Black people who vote DA: When you ask them if they are going to the black workers association meeting, they start shaking their heads like a baby who doesn’t want what it sees on the spoon. Then they start telling you about their white friends who are the sweetest people on earth, why should they choose between black and white. Then they go in for the kill. It’s not white people who are making them choose, maybe it used to be that way but now white people are willing to treat them like people. No, it’s black people who are always making them choose. Who always make everything about race. It was now black people who are telling other black people they can’t be who they want to be.
Black people who vote DA: They like to talk about the richness of multiculturalism and it all sounds good, until you notice that they actually avoided black people. It wasn’t a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way round. Only white culture could be neutral and objective, only white culture could be non-racial, willing to adopt the occasional exotics into their ranks, only white culture had individuals.
Black people who vote DA: When they do experience racism, they are not so much enraged by the fact that racism was what less fortunate blacks experience every day of their lives – although that’s what they tell themselves. But they are enraged because they have stretched themselves with assimilation, in speech, in dress, in culture, and somehow, they have been mistaken for an ordinary black man.
Do you know who I am? I am an individual.
Black people who vote DA: Tired of wearing the black badge, of struggle, of being poor, of being boxed, making sure to stay away from the university conversations around Marxism and neocolonialism, Frans Fanon, Euro-centrism and patriarchy. They just want a happy life, with material well-being. Why are black people so angry, so sensitive, can’t we just all move on and enjoy the Rainbow Nation?
But one need never ask what’s bothering us about black people who vote DA: it’s on the nightly news for all to see, and if we could acknowledge at least that much then the tragic cycle may begin to break. For some people, it takes almost a lifetime for them to see just how fates play themselves out, the difference that colour and money make, in who survives, how soft or hard the landing when you finally fall. After navigating life with caution, a smile and making no sudden moves, your otherness still does not go away. What delays this realisation is the limited progress to be had when a black men is well mannered and does not seem angry all the time.
This however becomes a conversation from the results backwards. Let’s start at the becoming. According to 1993 statistics black people constituted 75% of the population (excluding coloureds and Indians). When they are both included, black populations stoodat 86%. The next year, the ANC went into those life changing elections, and got 62.6% of the vote. The National Party, which would naturally had gone to the elections in 1994 counting on the white vote, got 20.4% of the vote. And the white population was 14%.
We can loosely say 6% of black people voted for the National Party. The rest may have been those who don’t qualify because of age and nationality criteria. Given that the United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity, why would any black person vote National Party?
History is riddled with answers. First of all, the nature of relations among the various groups of all Africans, South Africans, no exception, were greatly affected in the 16th century by the intrusion of the British. During that period, some people made their accommodation with the colonisers and others did not, in effect pitting one group of black people against another in the context of foreign rule. Those who made peace with the colonisers rule and began to make a living within it, even today, relate differently to those who didn’t. The first thing the coloniser did to those black people who accepted his rule was to tell black people that it is because of their skill that the coloniser chose them. They are better than other blacks. Whatever little resources those blacks accumulated, they were told they deserved it, they earned it, they worked hard, unlike their primitive and lost brothers. So the coloniser never liked black people who stood up to them for themselves and for our people. Those who wanted to go along to get along, who craved white acknowledgement and acceptance, gave colonialism and apartheid life.
Here has always been the consequential strategy of the coloniser. “It is necessary that black people trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust us only.”
Enter the African National Congress. The itch to prove that black people were as great if not greater than white people in order for black people to regain their pride and self-worth, seemed at the core of its founding. The greatness of the ANC began right at that point in 1912. The founding fathers of the ANC broke the mould and exceeded the very system that was built to prove them less human, not only receiving what has always been considered the best education in the world, they had taken that very education to its highest levels possible, threatening the world with that which has always been feared the most, #BlackExcellence.
Pixley ka Isaka Seme, one of the ANC founders and Presidents of the African National Congress, was the first black South African lawyer. At 17 years of age Seme left to study in the US, first at the Mount Hermon School and then Columbia University. In 1906, his senior year at university, he was awarded the Curtis Medal, Columbia’s highest oratorical honour. He subsequently decided to become an attorney. In October 1906 he was admitted to Oxford University to read for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law. This was already enough to inspire the black nation to demand their rightful place in their own country and among the people of the world.
Solomon Plaatje, another ANC founding father, was a South African intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer. Plaatje travelled to England to protest the Natives Land Act of 1913 and later to Canada and the United States where he met Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. du Bois. Plaatje was the first black South African to write a novel in English. Again the black nation had a reason to believe differently.
John Langalibalele Dube, yet another ANC founding father, was a South African essayist, philosopher, teacher, politician, publisher, editor, novelist and poet. He attended Oberlin College in the United States. He later founded the Newspaper Ilanga. Saul Msane, another founding father, was an African politician and intellectual, a prominent member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and a newspaper editor. He served for a period from 1917-1919 as ANC Secretary-General.
ANC founding fathers, in their advanced education, their intellect, their way about the world, and their strategic thinking, inspired the black nation to stand up and start demanding their humanity back. Irrespective of the odds black people have always faced in this country, they have always believed in their leaders, that through their dedication and their mastery of the world, we shall overcome. For over 90 years, the biggest thing the ANC ever gave to this country is inspiration and hope.
Now, 105 years later, and 23 years into a new country our fathers never lived to see, with so much that has been provided for and accomplished by the ANC for its people, it turns out that black people still ache for inspiration, for excellence, proving that they can be great and more, and they still want their highly educated, foremost thinkers, worldly black leaders who founded the ANC and have carried it forward for 100 years; as long as there exists in the most real sense the chance of a black child being doubted and measured of less competency, such leaders must carry on.
Governing is more than providing tangible things. And this current administration has provided more tangible things than the past administrations combined.
More houses have been built, social security has been expanded much wider than ever, we have provided more piped water and more proper sewerage in the history of this country, more houses have been electrified; we have put more kids at tertiary education through NSFAS, a number that has quadrupled in the last two terms and the number of black graduates has seen a similar surge and even more support has been given to those who want to start small business and entrepreneurs. There is practically no group of South Africans that the current administration has not provided assistance to and given a hand up.
In the last 23 years, the ANC has formulated and implemented some of the most progressive policies in the world; we have put in place institutions, checks and balances, effective systems that have ensured that our country has been on an upwards trajectory. It is because of these mechanisms, put in place so skilfully, that we may have thought the black question has been answered. The rebuilding of both country and persons will feed into the machinisms we have put in place.
Why then has this current administration got such a backlash and vote of no confidence at the polls on August 3? Why have commentators and South Africans alike pointed to our descent as a nation? Why have the very beneficiaries of the extensive work of this administration found this administration failing greatly in its duties? Is this administration doing so badly that these beneficiaries are willing to nullify all that has been done as of little consequence?
In an ideal world, competency has no colour. But in a country where there has been social engineering for centuries with its vestiges still predominant today, to present black people as of lesser abilities leaves no room for black people to be anything but the best. This is unfortunate, but a prevailing reality.
The question of why black people disabuse whiteness by seeking black leaders to be much greater has had many interpretations. Black people live to prove they are great. When will this end, some have wondered. When will black people’s greatness be an established phenomenon so that the failure of a black leader is not an indictment of blackness?
We remain a people that needs a constant reassurance over and against a world force that has consistently been telling us we are sub-par, incapable, and much earlier, not even really human, and #BlackExcellence has been the ANC’s potent weapon through which it has been able to soften even the hearts of the hardest critics.
For we remain strangers before them, and sojourners, as were all our fathers. The past is never dead and buried. DM