If ever the struggle was to deliver the promise for justice, equality and a world with a “more human face”, it would have been brought about by those of us who were born during the interregnum, that is between 1960 and 1980.

The former is the year of the banning of the liberation movement following the Sharpeville shootings while the latter is the height of the explosion of the deep rumbles of discontent that marked a turning point in South African history.

We were supposed to be the beautiful ones who owed our origin not just to Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela’s African dream but our acute self-definition in some of the worst conditions known to man: political murders, imprisonment, exile and mysterious disappearances committed by the apartheid regime and its agents.

But today we the highly educated, intelligent, articulate and cosmopolitan young Africans are bringing about corruption, dishonesty and pilfering of state resources in a manner unprecedented in African history.

Our style of robbery, theft and murder of African dreams and aspirations speaks of the falling off the moral centre and plunging into self-destruction, selfishness and greed.

Just last year alone, the auditor-general reported that we squandered more than R30 billion in wasteful and unaccounted for expenditure.

This highlights our chronic refusal not only to be agents of history to deliver and satisfy African aspirations but to betray our historical mission: to liberate the African oppressed and lead the world.

It is sheer absurdity that we can descend into the cesspit of immorality and corruption simply because some of us cannot be satisfied by the six-figure salaries of our high-flying jobs.

That many of us are not whistle-blowers is an assault on African prayers, dreams and aspirations to create a “better quality of life for all”, especially black people.

It would seem that as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dawn of freedom and democracy, it is increasingly difficult to find African professionals who have a profound understanding and commitment to what the struggle was about.

Instead, people are determined to get rich quickly at any cost. Many of us spend our intellectual creativity and energy to find ways to plunder state resources and open up easy money-making schemes for our family, friends and colleagues.

This hypocrisy is enough to fill one’s heart with murderous rage.

In fact, this is the “Tell Your Story that Moves South Africa Forward” as defined by President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet. It is for this reason that we must, increasingly, admit, that we face a crisis that may result in the fading away of “Vision 2030” because of how we, the high-flyers and super-achievers, love money and what it can buy.

Yet, we are these highly educated men and women who are born of “tea girls”, garden and mine “boys”, drivers, cleaners, messengers and other ordinary folks of this beautiful country who are an example of self-sacrifice, resilience and commitment. How did we end up empty of love and compassion for our blood relatives and people?

It would seem that it is the desire to outrun former oppressors and exploiters in how to degrade and devalue African people and their struggle that has brought us to where we are.

I cannot understand why we — the people who can afford designer labels, plush homes and posh cars — direct our corruption and immorality at the very institutions that, first and foremost, hold the promise to deliver African people from the evil of capitalist, racist oppression and exploitation. State resources belong to the poor and marginalised!

In the current economic system, we know that black people have no hope except to look up to government leadership and structures to improve the quality of their lives.

As a result, it is correct to expect that those of us who are senior leaders and managers in government must be motivated by the desire and dream for African self-determination, success, progress and development.

In fact, working for government institutions should essentially be about the political will to make us believe that Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu did not sell out by following the peaceful resolution of our conflicted past.

It is about affirming the moral high ground of a noble African struggle.

But what we see is that those of us who are between the ages of 35 and 60 years are telling the world the story that perhaps African people are incapable of taking their own destiny in their own hands.

It is ironic that in this 20-year-old democracy more and more young people believe that government is a get-rich-quick scheme.

What we see is that many black people who have been to the best universities in the world, including Harvard, suddenly throw away the dreams and aspirations of millions for selfishness and greed.

The capacity for self-destruction among men, women and children of my generation in government is unbelievable.

It is enough to make one throw up his hands in despair.
Every day one is, increasingly, ashamed to be a government official. I find it strange and insulting that everywhere I go people want to meet to discuss proposals on how to get rich quick.

Alas the tree of liberty watered with the blood of martyrs has given us what Billie Holiday called a very “strange fruit”.



Sandile Memela

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

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