Unfortunately, affirmative action which is meant to redress the imbalances and injustices of the past in order to create a more equitable society, has the opposite effect. Since it is a race based strategy, it puts the emphasis squarely back on race and creates insecurities and resentment because appointments are not made on merit. And when, as often happens, beneficiaries of affirmative action do not have the requisite skills, their appointments lead to general dissatisfaction. And the racism that we are trying to overcome becomes entrenched. The situation is aggravated by the endemic corruption in government that strengthens perceptions of incompetence. And the change over to a so-called democratic dispensation begins to take on the look of affirmative action on a colossal scale.
It is no wonder that we cannot get to grips with racism in our society. Whatever improvements the government has made since 1994 are obscured by incompetence and even the name of Mandela is being sullied by what appears to be a lack of the will to govern for the people, especially the poor people. Window dressing efforts, such as the soccer world cup, are commitments to the personal prestige and power of politicians.
After 1994, our eyes have been opened to the true nature of government. Black people, deprived of democratic governance during apartheid, clung to the credo of democratic government as a reality. It inspired them to fight for independence. But now with apartheid demolished, and with a government that cannot deliver to the poor, we have begun to understand that the term 'democratic government' is oxymoronic. Government is separate from the people. And government means control; it does not mean freedom. At least under apartheid, Black people knew that they did not have freedom. After 1994, apart from the few who have been granted privileges and among whom are to be found millionaires, perhaps even billionaires, poor people in general are given false hopes of a life free of deprivation and that makes their situation unbearable, worse than apartheid.
And because ours has not been a culture of democracy, we still do not fully grasp its meaning; at the level of the governed, we do not understand individual freedom. Tribalism and racism remain strong and counteract the development of an understanding of democracy. We seem to think that casting a vote is all that is required to demonstrate that ours is a democratic system. That's what happened in the Middle East and other parts of Africa; people cast their votes and trusted and before they knew it their so-called democratically elected governments turned into dictatorships in which former freedom fighters began establishing dynasties.
Without an understanding of the importance of individual freedom to the establishment of democratic governance, we will continue to live in an apartheid state in which the rich subjugate the poor. And if we look at the countries of the world, we will not find one in which there are no poor people. Poverty may not be as blatant as it is in Africa, but it is there. Where poverty lives there is no will to govern with integrity.
And because we cannot abandon race, we still sing songs like "Kill the Boer" and "Umshini Wam", and we still hear words like Kaffir, Koelie, Bushman.
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