Tag Archive: transformation

i spoke yesterday about the search for a new normal.

When it comes to a new and exciting more-unified South Africa [which i what i dream and try and live towards] then one of the areas we need to see this in is moving away from the idea and practice of “Us vs. Them”.

Let’s look at some actual comments made on my blog recently:

‘The shack fires are caused by the shack dwellers. They should maybe go back to the EC? It is illegal to build shacks on open land.’ [Viv]

‘Further, they have a deep seated jealousy of the colonist whom they can see on a daily basis is more sophisticated and superior in intellect and behavior to them. What they cannot have or be…they want to destroy.’ [ClaytonAndrew]

‘I fear I’m out too. lol. Why bother when they vote ANC?’ [Marcia]

‘All they want now is for whites to come back and bail them out. They want whites to come and do all the donkey-work, get paid peanuts and be refused promotion for efficiency. Stuff that, I say. Let them sink. If they are so good then they must show us what they can do. They should show us, without the help of white consultants, how they can save themselves and the country.’ [Derick]

And many more…

Us vs. Them


What i typically hear in the Us vs. Them discourse that regularly rears its ugly head in my blog comments is a sense of the Us [typically white people] being superior to the Them [typically black people]. Sometimes it is clearly stated in terms of the idea that white people have a higher IQ than black people [and the assumption that even if that was true that it meant anything significant beyond having the specific skills that make you good at IQ tests as opposed to the implied consequence of it meaning something about being more clever] or better skills [cos of how white people invented everything, apparently] and other times just more subtly insinuated or assumed.

And as long as we divide this country into an Us and a Them [or a number of Us and Thems – men vs women, Cape Town vs Joburg, Local vs Foreigner etc] i think we will have problems when it comes to transformation. No, let’s be stronger on that – we WILL have problems!

The major issue is that the moment we speak [think/act] Us vs Them, we build a wall that is impossible for the Them to climb. We ‘protect’ ourselves behind walls and wires and alarms and as much as it all may give us the impression that we are safe from outside harm, we have also very much cut ourselves off from the very relationships needed to break down and do away with any feeling of need of the barriers we have put up.

Protect from hate and hurt? Maybe. But also definitely ‘protect’ from love, understanding, unity, growth. Mutual togetherness.


A guy in a hat once asked ‘Am I not destroying my enemies by making friends with them?’ [Actually i think we can give Jesus Christ credit for the idea when one of His principle teachings was to ‘Love your enemy as yourself’ – enemy love being one of the defining marks of the early Christians]

And that is where the Us vs. Them has to die. And it really must die, if we are to have any hope of moving forwards and creating something new and appealing and workable. I have no doubt that the solution for the majority of South Africa’s problems is relationships: genuine, authentic, sacrificial, costly.

‘To love is to recognise yourself in another’ [Ekhart Tolle]. A Them is nameless and more than likely faceless. It is very easy for a Them to quickly be seen as a thing or an it. A Them dehumanises so that the person we are dealing with can quickly become an issue or a problem and we can be very cold and calculated in how we deal with it. But the moment a Them has a face, and then perhaps a name, and the moment we lean in and start to listen [and i mean really listen – to hear and understand with not sense of judging or comparing or explaining away] and hear the story of the other, that is when the Them starts to transform into an Us.

That is when the walls and wires start to seem a lot more unnecessary.

Black guy begging at my car window for money at the traffic lights is easy to drive by, without looking at or giving a second thought to.

But Xolani, who is trying to make money to keep his younger sisters in school and put enough food on the table today so that they don’t go to bed hungry again. Whose father was never on the scene and whose mother died of TB. Well, suddenly it is a whole lot easier for me to start to empathise and draw alongside and see if there is any way that we can walk a journey together.

One of the refrains we heard a lot when we were at the Simple Way was the line that ‘It’s not that the rich and poor don’t like each other. It’s that they don’t know each other.’ So typically donations from rich to poor were handled by a middle person or organisation in the form of a church or NPO and so rich and poor never got to lock eyes or share a meal or hear a story.

It is the same with the Us and the Them.


i don’t believe we will be able to argue this one out. i think we desperately need to relationship it out.

One of tbV and my decisions when looking for a place was that we didn’t want to move into an area where everyone looked like us. While our priorities changed somewhat during the searching process [as we realised looking back on almost 6 intensive years of marriage that we actually could use a season of giving some focus to us and working on our marriage and having a space conducive to that] we didn’t let go of that one. Even though Southfield is not Mannenberg or a township, the area we live in has a variety of different people living there and the next step is figuring out how to engage well with our neighbours as we settle in.

But i do think where we choose to live will play a key role in this conversation.

i think who we choose to regularly engage with will play a similar role – i have loved ‘meeting’ some new black friends via simply creating some space for them to write on my blog and look forward to growing those relationships offline. My friend Nkosi is an absolute joy to me and is teaching me so much through some of the live conversations we have been able to have. Both Avuyile and Sindile wrestle with cricket-related issues with me online and share in the joys and frustrations of our national team, and were the matches not regularly at 3am i have no doubt Avuyile and i would be watching the quarters together. i do love and enjoy my many white friends but we definitely need to be more intentional in who we spend our time with if we are wanting to be a part of a new and diverse country that takes time to listen to each other and wrestle out issues together. It has been incredible watching God bring people of different race and culture into our lives in a way that has felt natural as opposed to us feeling like we need to go and find black and coloured people to be friends with. But i do think that if we look around in life and discover that everyone looks a lot like us, that there is something that should probably change.


Obviously there is a lot more. But i think it begins with us taking on the whole Us vs. Them mindset and relegating it to the garbage dump. And then setting fire on it. And feeding the remains to ants. And then nuking them. You get the point.

While it remains, it will continue to devalue and desensitise and especially dehumanise whoever we refer to as ‘the other’. We need to have our lives renewed by the transformation of our minds.

And it has to start with me. Because as much as i want to believe i am not afflicted by the disease of Us vs. Them thinking, i more than likely am. So i need to make myself accountable to those who love me and invite them to point it out and challenge it any time it surfaces. And squash it immediately and every time.

And it has to start with you. Will you commit with me to actively trying to move away from an Us vs. Them mindset and Us vs. Them language?

Let’s see if we can find the ‘We’ together in this. Because that is when the dreams will really start kicking into action and be being realised.

[For some other South Africa related posts on my blog, click here]


For the last couple of years, my favourite word has been ‘intentional’.

i officially adopted it when we were still in Stellenbosch [so 2011 or before] as my ‘word of the year’ and then remember the next year happening and i didn’t have a new ‘word of the year’ [for the record, ‘intentional’ was my first ever ‘word of the year’ – it’s not like something i did regularly until then – just figured it was such a good word that it deserved that] so i gave ‘intentional’ another term in office.

Since then i never really found a word i liked better. Not that ‘intentional’ is necessary my favourite word but at the time it helped me think in a focused way – it brings in concepts like vision and passion, planning and strategy, and of course intention. Doing things with a reason and for a purpose. So it was just kinda allowed to linger at the top of the pile until another word or phrase could be found that was worthy of pulling the sword out of the stone. Or something literaturic like that.

And then it happened!

i wasn’t looking for a new word. It certainly wasn’t any significant time of ‘new phrase elections’ or anything like that. But i was at a meeting and a phrase i have heard a bunch of times over the last few years really just jumped out and latched itself into my brain.


i didn’t invent the phrase. But i really like it. i like the idea of it. And as with ‘intentional’ i really appreciate the depth and fullness of abundancy that i feel is wrapped up in those three words.

The idea that there was a normal. And then change occurred. But not just leaving it at that place and understanding of ‘oh, something changed’ which doesn’t seem all that significant. But transformation has happened, both in behaviour and mindset and now in the place of the old, there is a New Normal.

i think that idea is super powerful.

For example, South Africa. Apartheid. Mandela freed. 1994 elections. Change occurs [in some ways, forms, to differing extents depending who you listening to]. But that is not enough. We need for there to be a new normal in this country.  And we can see the need for it in the lack thereof in certain quarters, like News24 comments sections for example.  And it is a journey that has to be embraced [and the more of us the better] but i think both the idea and the language of ‘a new normal’ help us to really realise that things are needing to be and going to be different.

In the Bible there is a verse that talks about being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind’ which i think is a great descriptor of what this phrase guides us towards. A significant change has taken place and what once was, is no longer, and in its place there is the new normal.

And it’s not just race stuff. Equality and opportunity for men and women. The book i have just written about the church is all about that.

It is both the recognition that the normal that we presently have is not good enough. And also that it’s not just a few tweaks or a little bit of fine tuning that is required. But things need to be shaken hard – some stuff, a lot of stuff, needs to be tossed out altogether. And we need to end up at a place that people who were part of the old system and way of thinking will be able to clearly identify as being different, new, better and on the way to becoming normal.

What do you think? Pure semantical jugglery? Or an exciting concept to get our heads around and an exciting premise to work towards? What is a ‘New Normal’ that you would like to see? 





I think it is important that I give an examples of how ‘baseline’ thinking can help us navigate difficult waters.

1.) The issue of employment equity is a difficult one. My take on it is that from my experience both young white and black people fundamentally want to feel like they are being treated fairly and of course that is a most reasonable thing, but I do want to latch on to the idea of fairness.

If we are to truly work towards fairness we have to agree in principle on certain things.

We all have to agree in principle that it is not a desirable thing when talented young white people are snubbed for jobs in order to fill quotas.

However white people must also recognise and admit that when black people come into the workplace they are assumed INCOMPETENT until proven otherwise, while white people are assumed COMPETENT until proven otherwise. This sort of thing contributes to the larger feeling of racial inequality which pervades society.

In order to illustrate this I will use examples of people I know.

I have a white friend who was snubbed for a job because of AA. He is bright and applied his economics training while he was at varsity to helping solve problems in poor communities.

He was hurt that he was overlooked for a job.

I didn’t feel okay about this,

But also I remember going to an engineers braai at Wits with some friends and catching up and hearing stories of black graduates who talked of their difficulties in the workplace.

A lot of these guys and girls came from poor backgrounds(their schools were the kind you payed R100 a year to go to), who had faced obstacles many white people cannot even fathom and yet when they got to the workplace they found themselves faced with even more systematic challenges(something I think would make anyone bitter) and exclusion that FELT distinctly racial.

Now my point is this; There are grievances on both sides of this and a solution is not going to be easy or painless but if we are to move forward and move towards creating non-racial workspaces we must all admit that the workplace is engineered in the sense that white people have an easier path to success(because of the generational privileges accorded to them by Apartheid) and that some very undeserving black people have at times being given jobs(AA and BEE are attempts to disrupt the ‘white’ hegemony created in the workplace by Apartheid policies)….

It seems to me that a lot of young white and black people could unburden themselves if they was an agreement that what we ALL WANT are workspaces where the brightest and the most hardworking and those who network the best can get ahead(social and emotional intelligence).

I think it also needs to be said that a lot of white people are grossly entitled and this evidences by the fact that when they don’t get hired they immediatedly assume it’s because of AA or BEE. This is shockingly arrogant because it assumes that a person of colour can never be more suitable for a job than them. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is a racist assumption.

So, in short, I personally think that until white people become serious(as those who have an advantage in the workplace) and agree to the baseline requirements I mentioned, we will not move forward on this issue anytime soon.

We can only have a discussion point once all sides recognise that our system is fundamentally set up in a way that encourages dichotomy and antagonism and that we have to imagine a better way forward otherwise we find ourselves in a future of mutually assured misery

[For more thoughts on First Steps towards a New South Africa by Sindile, click here]

[For a whole host of other Race vibes, click here]


I would like to think that I am good at putting my thoughts onto paper (virtual or not) but sometimes I come off as ignorant or unaware of something because the thought process that made me think or say something just wasn’t explained properly. So when the topic of transformation came up I was weary to even try to say anything about it.

If you have been following the discussion there have been some really great pieces on transformation and wow! Some people have hit it right on the mark. As a whole I feel as though my opinion may be a combination of ideas that I have read mixed in with my outlook on life based on my experiences. But here goes anyway…


Honestly, if you had asked me five years ago I would have said something like, “we are on the right track”, “what is the problem?” “racism, nope that is a thing of the past”, “white privilege? What is that?”

5 years is a lot of time to change a lot of thinking processes though and so as it stands today I can say that I disagree with everything that I had thought about transformation in South Africa. I was living in a very sheltered life where the world’s problems could be solved if you had an education and some sort of drive to do something with your life. However, things are not as simple as that. Simply expecting someone who is the first in their family to attend school and then suddenly become the next Barack Obama is an anomaly, not the norm.

I think that the biggest problem is that transformation seeks to quietly bring us together while Apartheid was not quiet about separating us. There aren’t laws that force us to get to know someone of the opposite race or even of a different culture for that fact. I’m not saying that, that would be a solution. What I am trying to say is that there was this huge thing that happened that affected everyone and for the most part a large number of people got together to fix it. Together. But now we are trying to ‘fix’ things individually and no longer as a country. We no longer have the drive to do something together as a country.

Remember 2010? How it felt to be South African? It felt awesome! I could even go out on a limb here and say that the togetherness we experienced then was a glimpse of what transformation should be like. We were actively teaching each other things, like how to blow a vuvuzela or even where the best place is to get food before a match.

Sadly, the World Cup came and went. We fell back into our habitual lifestyles that held no diversity.

I am 24 which means that I was born towards the end of the regime that separated a country. I went to a private school with a large white population and for most of my life my best and closest friends have always been white. Having said that I feel grossly incompetent and unqualified to say that there needs to be a change. I mean come on. I fall into the middle class category in a country where a large amount of its citizens fall below the bread line.  I don’t know the struggle and to even try to act as if I do would be insulting to a person who does know what it is like to go to bed hungry again, for a third night in a row.

So from my middle class view I will tell you how I wish transformation would happen from my own experiences.

Firstly, could we just acknowledge that we are different? I used to think that when a person said to me that they don’t even regard me as black that it was a compliment. That they saw me as a human before they saw me as a black human. I don’t think that, that approach works. Being black is something that is inherently me. You cannot miss the colour of someone’s skin. What is happening is that a person is in effect saying, “yup, you are a certain colour BUT because you act like me, speak like me or even dress like me I can overlook your colour and we can form some sort of relationship”. That doesn’t sit well with me anymore.

We have to acknowledge that we are different because our differences are what will bring us together. If you think that what I’m saying is impossible then let me explain.

I don’t know about you but I love learning new things. I can bet you that at some point you have gotten lost in the YouTube loop and that is because humans love getting new information (even if it is useless to you as you will never build a boat. Yet, you still watched 10 minutes of that video right?).

Learning new things is exciting, challenging and brings out a new side to you that you may never had known existed. Having a friend of a different culture, ethnicity or even gender and never learning from them is such a bore.

Here is where the whole thing about how our differences can bring us together which will be my second point.

Let’s start learning from each other. Not only on a one on one basis but on a mass scale. Having one friend who isn’t ‘like’ you really does not count as that is not a representation of the wider scope of people.

I know that there are cultural and religious barriers which sometimes seem like the end of the world. I have had Hindu, Muslim, Portuguse, Afrikaans and even an Athiest friend or two. Each experience taught me something that I will always treasure. Because I love learning new things…

With this new found keenness for learning from each other we also need to be willing to understand that past injustices do not go away overnight.

This is my third and last point. Let us all be aware and mindful of each other.  Not every white person owns a ten bedroom house with 6 cars just like not every black person is living on the street. But the reality is that the general trend leans towards the effect of white privilege. (Brett has some awesome pieces on that and please do yourself a favour and read them, because I can’t begin to put it as well as some people do).

I feel as though I have oversimplified a very complex situation. That was not my intention. This is merely an expression of how I feel on the matter in less than 1000 words. Transformation does not happen overnight.

So I will keep on hoping for a better future because we are not quite there yet. (But we will get there, of that I am sure)

[For other thoughts on First Steps towards a reconciled and transformed country, click here]

[For more thoughts and stories on the broader theme of Race-relatedness, 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.


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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