Restoring dignity needed

When heading your horse off to a showdown at your local kraal, it’s always handy to know beforehand who the good and bad guys are.

Nothing makes a cowboy cry faster than being shot by his own guy.

When it comes to expropriation without compensation, the problem is that everyone’s claiming to be the good guy.

“If blacks own land they will have dignity . . . they will no longer be domestic workers . . . no longer be garden boys (sic) . . . they (whites) want to keep you as a garden boy, as a girl (sic) in their houses, they want you to be like your parents, we are saying, no, I’m not going to be a domestic worker, it ended with my mother, I’m going to be the owner of the means of production in South Africa . . .

“We are asking for what rightfully belongs to us . . . what is human rights without land, what is human rights without dignity, our land is our dignity” – Julius Malema in his March 21 Human Rights Day speech to an EFF rally in Ermelo.

“Our approach seeks to make people real homeowners, and protects their right to build assets and wealth over time and hand these over to their children. This is the only way to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that apartheid has left us.

“Our approach recognises that property rights, like individual rights, are indivisible.

“Each person’s individual rights are best protected when everyone’s rights are protected” – DA leader Mmusi Maimane in his March 12 expropriation without compensation press conference on Constitution Hill.

Malema: 37 years old, previously president of the ANC Youth League, now commander-in-chief of the EFF, was born in Seshego, Limpopo, in 1981 and raised by his single mother, a domestic worker.

He has a BA in communication and African languages from Unisa, is married to Mantoa and has three children.

Most often seen in parliament in a neatly pressed red overall with (in the past) Louis Vuitton shoes, is he a revolutionary fashionista or a fashionable revolutionary?

Maimane: also 37 years old, previously (or still occasional) pastor with the Liberty Church, now DA parliamentary and federal leader, he was born in Krugersdorp in 1980 to his Xhosa mother and Tswana father, and grew up in Soweto.

He holds both a masters in public administration and a masters in theology, is married to Natalie and has two children.

He is most often seen in parliament in a fitted suit and smooth tie. The ultimate Model C (school) politician?

So who’s the good guy? The guy with two kids or the guy with three?

The guy who wears snazzy suits or the guy who wears spiffy shoes?

The guy who wants Africans to own the land or the guy who wants Africans to own their individual properties?

Let’s recap briefly: South Africa has some 55.6 million citizens, 44.8 million (80%) of whom are black, 4.8 million (8.75%) coloured, 4.5 million (8.11%) white and 1.3 million (2.47%) Indian/Asian.

Of this number, 32 million (58%) South Africans are below the age of 30 and 4.5 million (8%) South Africans are over the age of 60.

Some 60% of South Africans live in our cities and towns.

Some 30% of South Africa’s land mass is located in the Northern Cape but houses only 1.19 million people, while 13.399 million people live in Gauteng, which is 1% of our land mass.

The idea that every South African can own a piece of land on which they can grow their own food is a practical impossibility. It would mean relocating millions of people out of cities onto patches of land far away from the markets.
We tried that experiment in 1820 and the Nelson Mandela metropole was the eventual consequence of that failed settler attempt.

Most South Africans do not want to farm and South Africa needs its arable land maximally dedicated to ensuring food security for our 55 million residents.

So is Malema knowingly smoking his socks simply in the hope of gaining popular support?

If you think the issue is strictly about land then the answer is yes, Malema is a well-dressed populist.

But the issue is not about land; the issue is about the dignity of black people.

Recall Steve Biko’s point that black people’s biggest challenge was a feeling of inferiority and white’s a feeling of superiority?

Maimane represents the rational, logical voice of enabling black empowerment; Malema the emotional voice of what being stripped of land did to the dignity (and wealth) of black people.

Perhaps Malema provides us with insight as to what must be addressed and Maimane the how?

But there is an additional complication to the mix. (What did you expect? This is South Africa, after all!)

If 58% of the country’s population is below the age of 30, they have no direct experience of apartheid.

They cannot know what it was like to stand in separate queues, swim on separate beaches, worry about curfews and dompas.

They are now entirely reliant on what they read in textbooks, find online, or hear from their elderly family members and friends. It is a second-hand experience. And if only 8% of our population are 60 years and above, these are the people who suffered (or benefited) directly from apartheid at its worst.

Listen to the humiliation contained within what Malema says: no more garden boys (sic), no more domestic workers; it stops with our parents!

Malema and his ilk want to right that injustice, they want to undo the indignity suffered by their parents.

Land is simply an imagined means to that end.

Our greatest challenge in South Africa is not land.

It is the restoring of dignity to 92% of our population.

We must discuss whiteness, we must discuss white privilege, we must discuss land and we must call out the racists, but the hardest conversation we face is about forgiveness and restitution.

Like Catholics and Protestants, like Hindus and Muslims, like slaves and masters, like Jewish people and Germans, South Koreans and Japanese, we have to find a way to forgive the perpetrators’ descendants, and those in turn have to find a way to restitute the wrongs of ancestors who acted in their name and ultimately to their benefit.

It is the nature of the human creature to be both good and bad.

The moral high ground is always only temporarily occupied.

Swaggering into the corral, guns blazing, in the belief that you own the moral ground exclusively, always ends in tears – everyone’s tears.

We need to hear our fellow South Africans.