By Zipho Shusha
There has been a clash among the ANC top brass concerning Trevor Manuel’s utterances. Manuel said it was time for the government to take responsibility for its actions. “We [government] should no longer say it’s apartheid’s fault.” He further said that “we should get up every morning and recognise we have responsibility. There is no longer the Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves”.
On the 27th of this month we are celebrating the 19th anniversary of a democratic RSA and confronted with the inevitable question: What has been the value of democracy to the masses of the people of this country? Has the promise of a better life for all been fulfilled, deferred or are the poor masses still trapped in grinding poverty? Have the masses of this country prospered in the democratic South Africa?
We need to ask why Limpopo learners had to go to school the whole year without textbooks. Why are more than 50% of young people in South Africa unemployed? Here’s an outrageous idea — it is the current government’s fault. I’ve just about had it with being told “it’s apartheid’s fault”. It’s a deeply dishonest assertion to make. And honesty is a vital step in this scary and confusing journey we’ve taken together as South Africans. What astonished me most about this “blame apartheid” rhetoric is we refuse to make our government accountable for what is currently happening. I understand that apartheid was a horrible system that disenfranchised South Africans based on their skin colour and did its best to make sure they would forever be poor and uneducated. But our government is no saint either, Hendrik Verwoerd had nothing to do with government’s failure to deliver textbooks to Limpopo learners. Neither did PW Botha have anything to do with awarding that Limpopo department of education tender.
Here’s another outrageous idea — our government doesn’t take service delivery seriously, probably because it knows we still blame apartheid. It’s taking advantage of our misplaced outrage, while we turn a blind eye on its blunders, look the other way and blame apartheid. We take the foot off the accelerator and begin to excuse their faults and finally tolerate them.
A mistake made (and will surely be repeated in the comments below this column) is that people will say: “Too much talk about how bad our leaders and intellectuals are but no practical solutions. We’ve read and heard these daily attacks heaped on our leaders too many times. Every South African newspaper and interactive website has academics, experts, writers, intellectuals and counter-intellectuals telling us how bad our leaders have been. Enough please.”
I say the fact that we hear this every day is irrelevant. These leaders are mandated by us to lead. So if they commit injustices against us, shall we not hold them accountable? Lest I be accused of denigrating black leaders I must hasten to emphasise that there are many unforgivable acts committed by our colonisers and apartheid oppressors but the ill-treatment we’re rewarded with by our very own black leaders is as bad. And if we stop criticising our leaders then it means we stop holding them accountable, which is part of our responsibility as citizens.
Dear government employee, when you’re tempted to tell us “its apartheid’s fault”, think of that poor youth in the township or rural area. See if your words give hope to them. As Nelson Mandela said “let there be work, bread, water and salt for all”. So until the government stops blaming its blunders on apartheid and takes full responsibility for what’s currently happening, people must be angry with the government. Anything else would mean selling out what our fallen heroes and heroines died for. It’s as simple as that!
Zipho Shusha is 28 years old and believes young South Africans have a duty to share their views and not let other people define them and tell them what to think or do.