Offside - Independent Writer at Africanism Magazine
Cowards get strength from fellow cowards and Africa appears to have given birth to cowards. They prefer to destroy than building. Building is not for cowards but is for the brave. A continent is built from blood and sweat of its youth; but this does not apply to paper tigers. The cowards have called for the statue of Rhodes and other white educators and leaders to fall. Not in any way the writer is advocating that the statues should have remained, but if they wanted them to fall, then the question is what were they replacing them with or if it was necessary to replace them at all? When they statues were falling, if South Africa had young blood tigers, they would have built something to replace them. Their argument was that the statues reflect the past, apartheid, white supremacy etc. What they conveniently forget is to come up with the replacement symbols that will reflect the current and future that they wish for, black power. They would have worked and proposed a symbol to reflect the current and the future. Now they have nothingness. There are many African academics and scholars they could have been proposed to replace or erected side by side with the apartheid statues. The statues are symbolic value and students cannot claim that they don’t have value. If they didn’t have value then why destroy them.
The 2015 fees must fall movement in tertiary institutions in South Africa reflected the entitlement mentality. They just wanted to receive and receive. They were not mentioning (loudly for that matter) the unwillingness to repay from students that were financed and benefited from institutions like NEFSAS (or similar programs). There are droves of students that benefited from government study loans and they are currently working. In a normal society, the beneficiary should pay back the money to boost the coffers to support the falling fees. There is no question that education should be affordable. There is no doubt that the less privileged should have affordable education. But the education cost will be easily affordable if all stakeholders play their parts. The failure of the education institutions and government were clearly highlighted during the protests. The missing critical leg of students paying back the study loans received was glaring. It is obvious that government lacks monitoring and collection methods. If there was commitment to South Africa from the beneficiaries of study assistance, the monitoring and collection methods did not have to be perfect. Reasonable citizen will realise that s/he was assistance and find it in her/himself to pay back the loans so that they can assist other learners. Unfortunately, Africans lost the spirit of Ubuntu. Africans are naturally considerate but the invasion has changed that culture to the culture of selfishness.
While South African learning environment was recovering for the shocks of fees must fall, then the cowards wanted Afrikaans to fall. Instead of fighting for their African languages to be added as a medium of instruction, the cowards want to destroy what was built by someone else. The previous protests were somehow justifiable but the “Afrikaans must fall” lacked logic. It was just lazy, ill-informed individuals trying by all means to avoid studying. Instead of finding a way to introduce other African languages or one of their choices as the third medium of instruction, they wanted to destroy the existing. The excuse is that Africans have too many languages, and the question would be which one to choose. Who said South Africa cannot introduce all languages as medium of instruction? This is the indication of limited imagination from young South Africans. The other contributing factor is that they are not proud enough to push their own languages while they envy Afrikaners that managed to build their own. How was stopping Afrikaans from being medium of instruction would have helped them. Or how is it affecting their academic progress. The argument is that Afrikaners are doing well academically because they are using their mother tongue. Maybe the English must write in Afrikaans and Afrikaners must write in English to avoid language advantage. It is not like blacks were being lectured in Afrikaans. The argument that if they don’t have their own language as medium of exchange why Afrikaners should have their own is sound. But if the Pretoria and Free State Universities requested to add one more language, the protesters wouldn’t have known how to respond.
In its simplest form, the idea is to get the youth to focus on building than destroying. They need to understand that they have responsibilities towards building a country to what they want it to be. They clearly have the energy which appears to be misdirected. Protests by youth are necessary, however at times they should not focus on self-interest but the interest of the country. They should always provide alternatives and propose solutions that include a pledge to contribute/give back something for every concession they receive. They must keep in mind that their actions will have long-term impact on their future. Their actions today will determine their future.
Sometimes political and racial rivalries will lead wasteful destruction and devious efforts to undermine the development of South Africa. Everyone will agree that significant co-ordinated efforts between black and white is still far off. But counter proposal from Africans is required for every change that they need to make. They shouldn’t destroy for the sake of destroying. The challenge is that foreigners are not willing to extent hands in peace and give back what was stolen. First on the table, as every politician will tell you, it will be the transfer of land.
Because South Africa has experienced a glut of horrendous protests, it is true that following the protests, South African leadership will start paying more attention to youth in tertiary institutions. Ultimately, is the responsibility of leadership to give attention the youth, engage them to understand their challenges and what they are willing to sacrifice to get what they want? Regular engagement will results in cleaner changes and attract interest from youth to change from destroyers to builders. Destroying the existing infrastructure will only take South Africa backwards.
It is now unclear after the protest on what the next step would be. There are theories that they are being used by foreigners to destabilise the country, have they achieved what they wanted. To cover up the real challenge Africa is facing, extreme poverty. The theory is that foreigner are initiating and funding these protest as a distraction the country from the real issues. They make Africans to continuously put out fires and not focus on economic development. Irrespective of the resolution, no significant follow-up will happen. Government would add a little more grants into student funding and the country to continue accumulating foreign debt.
The community service delivery protest and fees must fall protests could have been game changers if they were followed up by action from students. Once the government settled protests, they should get pledges from Protestants on what they commit to do in exchange of what they are getting. Otherwise these protests just become a spread of poison which could wide spread and lethal to the development of South Africa.
Even thou the economic and education transformation process seemed to be getting somewhere for the past 20 years, black and white rarely paraded common ground. There was never a vision for a cooperative future after the sunset clauses were agreed on. It is not possible that South Africa could have had a common cooperative vision because the transitional negotiations were concluded on the terms of foreigners and not South Africans. The compromises were pro foreigners; hence 20 years later, the peace resolutions are coming undone.
Ideally, foreigners with billions of rands in African resources should have sat down together with the legitimate owners and plot joint ventures to ensure that at least half of the stolen wealth is returned to rightful owners. Instead, they decided to be greedy and hold on to their stolen wealth. This meant South African peace transaction was factitious peace. Credit to the foreigners, they outsmarted Africans and found a way to hold on to their stolen goods for a little bit much longer. The outcome of the negotiation resulted in increased poverty amongst Africans and soaring welfare spending to pamper over the cracks of the negotiations. However, African negotiators had to compromise to get peaceful resolution. If was left for the newcomers to push for more concessions, but instead they were chasing unsustainable tenders and nice time. Instead of focusing on taking the economic struggle forward and focus on building sustainable businesses, most of youth focused on their entitlement mentality. They even fail to deliver quality service on those tenders. Poor service is one of the factors that are causing decay and proves that most Africans are intellectual and culturally destroyed. Most of white people give their comrades a tender/contract; the comrade will make sure he/she delivers.
Political leaders’ settlement during the political transition had limited benefits to Africa as reflected in frustration from students and communities. The country’s leadership is failing to address inequality and service delivery to ordinary people.