Tag Archive: Nkosi Gola


My lovely wife Val was of course the hostess for Friday's dinner and deep dive into Race, Boundary and Location conversation that i wrote about over here, and she shares some of her thoughts from the evening:

booklaunchvovotelohotwoman
The idea is simple: gather good people around good food and good discussion and see what happens. So we did. We turned off technology and tuned in to people. It was messy and it was chaotic, it was painful and it was personal and it was powerful. It was raw and it was redemptive. Some of us ate spaghetti with a spoon cos we ran out of cutlery. We sat on the floor and on stools and really close to each other – three people thigh to thigh on a chair made for two. We talked and told stories, argued and challenged, wrestled and sat in silence – the good kind and the uncomfortable kind. We left with heads and hearts aching, but full.

Here’s some of what I learnt:

1. White privilege is less about access to “stuff” and more about access to choices or, in Sen’s theorizing, capabilities – the real opportunities of being and doing available to attain well-being. Here’s an example: consider a priest who is fasting and a man in a famine-stricken country who is starving. The key element in determining a person’s well-being here is not whether both are experiencing hunger, but whether the person has access to food and is choosing not to eat. The functioning is starving but the capability to obtain an adequate amount of food is the key element in evaluating well-being between these two individuals. Having a lifestyle is not the same as choosing it; well-being depends on how that lifestyle came to be.

Here’s another example. Consider a bike as a commodity which enables the functioning of mobility. Personal, social and environmental conversion factors impact an individual’s ability to convert the commodity (the bike) into functioning (getting from A to B).  If a person is physically disabled, never learnt to ride a bike, if women are not allowed to ride bikes, or if there are no roads, then a person’s capacity to convert the potential of the bike into movement is limited. It’s not enough to give someone a bike if they don’t have the ability, the capacity, the enabling conditions to ride it in a way that moves them forward (or if they don’t have access to a pump, if they cannot take the bike out without being physically threatened by a mugging, etc)

2. In a post-industrial/post-agricultural world, we believe that we too are living in the Information Age, where the primary means of production is Knowledge and the accumulation of knowledge (i.e. education) is the means by which individuals access livelihood, opportunity, resource, jobs etc. I simply don’t believe this is true in South Africa. I wonder if perhaps we are actually in the Age of Connection. Knowledge might be power, but it’s less about what you know and more about who you know. The primary means of production might be Social Capital – the contacts and connections which enable us to network, navigate and negotiate the economic landscape. Perhaps education is the capability, but the functioning is all about social capital – it’s the people we know, the professional contacts, the personal networks that enable us to actualize opportunity. White privilege is at its core all about social capital.

3. While I can sympathize with the pain and anger of black friends, I don’t think I can actually empathize. I can show compassion for, seek to understand, commiserate with, experience anger on behalf of but I can never really experience “from within another’s frame of reference”. As one of our guests so rightly pointed out “We do not and cannot experience EQUAL frustration. You had a choice.”

4. I need to shut up more. Perhaps one of our greatest failings as white people in South Africa is our inability to sit in silence. When we listen to the voices of our black brothers/sisters expressing pain, anger, frustration, or simply sharing their experience, we want to immediately question, clarify, push-back, argue, dissect, debate, wrestle, show the other side, point out the discrepancies or inconsistencies, locate within the “larger picture”, propose solutions, and find “action steps”. We don’t know how to sit – just SIT – with a rage that fills a room, sucks all the air from it, and leaves our friends shaking. We have ears but do not hear, and eyes but do not see.

5. Reconciliation is not the path towards Justice but rather Justice is the path towards Reconciliation. Until and unless Justice has been enacted we can not experience right relationship. (Thanks, Nkosi!)

[To read more reflections from the other guests, click here]

[For more from tbV, like this piece explaining her tattoo, click here]
My friend Nkosi has written for me a number of times on this blog and so it was a great privilege to have him around for a special meal on Friday night with some friends, that i wrote about over here, and i asked him to share some of his impressions from the evening: 

nkosi

Conversation is an integral part of transformation. It was for this reason that I went to Brett's house together with Monde Nonabe. It was a very short notice that I invited Monde to come with me and I was so happy and glad that he responded to my short notice invite. I was glad because I respect Monde's heart and passion for change in the black people's situation. I have only known Monde not for a very long time but one thing I knew is his heart for the Lord and his heart for transformation in the lives of the majority of this country. 

During the story telling, I was moved by Monde's story of course because mostly I could identify with his story. Our conversation with Monde began on our way to Wynberg which I was already learning a lot from his knowledge about our fallen heroes in Biko and Prof Sobukhwe. Monde has a speacial ability of linking today's problems with yesterdays happenings and hopes (should haves). 

When I listened to stories from the white brothers and sisters who were there I must say that I came to realisation that they themselves are victims to a system that even though they may not necessarily love but they are beneficiaries of. I listened to one white brother with teary eyes who said that he is aware of his white previlege yet he doesn't know what to do with it. Even though I myself was moved by that sincere heart but I knew that I can't lie about the fact that there is nothing much this brother could necessarily do except to join hands with blacks in dismantling and destroying the white power structure which is the cause of every pain in South Afrika and Afrika in general. 

I was moved about the story of Jan who has been living at a black township Kayamandi in Stellenbosch for many years. He is the only white in that area. As moving this story is but it had to be made clear that for him it was a choice that he went to live and stay in Khayamnandi unlike the blacks living in that area. 

I was also moved by the story of a brother from England who moved in to Mannenberg which is one of the hardcore areas in the Cape flats. I was moved that this brother was making moves and courageous, intentional actions that were to bring about change in Mannenberg. This brother told us a story about privilege on how he managed to raise up funds from contacting few friends in a short space of time for him to be able to own a house in Manenberg. It went more touching when he told a story about how was he a victim of robbery and his house being broke into and still he had a choice to either stay in Mannenberg or to live in a white surburb. This still proves that privilege gives one choice which the black majority of this country don't have. 

Conversation that was in Bretts house was so transforming. I think it was a safe space for such a conversation rather than the social networks. It was in that conversation that I was able to look into peoples' eyes and allow them to be broken and hopeless and hopeful with all the roller coast of emotions. I think these kind of conversations can be more progressive if they could be happening all around the country. These conversations could be more progressive if they could be taking place in the workplace. I do think that conversation like prophecy did to Israel in bring about God's view to the people, conversation puts the different world views into one. The Western Worldview which is most likely to be found amongst the whites and the Afrikan worldview which could possibly be found amongst blacks. 

I must thank tbV for her delicious spaghetti and mince and I would also like to thank Brett and tbV for opening their house for such hard and uncomfortable talk.

[For another post by Nkosi where he speaks about first steps for South Africa, click here]

During our weekend at Robben Island, there were many moments or phrases that stood out in terms of being quick “Aha!” flashes of inspiration and here are some of the ones i captured:

“Man’s potential for justice makes democracy possibly

Man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

[Njongonkulu Ndungane]

justice

# “The Church is so silent these days. The voice of the church is very important. The voice of the youth is very important. God’s word of justice must be heard – Scripture is full of this.” [Njongonkulu Ndungane]

cross

# Luke 9.23 reminds us that we need to take up our cross daily.

# Don’t die for your cross

# Identify it

# Then pray for grace to carry it 

[John Rollins]

# Prayer is standing naked before God. [Henri Nouwen]

# A reminder of the assurance that the God who calls is the God who equips.

3 Issues with Church: # Lack of Leadership # Lost Voice # Forgotten Role

On the topic of White Privilege which i’ve been writing so much about:

[1] A reminder to view my privilege as an opportunity to share privilege. Sometimes being a person of privilege means that certain people will listen to your voice and give it credibility whereas other voices they might more easily ignore. That is one area where i need to be aware of my privilege so that i can use it well.

[2] A story one of the guy’s on the weekend told me about having to take public transport to get to the Waterfront to be able to go to Robben Island with us. How he had to budget an extra hour for this which was fine but annoying. And then the realisation he had that most people in this country [especially the poor and marginalised] have to rely on public transport. Another aspect of the privilege i find myself with is the ability to jump into my car to go somewhere i want to. Most people can’t [which is very different from “most people i know can” and so it doesn’t feel like a real thing]

Possibly the most profound statement to me from that weekend, came from my new friend, Nkosi, who reminded me, as a black man, that, “It was not only the blacks that lost at that time [apartheid], we all lost.” Which is probably a whole other post in itself.

Any of these one liners or reflections stand out for you particularly or give you something to reflect on?

Let us know in the comment section…

[For the last part with some reflections on some highlights of my Robben Island time, click here]

Hector-Pieterson1

 

[Possibly as good a time as any to remind readers that while i don’t necessarily agree with all the points made in every post that is published on my blog, i do believe that the conversation and engagement with pieces like this is absolutely invaluable and i think it is so helpful to know and understand why people around us are thinking what they are. If you agree or disagree with anything in this post, jump into the comments section and let’s engage, but play nice]

PW Botha once said: “the black man is only as good as singing and digging”. There is one thing that PW Botha never understood and that is the songs sung are not just songs they are an expression of the heart. The anger of the black people were carried in songs, therefore when PW Botha spoke about singing what he was talking about was the emotions of the blacks expressed in singing. It’s sad that he pointed out two contradicting actions, one was externally motivated (slavery) that is digging and the other was internally exasperated by the emotions (anger from hatred of slavery). This makes music a very powerful tool of expression. I was amazed when I heard that amazing grace was written by John Newton and the melody of the song is a black slave kind of melody and rhythm. This song was written as a conviction that slavery was wrong! What is more interesting about this song “amazing grace” is that the writer even uses the slavery rhythmic sound.

We need to understand that songs were a motivation, they were sung with a meaning, they were sung with a mission and they were sung with goals. There is a song that got Malema into hot ashes (Dubula ibhulu) that song was a motivation at the time. It was a response to a monstrous system that was tutoring the black child at the time.  I do think and believe that “Dubula ibhulu” must be part of our history the rich history of South Afrika. I think this song as it was composed at the time it played a very vital role in encouraging those who were involved in the armed struggle. It should be part of the education of children today such that they would know then strength behind the things that they take for granted. Let me just try to expose the relevance of this song during the time:

1) In this time the people who were involved in the armed struggle went to fighting without being well resourced in-terms of weapons. The price was high and there were more chances of dying and being arrested. Because there were many who used Pangas, stones and petrol bombs as compared to those who were carrying guns there had to be a kind of motivation.  Now the motivation either came from the cause itself of-which I do think that mostly it came from the cause. But also remember that the cause only has the power to drive an individual but the song carries the power to unite a group of people singing the same song and being driven towards the same goal this means that this song at this time was vital for retaliation regardless of the limitations. therefore this song must be part of our heritage.

2)   In the battlefield not so many intellectuals were involved but they were only involved in the intellectual and diplomatic engagements with whites in trying to convince the whites that “we are also humans”. The only intellectuals who took a different approach from this kind of approach were only found in the 1960’s where PAC leadership was entirely arrested under the leadership of Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe. This means that mostly people who were foot soldiers were uneducated as a result I have learned that many of the people who went into exile for military training of different political organisations are not so well resourced in terms of political education. Now the political education is never separate from resistance hence Steve Biko when defining black consciousness he does not leave out the process of resistance. Now if there is no much of political education what would have motivated the resistance if not a song? This song motivated the martyrs not to back down, not to retreat and not to surrender but to soldier on. therefore this song must be part of our heritage.

3)  Also songs tells stories of a particular time, I think for those who did not live in the cities where they would know and understand the current issues regarding the struggle they would listen to songs and understand what more or less is happening. I remember as a young boy growing up there was a song that went like “Oliver Thambo thetha no botha akhulule u Mandela” (Oliver Tambo speak with Botha to release Mandela). Just by this song without being told of what was happening at the time anyone can just tell that Mandela is arrested and Mandela is the hope of the people and the current leader they have is Oliver Tambo. Now this shows that songs summarized issues. Now “dubula ibhulu” was a summary or what we can possible call a program of action for the time.  Now if we all believe that every response that blacks gave as resistance was right in every right then this song should be embraced by us all. This song must be part of our heritage.

I further think that if we truly believe that every act of resistance that was during the apartheid years played a major role in bringing about what we see today and we do love and embrace what we see and also want for more than this in terms of improving and building up the country then the song “dubula ibhulu” is very much part of that hopes and actions and celebrations. I fail to understand why would we celebrate the picture of Hector Pieterson (The June 16 picture) and yet despise such a revolutionary song. Also as much as that picture of Hector Pieterson played such an incredible role in bringing about what we see today then “dubula ibhulu” is not less. I think in our museums we should have the lyrics of this song written because it carries so much pain and so much resistance in it.

The argument that this song incites violence and it led to the killing of Eugene Terreblanche I totally disagree with it. The thing is more black people are dying in our communities and there is no song that is sang that says “kill the blacks”. It is in the black townships where the murder rate is so high and not in the farms or suburbs where white people are found. Therefore more than anything else I think this song is a political statement and it is confrontational to the status quo if it was not then we would enjoy this song. The reason why there are some of us that are scared when this song is sang it is simple because the past is following them or they are still holding on to the past. This song when we look at it today we should see that it meant to pull down the system, to dis-anchor the superiority of one over the other. If I were to ask how many people died because this song was sang? I don’t think there will even be one reason being people don’t die because songs are sang. Im just reminded of a song by Lil Wayne (an American rapper) which says “I feel like dying” I have never heard of any person who listened to this song and committed suicide afterwards. I am imagining a country where both white and blacks sings this song together because it helped bringing salvation to those who were superior and those who were inferior but can we sing the same song if we live two different lives? Can we sing the same song if we live in two different worlds? I think part of the reason why this song is hard to sing for some is basically the guilt of the package of the past that we still carrying.

I can still remember that this song got Malema into court, there were complaints from members of the FF+. I can recall one of the intelligent responses of Malema in court he said “When Chris Hani was killed we were walking in streets of white suburbs and we were angry because the great leader who carried hope for us was killed, and we knew that he was killed by a white person but as angry as we were we never killed anyone for that, now today why would we kill anyone?” Either we must admit that there is a white and a black problem in South Afrika, or we continue to lie to ourselves. The problem is bigger than a song maybe a song does raise what is already there. If the white and the black problem was solved then we wouldn’t be worried of who sings what. Maybe new songs would have been composed that speaks of the current state of south Afrika. But because South Afrika is the same as the past then this makes “dubula ibhulu” more appealing to the person who was singing “dubula ibhulu” anfd makes “dubula ibhulu” bitter to whom “dubula ibhulu” was bitter. If anything was different then our reaction towards the song would have been different but because things are still the same then we have the same response. I am quite sure that there are many black people who feels like singing this song as they are confronted by whiteness daily. Whiteness confronts them at work place, schools, streets and everywhere else. Some are confronted by whiteness by being thought to be prostitutes, some same whiteness by being mistaken to a robber. Some are confronted by whiteness in toilets, where there are toilets written “whites only” 24 years later.

Who wouldn’t feel like singing this song if they were faced by the same realities of the past. I think this song comes because everything that is happening around these people is reminding them about the past where this song was relevant. Remember that the relevance of this song were determined by the conditions, now if the conditions defines the times when this song was relevant then shouldn’t this song be sung? This song again I say must be part of our heritage if we truly living in a new South Afrika but if not then let’s not sing this song so that our tolerance towards one another can be kept successfully.

I think also that a song carries the past and it talks about the present and it shapes how we can view the future, for example look into the church history we find the very reformation being recorded and written as hymns. According to Ps Hombana, Hymns dealt with and deals with the conscience of the person. Hymns dealt with the inner man of a person, and they deal with such today. It was a situation of the black people that lead Tiyo Soga to write the hymn “Lizalise idinga lakho”, this song was a composition from the pain of Tiyo Soga when the Xhosa people were misled by nongqawuse to kill their cows such that this event in particular had a direct impact with slavery in SA. Now to the black people songs are an expression and motivation. The power of songs gave birth to factionalism in the politics of the ANC such that when Mbeki was to be removed there was a song that went like “u Zuma lo my president”. To us as black people we sing when in pain, we sing when happy we sing when working. Even in the circumcision school there are songs that are sang for that particular circumstance. Those are motivated by the situation there. Now to the black people songs are not just composed, for even our national anthem “Nkosi Sikelela I Afrika” this was a prayer. A deep and emotional prayer of a liberation fighter who saw the situation of black Afrika as not a blessing from God. This triggered a prayer that God may bless Afrika!!! Enoch Sontonga expressed his prayer in a song. Many revolutions were born from songs that were composed by individuals for groups. Songs were also sang as a form of preserving the truth in the olden days. That is the reason why one would find that in a middle of a story (fairy tale) there’s normally a song. This makes songs to be part of our heritage, unfortunately we are new in this whole thing of literature, and then this means that our heritage is still carried in songs and stories. if we were living in a new south Afrika we would all celebrate this song but because we are still not convinced that all that was happening in the past was wrong, we continuing with what was happening in the past today and when the reaction of the past (in a song is made) we start to get worried. This song must be part of the South Afrikan heritage.

Brett Fish: For the sake of those who do not know the song, here are the words and the translation:

Ayesab’ amagwala (Cowards are scared)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Dubul’ ibhunu (Shoot the boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Mama, ndiyeke ndidubul’ ibhunu (Ma, let me shoot the Boer)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)
Ziyareypa lezinja (These dogs rape)
Dubula! dubula! dubula nge s’bhamu (Shoot, shoot, shoot them with a gun)

[For other important conversations relating to Race and Reconciliation, click here]

 

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i won’t lie, writing about Race in South Africa can feel a little daunting.

Especially when you have been out of the country for three years – one of the things i didn’t want to do was come charging in with all the answers and so i chose instead to use my little platform to create a space and invite some people to share their thoughts.

There have been a whole bunch of conversations about different aspects of Race that happened before we got home from three years in Americaland.

Upon coming home, a good and trusted friend, Linda Martindale, introduced me to Nkosi Gola and told me i had to connect with him and so i invited him to write a piece which he generously did and which you can read over here.

54 comments later [which never happens on my blog unless someone thinks i hate animals] the conversation has become so rich that some other posts have been happening over here.

What has blown me away [in the best of ways] has been how those who have engaged with the posts have done so with huge grace and humility – i’m not sure where the Trollpeople are vacationing this week, but their absence has allowed incredible dialogue to flow.

So first prize is that you take 30 minutes [or whatever it takes] and read Nkosi’s post and then Sindile’s and the comments that followed each of them. And then follow by reading the rest of the articles in this series which i am hoping will continue to grow.

But for those who won’t make the time to do that, i wanted to lift a few of the comments out and share them with you as they are just too good to not be seen by more people. This is seriously just a highlights package cos the conversation there is so so good, and these are not even necessarily the best of, but just some goodness i saw as i was reading through them again:

In response to Nkosi’s post we firstly have some excellent back and forth between him and Mike T which is just too much to stick in this post but go and check it out.

nkosi

But also these:

Sting:

In lieu of what Gola said, many white people have the misconception that when one speaks of justice and restitution they speak of purporting violence and crime against white people, however, that is not the case.

The real issue is that even though apartheid has “ended”, the black majority of the country still live in undignified, sub-standard and very poor conditions thanks to the institutions left behind by apartheid and other capitalist, fascist actions that were enacted against the black nation.

Now the effects of those are still felt today, were equality isn’t equality at all. Quoting from George Orwell’s book, The Animal Farm, they had six commandments, one stood out for me till today, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

Now if we move away from the people we will never understand and resolve any issues regarding our society which is what the institutions of apartheid left behind. White minority still rules the country whether we choose to accept that or not. This is what is happening today, all those that are in power have moved away from the people and those who are in an unfair position of comfort with wealth they acquired in a very unfair manner. We live in a country with one of the highest income inequalities in the world, now if we keep on sugar coating things, the country or the majority will never heal nor move forward.

In isiXhosa we say, “isilonda siphila ngothunukwa”, meaning we need to go to where it hurts the most in order to heal of which many whites fear to do.

We are not purporting violence on the white nation but rather the reparation and the restoration of dignity and pride to the black nation.

Ryan Peter:

Great to hear this perspective. I think, personally, there are a few issues.

1. Social justice and activism are actually not always the same thing. I think it’s important to note that a lot of activism is just self-righteous posturing that really favours those doing the activism more than the supposed people they are standing up for. Jesus was not an activist – I don’t seem him being one in any part of the scriptures. That ought to tell us to make a distinction between real social justice and today’s versions of it.

2. All fair and well until we get to the DA bit. I couldn’t care much for the DA, personally – I see them as nanny-statish for one, and too Western for another. This leads into my main point: Nkosi, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. The problem isn’t the DA or the whiteness dynamic as much as the importing and veneration of Western thinking and ideas as superior and *right.* When we need South African solutions for South Africans, both the ANC, DA and most of the other options (and let’s face it, there aren’t really options) are selling us into the global, predominantly Western, market-driven individualistic narrative where success and economical power is basically the point of life. This is seen to be the saviour of our problems. Even our ties with China and socialism still perpetuate the same narrative: that economics is everything. This runs directly against the Gospel at every point – and churches have bought into it. Jesus was pro-poor, but not because he valued economics as highly as our current culture believes we all should.

To make my case a little more clear, I find it strange that on weekends our malls are full but our museums are struggling. We value the almighty Rand and the here-and-now more than we value our heritage and our future. As much as black guys want to talk about their heritage and their people, at every turn I’m seeing them sell themselves out to the economics-is-everything narrative. Old Zuma is a case in point: our highest form of leadership seems to think only in terms of Rands than in terms of Sense.

John:

Important though to be clear that those of us who are Christians are not aiming for a Western or an African mindset (I am not sure if in many parts of South Africa we can even untangle them any more?) We must beware of making the Western mindset all wrong and the African all right in reaction to the opposite being (almost?) true for so long. We must aim to bring both of them under the scrutiny of Scripture and begin to develop a deeply biblical mindset. There is of course always the danger that one or the other tradition will dominate, as it has in the past, which is why I suggest that we need to learn to read Scripture in community with a variety of different racial, theological and economic voices and in so doing begin to get closer to understanding the heart of the passage.

Pererin Neb:

Nkosi, I found your piece an interesting and informative read. Your highlight a number of things that South Africans, specifically white South Africans, should take note of if they are ever to understand and appreciate their black colleagues and neighbours.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out the communal worldview found in African cultures (e.g. the community taking responsibility for raising a child, not just the immediate family) versus the individualistic worldview so pervasive in western cultures. “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, but then, “I think, therefore I am”… Unfortunately, a failure to understand and accept another culture’s worldview is a great hindrance to unifying people from different backgrounds. Just as folk from a western background find it hard to accept that their black colleague or friend cannot be understood or interacted with in a vacuum, totally separate from their family, clan, neighbours, community, etc, people from an African background criticise white individuals’ attempts at reaching out to black individuals, trying to make a difference to the people they know while not being so interested in their whole community. Both groups still struggle to understand what is important to the other, criticising the other group for not focussing on the things they think are crucial and will take the country forward. I appreciate your perspective on this, and I think white folk should read and take it to heart. However, (and this is probably politically totally incorrect), might I suggest that your sharp rejection of some white people’s attempts at reaching out to black folk from within their own cultural worldview indicates a need for growth and understanding also in your perspective as a black South African?

Without wanting to sound critical, however, I do have a few issues with some of your points. First, I would like to understand what exactly you are suggesting when you talk about voluntary vs. enforced justice. I stand to be corrected, but the enforced justice you promote seems to suggest a communist framework. Is that in fact what you are saying? If so, I think that (and your strong criticism against the DA and Madiba/Tutu) is a major issue. Among other things, communism has time and again proved to be a model which eventually runs countries, their economies and people into the ground, causing untold suffering. Just think of the former USSR, Ethiopia, etc. You quote the early church in Acts as an ideal Christian example. However, it seems to me that their sharing their possessions with their brothers and sisters was an entirely voluntary (and commendable) act rather than an enforced, communist-type system. Ananias and Sapphira were told by the apostle Peter that their property was theirs to do with as they chose and that they did not have to sell it nor give the full price to the church. Their sin was in pretending that they had given the full amount, as many others had done willingly. Instead of some enforced political system of “justice” which can (and will) be abused, those early Christians seemed to obey their conscience, with everyone doing what they could, out of sincere love for their fellow believers and reverence for God.

I do agree wholeheartedly with you, however, that more can and must be done about the conscience of (in)justice in our world and also South Africa. That is such a vast and crucial topic that I do not even want to venture there in this already lengthy comment.

Also, I am not quite sure what you are trying to say about training. On the one hand, you seem to brush it off as a relatively low priority (with the right to urinate and play football on the land as apparently more crucial than training in how to develop it for the benefit of the whole nation). On the other hand, you accuse white people of withholding knowledge and skills transfer from black folk, apparently so they (the whites) can maintain their position of power. I am not sure that I understand what you are suggesting in this area.

Your point about the injustice of not having access to land is a very good one. Although I do take issue with your suggestions (or at least with what I understand them to be), I think the hurt and indignity of being treated as if one were not a part of the land, in this case specifically black South Africans, is hard to even imagine for those not affected by it. This cry should be heard loud and clear! This wound should be attended to with the necessary compassion and care. I do not think, however, I could get excited about a model that fails to also consider the long-term effects on the nation as a whole, setting the country on a course leading to abject poverty and suffering (as in famine and starvation, not just having too little). Two wrongs don’t make a right!

Then, I think claiming that Africans were living in peace before the Europeans arrived is not a very accurate statement. Bloodshed, wars, tribal rivalries (cattle raids, etc.), chasing other groups off their land, were most definitely not unknown in Africa before the advent of the colonial era. There are enough reliable accounts testifying that these things were as alive and well in Africa (and Southern Africa) as elsewhere in the world. I do not think it unfair to say that, being sinful human beings no different from anyone else, Africans have also caused injustice and suffering to others, the strong oppressing and exploiting the weak. No better nor any worse than any other humans sharing this planet. This of course is not at all meant to negate the wrongs committed by the colonial powers, especially in places such as Africa, the Americas, Southeast Asia and Australia. There is no doubt that black (South) Africans have suffered and been exploited by white colonialists for a long time. Let no-one claim that justice was done to the non-white people of South Africa under the previous regime! Let no-one despise the wound of the black South African soul.

So, these are my thoughts, and responses after reading your thought-provoking post. Perhaps I am misunderstanding some of what you are trying to say; I would be happy to be corrected if I am.

Peace, mzalwane. A o tlhabelwe ke letsatsi. Konke kube hele, kube chosi kuwe.

Cara Hartley:

I just read all of this now. THANK YOU Nkosivumile. And everyone who engaged.
Sometimes we avoid the obvious answer because it is just unimaginable. Is that true for whites today?

Just want to point out a few things I’m taking away from this:

– Questioning the dominance of economics-related thinking in my own understanding of SA’s challenges, and

– The importance of not thinking that economic restoration is the only kind of restoration blacks (broad term) need. Yes, poverty and a sense of indignity seem to go together but the way people like you Nkosi talk about land redistribution is really driving home for me that healing of the black wound will be economic empowerment AND … everything else that we would want for our own families. It is embarassing that sometimes we simplify South Africa’s problem to just mean alleviating poverty.What do I want for my sister, for my husband? When someone asks me how is my sister or my husband, do I say “fine, they are earning an income”? No I think of how they are doing in their everything-ness, their holistic thing that the word “dignity” doesn’t begin to capture but it’s like dignity x wholeness x shalom. Now when that is what I want for everyone in SA, what action does that prompt in me?

And I mean talk to a successful rich black person, in government or business or wherever, and once they start to trust you, if they have been honest with themselves, this profound sense of worry and pain and guilt starts coming out because things are not yet okay and now they are somehow complicit. Which leads me to the second point

– I mean we are all told about Ubuntu the whole time but something about reading this conversation made me really how it is really Ubuntu at work in rich black people’s hearts and tells them it is not yet okay. I’m taking a deeper understanding of that away.

– I agree DA makes me sick because somewhere deep down on a psychological level everything is just so wrong. But sadly this conversation brings me no closer to articulating that in a way that other white people can hear. Either you sense it or you don’t, but that’s not very helpful.

– If neither ANC nor DA are really deeply considering “involuntary justice” then I am still searching dude. I look at Malema and I don’t see him ever getting the support of the black middle class whom I think we are going to need especially if 90% of whites are going to leave when involuntary justice happens. So, still searching. And until I can support a party that can bring structural change what do I do? Little personal things seem too small, but

– Let’s start with little personal things that seem too small like paying a living wage and investing in your employees’ children’s education (and not just maths and science; there’s a reason why blacks are drawn to history and politics, there is a search for meaning that has nothing to do with earning a good salary one day and who am I not to honour that?)… and for the sake of not focusing on economics, what else should we be using our power to do? Fund churches and counselling centres and social development things (it’s not soup kitchen when you’re helping families become more functional I think), fund and ATTEND reconciliation initiatives with your white face and ears and if need be, your tears.

– Listening with your soul, not just your educated brain, sorry if it sounds fluffy but it is real, I am finally starting to be able to read blogs like these and FIRST hear the soul and THEN hear the argument and consider its rationality. So much of our conversation as South Africans is coming from the base of our skull (you know that thing, I forget what it’s called, there where our survival instincts are), it’s no wonder we rarely make sense to each other.

I am not very good at challenging writers and asking them questions, but thank you for the opportunity to have listened and learned.

Mhlengi:

I just think that a lot of white South Africans still haven’t come into proper grasp with what modern day racism in SA is -it’s no longer a set of laws yes, but it’s very much structural – in private business corporations (such as media outlets), and universities (public and private) – I think moving forward is a huge barrier in that no is truly held accountable about how they really think and feel, I just think right now we are doing a decent job of merely “tolerating” each other there’s no sense of real solidarity -moving forward requires a lot of self awareness regarding who you are and understanding your innate sense of white privilege but with the same degree I also feel that as a black nation we need to do a lot of internal work & take responsibility and not let everything that has been a plight for the black man victimize and allow for sloppy thinking and actions,..ultimately I think it will all be down to self-awareness and if there’s no one holding you accountable then people will continue to have as much self-awareness as a rock .

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Next up was Sindile’s article

Sindile

And these responses:

Mike T:

Wow, this is a breath of fresh air on this topic.

I really like how you frame the solution not only in a non-racial way, but also in a way that highlights opportunities for individuals and businesses. It’s also great to use the sports example where people have thought about it but it isn’t as charged as some of the other topics.

I also really like that you value equal opportunity rather than equal representation. Even in an equal opportunity setting, it’s unlikely for their to be equal representation in every aspect of life, or even in every sport played, and yet it’s the representation that seems to draw so much focus.

I also like how you try and point out the opportunities for people and businesses to help solve the problem.

I want to hear more. I’m not sure what questions to ask but this is good stuff. It’s a pity we can’t vote for you

Nkosi Gola:

Great piece, Just Great!!!!!!!!

[i don’t know about you, but i suspect Nkosi liked this one?]

Pererin Neb:

A well-written and thoughtful piece! I especially love the way you describe the sports situation in terms of the ability to compete and competition itself. However much most folk want to see transformation (and so they should) in South Africa, let’s face it: very few people turn on the telly to watch sports on a Saturday afternoon so they can be intellectually or morally challenged and stimulated to promote transformation. I daresay most folk simply want to relax and forget about the more serious aspects of life when they watch sports. Your suggestions make a lot of sense, without forgetting about the fun/recreational aspect of sports, and I think many would vote for you!

What you say about building relationships is also very encouraging. The world needs people to reach out to their fellow humans with dignity and respect for our common … well, humanity. 🙂

I wonder about your view on race meaning nothing, though. If mere skin colour were the issue, I would agree with you: it predisposes you to nothing in particular and is in a sense as insignificant as the shape of your eyes or the lines on the palms of your hands. These things do set you apart as YOU, but and they should not define you in a stereotypical way. However, I find the popular rhetoric of the day a little sad, whereby differences between cultures, genders, etc. are downplayed to the extent that humanity is portrayed as this vanilla flavour mass of little individuals. All the same, yet everyone rabidly unique and special. This is perhaps very philosophical, but I cannot get rid of the idea that the form of something is linked to its content. Of course, one can think of many examples where the shape/appearance of something/someone has nothing to do with its/their true character. But then there are many instances of the shape/appearance of an entity is a very real embodiment of their essence. The males of many cat species, for example, do quite well without a special hairdo, but somehow a bushy mane befits the glory and dignity of the lion, the king of the jungle, doesn’t it? One may argue that his mane is not part of his essential character, but I cannot shake the feeling that somehow it is … part of the essence of “lion”. In the same way (and please, I do not mean to push this to the point of being ridiculous), what we look like, what our language sounds like, the clothes we wear, all of this gives expression to some essence, does it not?

What I mean to say is that every culture, every ethnic group has or constitutes a piece of the great jigsaw puzzle which is humanity. Somehow, the uniqueness, the beauty, the wisdom, of every family, clan, tribe, ethnic group, culture, etc. contributes something to what it means to be human. In one sense, I am because we are, but then, too, we are because I am (and you are). I know how nasty racial/cultural stereotypes can be and what horrifying results these can have (Adolf Hitler comes to mind here) when our differences are blown up out of all proportion. However, I am saddened by the thought of a world where our differences — not just as individuals, but as social/ethnic/linguistic/cultural groups — fade into insignificance. Is variety not the spice of life? Is humanity not enriched by the perspectives shaped and nurtured in the hills of India, the jungles of the Pacific islands, the sands of Egypt, the savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa, the hidden valleys of the Andes, the windswept tundras of the North? I dream of a world, not where we are all the same (yet desperately trying to be unique), but where we are all true to who we are, proud of our heritage, in love serving and enriching others with the gifts bestowed on our people. For we are wonderfully different, yet members of the one human family.

So, I suppose what I am trying to say is let us not forget who we are or pretend that we are all the same. Rather, let us embrace our common humanity, confidently giving expression to it in the way we do best, lest our part in the great symphony of life grow silent. After all, are South Africans not claiming to be the “rainbow nation” (rather than the one drab, colourless, mixed hue after all the individual ingredients have sacrificed their colour)? And, as with anything in life, our sinful nature enables us to take this beautiful truth and twist it to hurt and alienate others, to seek to advance our own position. But then, the Holy Spirit of God can help us eliminate the negative, hurtful parts of our experience and offer the unique, good ones to our brothers and sisters for the common good.

Keep up the good work, and keep writing and making your voice heard!

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Like i said, there are too many great ones to put them all here but i hope in doing this some more people will read some more of the conversation and get involved and engaged cos this feels super uber helpful. It won’t be revolutionary until we actually see it transform to action, but this does feel like a good start.

Two immediate things that will help from here:

[1] Get people reading this stuff. Share it via your Facebook and Twitterer pages. Pin it to your Trest board. Invite engagement from your friends. Share it directly to someone’s wall you think will take it seriously and ask them to share their thoughts with you, or even better, with us via a comment on the blog.

[2] Who do you know who has a valuable voice on this topic? That of racial reconciliation and first steps in the New South Africa [which isn’t actually as new as it used to be] and moving forwards together and unity, justice and mercy and so on? Direct them to the blog and more importantly connect them to me like Linda did with her friend which got this ball rolling. Everyone’s voice is important, but some people just have a gift of expressing what they mean well or speaking wisdom or life into a situation. Introduce them to me.

Let’s continue this together.

We can NOT be silent any longer.

[To read up on other aspects of Race that have been posted on this blog, click here]

 

i have loved the conversation going on in the comments section of the blog piece Nkosi wrote for me on First Steps White South Africans can make towards a really new South Africa. My friend Lex passed on a response from her friend, Sindile, which i thought would be good to use as a standalone post as i’m sure it will also generate some good conversation. So we would love to hear from you and please take part in the spirit of working towards transformation that has been so strong thus far. But this is what Sindile Vabaza had to say on the matter.

Sindile

Let me begin by saying that the title of this piece bothers me a lot because embedded within it are some potentially tricky issues which are often left untouched.

Who gets to define this really new South Africa and who gives them this right and before that can we in any real sense talk about what people can do to bring this promised land about without agreeing on some baseline requirements?

That is what I want to focus on.

What I believe we need to agree on as South Africans.

Firstly I think we need to stress that important issues of challenging Apartheid’s spatial legacy, of redress, of land and of economic and social transformation have to be rooted and situated in the historical narrative of the liberation movement, namely that South Africa is a grand project in non-racialism and non-sexism, a nation that seeks to cast off the restrictive, bigoted, racist, sexist and homophobic past and become a place where there is neither ‘black’ domination or ‘white’ domination, a place where all South Africans have the right to self define and self actualise  and reach their potential.

In framing it in that context, we must then look at all the numerous ways in which we must change society to achieve that end.

It seems to me that one of the main reasons many white people do not want to talk about hot button issues like those mentioned above is that they are often framed out of their proper historical context and dripping with racial antagonism.

We must all admit that the debates in this country are dripping with racial antagonism.

One of the ways I have serendipitously avoided and have remained untainted by this antagonism is that over the years I have built meaningful relationships with people from different racial backgrounds. This experience conditioned my sensitivity to multiple perspectives and vantage points that exist within and about the country.

There is simply no substitute for relationship.

What these relationships have led me to doing is going on a journey to finding a principled approach to the country’s problem but one that takes into account that there needs to be a measure of self-interest if we want people to change their minds and behaviour, in fact how I present different issues to people is conditioned by the insights I have gained from this approach.

Let’s take the issue of transformation in sport for example. Many people fall at the issue of quotas. I personally disagree with quotas but fully support transformation.

Sport has two basic elements:

The ability to compete and competition itself.

Not being serious about transformation means that a large sector of society(mostly young, poor black athletes cannot compete on a fair basis with their economically well off counterparts) and quotas kill the competition aspect itself by entitling a sector of society to a sport’s team.

The proper response to this inequality is development and intensive skills transfer programs with coaches in disadvantaged areas(a self-interest point for them), what this also does is open up the possibilities of growing rugby as a game both sportingly and commercially(a self-interest point for administrators and white south africans in general who support the game). Growing the sport this way means that rugby can become not only a unifying force in the country, it will mean that rugby players can be kept by smaller unions, meaning increased competition and a bigger talent pool for both super rugby and the Springboks(a self-interest point for all South Africans and something which achieves the end goals of the country as a whole)

This kind of thinking can be applied to a whole number of social issues and can serve in some instances in moving the needle forward on an issue, in others it can solve the seemingly intractable conundrums and in others it can make solutions incredibly obvious.

This is why I believe this kind of baseline agreement between all of us as South Africans is so important. It gives us a foundation point from which to debate and work issues out without being fearful of being labelled ‘racist’ or ‘token black’ or whatever other labels. It also gives us a uniting point from which we can unanimously reject lunatics like Steve Hofmeyr and movements like Red October.

Combined with relationship building I believe this kind of thing can be a powerful tool with which South Africans in all their varying contexts can begin imagining a different and better future for us all especially future generations, because no empty rules and suggestions can ever substitute for the real humanity that comes from mutuality, understanding and indeed respect and love, and that’s the point, there are no rules to how white people and black people should interact because our skin colour is fundamentally meaningless(an evolutionary by-product of the weather), it is our base instincts and the architects of racialism like the Apartheid government that made us believe that such a thing is a dividing point for humanity; like the machines of Matrix, they constructed a false world for us while draining our souls and our humanity and using some of us for cheap slave labour for their uber capitalist projects.

Race says nothing of who you really are because it predisposes a person towards nothing and in fact is a slave to other concerns like culture, politics, economics and geography.

So what should white people do in this country? Same thing as everyone else: do the difficult work of reclaiming their humanity and situating themselves in the larger narrative and dream of non-racialism that undergirds this nation at it’s most fundamental level

[For more conversations, ideas and engagements on Race, click here]

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