the three of them were outside the country. Joe Slovo had lobbied hard to have Mbeki replaced by Ramaphosa as head of the negotiations team because he believed that “he was going to sell us out”.

If people want to blame someone then, they should blame Joe Slovo’s pick, Ramaphosa. But that would be just as outlandish and insanely ridiculous as blaming Mandela for the lack of economic freedom. How can we start blaming one man? No one worked in isolation. All decisions were made by the ANC’s executive. Only lazy thinking people will blame any single individual for the way things turned out. Blame the ruling party if you want to blame someone – but they had very limited choices.

“When you negotiate, you must be prepared to compromise.” Nelson Mandela.

There are some who say that he was a creation of the ANC. It is true that he was. The prisoners in Robben Island decided that he would be the one to represent their plight. In a PBS interview, Walter Sisulu said that Mandela was the best man to handle the situation.
Sisulu spoke about how the prison warders made the prisoners run when they were working at the quarry. According to Sisulu, one day, Mandela made a decision; it meant a great deal to all the prisoners when he suggested to them that they move slower than they ever had. That changed the situation because the warders didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, the warders could no longer give them orders; they had to negotiate with them to get things done. That was the moment all the prisoners recognised his leadership.

It was for this reason that the ANC in exile decided to make him the face of the struggle against oppression. On the “creation of the Mandela myth”, Joe Matthews said: “I was one of those who worked out the policy.”

The people who knew him, like Oliver Tambo, held him in high esteem. Adelaide Tambo, Oliver’s wife, spoke about how her husband spoke about Mandela, “When Chief Luthuli was still president of the ANC, Nelson had made a speech – that speech sometimes appears on television…. And Oliver said to me, ‘This is the president of South Africa.’”

If people like Walter Sisulu, who knew Mdiba better than any of us ever will, can speak so glowingly about him, who are we to say some of the things we say about him? If Oliver Tambo, the most revered man in the ANC, could point to Nelson Mandela while Chief Albert Luthuli was still president of the ANC, and call him the president of South Africa who are we to say some of the things we say about him? On Christmas day in exile, Oliver Tambo would leave an empty chair at the head of the table. He would say that chair was for the president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the other prisoners on Robben Island.

If we want to talk about selling out, then we should be honest. The only people who have sold out is us. The bravest thing we do is open our mouths and blame them while we enjoy the freedom they fought for. They played their part; now fix what you’re complaining about.

They have set a task for us. It is to make things increasingly perfect. As Mandela put it, “Freedom can never be taken for granted. Each generation must safeguard it and extend it. Your parents and elders sacrificed much so that you should have freedom without suffering what they did. Use this precious right to ensure that the darkness of the past never returns.”

Black man, you are on your own

August 18, 2011 § 11 Comments

I wrote a blog that lamented the fact that 91% of the CEOs of some 295 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are white last week, and boy did I get called names. I was called a racist amongst other things. To be honest I didn’t want to carry on writing about that subject on this column, but the interest and emotion that it seemed to provoke in people left me with no choice but to tackle the subject even further. The subject of race and economics, that is.

What I have come to realise is that it is almost impossible to address the issue of race without being labelled a racist. It does not matter how reasonable one is being on the subject – a clear sign that we have not healed as a nation and it will take some time before any healing takes place. We are divided, often along racial lines; where racial lines are closing class lines emerge. The topics that people have around their dinner tables and braai stands reinforce the “us and them” attitudes. Some politicians prefer it that way, keeping us divided because this gives them power over us. They tell us to fear those people, not to trust them, not in so many words but the clues are there.

I am currently reading Doris Kearns Goodwins biography on Lincoln, Team of Rivals. (Be warned, it’s a thick book, rivalling the Bible but remarkably shorter than Gaddaffi’s speech at the United Nations last year.) At a point when America was deeply divided over the slavery issue with the South refusing to free its slaves, Lincoln made his “A House Divided” speech during his Senatorial race (which he lost). In 1858, two years later he would be propelled to the presidency on an anti-slavery platform.

He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Incidentally Lincoln made that speech on June 16, albeit a different year, 1858.

A divided South Africa on the economic front cannot stand. Take a look at our neighbours up north – Zimbabwe. They were split racially and economically. A politician exploited the divisions. If the private sector does not mend the economic divisions, some politician will widen them. In the end the corporate world will lose what it thought it was protecting.

We find ourselves divided when it comes to the economic front. Some white people feel that they are being robbed of their right to make money. Others feel that they are no longer wanted nor needed in South Africa because of the colour of their skin. What they fail to understand is that there are black people who feel that this freedom is worthless because they still have nothing. They still see white people prosperous while they get poorer and poorer. Each side sees themselves as worse than the other. Each side paints itself as a greater victim than the other. Some scream reverse racism while others scream economic apartheid.

The truth is there are no victims. There are many who expect manna from heaven. There will be no such thing. People were on their own during apartheid, or if you wish, the desert years. There was no manna then, there will be none now. In the words of the great Steve Biko, “Black man, you are on your own”.

We have to make things happen for ourselves, study, work and above all, make a way where there is none; that is what every celebrated captain of industry has done. To borrow and to use his words as my own, White man, you are also on your own. South Africans, you are all on your own.

Taking individual responsibility is the only thing that will end these divisions. Entitlement will widen them. South Africans, you are on your own. If we are to be a great nation we have to realise that the path to greatness is not achieved through excuses.

*originally appeared on News24.com

Juluis Malema should shut the f*** up, maybe not.*

October 29, 2008 § 17 Comments

I am not one prone to the indiscriminate use of profanity. In fact, those who know me well will tell you that I rarely descend to this sort of level. But Julius’ ability to spew out the most outlandish statements has reduced my I.Q to levels I didn’t think possible. This is my excuse for the title of this blog. The problem with listening to some of the things that he says leaves one even stupider for having heard them. For that, he should not be forgiven. The things he says not only defy logic, but stupidity. He over compensates for his lack of intellectual curiosity with his bellicose statements, which he mistakes for coherence.

Once again, on 11 February 2009 Mr Malema did what he does best (perhaps the worst), he opened his mouth. He insulted the minister of education, Naledi Pandor, a member of his own political party, accusing her of having a fake accent. His statement could also be understood to mean that any black person who happens to have gone to a private school or a so-called Model C school all his life is using nothing but a fake accent. The only genuine accent apparently is the one he has.

Both the minister and the president of the ANCYL are eloquent individuals. However Malema is eloquent in buffoonery. As a supporter of COPE I hope and pray that he uses his substandard rhetorical abilities more frequently.

Last year he tried to insult COPE’s first deputy president, Mbhazima Shilowa, by calling him a security guard, recalling his humble beginnings. As though to say there is something wrong with being a security guard. To demonstrate his lack of foresight, he did not stop to think that his statement could be insulting to the very constituency his political party is meant to speak to. If I were a security guard why would I vote for a party that seemingly has no respect for my profession?

The sort of dangerous and frightening statements he is reported to have said on October 27, 2208 could lead this nation to genocide. To quote The Times on line, “Under Mbeki, the resources of the country were distributed to certain individuals and a certain tribe,” he said, alluding to Mbeki’s Xhosa heritage. “Not everyone benefited. But under [ANC president Jacob] Zuma we expect everyone to benefit.”

This sort of blanket statement said without an iota of evidence has the ability to incite the people of this nation into an unnecessary blood bath. Of all the things we have had the misfortune of hearing from Malema, this has to be the most dangerous, therefore it should be the most unacceptable. All senior members of the ANC should have condemned this incitement of tribalism in the strongest possible terms instead of closing ranks around him, which is their reflexive reaction.

If, as he so claimed, that only a certain tribe benefited when Thabo Mbeki was president, can he explain to us why the Eastern Cape is still the poorest province in the country? The richest black man in the country by his thinking should be from the Eastern Cape or the Western Cape for that matter. In fact, the wealthiest black people in this country should be from the Cape provinces.

If he is talking about the leadership within his party he should apply some logic, something he seems to be in short supply of. I shall help him along and give him a bit of a history lesson about his party.

Historically, the Eastern Cape is the ANC’s biggest province by membership, and has been for the longest time. (Of course COPE is changing the political landscape in leaps and bounds now.) Naturally, the vast majority of people elected into leadership positions would be from that part of the world by virtue of the Eastern Cape having the greatest number of the party’s supporters. Add the Western Cape to that number. For years, large sections of KwaZulu-Natal voted IFP. Thus the vote from that part of the world was split between the ANC and the IFP. The consequence of this is that the leadership has shown a slightly disproportionate Cape slant. One does not need to be a brain surgeon to make these deductions. In fact, one does not even need a matric.

No one has single-handedly driven young black intelligentsia from the ANC to COPE with greater ferocity than young Julius Malema. I don’t understand how and why he is allowed to carry on speaking (but as a COPE supporter I hope he is allowed to speak more often. He is our greatest election tool). The more Jacob Zuma, Matthew Phosa, Cyril Ramaphosa, Pallo Jordan and Gwede Mntashe allow him to speak, the more supporters COPE gets.

In October 2009, he was on Kaya FM. I was astonished by ANCYL president’s assertions that being a youth somehow earned him the right to be impetuous, belligerent and disrespectful. I must politely disagree (although I must admit I am tempted to disagree impolitely) with the man. Youth does not give one a free pass for foolhardiness, disrespect and impulsiveness just as maturity in years does not give one the automatic right to wisdom, level-headedness and patience.

The ANC has descended into anti intellectualism and ideological incoherence with the likes of Julius Malema. Every single young person in this country ought to be embarrassed by him. We should allow him to carry on speaking, and as young people we will speak at the ballots by voting COPE.

On behalf of COPE, I would strongly recommend that he continues to open his mouth.

*this was published last year but I deicided to updated it, thanks to Juluis’s latest outbusrst.

Niggers, nappy headed hoes and booty shaking

September 15, 2008 § 1 Comment

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