Don’t Tell Me How Bad SA Has Become, Act To Fix It, Writes Sandile Mamela

 It was a heart-warming family gathering at a golf estate. 

After sitting back to allow the conversation to flow, I felt I needed to intervene.

I was unhappy. The focus was, predictably, on the bad and negative.

So, I asked for attention to change the narrative and this is what I said: 

I am not interested in anecdotal stories of highly paid executives that work for the government and greedy corporates who have the audacity to complain about corruption and falling standards in post-apartheid democracy and its institutions.

I asked where they were in the last 30 years when this country slowly but surely descended into the abyss of what it is today: one of the most abusive, violent, and corrupt governments in the world.

I said I was not interested in sitting down for a four-course meal only to hear complaints about lazy black people who demand things for free and are not satisfied with R350 per month.

I told my people – my family – that condemning blacks is easy for them because they have made it to the privileged class and co-opted to a lifestyle that is equal to and not less than those of the former oppressors.

They can afford to have four types of meats – chicken, fish, pork, and beef – on one plate and still have nothing to offer to poor people that walk up to the windows of their expensive cars at traffic lights.

I am not interested in referring to or praising so-called Somalians and Ethiopians, Indians, and Jews for the solid unity that sees them work together to monopolise the economy when we cannot come together to establish a family education trust fund or business venture.

I told my people that we, too, were not born with silver spoons in our mouths as we lifted ourselves from poor working-class backgrounds where we were taught to be nothing but to be servants to white people.

Without political knowledge, education can reduce us to instruments of oppression and corks in the system that perpetuates inequality.

I told my people that fortunately for us, even though we were not the brightest in the room, we just got lucky in that we knew people who knew people who could give us a break to realise our dreams through jobs that saw us get promotions to be managers and specialists and other higher-than-thou blacks.

I told my people that I am sick and tired of talking about the South African problem of inequality, unemployment, poor education, and lack of state capacity because this does not make us unique or special now that we gained Uhuru to do what we will with our country and thus show that we truly are part of Africans who misgovern themselves.

I told my people that at this stage of my life, I want to live to strive for what my soul aches for and to do my best to live the life that I have worked for without causing harm to any other person.

I have no desire to block anyone’s path to success or to steal money meant for the poor, thereby depriving them of opportunities to make what they will of their lives.

I told my people that you can give me a beautiful garden and a room full of books and music and I will not bother anyone with anything for a man must nourish his mind and soul with art that includes literature and song.

When he has that he does not need to get entangled in competition and rivalry and or attend social gatherings, where people dress up to feel important and use material things to measure success.

Don’t they know that happiness is an inner thing and does not depend on external factors or the affirmation of others?

A man can be alone with a book without feeling lonely.

I told my people to be part of the solution and less of the problem.

Each one of us must appreciate the beauty of this country and see to it that we feed those less fortunate.

We can help to send needy children to school so they too can learn to take responsibility for their choices, and build their own lives to be the way they want.

I told my people that I am not interested in the whiskies and wine and beer they display.

I am not interested in their bars for me to drink myself into a stupor and possibly start fights over misguided political arguments.

Why argue about which president is better than Nxamalala when we all know that they all belong to the same party with the same policies?

We still have the most unequal society on earth.

It is not unusual for drunks to declare that all politicians are nothing but greedy hustlers like the rest of us who are not satisfied with what they have and want more.

I told my people that I would rather spend quality time at home or help children with homework.

Helping children acquire reading skills and expanding their language and English vocabulary will empower them to seize the opportunity to speak for themselves in ways that will ultimately open their paths to a better life.

I told my people that I am not interested in stories of who has moved to a new golf estate and the new car they bought and the number of bags or shoes or hats in their in-house clothing boutique while their siblings are dressed in rags and hand-me-downs.

None of us will take what we own to the grave when we die and the family will fight over who gets what of our possessions and attack each other like dogs for things that they did not work for but envied while we were alive.

I told my family that I am not interested in joining this or that party because their system and processes are the same in that they all are products of a racist patriarchal economic system that promotes selfishness and greed at the expense of the weak and poor.

We should just eat and drink without getting too drunk to drive safely.

We need to survive for yet another day to spread love, joy, and happiness by being kind and warm to the next person without expecting anything in return.

We should love one another and do our best to be each other’s keepers. For we change the world when we spread love in the world we create for ourselves, our families, and our friends.

I told my people that we should have the courage to live with our failures if we think that South Africa is a failure. 

But it is not unique as this is what has happened to many societies that were free before us – that is if political independence is freedom.

I told my people that we should always remind ourselves that this country remains one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Everything that it has become, is a direct result of what we do or do not do. 

So we cannot look over our shoulders or point fingers at anyone else for what it has become.

I told them that we did not create this world and should leave everything in the hands of the Creator, the one who knows what will happen before it happens.

We cannot claim responsibility for everything because some of these things are beyond human control

Worse, I told my people that we should count our blessings as we resign ourselves to the changes before our eyes.

Nothing is permanent.

This wave of corruption shall soon pass and our children will, one day, have a chance to make it what they will.

Despite all its challenges, South Africa is still full of possibilities and the best place to be.

*Sandile Mamela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, and civil servant 

*The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of The Bulrushes