[notice]Pastor Afrika Mhlophe unmasks some realities about our nation — realities that the Church should be addressing.[/notice]The State of the Nation (SONA) address is meant to help mirror where we are as a nation but also act as pointer on where we are going. President Jacob Zuma’s latest address was received well by many because in fairness it was better than his previous addresses. Our President showed statesmanship in how he confronted the brutal facts facing us as a nation. He also gave us a report back regarding government’s progress in relation to the promises he made in his last year’s SONA. This is something that rarely gets done by our political leaders.
What has been bothering me now is that the limelight has been taken from the President’s address by comments attributed to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Pieter Mulder. Twice in one day Mr Mulder was interviewed on SAFM and given space to clarify the comments that have raised the ire of so many South Africans. My disappointment is that many callers and contributors did not debate the merits or the demerits of what Mr Mulder said but simply ventilated a lot of emotion. It all became a case of playing the man instead of playing the ball and the debate revealed the usual racial undertones.
This debate has unmasked how racially polarized we still are as a nation. We are quick to run to our race enclaves and are also quick to denigrate a person instead of debating his views. This sadly is the real state of our nation, at least for now. We should not be in denial about these things or try to gloss over them. Now what did Pieter Mulder say? He apparently said that the Bantu people (that is Black people) have no claim to 40% of South Africa because they were not occupying this portion when whites settled here in the 1600’s. This portion was apparently occupied by the San and Khoisan people. He claims that this is a historical fact.
Now I am not a historian and neither am I an anthropologist but I would guess there was a time when white people were not found in Africa the same way that there was a time when black people were not found in Europe or America. For whatever reasons, people have migrated and settled in different parts of the world. In America the first inhabitants were the Red Indians but now they are a tiny minority. In Australia it was the Aboriginal people. Settlers brought with them their culture and civilization and sometimes tried to impose it on the indigenous folks. I remember as a child traveling with my primary school to sing at the Settlers’ Monument in Grahamstown. I did not understand until later why it was named such.
Difficult to forget past
God created variety but the differences in our skin pigmentation have been a source of great pain. There are many who argue that we should quickly forget the past but the politicians will not let us. Not only they but the legacy left by apartheid makes it difficult to just relegate it to history. In terms of spatial development, incomes, education and health care, etc. there is a big difference between the allocation that was done for white areas and the one for black areas. For three quarters of my life I have lived in a black township and I am now living in a white “township” — the difference is huge.
I have just read an article that said the top 1% of the earners in the world earn as much as the 57% bottom earners. This disparity is not just a result of hard work and an entrepreneurial drive on the part of the top 1% but also a result of dishonesty and greed, the very things the Church is supposed to oppose. We in the Church are meant to sift through the verbiage spewed by politicians and address the reality confronting us. The reality is that there are many poor people in SA and indicators are that 98% of them are black. This is not just a result of the ineptitude of our current government but largely a result of the design of the repressive system of apartheid. I am not happy with the implementation of the policies of redress like Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action but I understand their necessity. I am not a beneficiary of any of them but I understand why many previously disadvantaged South Africans need them.
Our government is faced by a restless and poor black majority and has to do all it can to pacify them or risk facing disruptive protests and losing their mandate. Their motive could be to preserve their cushy government posts but we in the Church are not motivated by such. We are moved by compassion and a sense of justice and righteousness. We have a moral imperative to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Land redistribution, sustainable development, equitable profit share, creation of employment, are all issues we should be championing.