I’ve never understood why black men have come forward to claim their concern about the state of the country and desire to save it. Black men who not only hold top dog positions in white-owned companies but have been given shares in the name of BEE often make such claims.

Now, there is a group of black (and white) men who have expressed concern at the state of the nation and have committed to making strategic interventions to ameliorate such conditions. There’s no doubt that this is good news for social cohesion and national stability. But this neither solves the problem nor addresses its genuine causes.

Nobody should be surprised. After more than three centuries of colonialism, 50 years of racial supremacy and perpetual white economic domination, many black men have learned not only to do things for white people but to lay down their lives for them too.

In fact, black men find ultimate pleasure, satisfaction, fulfilment and success in the act of keeping white supremacy and capitalism alive. This is the reason why we are alive: to keep our white bosses happy!

Perhaps what we need now are billboards all over the country of successful black men in golden chains looming over black men, women and children in the mines, manufacturing, media, retail and all other sectors. The punch line should simply read: “Here to protect & preserve white domination”. This is the act we excel in performing, at the expense of fellow Africans. The prize is white approval and lots of money in the bank.

In a racist and capitalist society where blacks neither own the land nor share the wealth, all that black males do is to compete with one another to receive some rewards that white men can give to them. If you are a black male who questions this competition, you are likely to be identified as a “problem” and ultimately eradicated from the system.

Most black males understand this and are not likely to cause problems by raising issues or being ANC political activists at work. Their chances of receiving favours in the form of promotions, positions and company cars – from those who own and control the economy – are multiplied if they just carry on with their lives and turn a blind eye to white economic monopoly.

This is the existing socio-economic order. Those who question it have been compared to the likes of Patrice Motsepe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Saki Macozoma, Tokyo Sexwale, Herman Mashaba, Phuthuma Nhleko and a host of others with interests and shares in various conglomerates. They are said to represent the totality of black economic empowerment.

But even more, black people are expected to celebrate when a black billionaire throws R10-million to 100 black charities or donates R2-million to murdered mineworkers. And nothing should be said when those who own and control the bulk of the economy are happy to carry on with business as usual.

Anyway, I don’t know why black men are tortured by this unfulfilled desire for white approval. It makes it very difficult for black males to be true to themselves. The only thing that black men have is their integrity. I think they can win it back if they are not afraid to speak the truth about how the lack of economic power makes them weak. A man without self-respect is not worth anything. He may have money and status, but it is useless.

The preservation of white economic control is essential to keeping black men in check. Black men will always see themselves as lacking as long as they don’t have money in their back pockets. In fact, a lack of economic power will always make black men subordinates to powerful white males. As a result, black males will always need white men to feed, shelter and clothe their families.

There are predominantly black men attending the ANC’s 53rd conference in Mangaung to decide on the future of this country, including its economic policies – and it is long overdue that these black men invite white men to attend round-tables to hold serious talks about the redistribution of the wealth of this country.

This is what is urged by Stellenbosch University’s economics professor Sampie Terreblanche in his book Lost in Transformation. He says white men must be told in no uncertain terms that for black men to be free, they must control the land and all its wealth. In fact, even the ANC agrees that this is what the second phase of transition is all about. But the media always makes it look so elusive and complicated. And this is worsened by the representation of black males who, suddenly, express concern about the state of the nation and promise to do something to change the way things are.

To be taken seriously, black men must stop lying to themselves and the country. They cannot solve the problems of this country without economic power. They need to up their game and make it clear that they are tired of cleaning up the more than 300-year-old mess that has been created by the white monopoly of wealth and power. Also, they must make it clear that they are tired of emulating white men, their lifestyle and their values used to measure success. This is what is alienating black men from their own communities; turning them into criminal targets and making them the subjects of vicious dinner conversations.

If black men are serious about self-worth and need the affirmation of their people, they must stop envying white males and doing things according to the capitalist gospel. Black men were not born to be protectors of white wealth but kings in their ancestral land. It is time that they act like kings in Africa. And for that, they need to control the economy.



Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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