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Do South Africans have a ‘loser’ mentality?

“Yaapies” is how the Australian writer Malcolm Knox referred to South African cricketers in his 2005 novel Adult Book. Some may take exception to this, but it has to be acknowledged that he also manages to sum up very neatly what is wrong not just with our national cricket team, but with the South African psyche as a whole.

Chris, the main character in the novel, has this to say about South African cricketers:

The Yaapies jump around. Busy, punky, athletic. They think they’re like us, but they’re not, not at all. Something in their history makes them tough but insecure, hard on the surface but soft–centred. They fight and fight and never give up, but when you’ve beaten them, there’s something in them that accepts it. As if deep down they’re too guilty to take the last step.

What Knox successfully puts his finger on here is a fundamental lack of collective self belief that continues to prevent South Africans from achieving their full potential. There is plenty of idealism in the nation, abundant skills and resources, many decent people and a still potent core of optimism that comes from our collective success in pulling away from the brink of ruinous civil war. Despite this, there remains an over-arching pall of negativity throughout society that all too often becomes self-fulfilling. This dampens enthusiasm and stifles hope for the future. Real achievements are routinely played down while problems are too often conflated into unmanageable threats.

History is replete with the extraordinary things that can be achieved when a nation, or even an ethnic group, works together with a sense of common purpose. One particularly striking example took place in the latter half of the 19th century, when Japan transformed itself from a quasi-medieval, feudal society into a modern economic and military superpower capable of competing with the most advanced European countries. Japan achieved this not by sacrificing its own traditional culture but rather by harnessing the dynamics of that culture to assimilate what was useful in the rival European culture and to fully exploit this for its own ends. As a result, Japan not only avoided the fate of other non-European societies that failed to adapt fast enough and were consequently swallowed up by predatory colonialists, but even succeeded in becoming an imperial power itself.

One can point to other examples. The remarkable transformation of the land of Israel from a sparsely populated colonial backwater into a thriving modern state in the face of such daunting odds is one. Another is how post-World War I Turkey arose Phoenix-like from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, spectacularly reversing three centuries of near-constant decline to re-establish itself as a strong, prosperous presence on the world stage.

There is a striking local parallel we can point to. Inevitably, it has its dark side, yet its underlying lessons are profound. This was the way the Afrikaner community was able to pick itself up by its bootstraps in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer war through a sustained and impressive series of economic, cultural, educational and political upliftment initiatives.

The extent to which Afrikaners succeeded in transforming themselves has to be admired, whatever reservations one might have with some of the methods employed. A host of organisations and institutions aimed at promoting Afrikaner welfare in every conceivable sphere were launched, particularly during the inter-war years. The Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereenigings, financial giants like Saambou, Volkskas Bank and Sanlam Insurance, workers’ organisations like Spoorbond and charitable institutions like Reddingsdaad were just a few of these. Inspired by an intense spirit of ethnic solidarity and national pride (something so dramatically illustrated by the 1938 Great Trek Centenary celebrations), Afrikaners confronted head-on, and to a great extent overcame, the problems of poverty, lack of education and skills and political powerlessness that had so bedevilled them in the grim years following the loss of their independence.

Of course, this is not the whole story. Much of these undoubted achievements were marred by the fact that Afrikaner upliftment was in part facilitated by existing racist legislation that accorded special privileges to the white minority while placing unacceptable restrictions on legitimate black aspirations. There were statutory colour bars limiting skilled and most semi-skilled positions in the workplace to whites only, not to mention racially differentiated wage levels, among many other iniquitous laws.

How, therefore, should one evaluate the whole phenomenon?

I believe that while the negative aspects of the campaign for Afrikaner upliftment cannot be disregarded, it would be equally inaccurate to dismiss Afrikaner accomplishments as being solely attributable to institutionalised racism. The undeniable fact is that the ethnic, national and cultural solidarity fostered by countless dedicated men and women proved to be a potent force in generating change for the better within the Afrikaner community. It should further be noted how this solidarity cut across class lines, being as concerned with uplifting the lowest echelons of Afrikaner society as it was on creating a wealthy, educated elite.

As I see it, South Africa’s greatest challenge is to foster a similar sense of patriotism and common purpose amongst its diverse peoples. History has shown how patriotism, when it is genuinely inclusive, can be a tremendous force for good. This would mean, in the South African context, at the very least having a sincere respect for those from different backgrounds.

In this regard, it can seriously be questioned whether according special privileges to certain groups solely on the basis of race is the best way of redressing the wrongs of the past (especially fourteen years into democracy, when young white people who were only small children when apartheid was in force are now entering the market place). There are unquestionably some disquieting similarities between contemporary affirmative action and BEE policies and the notorious Colour Bar legislation of bygone years, even if the latter impacted far more negatively on blacks than its modern incarnation does on today’s white minority. Nor is it necessarily working in correcting the socio-economic imbalances between blacks and whites. In practice, a minority of fortunate blacks have landed with their buttocks in the margarine while the great majority remain rooted in poverty.

One area where I believe there is a pressing case for remedying apartheid’s legacy is in public transport. Forced removals and urban segregation resulted in most non–whites being forced to live in areas very far from their places of work, and this problem continues to this day. For many –- perhaps the majority -– of black people, getting to and from work remains a lengthy, expensive and often dangerous ordeal to be endured on a daily basis. I, for one, would whole-heartedly support the allocation of sufficient resources towards establishing an efficient, affordable public transport service to ease this inherited burden. It would certainly be preferable to racially-skewed employment requirements that reward a few lucky individuals for being black, correspondingly punish others for being white and leave the basic problems of inequality unresolved.

Author

  • David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.

47 Comments

  1. mundundu mundundu 29 April 2008

    i agree with a lot of that point of view in its entirety.

    in addition to the british-imposed and afrikaner-retained whites-only laws, there were a few other things that helped maintain the whole mentality, i think.

    first, overall, the british have a bit of an inferiority complex either. all those people killed and injured and such during the boer war, and then 8 years later, the british gave us independence? the reason? my theory is that the british crown was too scarred by their canadian experience: a colony where most of the white people bore absolutely no allegiance or respect to the british crown. they couldn’t handle it.

    the boer wars led the afrikaners and the boers (and there is a difference) to have, basically, the unassailed right to say “we are africans”. now this right has been assailed by most non-white people in this country, but within the white afrikaner mentality is a “our ancestors were butchered here; we have the right to say we belong”. i honestly believed that if the british had not been so brutal during the boer wars, the brutality would not have been passed on to the extent that it was to the various non-white populations.

    remember, the national party split over what to do about the coloureds — are they afrikaners or are they bantus or what? i often joke to my coloured friends that their cousins are getting on my nerves, and often times the person’s first reaction is “are you talking about a boer or is this another lack of service delivery complaint about the anc?”

    the magnified inferiority sense is also amplified by the treatment of south african blacks to foreign blacks in this country. as a foreign black person, i have felt some degree of it, but i am glad that i live in cape town and not johannesburg. the amount of xenophobic incidents i have had are fairly few, but i have felt enough to realise exactly what pius adesanmi discussed in the following opinion piece:

    http://tinyurl.com/5dkt94

    i’m sure most of you have seen it.

    always needing someone to pick on and demonise. i’m sure part of that comes from human nature, but in south africa it’s definitely heightened.

    something else that is making this loser situation so much more heightened is that while during apartheid, south africa was a closed society, the post-apartheid openness has created a open spigot: namely, nearly the entire white middle class and many black people who don’t they can get get a fair shake from the anc-driven oligarchy have packed their bags and left. this has created such a lopsided division of wealth in this country that it’s more like latin america than anywhere else in africa. [elsewhere in africa, the rich are a lot more discreet about their wealth than they are here; even in nigeria, you really don’t have any idea about just how wealthy someone is until you enter their house.]

    but, overall, while there is a lot of optimism in the general sense here, there is still quite a bit of “loser-ness” here. the whites constantly measure themselves against white-run countries and say that south africa is going straight to hell. [i share that point of view, but not because of comparing it to european countries — as an african raised largely in latin america, i see very disturbing similarities to brazil and colombia every time i leave my house.]

    black south africans on the other hand, are constantly trying to compare themselves to white people and at the same time belittle and downgrade black foreigners and, depending on location, coloureds. [the anc are again going to be denied an overall majority victory in the western cape because of the explicitly racist animus between the skwatsha and rasool camps.]

    south africans of all races come together to browbeat about zimbabwe, albeit for different reasons, and generally feel better about themselves when talking about the rest of africa. a continuing source of amusement to me is to hear south africans of all races talk about “going to africa”, as if this is an island off the cost of the continent or something. for one thing it shows to me the amount of real disconnect with the south african psyche about being in AFRICA, as if africa is all bad — something about that sentiment reminds me of how the british talk about “going to europe”.

    the overall schizophrenia of it all will continue to affect south africans for decades to come. the jury is still out over how it will end, in the long term.

    wow. that was long.

  2. Ndumiso Ngcobo Ndumiso Ngcobo 29 April 2008

    Good Lord!

    David?

  3. Castor Troye Castor Troye 29 April 2008

    The successes of post war Japan, the Asian tigers, China and even Germany can be attributed to a culture of looking forward rather than backwards. Unfortunately, countries which persist in focussing on past injustices without foresight for the future will remain stuck in the mud.

    Cultures that flourish, use past tragedies and challenges as historical introspection but also as fuel and motivation to focus for the future. Take Japan and Israel for example.

  4. William William 29 April 2008

    I think this is a good post. I agree we continually underestimate ourseleves. We want to see SA fail becuase then it proves that blacks cannot run the place or our white sportsteams are just not as good as they think they are. I have heard almost no comment about the simple fact that at the presnet moment on time we are ranked number 1 in world rugby and in world one day cricket. One of our top disabled athletes is a threat to able bodied athletes. I mean can you imagine if an athlete with two legs gets beaten by a man with no legs. As David pointed out an orthodox jew doesn’t need to hide beneath a baseball cap in SA. We have problems, serious problems but we can do it. We did it before. We have won two world cups in four competitions. No-one else has that record. Watch teh Sharks dig deep and beat the Crusaders on Saturday. We have to believe we are a winning nation if we are to achieve. Jake WHite made people believe and he never lost his faith in that team. We must do the same.

  5. geejay geejay 29 April 2008

    I have a better idea. Lets move all the whites into RDP houses and all the blacks into the leafy suburbs. That way blacks would be really motivated and happy and whites, through their toughness and “trekker mentality” would build themselves up again. Now you might not agree with my suggestion. But I just wanted you to experience what a black person feels when he reads your drivel.

  6. Spencer Spencer 30 April 2008

    “is a fundamental lack of collective self belief” Speak for yerself David.

  7. Brett Brett 30 April 2008

    Nice one David
    I googled the book you refer to. We might be chokers but at leats we don’t have to write books about how the biggest crisis is how some elderly GP has a guilt complex because he reads the odd bongo magazine. I mean talk about self indulgent. The Aussies give new meaning to that word. The Proteas will get there. We many not be flash but I tell you the fact that the Boks have done what they did shows you just need steely determination and that you must just not get emotional in your response. We underestimate our achievements. I mean Yugoslavia degenerated into a blood bath. The Palestinians and Israelis are no closer to a solution, sanity finally prevailed in Northern Irealnd. We were at teh brink and we pulled away magnificently. we should never forget that. I used to think that sport was all propaganda mostly becuase I was never any good at it at school, but I realize that it does reflect a national psyche. Look at any England team. There is no nationla pride no snese of purpose no committment. Ever since the overririding narrative of the Empire went out there has been no purpose in England. Look at Pakistan they are so mercurial and frustrating. Sometimes they dazzle other times they fold. Reflects thier country’s struggle for identity. We are so often divided amongst ourselves that it shows in our teams. But we have overcome it. Look at our results. Rember also that the Proteas were basically gutted by the Hansie Cronje exposure. As Traps has siad other countires protected their players, we threw Hansie to the wolves. SO teh Proteas have had to rebuild form scratch. We are going to have a great wordl cup here in SA. Better than the Olympics in 2000. Mark my words.

  8. Brent Brent 30 April 2008

    The country possesses so much collective energy that is mostly used against each other instead of in healthy competition that uplifts the whole.

    Dabbling (am an old pale male) in Black Power, believe very strongly that Blacks (use that word in general for all so called non whites) should emmulate the Afrikander and band together (yes agree with the concept of the exclusive Black journalist) using all fair means (including Govt support) and pull themselves up (all not just the smart and connected) collectively as groups whilst not pulling any other group down.

    This will be difficult but do-able with all S.Africans getting involved positively instead of cutting others down.

    The previous generation was the Struggle one let this generation be the DELIVERABLE one.

    Brent

  9. Craig Craig 30 April 2008

    Nah – just Alan Donald and Lance Klusener – everybody else is a winner through and through ;)

  10. Mandrake Mandrake 30 April 2008

    Are you a fan of Barney?

  11. lynne lynne 30 April 2008

    Firstly, if the Aus writer had done a bit of research he would have known that the word if “Jaapies”..usually referred to the uncouth, so I don’t know what the designation signifies..

    ..apart from that, I am assuming that he refers to white players, since so few black players have featured in cricket and rugby (heaven knows where Bafana Bafana fits into all this…). I do think that white S Africans suffer from a huge guilt/inferiority complex..one only has to look at those who defend themselves for emigrating; crowing about every perceived justification for their going – instead of saying “I do what I do becasue I can and want to”. In Xolela Mangcu’s book, ‘To the Brink’ he shows how a combination of Black nativism and White denial is denying us the ability to work together as a nation to forge a new national identity. You only have to read this and any other forum to see the proof of this. When Whites admit the wrongs of the past and show some remorse (and so get rid of their feelings of guilt) and when Blacks allow Whites to contribute as full citizens, we might stop fighting among ourselves and start building together.

  12. Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder 30 April 2008

    Dear Geejay et al

    Dont be quite so spiteful now its unbecoming of you – would it not be more humane to offer repatriation to Europe – with financial incentives. Really how could you expect the average white family to live in one of those dreadful RDP houses, many ‘white’ pets have better accommodations.
    But yes this blog is such super drivel – a surface deep explortion of past brutalities and inhumanites treated with a honeyed coating.

  13. Perplexed Perplexed 30 April 2008

    Great article and agree. Just wish our “leaders” in government would read this and had the backbone ,foresight and intellect to think and plan beyond their their monthly paycheck.

  14. Ric Ric 30 April 2008

    “Develop better public transport for blacks & all the injustice perpetrated upon them for close to 400 years by rabid white racists will be wiped away.

    Wow you really think out-the-box don’t you!!

  15. rockvillian rockvillian 30 April 2008

    Alex Matthews could learn a lot from you.
    Well cooked article

  16. Afrikaner Afrikaner 30 April 2008

    So why does the current ‘nation’ not emulate the Afrikaners’ success? Note the quote-unquote around nation.

    The Zulus had a powerful kingdom once.

    So did the Afrikaners.

    The problem is of course that, generally speaking, it is individual nations that achieve greatness, not hodge-podges of different nations. A shared culture, history, language and yes skin colour makes all the difference. This is the difference between Japan and the Congo.

    As is the case with the Congo, South Africans live in one country but are not one nation. The differences are just too great for Afrikaners to ever see ourselves as one nation with Zulus.

    The answer should be obvious. It is possible that there will one day again be a great Zulu nation, but not in the artificially created geographical accident of history called South Africa.

  17. lehlohonolo lehlohonolo 30 April 2008

    “The extent to which Afrikaners succeeded in transforming themselves has to be admired” – so you reckon the ends justifies the means?!… i’ll tell you what’s the problem with south africa, it is the tolerance of nonsense spewing things!

  18. davef davef 30 April 2008

    Geejay -aside from the fact that that would be quite crowded – for the blacks in the leafy suburbs with 13 families in each house, I think the well-off black residents in those suburbs would be delighted at the revaluing of their investments too. I’d suspect an awful lot of white South Africans would be happy to take you up on that, provided legal racial discrimination and threats of siezure ended too. Within three years – as the swap can’t include skills or the ability to do jobs and earn, the RDP houses would have become leafy suburbs – and, having struggled to live in such crowded conditions and with no money or common interest in upkeep the former leafy suburb would now be slums, with the occupants now demanding their RDP houses back.

    Instead of such idiotic suggestions, what is wrong with the idea – proven and tested – of building good infrastructure, of investing in education (not pass one, pass all), accountability, job creation and hard work at proving ourselves a winning nation, getting the vast bulk of people into nice leafy suburbs? What is wrong with building a huge pie big enough for everyone to have a big slice, instead of taking away the pie from one small group and then wondering why, when you have to divide it among 13 times as many people, the pieces are smaller. Oh I know: those are wicked colonialist western ideas(which happen to work in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and even in China). No we’ll rubbish the ideas. Can’t you offer some sensible ideas? Or is that beyond you?

  19. Old, female, pale face. Old, female, pale face. 30 April 2008

    A few good responses to a good article.
    I am heartened to note that the racial bickering is diminishing. Okay – so I am an optimist. If I did not have this asset, I would have buckled under being a permanent inhabitant of “the” minority group.
    I do agree with the comment that black citizens should now,… as the overwhelming majority,…. get back to basic belief of Ubuntu. For goodness sake stop feeling like a loser!
    You rule the country so why be so defensive? Own your place in this land of ours – all of us live here!
    Those who were disadvantaged and are now part of the elite “haves”, should help to uplift their very under-priviledged compatriots, who, by the way, incidentally – are the TRUE MAJORITY!.
    These black diamonds can surely afford to subsidise and educate one child in a good school. It could snowball when this charitable act becomes a “do as so-and-so” is doing. Each one getting fulfillment and joy in the act of unconditional love. There is no greater satisfaction.
    The real ubuntu is seen in poverty areas – where an old lady who has so little for herself, let alone to spare – gives a hand to those worse off. She always has room for one more soul in need. I bet she does not feel like a loser.
    In fact, she is a winner doing her best for her people.
    She will have great pride in herself and great hopes for the little ones she cares for. Her love is unconditional.
    If the wealthy give up one pair of Italian shoes’ price, [tough I know] to such a “mother angel,” the giver will feel pride in herself. Self esteem is boosted. Winner instead of loser mentality.
    All it takes is one step into the future, by one person, for others to follow the example. Those who stand by and do nothing – are doing something – the the choice of stagnation!”
    Sponsor one child to an education and you sponsor a new nation in progress.
    This is a challenge I throw out into the ether, in a positive way, and I look for and expect results.
    If I could, I would – but I too, am dependent on the caring pf my children, as my pension is inadequate. I never belonged to the privileged and worked hard for every cent earned.
    I choose to do something by asking a reader to put a hand out to a needy person.
    There but for the grace of God, go I.
    I appeal to you – no racial remarks about the adage of “helping yourself.”
    Children do not have that privilege – makes you think!

  20. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 30 April 2008

    Mandundu

    Canada “a colony where most of the white people have absolutely no allegiance or respect for the british crown” ???

    Do you realise that Queen Elizabeth ll is the head of state of Canada, and of 44 other countries in the Commonwealth (the previous empire)? The National anthem “O Canada” is often sung together with “God save the Queen”.

    Like us the Canadians have two main languages (French and English), but they chose to keep their queen.

  21. Saffa Saffa 30 April 2008

    I wouldn’t listen to a Australian! We are winner!! and we know who the yaapies are!

  22. Thula Thula 30 April 2008

    Venezuela is a more pertinent example of trying to do something new and homegrown. Israel succeeded not by its own hands but by huge amounts of money being poured into it from outside, and having a lot of security and protection from outside.

    Lebanon and Palestine would like to have a chance to be new nations. Japan is not a nation that encourages diversity, and is not a good model. We need more than someone else’s economic model. Our leaders need to be less corrupt and show some real leadership for the whole nation, not just their party.

  23. Rory Short Rory Short 30 April 2008

    As I see it the present ANC government actually has no faith in the innate ability of black people as a whole to pull themselves out of the ravages of apartheid.

    If they did have such a faith they would never have devoted themselves to passing racially based legislation such as AA and BEE. They would instead have devoted their efforts to passing legislation which would work to improve the appalling levels of public education and skills training that still exist in our country.

    Sadly it looks to me as though what the ANC govt has largely devoted its legislative efforts to when it comes to righting the ravages of apartheid, is legislating to advance the lot of an already priveledged minority of black people not the lot of the illiterate or semi-literate and unskilled masses.

    People like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Ellen Khuswayo, Lillian Ngoya, Steve Biko and many others who triumphed against the massive odds thrown at them by Apartheid are regarded as having passed their sell by dates Apartheid having been vanquished. Their incredible tenancity, never say die spirits and their triumphs against enormous odds are not seen as indicative of the potential that resides in all people but in this case particularly black people because they were after all black people themselves.

    A while before 1994 I was working in IT with a black contract programmer. One day I asked him what he thought of some IT job advertisements placed in the press by companies that claimed they were Affirmative Action employers.

    His immediate response was, ‘I would never work for such a company. I got where I am now through my own unaided efforts despite Apartheid. If I worked for such a company then my hard won skills would become suspect in the eyes of potential employers’.

  24. BenzoL BenzoL 1 May 2008

    SA has “a fundamental lack of collective self belief” you say. In a country 11 official languages and probably more underlying cultures with a relatively short history in its current format, one cannot expect anything else.
    In an effort to undo the historical injustices, other injustices have been introduced. As a result, there is no “collective” self belief in one nation YET.
    Australia created the national self belief by parking the original inhabitants “in space”. The Americans all but made the native population extinct.
    In hindsight, I would think that a South African confederation of states could have been a better solution but….a “what if” analysis is easier in hindsight than in the future, certainly when negotiations are not about “governing systems” but about “power”.
    As far as SA’s role in the Security council? That body is a lame duck under anybodies leadership.
    If the UK/US brotherhood does not like the outcome, they ignore its advice. If they can win their case, they use the out coming resolution as an umbrella to bully their opponents into submission.

  25. Oom Koos Oom Koos 1 May 2008

    @lehlolonolo: Yes the end justifies the means, just in the same way as the evil white farmers where punished for their deeds in Zimbabwe, Hon’ble Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s land reclaim points to the correctness of your observation.

  26. Brandon Brandon 1 May 2008

    Whilst not denying the points – the article is itself an example of the inferiority complex under discussion. Do we really need to measure our self worth, in life and as a nation, against the Aussies? Are the aussies a fitting benchmark for human achievement?

    However, it is not unexpected that South Africa would suffer from these charachteristics. Huge portions of our nation spent most of their lives treated as second class citizens. The other portion spent decades as outcasts, chastised by the world and rejected by the global society – (rightly so). Now we have a leadership which was shaped by an environment which classed them as inferior and a portion of the population which is now treated as second class and burdened with a national debt of imposed guilt.

    This environment has and still does breed south africans who have no sense of self worth on both sides of the spectrums.

    We have become adept at convincing ourselves as a nation that we are failures. It hasn’t taken us long to undo the wonderful achievements of liberation (which liberated all our peoples) by insidously convincing ourselves as a nation that the miracle is unreal, too good to be true, and so a failure.

    The latest trend is now the national activity of convincing ourselves that we are racist. Over the past few years the racist notion has started through some focussed events and is now beginning to reac a crescendo.

    A nation like an individual is what they believe they are. Just as an individual can subliminally induce self opinion -positive or negative, so can a nation. The subliminal aspect consists mostly of the visual and aural stimulus which we face on a daily basis – news reports, magazines, movies etc. In this regard a group a people are responsible for prompting the national physce – people who should be responsible and have national interests at heart. If these news editors, soapie producers, musicians and politicians examine the result of their mandate thus far — South African self worth has sunk from the heights of 1994, when we all believed South Africans where the greatest on earth and an example to the world – to the depths of despair in the current.

    Sadly – the in your face efforts at nation building and national pride won’t work. It is as easy to build a positive self image of us as South Africans, as it is to build the negative one we have.

    National Authorities need to recognize that the nation suffers from a traumatic childhood (all of the nation) and that we need physcological healing. Public figures, and the custodians of public opinion need to become more sensitive to the need to project, in their media the positives of being South African , far more than the negatives.

    We don’t need constant reminders of our past and the way we where, as inferior citizens, we need a fresh impetus of media, projecting what we can become, and what is possible for us as a nation.

    At the individual level – we need to acknowledge that our perceptions are insidiously shaped by the stimuli which we face each day, and not necessarily by reality. We should be aware that this media popularizes dirty washing and has a keen distaste for the Acts of True South Africanism , taking place every day. These acts far outweigh the negatives.

    All we have to do is put on different glasses, look for the wonderful things happening in this country rather than the negatives. As individuals we will slowly regain our self value and this will spread to a nation.

  27. The following is a report in IOL online – I quote an extract
    if permitted :

    “”South Africa could be plunged into serious political instability similar to that in Zimbabwe, SA Communist Party Deputy General-Secretary Jeremy Cronin has warned.
    Delivering the Chris Hani Memorial Lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, Cronin said political turmoil could come quickly if the ANC continued to blunder.
    The lecture revolved around challenges facing liberation movements that assumed power.
    Cronin critically analysed this phenomenon, and drew comparisons between the actions of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe and those of the ANC in South Africa.””

    I see a wise warning in that ANC must stop lining the pockets of their cronies.
    Jobs by patronage.
    Political appointees “Managing??” Utilities that are essential services.
    Running them into the ground through lack of maintenance so that BIG bonuses can be ensured.
    Land Policy has been a total failure.
    Productive farms are now idle. People were dumped on “their claimed land” and then hung out to dry on their own.
    Farming skills are learnt – they do not happen just because the land was “yours.”
    Or sold to the “new billionaires.”
    Okay party apologists – point out my racialist attitude.
    Trust me – I am racist in that I am trying to be PC. If it were the DA or any other so called white party – I would have screamed loudly at every forum available.
    Sorry, that is what minorities and Liberals do for a hobby.

  28. EdV EdV 1 May 2008

    If you ever back-packed around Europe, as I did in the 1980s, white South Africans (and Zimbos) were known by Aussies and Kiwis as ‘yaapies’ because every time we were offred a beer, we’d say ‘ja pleez’. This crossed neatly into the plaas-jaap type insult usually thrown by drunken white male SAns at each other. But if you’re dumb enough to imagine that any Australian has insights into the South African psyche – given that we can’t see into the bloody thing – you probably need a beer, mate.

  29. Oldfox Oldfox 1 May 2008

    I think we can learn about reconciliation from Rwanda, where in 1994, around 1 million people were slaughtered in 100 days.

    Fatuma Ndangiza is Rwanda’s Executive Secretary National Unity and Reconciliation Commission.
    http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/special_rwandas-economy/National_Unity_and_Reconciliation_Commission_printer.shtml
    Below is an extract from the above webpage.

    Ndangiza says that as a strategy, NURC in 1999-2001 carried out a national consultative exercise about unity and reconciliation.

    “We went to all the villages, at the cell level and held meetings with the locals. We asked three questions:

    a) What is that, that divided Rwandans?
    b) Do you think Unity and reconciliation is possible?
    c) If possible, what needs to be done? This is because we wanted to generate solutions, which are owned by the people. Reconciliation should be an enterprise of all Rwandans,” she says.

    “Through consultations, we have discovered that everybody wants reconciliation because they say that if there is no reconciliation, there will never be survival of this country.

    They want peace for their children. “The people recognize that once Rwandans are united, they will always look at development as the only preoccupying issue.

    That actually, the biggest problem to the Rwandan people is not whether one is Tutsi or Hutu, the biggest problem is poverty, how to deal with HIV/Aids and how to increase household incomes,” she says.
    She says that this discovery has since shaped NURC’s intervention strategies.

  30. Oldfox Oldfox 1 May 2008

    Brandon,

    “The latest trend is now the national activity of convincing ourselves that we are racist.”

    I wished I could prove you wrong, but I can’t.
    On the occasion of the Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the Freedom Day Celebrations: Landsdown Stadium, Cape Town 27 April 2008
    http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2008/08042909151001.htm
    Pres. Mbeki makes several references to racism (6 times) and racist(3 times) attitudes/behaviour.
    Not a single reference to HIV/AIDS (which is responsible for some 300 000 deaths in SA every year).

  31. Brett Brett 1 May 2008

    In that book the author does not only analyse us Sefricans, he describes Kiwis as not to bad cut price Aussies, he describes the English team as good blokes when they lose but boorish and unpleasant when they win. He feels the whole world is a better place when Australia beats Englnad. It reminds me of John Howard who said Australia is the greatest country in the world and Australians are the greatest people. I mean get real. Read John Pilgers book on Austrlia for a fe home truths. The Aborigines have been wiped out, teh Austarlian government detains refugess in concentration camps in the outback, in teh 1970’s when the Aussie’s under Whitlan trried to have an independent foreign policy, there was a constitutionla coup organized by the CIA to get rid of him and put in a more American friendly prime minister. Generally their whole behavior is one of entitlement and self satisfaction. If you ever meet a polite AMerican , he is probably a Canadian similalrly if you ever meet a polite Aussie he is probably a Kiwi.

  32. Oldfox Oldfox 1 May 2008

    BenzoL wrote: “In a country 11 official languages and probably more underlying cultures with a relatively short history in its current format, one cannot expect anything else.”

    Brandon wrote: “However, it is not unexpected that South Africa would suffer from these charachteristics. Huge portions of our nation spent most of their lives treated as second class citizens.”

    Many people post similar sentiments to the above.
    Its very easy to find excuses for the lack of a common national identity/purpose etc. in SA, and we can continue to relate such excuses in 10 or 20 or 50 years time.
    Government failed to bring about reconciliation (but maybe that was never its intention). Many govt. actions in fact worsen race relations.
    SA civic society, NGOs, churches, cultural organizations failed to bring about reconciliation (maybe they never really tried)

    Here is another item from Rwanda.
    The Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, addressing a South African Interfaith Delegation, related the following: “to underline the new common identity that the Rwandans had forged since the genocide, he told the story of the Rwandans who were refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 1998, they (i.e. refugees) launched a massive attack on Rwandans near the DRC border. They came to schools and demanded that learners separate themselves into Hutu and Tutsi groups. Learners refused and chose to die as Rwandans. They were massacred for their choice.” http://www.sacc.org.za/news06/rwanda.html

    Note that this unity of the Rwandan schoolchildren was only 4 years after the Rwandan Holocaust.
    Shame on us South Africans who could not bring about unity in 14 years!

    If Racism were to be ranked among the top problems facing the majority of South Africans, it may not get to the top 10.
    In the late 1980s, some researchers carried out a survey in rural Natal (Zululand it was called then) and asked people to rank their needs in a wishlist. Clean drinking water was often No.1. Employment, educational facilities, electricity & clinics were typically high on the list. Much lower down, were items like the abolition of certain Apartheid laws then still in force.

    Racism was long a reality in the mines. I worked at a mining co. during vacation while a student in the mid 1970s. The various apprentices who were training for mine work, and I were once briefed on how we had to behave underground. It was made very clear to us: use of the k-word when addressing a black miner was strictly forbidden, and would be punished, unless followed by an immediate apology, with instant dismissal of the offender. Nevertheless, many white miners and shift bosses/foremen were definitely very racist.
    Did this make all black miners very bitter? No. Many black miners would risk their lives to save the lives of their white bosses during or after an accident. Likewise, white miners, even the racists among them, would risk their lives to save their black team members.
    And when there was a serious accident requiring proto teams (exclusively white way back then, and almost exclusively white today), these rescuers would work sometimes non stop for over 24 hours under conditions of extreme danger, to rescue the trapped miners, who comprised mostly and often entirely black miners.
    Despite the divisions in SA society then, the miners had a common purpose: get the ore out of the ground, and when there is an accident, help your neighbour if you can, regardless of his race.

    I’m not implying that racism & racist attitudes (by people of all racial groups) in SA are unimportant today, but I do think South Africans are putting too much emphasis on racism.

  33. Rory Short Rory Short 1 May 2008

    As people on this blog have pointed out we have a tendency to focus on the negative things about ourselves and our society.

    I was just listening to a radio programme that was considering the proposed new schools pledge and I was reminded that the pledge goes on about the injustices of the past instead of chiefly and mainly lauding the valour of those of all races who so valiantly fought and eventually triumphed in getting rid of Apartheid, and that without descending into a civil war. Surely that is the kind of valour that we should be promoted in schools because it will enable us to deal with future problems whereas focussing on past injustices will help us not one iota.

  34. geejay geejay 1 May 2008

    @davef the suggestion I made was idiotic and specifically constructed to draw people in so that they could understand just how idiotic this main article is from the perspective of a still disenfranchised person.
    The point is that trying to tell the world let alone black Africans that the Afrikaners should in effect be honoured for apartheid and not abused for it is ridiculous. Or how Israel’s policy of exterminating Palestinians and removing them from their rightful homelands is great. It’s 2008 and such statements are devoid of any humanity and are actually insane!
    Everyone has a lot to say about how black Africans should act and respond to their new found freedom (as if they were given something by whites, when the white idiots never had it in the first place. You were lepers of the international society 14 years ago, thought worse of than Mugabe and we cured you of that!)

    In all history I find not a single time/event that can compare to the magnificence this country and its still disenfranchised people (black and white) have achieved in 14 years.
    It hasn’t been easy. It has plenty of faults and needs constant care, but please show me where a young government who has never been in power before has achieved what our government and all those who serve in parliament have?

    The ANC didn’t create AIDS. The ANC did not support murder and mayhem. (Our prisons are overflowing) The ANC is not the big bad wolf that the western backed press/tabloids would have us believe they are. Ask Tony Blair why he squashed his own arms scandal (recently re opened) ask him to justify his partaking in the mass murder of Iraqi’s.
    And to talk about the great Australia a country that joined the USA and illegally invaded Iraq and killed over 200,000 of its citizens makes his article even more inhumane and heartless. By his own standards Howard should be tried for war crimes against humanity. Instead he was sitting on his ego at the commonwealth shouting about ZANU. For goodness sake!

    My suggestion is that instead of telling others less fortunate how to act, that we actually start understanding and listening to how they survive and what we as fellow citizens and more fortunate individuals can do.
    Perhaps it is time to stop riding on the good will of others and really go out of our way to lift the plight of our fellow SAFA’s. (Hopefully without trying to indoctrinate the merits of Apartheid, Zionism or “Paxamericana” into their souls.) And do it because we actually care and not to do it so that we can leave our little IOU’s all over town.
    So first we shut up and listen. That way we become more attuned to what the challenges actually are. Because believe me unless you live in Alex, Diepsloot and other ghetto’s you simply have no idea. We take responsibility for them and we address them.
    It’s the small things. The sharing. The ability to say if we want a new South Africa then we actually have to do something more than simply paying our taxes, complaining about the aspirations of others and being self righteous anal citizens. (Australians)
    And for once, just once I would like South Africans to call each other South Africans and stop referring to their fellow citizens as if they are not part of the same society.

  35. Gus mkandla Gus mkandla 1 May 2008

    @craig – And Darryl Cullinan – Craig he wet himself when he saw Shane Warne. Even psychiatrists gave up on him.Remember an incident as the sydney cricket ground when Shane warne asked Darryl “what color was the couch”.

    Darryl true to form was out next ball. A true loser mentality if ever there was one

  36. BenzoL BenzoL 1 May 2008

    @oldfox
    My statement about 11 or more different cultures was more intended to highlight the stronger tendency towards national unity in more homogeneous countries (language, culture).
    In my own little way, I joined the Black Management Forum to combat the frequent expressions of racism by their President and have the consent of many of their members. I currently mentor 9 African staff members of a large organisation into becoming internal business consultants.
    I cannot help the poor other than giving “stuff” to various institutions. I cannot create jobs to reduce unemployment.
    I am not allowed to vote because I am not an SA citizen. Why not become one, you ask? I would loose my Dutch state pension which i paid for a good part of my life. And… the SA government does not look after its senior citizens.
    Sitting on the side in SA, having experienced the post WW2 united effort in Holland to get the country back on its hind, I feel sorry for the ANC members of Government who keep drivelling on the past and have no clear vision for the future other than 2010 and the Gautrain. even the Millennium Dev. Goals are lower on the list than the arms deal and the BEE deals (many of which are showing serious cracks).
    As in construction, nation building has to start from the ground up, not the other way around.
    Money is not the problem. Achievement is! Some donors have withdrawn their funds for non-delivery by government agencies. With lots of goodwill on the ground from all quarters, the ANC driven government is largely responsible for the general “looser” attitude by allowing non-performance in high places to continue unpunished. In which country does one find government officials in frequent court cases to sort out job or behaviour related issues? The latest “denial” is related to the “brain drain” which is now described as a “skills leakage” by our dear deputy president.
    I am optimistic at ground level but many are becoming impatient and not just because they are poor but because of non performance of public officials on high salaries. Good grounds for a revolution! I do hope that South Africans revolt a lot quicker than the Zimbos have done!

  37. Oldfox Oldfox 1 May 2008

    @geejay

    >It’s the small things. The sharing…

    Many of us do many small things to help the less fortunate.

    > we actually have to do something more than simply paying our taxes

    So what more do we have to do?
    If I sold my house, and gave R1000 to each of 1000 families in Diepsloot, I will have made a negligible change to those people’s lives, or Diepsloot as a whole, but I would become poor in the process.

    Un-coordinated small things cannot change a country.
    With proper plans, and co-ordinated action (which requires state support and co-operation) anything is possible.

    The government has the full resources of the state at its disposal. And these resources are really considerable.
    The govt (national, provincial or local) only has itself to blame that thousands of citizens have to use unhygenic bucket toilets. That people still live in shocking conditions in apartheid era mens hostels built during the 1950s and 1960s. That many thousands of shacks burn to the ground each year. (safe candles, parafin stoves etc do exist, and are relatively cheap)

    If you read Sowetan or Daily Sun (not ANC aligned, I admit, but one cannot rely only on ANC aligned media to know whats happening in SA) you will find examples every day of how civil servants let down the population. People waiting 2,3 or even 4 years and more for ID books, without which they cannot register as students, get jobs, get married….
    In a recent example, an elderly woman was once again frustrated in her attempt to get an ID book, so she is still unable to draw a pension. Home Affairs said she is “too ugly to be a South African” so they deliberately misspelt her name on the application (to look like Mozambican name), and said she is Mozambican. All her siblings have SA ID books.
    The officials who have thus insulted and discriminated against her, will probably not even get reprimanded.

    In my job, I work on solutions that benefit from tens of thousands to millions of South Africans. So my work has a big impact, including on the poor.
    The total of my taxes collected by the govt since 1994, would have been sufficient to build an entire small clinic or a hospice or a pre-school.

    My wife and I help people who work for us, or who have previously worked for us. I spent thousands trying to set up an ex-maid in her own business. The venture was not successful (very competitive market), and if I am able, I’m prepared to spend tens of thousands more to help her set up another venture.
    I see absolutely no reason why I should contribute financially to any other good causes where strangers are the beneficiaries.

  38. brandon brandon 2 May 2008

    @geejay

    Your last paragraph makes a potent point.In the past we had divisive categorization, and today we still have that. A singular categorization of South Africans is a prerequisite to national pride.

    I recall a few years ago whilst in training. We where given a form to complete. One of the fields was labelled “Race” – this was some time after the collapse of the NP. I filled in “African” in that field. This action caused such an uproar in my class with both the black and white students.

    Whites resist the notion of being classified as African, and blacks deny the option to Whites. I imagine similarly that Indians would resent being classified as African.

    This is indicative of the imbalanced views we have. Anywhere in the world one’s nationality is determined by their place of birth, until they change that via relocation. If I am not African, or South African what nationality should I choose – as I was not born anywhere else?

    It cannot be denied that we have always been an unnatural society, because of divisive national policy. Stating this is not an excuse for anything – it is a fact that South Africans of all skin color need help to overcome our past. We took the right steps initially by having the TRC – before treatment, we had to diagnose and understand the source of our emotions.

    But now it is time to move on. It is time to put our beloved land first and to determine how best to advance it’s cause. An important part of this is to realize that the NP regime caused harm to all the people of South Africa. The type and degree of harm differs from group to group and addressing the specific harm, needs different strategies for blacks, whites,indians and all other groups.

    Currently there is a determination to only address the suffering of blacks. When we as a nation accept that we have all grown up in an unnatural society, and that all race groups suffered and need help – then we can develop a national strategy.

    What whites, blacks, indians and all others need most…is to develop self belief, we need to be rehabilitated back to a point where we are confident as people in our own skin. Some need to overcome the stigma of inferiority, others need to be relieved of the guilt trap, others need to come in from the cold and be made to feel as though they are citizens.

    Once we are all confident in our own skin, free of guilt, and feel that we are citizens of this country, Africans by birth then as already stated, advancing the cause of our beloved land will take precedence over all.

  39. Joel Joel 2 May 2008

    Two facts:

    1. Australia is no 4 on the Human Development Index
    2. Its major cities regularly make it into the top five cities of the world.

    You people live in Hobbs state of nature!

    You guys that slag Australia off make me laugh.

  40. Oldfox Oldfox 2 May 2008

    Brandon,

    >”We took the right steps initially by having the TRC – before treatment, we had to diagnose and understand the source of our emotions.”

    As far as I know, the TRC did NOT aim to understand “the source of our emotions” in a general sense, it aimed to uncover the truth behind gross violations.

    NO. 34 OF 1995: PROMOTION OF NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION ACT
    http://www.doj.gov.za/trc/legal/act9534.htm
    “To provide for the investigation and the establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights committed during the period from 1 March 1960 to the cut-off date contemplated in the Constitution, within or outside the Republic, emanating from the conflicts of the past, and the fate or whereabouts of the victims of such violations; the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all the relevant facts…..”

    The issues many bloggers write about – inferiority complex or racism (issues they don’t write about, but which have impacted SA society, like pass laws or migrant labour), were not covered by the TRC.

    Probably because the TRC did not deal with these issues, we still have many people who insist that apartheid was benevolent. Some of these people insist it was right and proper to forcibly move 3 million blacks and half a million coloureds (of of some 2 million coloureds then) during the apartheid years.
    Some people do not want to believe that 30 000 SA children used to die of starvation and malnutrition EVERY YEAR in the early 1970s. Many tens of thousands of malnourished children did not die, but were mentally stunted. That (stunted mental development) can cause problems for generations.
    In the 1930s, black churches warned that the breakup of family life caused by the migrant labour system would have bad consequences generations later.

    I agree with you that we need to look forward, and to fix this country, and I’m in agreement with most of your comments. But I have a problem with people who still glorify apartheid, or who refuse to accept that there were some long term negative effects of apartheid (and discriminatory laws instituted by the British/Union Govt. before 1948).
    I think as long as people will deny that apartheid resulted in many wrongs, so long will may others use apartheid as an excuse, or to justify indefinite retention of AA/BEE policies.

  41. Oldfox Oldfox 2 May 2008

    BenzoL

    Thanks for clarifying your earlier comments.

    The biggest problem with Sub Saharan Africa, I believe is and was poor leadership by the top political leaders. Its SA’s biggest problem too, I believe.
    SA has many really outstanding people of all races and at all levels, including ground/grassroots level. And more than enough good people to help make SA a “winning nation”.

  42. Brett Brett 2 May 2008

    Two facts:

    1. Australia is no 4 on the Human Development Index
    2. Its major cities regularly make it into the top five cities of the world.

    You people live in Hobbs state of nature!

    You guys that slag Australia off make me laugh.

    Well go and live there then.
    No-one is denying their achievements but one has to accept how it was done. By wiping out the locals by being and Island with astrict immigration policy and by being AMerica’s little enforcer in the Pacific. There are alot of great Aussies but their cricket team are bullies and are keen to dish it out but don’t like it when a cheeky little Indian gives it back to them.

  43. JLA JLA 4 May 2008

    Brett, I do live there. Wot about the Khoi San?

  44. brandon brandon 4 May 2008

    Australia’s HDI – Actually number 3 for the 2005 figures published in 2007 is irrelevant to Africa.

    The point is that as a nation we should not be judging ourselves against other nations but focussing on developing a national identity for ourselves.

    Given South Africa’s History, it is not reasonable to make a comparison with Australia as there are no commonalities in the current situation.

    Regarding sport – that a decade of isolation would have impacted on this countries performances cannot be ignored, and given this – current performances are exceptional.

    Given the destructive and repressive history of the past few decades in this country, once again current achievements are exceptional.

    Trying to compare your country with the performances of one recently emerged from civil war – virtually, and focussed on reconstruction , as well as your sporting performances against teams emerging from years of isolation is a little immature one might add.

  45. brandon brandon 4 May 2008

    @oldfox

    investigation and the establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights

    As in any physcological healing/treatment campaign — it is initiated by investigation and establishment of the nature, causes and extent of the trauma suffered – healing is not possible without this first step. I did not mean to imply this was the stated objective of the TRC. What i opinioned is that this objective was largely addressed by the process.

    It is true though that because it was not the objective of the TRC, that the proper follow through was not conducted. Armed with detailed , complete understanding of the events, the TRC was perfectly positioned to address the impact on all involved.

    This it did not !

  46. amused reader amused reader 5 May 2008

    @ David

    Great blog, thanks

    @ Geejay (& davef)

    When i read your comment about swapping houses my initial reaction was exactly that of Davef (who replied better than i could have). Go ahead, lets swap, because in 10 years we would be right back where we started. If you are honest, you know it and i know it.

    Having had your bluff called, you backed away. Why? Maybe the point you tried to make actually teaches you more about your problem than it teaches those your comment was aimed at.

    Taking away a persons possessions, having to start all over again is not the worst thing that can happen to us whites. It has already happened to many of us. As an entrepreneur i have been bankrupt, as have many others, but within 3 years i had more wealth than ever before. In the UK where i come from the average £ millionaire has been bust 2.1 times.

    Why? Because we don’t focus on the past, we don’t accept poverty, we take our destiny into our own hands and make things happen for ourselves.

    I could bore you with the details of how i lost it all, and who’s fault it was, but to be honest i can hardly remember. I only had enough energy left to move forward and tend to my future.

    You can’t move forward because you are expending all you energy looking back, blaming, explaining, wanting the world to make it all up to you.

    Wake up, it is never going to happen. You are going to have to make your own future. It is not the house, or the area, or your education, or apartheid that is the problem, it is the ‘loser’ mentality.

    @ davef

    some great posts, here, and elsewhere

    @ Benzol

    Really interesting comments, you have an unusual view point, which can be challenging and enlightening.

  47. Cool Down Cool Down 7 May 2008

    I have just one question for all those who so
    belittle our players and that is, why were you
    not out there doing the job for South Africa??

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