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As we remember Steve Biko: How our emancipated consciousness is punctuated by ineptitude!

By Tshetlhe Litheko

Consciousness is hard to advocate but as espoused by the life and times of Steve Biko, it would be hard to contradict what Black Consciousness is and what was its original intent. For many born in the late seventies like me and who were witnesses to the state of emergency of the mid 80’s, Cry Freedom the banned movie provided palpable feeling to what the struggle against apartheid was about.
Liberation was a struggle fought on many fronts. However the primary battle ground remains the mind. There has never been a time like today to be awake to the idea that attaining, Black Agency is a key to this nation achieving economic emancipation of all. In sociology and philosophy, Black agency would be interpreted as the capacity of black leadership to act in any given environment.
Black Agency, concerns itself with black people’s ability to move from margins of history to the centre as drivers of change. History might show them as victims of an unfair and unjust system, but as actors, a black leader cannot blame the past for failing to sow seeds towards a desired future. Poverty and slow growing economy might be red flags crippling societies today, and burdening infrastructure with the high level of urbanisations in townships but they can’t be excuses for lack of vision in delivering empowerment.

Why Black?
The canvass of Black Excellence is today skilfully drawn by a brush of ineptitude and corruption. Lack of moral agency among black leadership class, Corruption, and bad press have become the central focus for all political ideas and debates.
When poverty is said to be on the increase and the economy is slowing down, the most topical subject today in SA is State Capture, Gupta Leaks and pending corruption charges. Even opposition politics, have become about this lack of moral agency, so much so that the public has been denied real solutions for the desired economic future. Thus it has to begin with Black Consciousness and Black Agency, Blackness needs attention.



WEB Dubois asked a very pertinent question, which we now need to answer as a Country, “How shall Desert and Accomplishment meet Despising, Detraction, and Lies?”

There are four constructs placed on all black people that we need to be placed in perspective, for a new consciousness to emerge.

Is our conformist cultural capital, still invaluable?
In my upbringing, my worth was fed by others discovering their voice or worth. When a teacher asked a question in class, whispers of the answer would be murmured until there was some assurance that we all knew the answer before the first hand was raised. In fact, recitation was not just the common form learning, it was the most prudent. The best teachers were those that could turn the definition, of complex subjects such as “symbiosis” into a dance that we could all dance to. An unfitting stereo type though, when used in a washing powder TV adverts and there is choir at each corner on standby to sing about clean clothes.
We needed a united front and society to defeat apartheid, thus it dictated that we pull together. However is that still an ideology from which we can battle our adversities? Can the situation in Vuwani and the shutdown of schools so close to the exam period be allowed just so the citizens make their point on demarcation lines? Is there still currency in trying to socially influence believes or behaviours of our society in order to form a common psyche?

Are we creating heroes journeys for the black public?
When confronted with poverty and means are influenced by a sub-standard education, no resources, and an over supervised employment history where one is denied being a self-starter, how do they desire to be a hero for their lives and their kids. A heroes journey involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

The total balance between the apartheid period and the twenty three years of democracy has come very short to pointing such a direction for the public. Apartheid defined a scope of existence for the majority of citizen to which future generation are now classified as poor. The new government chose to ease the burden of poverty through a socio-development programme that grants the public financial expression. I am not opposed to social grants in light of the poverty question at hand. However in relation to the emergence of a hero, the programme itself cannot exist without creating sustainable exit programmes. These exits would be the invitation to an adventure from which a new type hero can emerge.

Are we grooming and educating a generation of future effective citizens?
The world is converging and technology has allowed it to do so at a rapid pace. The South African high education sector is still struggling with finalising Internationalisation policy, which will try quantifying the relevance of a South African graduate to the international labour market or innovation value chain.

Education has become far more than about making a passing mark. Our youth should be able to study their school work in order to interpret the world, establish where it’s going and understand their place in it and develop a canvass to drive their goals. This is called multiple-literacy, and it’s the most telling lacking dimension in our education system. The system as it stands today rewards a few individuals with the inherent wisdom to figure it out but in essence the system is less about the youth discovering themselves.
Can Black Agency deliver economic growth?

The fight against poverty has one stumbling block on its path, a slow growing economy. South African economy is by no means small, South Africa is ranked by the World Bank as an “upper middle-income country”, and it is the largest economy in Africa. South African economy has moved from its dependence on the mining sector – historically a key contributor to employment and growth generation – to an economy now very much defined by a globally competitive and highly sophisticated financial and business services sector. The Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum ranks South Africa 11th from the 144 economies in the world in terms of financial market development. In contrast, the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – rank 93, 108, 38 and 56 respectively.
The economy generates very particular employment, poverty and inequality outcomes for the population of the country. Over the period 2000-2008 for example, the data shows that the simple output employment elasticity stood at about 0.69, meaning that for every 1% increase in GDP, employment increased by 0.69%. This trend showed that 2008-2016 for 1%increase in growth led to a 0.16% decline in employment. Can Black leadership change the game?

Be Inspired SA!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Transform SA

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Transform SA in conversation with Nompendulo Mkhatshwa about student movement.

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