Thoughts Of A Kasi Mpatha Turned City Radical

Tupac Amaru Sharkur once said ‘Life in the hood is all good for nobody‘. I agree. But there is something glorious about growing up around violent poverty and coming out alive, to say the least.

Growing up in a dusty, tarless town(ship) in the former Transkei where, currently, majority of people live on less than R20 a day, was something of an experience. Cala, that is the name of the place. A hub of political activism during the days of the struggle for liberation, it has produced leaders such as the Ntsebeza brothers, Gwede Mantashe, Wiseman Nkuhlu, Ayanda Ntsaluba, Weziwe Tikana, Zingisa Mkabile, to mention but a few. It has also produced martyrs: the names Batandwa Ndondo, Vuyani Namba, Phumezo Nxiweni, Vintwembi Manzana come to mind.

Cala, among its uncelebrated conceptions, also produced me, a relative nobody really. Growing up, I had always heard stories about the heroes and heroines that were born of Cala. I have heard stories of how the then Prime Minister of ‘independent’ Transkei and Paramount Chief of Emigrant Thembuland, Kaizer Daliwonga Matanzima, often targeted the Xhalanga District, as he knew that it was a hub of political activism and radicalism, and opposition to his political rule. I have heard chilling stories about the decapitation of Vintwembi Manzana and the gunning down of Batandwa Ndondo.

These stories somehow instilled in me a sense of responsibility at a very young age.  It ingrained in me the sense that I and my peers had to carry on this legacy of defiance, intellectualism, and service to humanity, and pass it on to the next generation of Calaians.

Officially, Cala is a town. Its social and economic outlook, and lifestyle of its citizenry, however, paints a picture of a rural township. A ‘kasi‘, to use modern South African slang. In any township setting, the male youths will be divided into ookleva and abaxhaga or iimpatha. I see myself as having been impatha all my life. I have probably had 3 or 4 real fights in my entire childhood and adolescence, I was never a smooth talker with the ladies, so I could not have been a kleva. But, I was always a defiant mpatha, and that earned me the nickname Rude Boy at age 13 at the multiracial primary school I went to, Cala International School (later Cala Community School). I was always, always in detention, together with my partners in defiance Lita Mayekiso, the late Sinawo Peter, Wonga Gobodo, Buzwe Mkabile (then headboy of the school), and Akhona Manzana. Interestingly, one of the things that got us in trouble was that we defied a rule that forced us to speak English. For every Xhosa word used, one was expected to pay 50 cents. Now even though we knew English very well, we refused to use the language under conditions of tactical intimidation.

Even as young men, we were never ookleva, but we always knew how to stand our ground. I remember one day, one of our friends was arrested. He was being accused by his girlfriend of stealing the girlfriend’s  underwear and trousers. Furious, we went to the police station and demanded that he be released, and told the police not to be stupid “because there is nothing this man can do with old women’s underwear and trousers”. He was released.

Cala was not without violence, particularly physical violence. So one had to grow up around that culture of blackness being intertwined and synonymous with violence and activism.

When I came to the city of Johannesburg, I realised that things were different here. Geographic settlement patterns which were a legacy of colonialism and Apartheid were very much in place. Black people worked in Johannesburg CBD, yet lived in Soweto. This means that from the little they get as wages they must make sure that there is a considerable percentage they must set aside for transport.

The language issue was very much alive, although no one wanted my 50 cents for not speaking English. Here, one has to speak English or they pay with their social, professional, and economic mobility. I once had an argument with a white man about race, and I got fed up and started speaking my mother tongue: Xhosa. That man told me that I can be proud all I want and speak my Xhosa, but THAT (meaning every) job application will still be in English! I could not answer, I was extremely wounded by this statement from this white man. In the land of my forefathers, I had no hope of ever finding a job or economic prosperity if I insist on speaking my own indigenous language.

In Johannesburg, I learnt that economic prosperity was owned exclusively by white people, and a few black elite, with the rest of the black majority being slaves to a racist capitalist order, and wallowing in poverty. Now, to say there are no rich black people would be a lie, there are. But, as one American comedian put it, black people have to fly to get to where white people walk to. This man was speaking as a minority in America. here, we are the majority, yet the same is still true.

Back home I was taught that education is a means to empower oneself, especially economically. Here in Johannesburg I saw that the councils of premier universities such as Wits, whose graduates get absorbed at a far higher rate than graduates of other universities, raise fees exorbitantly. In light of the very visible and obvious fact that the majority of South Africans, who happen to be black, are poor, this means that this is a deliberate attempt to exclude black students from the so called premier universities.

In Johannesburg, I saw that in the workplace management and decision making, especially in labour intensive industries, is white in colour, with a few black sprinkles. The cappuccinoism that I always speak of. It is government that employs black people in numbers in all employment levels. The private sector, where capital operates, is a different story.

Here, violence is not only physical, it is also structural, institutional, and systematic. Nobody gives a damn about klapping anyone here. You will see violence when you go to the mines and see scores of black people go underground in scorching underground heat and dangerous working conditions digging for minerals and co creating wealth they and their offspring will never get to see, let alone enjoy. The violence of racial exploitation, that is. One sees violence when one goes to Alexandra township and experiences poverty, yet in the same space looks across the road and sees the wealth of Sandton, co built, ironically, by the residents of Alexandra.

Everything I have mentioned above has created the radical thinker that is me today. I used to be ashamed of being radical, I used to think I was destroying more than building. It took a young lady whose name I have forgotten to convince me that ‘radicalism is not radical at all, it is common sense’. She was right. It is merely common sense to want the South African workplace to reflect the country’s demographics. It is common sense to seek a more representative economy. It is common sense to support a call that says #FeesMustFall at Wits and all other universities. It is common sense to seek the fall of structural and systematic racism. It is common sense to call for the decolonisation of our spaces, learning, and institutions. It is common sense to want OUR land redistributed. It is all just common sense.

The black body has been subjected to violence for centuries. Here in South Africa, when we got an upper hand against our oppressors, we chose to forgive rather than avenge, which is the noble and humane thing to do. But forgiveness alone will not maintain peace in South Africa with its history. An absolute pre requisite to any genuine peace and reconciliation is radical transformation and redistribution, a complete obliteration of colonial legacies, and an elimination of racial and oppressive monopolies, especially in key sectors of our economy.

This is just the thoughts of a Cala boy who came to the city and became radical. Maybe I need to pay my daughter 50 cents for every Xhosa word she uses.

 

 

Linda Sidumo is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate majoring in Logistics (UNISA), an Honours student at University of Johannesburg, and an employee in the Transport and Logistics industry. Views expressed are strictly his own and are not in any way those of any organization or other persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi.

 

 

 

Herman Mashaba and the DA’s Battle for Voters Who Are Black, Like Me

What if I presented to you, the reader, a man who is black but does not want to be called black? What if I then presented to you a man who has benefitted from Black Economic Empowerment deals, yet now condemns BEE as racism? What if I then proceeded to ask you who, among these two men, is being more hypocritical than the other? Wait, before you answer, let me make this task easier for you, the reader, and reveal that these two men are actually one and the same man. His name is Herman Mashaba, a man famous, ironically, for owning hair care brand Black Like Me, and is now DA candidate for Joburg City Mayor.

With local government elections nearing in South Africa, political parties are strategizing on how to maximise on the mobilisation of the electorate. The DA is no exception, as we see them chase after the ever elusive black vote. And the black vote will continue to elude them because, simply put, the DA just does not understand black people and they fail to acknowledge and properly articulate the black condition. They seem to think that merely putting forward black faces for leadership positions will do the trick. It will not. Positioning the likes of Herman Mashaba, who speaks against transformation and black empowerment, as one of their faces will further frustrate their efforts and attempts to rake in the black vote.

Herman Mashaba has had a lot to say in the preceding weeks, particularly about race, black empowerment, and transformation. He has come out publicly and said that he does not want to be referred to as black. Ironic that he chose the words ‘Black Like Me’ to name his product offering. All this in a time of the revival of black radical politics and consciousness in South Africa. He seems to think that black people do not love and embrace their blackness. Well, we do. Bantu Biko, in 1978, said “being black is not a matter of pigmentation- being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”. The same giant of Africa’s liberation, in the same year, said “The essence of Black Consciousness is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin…”. In the context of Biko’s words, maybe Herman Mashaba truly believes he is not black and resents being labelled or referred to as black. The DA, by positioning Mashaba in their leadership structure, have proved once again that they do not understand black voters. Black people will always rally around the cause of their oppression, as Biko says, for as long as they feel oppressed, which they are. They will not rally behind a party that does not acknowledge the black condition and its historical context.

Herman Mashaba prefers to be called South African. He prefers everyone to be called South African. That is noble, but that pattern of thinking fails to acknowledge that South Africa still is divided along racial lines, especially in terms of wealth and priviledge. It fails to acknowledge that the economy is in white hands. It fails to acknowledge that the land is still in white hands. It fails to acknowledge the South African private sector’s blatant disregard for transformation. It fails to acknowledge the racial nature of inequality in South Africa. It fails to acknowledge the structural, institutional, and systematic racism that exists in South Africa. It fails to acknowledge that white South Africans and Black South Africans are just not equal. These injustices are all perpetuated along racial lines, so it logically follows that redressing them should be done along racial lines. This requires identification of the race that is adversely affected by these injustices with a view to bringing about social justice, and that race is black.

It can never be emphasised too much that our history necessitates transformation. Transformation is an absolute pre requisite for any genuine reconciliation. It baffles me, therefore, that anyone would think that transformation, BEE, and Employment Equity are just another form of ‘legalised racism’. It is even more incomprehensible that someone such as Herman Mashaba, himself having benefitted from BEE deals more than once, would now come out and call for a complete scrapping of all affirmative action laws. He is being a hypocrite, in spectacular fashion. If he believes that all affirmative action laws must be scrapped then the first thing he must do is to forfeit any and every asset and economic benefit accrued to him because of BEE and other affirmative action laws, if he wants to be taken seriously. Surely he cannot accept and keep wealth built on what he calls racist laws and premises.

Black people in general, and workers and the poor in particular, constitute the majority of citizens in South Africa. Their exploitation as workers and their poverty as the poor is not a mistake or freak of nature. It is something that was engineered deliberately in our history. Ours now is to un-engineer it along the same lines that were used when the initial engineering was happening. Workers and the poor, and black people in general, must have increased access to everything in this country. The class and social mobility of black people, which was deliberately slackened to almost a halt during Apartheid, must be a priority under a government based on the will of the people. It therefore stands to reason that these majority people cannot vote for a party whose representatives call for the scrapping of laws that seek to transform society and transform their lives for the better.

We have seen, and are aware of, this cappuccinoism that is replacing true and genuine transformation, where one or two black faces are put forward as faces at the top of organisations and corporates, with the rest of the decision making apparatus remaining white within those organisations and corporates, and I and those who think like me reject it. Also, I and those who think like me reject gradualism and the politics of patience. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Mayibuye!!!!!!

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent the views of any other organisation or group of persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi

Of Race, Blame, and Entitlement

You’re damn right I’m writing about the race issue again!

Interesting to note that what started the whole race furore just after new year (lets say that’s when it started) is a woman who got frustrated when she saw a large number of black people on one of South Africa’s beaches. Ironic, considering the historical context and the arrival of Dutch settlers in the Cape in 1652. Really? Did she really want to take us back to the ocean? That beautiful and majestic entity of nature that gave fluidity to the enslavement of the African people, for it is the ocean from whence our oppressors came. Whose ocean is it, anyway?

What is it about the colour of a man’s skin? What is it about the colour of a man’s skin that determines intelligence, leadership, capability, ability, wealth, prosperity, power? What is it about melanin that condemns an entire people to subjugation, poverty, enslavement, and oppression? Is it colour, or is it race, that brings about this superiority/inferiority complex, and the hate that accompanies it? It seems that the human race is fighting itself. The human race is at war with itself, with more questions than answers. To me, the past is a good place to start (although some would rather have us ‘get over’ the past) in an attempt by the human race to answer these questions, especially in the context of contemporary South Africa.

The race problem in South Africa requires of us, individually, as groups, and collectively, to be honest first and foremost. Unfortunately, South Africa’s identity is intrinsically linked to racism, white power and white supremacy, and black suffering. The only way to deal with racism, especially as a microcosm of, and tool for, colonialism and slavery, is to confront it in an honest way without any mischief or propaganda. What we know as universal and undisputable fact is this: it is white people who came from Europe and enslaved Africans in general, and black people in particular; it is white people who, upon setting up and legitimising minority ruled governments in Africa, excluded the native Africans politically, socially, economically, academically, legally, and geographically using violence. It is these minority ruled illegitimate white governments that violently dispossessed the African people of their land; it is white leaders in South Africa that, upon revolt and struggle by the black masses, imposed martial law, detained without trial, and murdered the black masses. In all of this, the black man and woman had one sin and one sin only: being black. These wrongs and unprovoked, unjustified crimes against black humanity must be acknowledged and recorded.

Fast forward to the early 1990’s and the release of some political prisoners, whose face was Nelson Mandela. The early 1990’s was an era that saw the struggle for liberation in South Africa come to a crossroads: Do we fight on for total emancipation, or do we negotiate and come to a compromise. Prominent leaders of the time, most notably Nelson Mandela, chose the latter, and a social pact between black South Africa and white South Africa was entered into. In a nutshell, the social pact entailed power sharing at national government level (GNU) for a stated period of time. The black government promised that minority rights would be protected, that black people would not retaliate or seek revenge for the crimes against their humanity, that white people’s jobs in government were protected and there would be no termination of any white person’s employment, etcetera. White people promised to commit to redistribution and transformation, since the economy and the land remained in their hands in a democratic “rainbow nation”, and a transfer of skills that black people were deliberately prohibited from acquiring.

Black people, and the government they voted for, stuck to their part of the pact and kept their promises. In fact, Nelson Mandela went out of his way on many occasions to “allay white fears”. White people, on the other hand, have not kept their end of the bargain. The land is still firmly in their hands, so is the economy. The private sector workplace is untransformed. To make matters worse, they (white people) have developed a mentality and rhetoric that clearly shows that they are not at all committed to any transformation. We see that everyday in arguments such as “BEE, employment equity, and affirmative action are all just reverse racism”. It baffles me how redress and transformation are now reverse racism, yet it was mutually agreed that our history necessitates transformation. Transformation must and will be effected along racial lines, precisely because the injustices we are attempting to redress were along racial lines. This necessitates, therefore, that the class, social, and economic mobility of the previously oppressed people be prioritised, just as the mobility and prosperity of white people was a non negotiable priority for centuries under white rule, at the expense of the black natives. Under white rule, the labour of the many (blacks) was used to build for the few (whites). Now, the labour of all is used to build for the previously oppressed majority without oppressing the minority, towards an equal and just society. That is the idea. What is so wrong about that?

Now what of entitlement? Hell yes black people are entitled to a few (lets say a few) things! We are entitled to get our land back. I think we have forgotten that the bone of contention between the oppressive governments and liberation movements was the land. There is an undeniable, but denied, nexus between land and liberty. We are entitled to transformation and redress. Not only because it was agreed upon, but also because it is a moral necessity and a requirement for a just and equal society. And yes, we are entitled to state assistance where the state can assist and where it makes sense to do so. When the apartheid state was assisting white people, it was called nation building, or building a country. When black people are being assisted by a democratic government, it is called “fostering a culture of entitlement”. Double standards if ever I have heard of any.

It needs to be instilled in the minds of all those who are previously oppressed that freedom from colonialism is decolonisation, period. Anything short of decolonisation is piecemeal freedom that really does nothing but pacify the previously oppressed. Urgency must be attached to the decolonisation of our spaces, institutions, and learning. And we cannot be told by our former oppressors how to embark on the decolonial project.

My name is Linda Sidumo, and I am entitled to my freedom.

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent the views of any other organisation or group of persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi

Sparrows and Fallists: Lessons of the New Year

A rapper once said “this shit is for the birds, and the birds fly South”. I do not know what this statement means, I do not know why I am even mentioning it, but somehow it sounded relevant to South Africa and the events of the early days of 2016. One thing is for sure, in reference to both the rapper’s statement and the events of early 2016 in South Africa, if birds were racist, then South Africa is the South they should be flying to, for there is no country where racism thrives in Africa than in the country that lies in the southern-most tip of Africa. Our very own beloved South Africa.

Racism has been rearing its ugly head in this country for almost four hundred years now, with black people being on the receiving end in that entire period. And contrary to popular (or hopeful) belief, racism was not defeated in 1994, and neither was Apartheid. Yes Apartheid is not “legal” anymore, but its devastating legacy lives on in South Africa, with the black majority suffering the most as a direct consequence of that legacy. Segregation in South Africa gave rise to structural discrimination and prejudices and material disadvantages for the black majority. And as if that was not enough, degrading names and terms were given to the black majority by the white minority: kaffirs, monkeys, baboons, savages, barbarians, the list is endless. This was not a mistake, it is part of a genius and deliberate plan that sought to ensure that inferiority in terms of race and material conditions is a solid black identity surpassing all other alternative African identities. Racism in South Africa is a centuries long indoctrination. For centuries, white people have been indoctrinated to hate blacks, and black people have been indoctrinated to hate themselves. The difference in material conditions of whites and blacks gives rise to white arrogance, which is a contributing factor in the race complex we have in this country. That is why we have the Sparrows of this world who have the arrogance to go on social and public platforms and call an entire indigenous and majority group of people monkeys. That is why we have the Harts who have the arrogance to say black people hate white people. Uhm, excuse me, but were we not the ones who were quick to forgive crimes that were never acknowledged in the first place? Maybe my logic is too simple, but mine tells me that if we hated whites there would be no rainbow nation. It would not exist even as the myth that it is. This arrogance is why a white news anchor consciously or sub consciously expected a black minister to pronounce an English word perfectly; the EPITOME of white supremacist thinking.

Enter the fallists. In my own humble definition, fallism is the idea that any injustice, whether it be of a social, political, economic, or other nature, and any person or persons participating and/or perpetuating such injustice, must fall and cease to exist. In my view, fallists are heroes. They do not tolerate injustice. They would rather have nothing than have anything built on injustice. And fallists are everywhere: in the branches of different political parties, on the streets, in government, in the private sector, in civil society, on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, everywhere. In fact, fallism cuts across political organisational boundaries. When the agenda is fallist, people unite. Penny Sparrow, Gareth Cliff, Andrew Barnes, and Chris Hart, to mention but a few, have proven not to be immune to fallist wrath. Their fall may not necessarily signal the fall of all racism, but it does signal the intolerance of South Africans to racism. We have had more than enough. Enough was enough a hundred years ago. Racism, and its lieutenants, must and will fall. Now those who dislike fallists will say “but you always want things to fall, you never build”. Well, by calling for the fall of racism and racists, they are actually building a non racial nation. They are building human dignity for black people; human dignity that was stolen together with the land.

Black people are starting to realise that, although they are poor, their numbers are power. You see that when they rally behind a cause for the fall of injustices. That power must be centralised and leveraged for the total emancipation of black people here and in the whole of Africa. It must be leveraged to support ideas such as #BuyBlack towards the realisation of  what I call the black economy, because it is my view that the only way to change the material conditions of black people, and hence rid society of structural racism and white arrogance, is for black people themselves to be active participants in their own wealth creation and class mobility. No one will do it for us. We cannot complain of white monopoly capital, and in the same breath buy everything we want to buy from the same white monopoly capital. It is good for racism to fall, but if the black faced poverty of our country does not fall together with racism, racial arrogance will always be a problem in our country (and in our beaches!).

One thing can never be denied: black people are tired of being the scum of the world. They are tired of being the wretched of the earth. Our humanity has been trampled on for far too long, it is time we get it back, and if things must fall for us to achieve that, then they will fall.

My name is Linda Sidumo and I, in the midst of all that is happening, call on South Africans to #BuyBlack and help change the material conditions of black people in our country. If we do not, our own fall is inevitable.

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the Transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent those of any other organisation or group of persons.

Pseudo-Transformation in the Road Transport and Logistics Industry: A Young Professional’s Perspective

Since its deregulation in the 1980’s, road transport has become the most popular mode of commercial transport in South Africa, surpassing its land transport counterpart, rail transport, by a huge margin. Commercial road transport is an industry that rakes in billions of Rands in profit annually. And that makes sense, considering that it is an industry that is seen as the heartbeat of economic activity, for without transport economic activity comes to a screeching halt (pun intended). The industry is, therefore, critical to the realization of economic growth not only in South Africa but the region and indeed the continent as a whole. All this paints a rather heroic, almost patriotic image of the industry; the industry that drives economic activity towards the realization of economic growth. Sounds heroic doesn’t it? It would be heroic, if it were not for the fact that this industry is one of those whose management is white in complexion and hard labour black in complexion, an industry which refuses to transform.

The Employment Equity Act no. 55 of 1998 requires of all employers to draw up employment equity plans within their respective organisations. The aim of this is to ensure that corporates and entities in South Africa comply with employment equity and embrace transformation. To comply with the act is one thing, to embrace transformation is another, and the latter seems to be the hardest to do and affects the effectiveness of the former. The latter has to do with mental attitudes, mental attitudes towards transformation, and that is the biggest challenge facing this, and many other industries in South Africa with respect to transformation. When one hears (white) decision makers argue that transformation and affirmative action is just reverse racism, we know we still have a long way to go.

A question that I want to ask is this: Is there transformation in the road freight logistics industry? I will answer myself. In my humble but professional and educated opinion, no there is not. But before I elaborate, let me briefly educate some on transformation. When I, and many others, speak of transformation, we are not talking about merely “giving” jobs to black people or giving them board membership status undeservedly just because they are black. Transformation is about creating equal opportunities. It is concerned with an ideal socio economic and professional space in which a black person and a white person have equal chances of prospering and have equal social and economic mobility. This is not the case in this particular industry, even with the numerous transformatory legislative frameworks that exist in South Africa.

The road transport industry is one in which white males dominate to a very large extent, they occupy more than 85% of management, senior management, and executive management positions. It is worth noting that, according to Census 2011, whites (male and female) make up 8.9% of the population. White males are even less, yet they dominate an entire industry. The industry is neither race nor gender transformed. And, as a knowledgeable citizen of South Africa, I am quite certain that this narrative extends across industries in our beloved country.

Black people, on the other hand, are the proverbial drawers of water and hewers of wood for the white masters of the industry. In this industry, you will find black people concentrated in the low level jobs; cleaners, drivers, pickers, general workers, depot supervision (a very tiring, low paying, and shift prone job, as fancy as it sounds!), and 2 or 3 depot (junior) managers. This is not, as some like to argue, due to the shortage of qualified and educated black professionals in this industry. South African universities are producing qualified transport and logistics graduates and professionals in large numbers. This situation is due to the fact that, as one African American comedian put it, in the workplace “black people have to fly to get to where white people walk to”. This is a situation that must change sooner rather than later.

Another problem evident in this industry in inequality, which in South Africa is racially structured. To illustrate this point, drivers work very awkward shifts, being away from their families at night for hours on end, compromising their families, compromising their safety, to co create wealth they never even get to see. And for this they get paid a pittance. It is a struggle for them to even get a living wage, let alone a raise. And, as you might have guessed, when things go wrong they are the first to be fired. Their livelihoods, as small as they are, are constantly at risk of being ended anytime. They are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of wealth creation, as are many black people at the altar of reconciliation and the rainbow nation project.

A crucial question arises: What of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act? Although most, if not all companies, in this industry have programmes and initiatives in place to “address” transformation, I feel that these are not genuine at best and are not implemented at worst. Hence my heading mentions pseudo transformation. The mental attitudes that are the sine qua non to embark on and realize true and genuine transformation are lacking in this industry. What exists is pseudo transformation designed to pacify those who agitate for true transformation. This situation, it must fall.

By writing this, I am conscious of the fact that I am sabotaging my own chances of ever being employed in this industry. But my conscience does not allow me to keep quiet. I must say something, with the hope that my words will lead to some form of focused action towards transforming this industry.

Linda Sidumo is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate majoring in Logistics (UNISA), an Honours student at University of Johannesburg, and an employee in the Transport and Logistics industry. Views expressed are strictly his own and are not in any way those of any organization or other persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi.

South Africa: The Desired Socio-economic Paradigm

It is no secret that the South African economy is in the hands of a minority population group, white people. Prosperity, therefore, in its economic sense is white in complexion. I have said it before and i will say it again that it is an injustice not only to black people but to the nation as a whole for a majority population group to continue to be structurally and systematically marginalised economically. We all make a lot of noise about transformation, something I am passionate about, but progress in this regard is unacceptably slow. A key social indicator that transformation has taken place is the elimination of systematic poverty. In the case of South Africa, we also need to eliminate the racial structure of such systematic poverty. This will lead to reduced inequality, both in the class and race paradigms of such inequality. So what do we need to focus on to make sure that all this happens? The answer lies in what I believe are the cornerstones of structural racism: Capital, the market place, and the workplace, with capital being the overarching and over-powering of the three.

Capital

Capital is a super power in South Africa. Its power is rooted in its ownership of the means of production and economic resources. It should be noted that capital in South Africa is a monopoly in the hands of a white minority. This means that white capitalists have structural power over South Africa and its economy, and consequently society.This gives rise to the structural racism that the majority of black people in South Africa, who are a majority population group themselves, most often experience. It is my belief that capital is so powerful that organised capital, which is usually the formation that capital takes – organised, has a louder voice in infuencing the state than any other group or formation. The threats of disinvestment which leads to a collapse of the economy are enough to scare off any leftist or socialist policies which would be attempting to make their way up and position themselves in the state. Capital does not need political power, nor does it need to be in government, to remain powerful. It only needs what it already has: structural power and ownership of means of production. But it does need the labour of the working class to remain productive. Therein lies the power of the working class in forcing capital to make some concessions and relieving the stranglehold capital has over society. It is often the position of many capitalists and those who think along neo-liberal lines that it is capitalists that create wealth, and it is them alone. I disagree with that view, because in my view it is not only them who create the wealth. Labour, with their effort, energy, and physical work, co create wealth together with capital through the employment relationship within the framework of the laws of the land. The working class are the proverbial drawers of water and heuwers of wood for industry in South Africa. They are the worker bees who work for the hive but never get to taste the honey. One would ask, then, having this paradigm, why capital still has so much power over basically everything, yet they are only co creators of wealth? the answer is hunger and poverty. One should never underestimate the power of poverty in rendering people submissive. South Africa, therefore, to correct this situation, needs to create a black capitalist class so that capital becomes representative of the diverse make up of the South African population. Although this will not eliminate class inequality, it will go a long way in eliminating racial inequality. Also, black South Africans themselves need to create entrepreneurs of themselves. It is not ideal for black South Africans to expect entrepreneurship to be thrust upon them, they need to actively seek out entrepreneurial opportunities, with the state actively assisting them in this regard. This does not come without a certain bias. The bias is necessary in order to transform South African society. To wait for capital to decide to transform would be like waiting for a lion to one day decide it will not eat a buffalo because it is wrong to do so. The scenario is highly unlikely. Government must focus efforts at ensuring that the business environment is such that wealth is maximised, and in the same space ensure that transformation is not a choice but a mandate for those who want to maximise wealth. Policies must be explored where these two go hand in hand: wealth creation and transformation.

The Market Place

The South African market place is dual in nature and neo liberal in outlook. Dual because there are two sectors within the same market: the formal and informal markets. Neo liberal because ours is largely a free market where market forces are “free” to interact with very little regulation. It has always been my view that to jump from colonialism and apartheid straight to liberalism does nothing for the previously oppressed. In fact, it entrenches the ills of past discriminatory regimes. The children of the oppressors have more to gain in a liberal setting than the children of the oppressed, especially in the unique context of South Africa. It must be highlighted that, again, the two markets are racially structured, with the formal markets where the real wealth is created dominated by whites, and the informal markets where no real wealth is created being dominated by blacks. Government has introduced measures and transformatory legislative frameworks, such as BEE and preferential procurement, in an attempt to tilt the South African market place in favour of previously disadvantaged people and groups, but this has had very little effect, with most of the private sector refusing to adopt real and ambitious transformation plans, especially in their procurement and employment strategies. It becomes clear that capital, through control of market forces, is unwilling to transform. There is very little empowerment of SMME’s and black suppliers in the private sector.

The Workplace

Government is still the biggest employer of black people in South Africa. In the private sector, the rate of absorption of black people is still considerably lower than is the case with their white counterparts, in all education levels. Particularly in the labour intensive industries, 90% of all management and decision making roles are occupied by white people, with the low level, hard labour jobs being occupied by black people. This paints a very depressing picture of the South African workplace. The South African workplace is a classic example where, in the words of one famous American comedian, “Black people have to fly in order to get to where white people walk to…” Government has again tried to intervene by introducing employment equity and affirmative action. But these are merely words without the will and action by private sector. The private sector is expected to draw up EE plans, usually over a three year or five year period. Most private sector companies do have these plans on paper in their files, but more often than not these are just for the purposes of compliance. They are unambitious at best and non existent at worst. It must be understood by all that it is all good and well for Government to lead initiatives in an attempt to transform South African society, but without capital, the market, and business’ input and effort there can be no transformation. Government alone cannot transform anything. The workplace presents a key opportunity for real transformation, where black men and women raised by working class parents can become the emerging middle class, who will in turn raise the black upper income and capitalist class. But only if the private sector comes to the party. Universities have a role to play in transforming the South African workplace. The current situation where students are merely being taught (besides their curriculum) how to fit into a workplace dominated by western constructs must be interrogated. But to properly interrogate that we must first interrogate the structural and institutional make up and character of South African universities, particularly the premier universities such as Wits and UCT. Students should rather be taught to stand out than to fit in. It must be understood by universities, for example, that etiquette does not transcend cultural backgounds. To look at an elder in the eye is a sign of honesty in white culture, but is a sign of disrespect in African culture. An African student cannot, therefore, be expected to look at interview panel members in the eye during interviews, because that is not the etiquette the student grew up with. It should rather be a choice than an imposed societal expectation.

The Desired Paradigm?

An ideal society would be one where all people of all population groups not only share equally in the wealth of the nation, but also share equally in poverty as well. If there is wealth and economic prosperity, let all, black and white, colored and Indian, share in that wealth and economic prosperity equally. If there is poverty, let all, black and white, colored and Indian, share in that poverty equally. Poverty cannot be for one race, and economic prosperity for another. As for class inequalities, I believe that in the South African situation class inequalities cannot be adressed without first, or simultaneously, adressing racial inequalities.

The struggle continues.

Linda Sidumo is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate majoring in Logistics (UNISA), an Honours student at University of Johannesburg, and an employee in the Transport and Logistics industry. Views expressed are strictly his own. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi.