By Maphale Moloi
In the wake of the recent ANC centenary celebrations, many have commented on the party’s role in post-apartheid South Africa. Some have said that the ANC is living in the past and is no longer relevant to the youth and/or the plight of the average South African. Let’s step back for a moment and understand what it is that this ruling party actually did.
One must have caught an abridged version of the ANC’s past in one of many documentaries, books or high school history lessons about the party. Not only was it a movement against oppression and segregation of the masses (in terms of absolute numbers), it also managed to forge alliances with neighbouring movements for change on the continent. Oh, and it spearheaded peaceful (and some not so peaceful) protests and raised global awareness about the plight of the black South African.
Now this isn’t a pro-ANC post, but if they weren’t the ones to liberate us then who else would have taken the reins in 1994? Firstly, 1994 may not have happened. We could have found ourselves staring at the grim reality of a disorganised civil war, drawn most likely along the racial and ethnic lines that had been entrenched by the apartheid government. Zulus vs. Sothos, Pedis vs. Vendas, Afrikaners vs. everyone. It would’ve been the equivalent of a 1990s Hollywood bar fight.
After this bloody exchange, someone would have been the winner. Perhaps the MK would have come into power and overthrown the intellectuals of the ANC who believed that we could have come to a peaceful solution. Maybe, in a dramatic turn of events, the IFP would have been the victors in Pretoria. What would they have done differently? Would they have continued to operate the way the country was run, merely reversing the signs from “Whites only” to “Madarkie Fella” (Blacks only)? Would they have chosen to ignore the economic disparity between rich and poor and run the tax system as they pleased? Would we have one “Supreme Leader” as in the case with North Korea with one eternal president, and run the succession of our country like a family business? Would the Union of South Africa be disbanded, leaving many mini-sovereign states (including the Republic of the Cape) to govern themselves the way they pleased? Or in an even more unforeseen turn of events, would the “swart gevaar” of the day be neutralised to allow the status quo to continue as it was?
The options seem endless.
The one thing about colonial rule in Africa that made it difficult to accept was that the majority of the population found themselves at the mercy of a few, similarly to the way the Dutch and French settlers found themselves at the mercy of the English colonialists. In most nations it’s the majority that oppress the minority. In more extreme cases, they try to exterminate them. But genocide would not have been the answer either. Imagine thousands of angry black people baying for the blood of their former oppressors in the “liberated” South Africa. The idea is chilling, but this is what many South Africans feared.
In 1990 we held our breath to see what would happen. Would we have genocide? Would the blacks kill one another? Would the military come into play? Instead we had a unity government, which puts the rights of the people into this little book called the Constitution and holds that as the “Supreme Leader” of the country. We comforted those who were victims of apartheid in the TRC and began building stable fiscal and monetary policy according to sound economic theory.
I’m by no means ignoring the fact that services are still lacking. Corruption still happens and some leaders may not be qualified to hold the posts that they do. The point I’m trying to make is how many of us, as children and teens have ever thought, “I wish I had Mathew’s parents”? As children of this nation who were raised by the sweat and blood of many of our forefathers and their fathers, what right do we have to question how we’re being raised? And in an environment as enabling as ours, where we can talk back to “dad” and even run against “dad” in an election, why do we find it so difficult to accept that “dad” may not always know what he’s doing? Sure, we wish we had what other countries have – underground railway systems, inner city taxes and “no poor people” – but this is our disposition, and, in liberation, as with family, you can’t choose who sets you free.
Maphale Moloi does not find himself funny. Other people may laugh at him but he doesn’t find that funny either. He pursued a degree far from home and, logically, the corporate jungle too with the intent to “play the game” and “climb the ladder” at the same time. While trying to make sense of Powerpoint, he realised that he cannot think in bullet points and now writes about topics that he makes up or that seem not to bother others as much as they bother him. He currently works at a company that won’t let him mention its name, where he tries to reintroduce full sentences back into the world. He’s open to being followed only from 140 characters away.