Last night, SAFM broadcast a dialogue session at the University of Free Sate (UFS) under the heading ‘reconciliation and social justice’ lead by Prof. Pumla Gobodo – Madikizela and Prof Andre Geet as key presenters.
Listeners expressed passionate, at times militant views with regard to addressing inequality and entrenched white privilege in this country. Some voiced their view that white people will not share their privileges voluntary and that a confrontational stance is needed. At moments I felt reminded of young people’s voices heralding in the Arab Spring in Northern Africa some time ago.
Later, on my way to the shopping mall, I dropped off a young hitch-hiking woman in Masiphumlele and moments later, having taken a wrong turn, landed in a newly developed town-house community close by, learning from the security guard that white people own all these houses.
BEE has been so controversial, portrayed as if this has been the means by which prospering black people have ill-gained their wealth. Black people who do well and have accomplished much, are viewed with automatic suspicion, as if they undeservedly benefited from either BEE or affirmative action. Who has truly benefited most from BEE? We all know that global, white male owned and managed business hijacked this originally noble initiative to their advantage.
Driving around, I realised that WEE (White Economic Empowerment) has fared so much better than BEE. In my neighbourhood, everybody today is a millionaire, even the smallest houses are valued over one million rand and up it goes.
During Apartheid’s self- serving initiative of ‘no white person shall go hungry’ (..poor), massive subsidizing of white people was instituted all over the country, affording large numbers of white people unwarranted home and land ownership which has turned them into millionaires since liberation .
Has WEE been a goldmine for whites? yes, because President Mandela and his government team avoided civil war after liberation thus also stabilizing the business and investment environment; and furthermore, by adopting the Northern market economy model, those who had assets prospered immensely.
The past 20 years of democracy in South Africa have come to mean massive economic empowerment for predominantly white people who own houses and land on the account of black economic and social development.
There is much evidence that people don’t voluntarily give up their wealth for the benefit of others; the few who do are a rarity. So, are the young militant voices who called for revolution last night on a better path toward social justice? Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Singapore come to mind; a lot of good things happened to poor and disenfranchised people, access to good education for free; free and extensive health care coverage and excellent medical care; food and housing support and greater levels of equality.
Other powerful examples were conceived as’ bottom up’ strategy, where ‘engaged citizens’ movements have been yielding promising transformational change (work in progress it still is) such as Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Brazil and Northern European countries such as Norway and Finland are promising examples. I opt for this approach as it also offers chances for reconciliation and people focused change.