The F-word: Be the change you’re waiting for
After the ANC’s elective conference, triumphalist outpourings from those whose preferred candidates won and sorrowful wails from those whose preferred candidates lost soon followed.
It is clear from these feelings, even on the streets and from people who have never attended a political gathering in their lives, that the ANC matters deeply to South Africans.
Perhaps in keeping with this time of the year, heavily embedded in the reaction to the outcome of the presidential election, in particular, was the desire for a messianic figure to solve our problems.
While historically deserved, making the ANC the centre of all life has, on the whole, been unfortunate for South Africa.
The tragedy of the ANC’s promises and record of delivery is that it has, in some cases, disempowered those who once knew they had the mental wherewithal to survive their daily drudgery.
Men and women who lived most of their lives knowing that, regardless of who was in charge, they were their own agents of change, now helplessly throw their hands up in despair because the councillor or mayor has “forgotten them”.
Full-grown adults use open toilets because “government” did not do its job.
Instead of taking the time and effort to protect their own dignity, they would rather “expose” the state for failing them by sitting there in public doing their business.
Communities with arable land allow it to go fallow because the state has not delivered a tractor. Children go
to bed hungry because the child grant application is caught up in bureaucratic red tape, yet they play in yards that could grow potatoes and carrots.
This doesn’t deny the institutional and structural realities that underpin why our society and our economy continue to reflect the colonial and apartheid order.
Neither does it absolve the state of its responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves.
Poverty, inequality and unemployment have become depersonalised and have been made into academic or ideological constructs and, worse still, slogans.
We have to return to the time when we believed the ability to defeat social problems started with us as individuals. Our children must see it in adults who take their future into their own hands.
The belief that glory or gloom lies ahead of us because ANC delegates voted in the manner they did, thus surrendering our fate to the choices and individuals elected, strips us of the psychological edge to meet the inevitable turmoil that visits human life.
The institutional and structural realities are as true for you as they are for everyone else – and must be defeated. Until they are, South Africans must appreciate that they – not Jacob Zuma, Kgalema Motlanthe or Cyril Ramaphosa – are ultimately responsible for what will become of them and their families.
Being the festive season, the best gift the ANC in government can give those it governs is the sense they individually have the power to change their circumstances.
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