A sachet of sugar introduced me to an old proverb that reads, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” I immediately thought of the #NationalShutDown and #ZumaMustFall marches. I thought to myself, isn’t this another elephant fight at the expense of all the people at the grassroots level? Say Jacob Zuma falls, what happens then? Can the firing of a single man really guarantee the betterment of the lives of South African people?
Another thought reminded me of the state of our country. Assuming that South Africa in its entirety is a body, with the government as the head and the poorest of the poor at the very bottom; South Africa would be sitting with a very bad head injury at the moment. Our government is meant to make decisions that will benefit the rest of the body and if the brain’s decisions are harmful to the body, it is seen as a mental disorder. To avoid assuming that the country is retarded, I would rather assume that the country is temporarily in a comma of sorts. This meaning that we need some change to occur to avoid permanent brain damage.
As young people in South Africa, we are not only the largest population group, but we are the ones most affected by the government, or lack thereof, of our country. The businesses we build; the education we get – whether or not we can afford it; and the investments we make are affected both directly and indirectly by the decisions that are made in Parliament daily. This means that we have to play an active role in awakening our country from its current comma and minimise any further damage. The question that arises is how we are to do so?
In 1976, young people got tired of the plague of Bantu Education and consequently stood up to inform the government that it had to be remedied. This class of young people wanted to see change, in spite of the tolerance of the mediocre education system that they were socialised to be content with. And because of their willingness to undergo the much needed surgery, in spite of the risks, the country was then cured from that plague. This cure, however, brought with it the side effects which included fatality and trauma; all this so that the youth that are parented by the class of ’76 could have better opportunities to develop themselves and better South Africa.
However, the fall of Bantu Education was only the removal of one of South Africa’s brain tumours which resulted from the cancerous system of Apartheid. While Democracy cured this cancer, the youth of 1994 and beyond are still affected by the colossal economic failure that is still evident in the ever growing youth unemployment rates. With the country being declared economic junk status, the hope of the 55% youth unemployment rate dropping is seemingly non-existent. In today’s world, where young people are most likely to religiously study the tweets of a certain personality than read historical texts that will educate them on how to remedy the state of our nation, there is a serious need for the re-commitment of young people to the development of South Africa.
When asked for her observations of the struggle of today’s youth, former anti-apartheid activist Zubeida Jaffer said something along the lines of, “What made us successful is that we had a common goal and we believed in the cause. The problem with today’s youth is that there are too many focuses. There is no common goal.” We cannot expect to succeed while we’re busy cutting at the symptoms of our country’s mental state instead collectively focussing our energy on removing the cancer cells that have our country in its current comma state. This will require of us to decide on what the issue is. And if it is that we say that the government is leading the country into poverty, with youth unemployment being at the top of the side effects list. We must then agree on the most pressing tumour we would like to remove first as we cannot have too many surgeries happening at once. Are we going to focus on the Free Education Movement, on making Zuma fall or on land redistribution?
If we successfully attain Free Education, how will that affect the economy? Will it create job creators or will it mean more unemployed graduates? Similarly, will land redistribution guarantee job creation or will it be a repeat of the serial retrenchment fever that followed the closing of industrial factories after the 1994 elections? And how will the surgical reshuffling of the presidency ensure that the country wakes up from this comma? Will the power that corrupted him not corrupt the next president likewise? The questions are endless, yet we seem too quick to follow trends instead of asking the correct questions then lead from an informed position.
We are all in agreement; something must change today if we don’t want a has-been history written about South Africa forty years from now. South Africa needs urgent surgery. My question to the young leaders out there is, “How must this surgery look and what results will it yield”?
Photo credit: Elderconsult.com