'We need to break free of stranglehold of white revolutionaries'

AS the country celebrated Nelson Mandela's majestic walk to freedom, Balfour in Mpumalanga was in flames - two events that are qualitatively different yet speak eloquently to the contradictions of our democracy.

AS the country celebrated Nelson Mandela's majestic walk to freedom, Balfour in Mpumalanga was in flames - two events that are qualitatively different yet speak eloquently to the contradictions of our democracy.

It's time to ask the question: why is South Africa's freedom not delivering?

Blacks remain landless, underfed, houseless, under-employed, badly represented in senior managerial positions. The state of healthcare and education for black people remains as it was, if not worse than, under apartheid.

Only a few politically connected have made it big in post-apartheid South Africa.

Basically we have a black government that has legitimised ill-gained wealth by the white section of the population. Our politicians are mere celebrities throwing cake at each as they shower in expensive champagne while the voting masses starve.

The fights within the ruling party and opposition parties are about who should be allowed to accumulate some wealth for themselves and "enter the league of the eating through the tender".

There is no serious transformation agenda to speak of. Our politicians are not different from the overpaid Bantustan leaders.

As one young person told me the other day: "Mandela's dream is our nightmare." After all, we are the most unequal society on earth right now.

A lot of smart people have tried to explain the strange nature of our freedom by using big words such as neo-liberalism and globalisation.

These explanations suggest that we could not enjoy full freedom because the economic structure of South Africa was linked to the global economy in ways that prevented any serious transformation.

Then others say we must be patient because "Rome was not built in a day".

In searching for answers we might want to look at the role played by white revolutionaries in our struggle. For too long we have celebrated their sacrifices but not lamented what they cost us.

This group was very small yet very powerful. We must now ask whether the framing of our liberation struggle's end result was not too influenced by white revolutionaries?

For instance, it's hard to understand why any black person would at the height of apartheid say as in the Freedom Charter that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white".

It also bizarrely says "black and white together as equals". In 1955 there was not a symbolic equality for black. Whites had usurped power, land and mineral rights to create the wealth they enjoy today. So how could an oppressed and dispossessed people give away its birthright like that?

The answer seems to lie in the concerns and anxieties of white revolutionaries who were permitted to write the desires of freedom of black people. This explains why at the height of the struggle, black people wanted, "one person, one vote", not land and freedom.

The emphasis was not placed on the return of the land and justice for past transgressions, but rather on replacing the apartheid government. The irony of it all is that the post-1994 social movements that struggle for land, water, housing and electricity are also under the spell of a new generation of small and yet powerful white activists.

To move from the post-apartheid log jam there is a need to break free of the stranglehold of white revolutionaries of the past and present.

l The writer is publisher of the New Frank Talk.

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