Dr Ramphele said something very interesting during her interviews on the launch of her new party that is yet to be defined. When asked if she would adopt BC ideals in her new party, she said, it was time for SA consciousness rather.
I can imagine a jolt of protest in many BC advocates’ hearts at these words. In mine there surely was. Understand that we abandoned BC in 1994 in search of a supposedly more inclusive program of action for the country. I say supposedly because there is nothing exclusive about a people’s fight for self determination in a country that prospered on the back of oppressing them. In a world where we could take words at face value, reconciliation would mean a coming together based on undoing the wrongs that broke the relationship. And an honest apology. Not the denialism we live with everyday. You could swear the denialists only moved to South Africa in 1992. But I digress.
It was a very liberal idea of equality that we adopted in 1994. It has brought us a welfare state because we cannot force equality where there is none. We also cannot expect the human psyche to be ok after centuries of dehumanization. BC addressed these two obstacles to a free South Africa. It was not about exclusivity, but about uplifting the downpressed and dispossessed majority to be on par with everyone else. What we have had instead is that those who have access to knowledge have used it selfishly and to the detriment of nation building under the guise of democracy and equal rights. And therefore there has been no true reconciliation. This suggests a lack of care and a disingenuity on their part.
As a result we are seeing the country struggling under the weight of the majority’s expectations. Their expectations are valid. But privilege sees their dehumanization as a perpetual state of being that is self-inflicted.
It could be that Dr Ramphele recognizes all this but still feels SA consciousness can encompass BC comfortably under the right leadership. After all SA consciousness would be disingenuous if it did not, as top of its agenda, address the needs of the majority. The past 19 years have proven otherwise unfortunately. The empathy is not strong enough. Or as some strongly believe, the current government has wasted opportunities in their quest for self enrichment.
I believe that black people allowed others to speak for them in the spirit of reconciliation. Not because they did not know what was required to help them out of the quagmire. They softened the urgency of their pain so we could all walk hand in hand into the sunset clauses. It has not worked out so well for them and frankly they are tired of the threat of investors. As to the condition of the black psyche, I am yet to see anyone break down what the solution is, instead of evoking the same sentiments that got us into this violent mess that is South Africa today. As the black psyche was initiated into violence and self-destruction, it will have to be initiated out of it. How?
What are the tools of self determination that should have been employed by South Africa in the spirit of reconciliation? I hope that Dr Ramphele will be asking this question as she visits homes of South Africans.
A bridge from BC to SA consciousness. South Africa portrays itself, and is indeed viewed, as somewhat not all the way third world. We continue living this lie because we have conditioned ourselves to look through the poverty and see the glorious monuments we are to build, the poverty is near invisible to us. Truly, Walala Wasala is not a good look for us to adopt at the moment.
So what will it take to deliver the majority into this almost-first-world that SA consciousness resides in? What of education? What type of education will deliver the majority? And living conditions, how do we bring a semblance of dignity to the spaces the poor majority resides in without creating a dependency on state welfare? Before the corruption set in, these are the questions that went unanswered, swallowed by the euphoric din of freedom celebrations and the farce of reconciliation. This is how rainbow politics played out then. This is the SA consciousness that was adopted. That those who know will eat, alas those who do not. Now Dr Ramphele says she wants to go back to the drawing board and recapture the dream that brought us 1994. I say she needs to go deeper. 1994 was problematic. We cannot abandon BC yet. BC has not even begun its work. We will need BC to rehumanize the dehumanized majority. We will need BC to honestly chart the path to the dehumanized majority’s self-determination.
I wish her all the best. Competition makes all work harder.
Article first published in Sowetan, March 8, 2013