Opinionista Lebogang Maile 17 January 2018

Race and Class remain our biggest challenges

The recent senseless killing on January 6, 2018 of a farmworker, Aaron Mutavhatsindi, by a white security guard at Tarlton near Krugersdorp has once again brought to the fore the fact that our raison d’etre as a nation – building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and equitable South Africa – remains but yet a “dream deferred” as highlighted in the ANC’s recent January 8 statement.

Aaron Mutavhatsindi, a farmworker and breadwinner for his family, was senselessly killed in a manner that lays bare the racial tension that lies beneath our ideal of a Rainbow Nation.

Upon hearing of this sad and sickening loss of an innocent life, one was reminded of the words of the recently deceased South African poet-laureate and Struggle icon, Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile in his poem No Serenity Here,

When, then, did the brutality of imperialist appetite and aggression evolve into something of such ominous value to us that we torture, mutilate, butcher in ways hideous beyond the imagination, rape women, men, even children and infants for having woken up on what we now claim, with perverse possessiveness and territorial chauvinism, to be our side of the boundary that until only yesterday arrogantly defined where a piece of one European property ended and another began?

This unseemly killing and the polarised responses from farmers and the black community brought an untimely reminder of the fact that we are still living in a country where the seeds of colonialism of a special type and apartheid are still so deeply entrenched that we remain a highly racialised and unequal country, with a clear class divide between impoverished, landless blacks whose lives are treated contemptuously, and a land-owning, affluent, privileged white elite who still maintain their historical privileges even within this new dispensation.

In order to change this unwanted reality, the ANC-led government has committed itself to a renewed focus on its historical mission of building a non-racial society where the historical economic and social barriers between blacks and whites are broken down, even as we honour and remember our icon former President Nelson Mandela in the year of his centennial birthday.

We have re-dedicated ourselves to breaking down the oligopolistic nature of our economy, with a few big monopolies, mostly white-owned, keeping millions of landless and poor black people out of mainstream economic participation and ownership, through giving the Competition Commission a broader mandate to ensure competitiveness in our economy, land reform (including expropriation without compensation) for the purposes of redistribution to black South Africans, as well as industrialisation, modernisation of our agricultural sector to create jobs for our people and transform the sector so that it is more inclusive and the promotion of social cohesion so that our country can indeed become one that “belongs to all its people”, as the Freedom Charter outlines.

Mr Mutavhatsindi’s unfortunate killing should galvanise all of us patriotic South Africans to do everything in our power to bring an end to the exploitation of farmworkers, racially motivated killings within the sector as well as farm evictions that leave farmworkers and their families who are vulnerable, homeless, impoverished and with no hope of cashing in on the “better life for all” that our post-1994 dispensation promised them.

To paraphrase a famous quote by Nelson Mandela, “it is indeed within our hands” to build an agricultural sector that is fulfilling its enormous economic potential and contributing towards building an industrialised, modernised, competitive, equitable, job-creating economy, as all relevant stakeholders work together to overcome our history of division, marginalisation and injustice for the majority of the populace.

Mutavhatsindi’s cold-blooded killing, regarded by many as a racially motivated deed, should renew our collective desire and commitment to build a country that truly belongs to all, irrespective of one’s social standing and skin pigmentation. DM

Lebogang Maile is Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture, and Rural Development and Gauteng ANC Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) member.

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