By: Jabulani Zwane
The anniversary of our freedom in South Africa is a bitter sweet moment for me. When I look around the country at all the incredible things that have happened since 1994, I almost feel hypocritical and conflicted at the uneasy feelings I have about current events in South Africa. Even though I am not old enough to remember life before 1994, I do know the stark difference between my childhood and that of my children.
Please listen to my interview on TTASA radio show.
I know my children and many of my friends’ children who are the same age have a much better life because of the many opportunities that are available to us now, than our parents ever had. Now living a middle class life, married with children going to private schools, two cars and living in a security complex, I should not have much to complain about. If ever there was a South African dream, one would say my family and I are living it. Freedom day brings with it a moment to reflect, and with recent events in my beautiful land, intense reflection it has been.
There are many things to celebrate in South Africa, especially having travelled to other countries, I have come to really appreciate the infrastructure we have, the diversity we have, career opportunities, and many more positive things too many to mention. As a pastor who serves in various communities of the capital, the realities of many South Africans is that they have not tasted these privileges I have access to daily and thus I find it extremely difficult to just celebrate and go on with my “dream” life. How do I celebrate when there is so much that over shadows reasons to celebrate? In light of recent events in SA, Xenophobic Violence against fellow Africans, fatal and destructive strikes and service delivery protests, gruesome and very cruel farm murders that we have become so indifferent and apathetic towards and crime that seems to enjoy far greater impunity than is acceptable, how do I celebrate that? How do I celebrate freedom when so many of my fellow South Africans have never tasted even in the least bit, this freedom that we ought to celebrate? So many still living in extreme poverty with no hope of ever coming out of it, when South Africans are more divided now, when the freedom promise was integration.
The saddest thing about the current state of affairs is that we seem to be less bothered about our division and more accepting of it than we were during apartheid, how ironic? How do I celebrate the corruption that has become so much a part of our daily living, that so many of us who were raised to make an honest living have become understanding and accepting of its ever growing existence? When the very people who are supposed to be custodians of the law are the very unrepentant transgressors of the same law? How do I ignore the unrepentant shootings of Kuli Chana, Mduduzi Nkosi from Soweto, Mido Macia from Mozambique by the very people who are supposed to protect them?
I could go on about Eskom, SAA, SABC, but that might just undermine the point I am trying to put across. My greater concern this Freedom day is that when I raise these concerns, I am accused of being unpatriotic about my country. Does patriotism mean celebrating blindly all the good achievements of South Africa when so many South Africans have no chance of ever enjoying these achievements? Does patriotism mean just being grateful that I am not one of those who still have not tasted freedom, those who live in fear of the loss of their lives, whether they be vulnerable farmers or foreigners or women? Does patriotism mean unconditional gratitude even when those who are supposed to enable and preserve freedom of others ruthlessly take it away through nepotism, corruption, favouritism, cadre deployment without adequate qualifications or skills? When I exercise criticism or concerns about all that is going wrong knowing it could be better, why am now reduced to name calling, ‘clever blacks, ungrateful middle class’? Am I wrong for desiring that more South Africans become beneficiaries of what I am now enjoying? Does that mean the education of a black South African in the New South Africa means that he/she has nothing to contribute except taxes and unconditional gratefulness to the liberators? When the very same education informs me that my country could be doing much better than it is, how do I live peacefully with that discomfort? No one is arguing the greater access and participation of South Africans in the economy, does that mean we should ignore the majority who still have no access? Have I now been reduced to a praise singer with no objective mind? Shouldn’t the anniversary of Freedom serve also as a reminder of the vision that All South Africans and all who live in it, have the right to enjoy without fear or limitations, within the provisions of our world class constitution, all that this beautiful country has to offer? Should it not also serve as a reminder, that an inequality, violence, fear, lawlessness with little consequence breeds despondence, apathy and indifference and this suffocates any potential growth of that society?
There are without a doubt, many positive developments in South Africa and positive reports in the media about South Africa, these have not done much to comfort those who have not experienced the South Africa they read about. There surely should be space for an unsatisfied South African to voice their dissatisfaction about all the wrong that could be corrected. The voicing of concerns should not be reserved only for a certain sector of the population because they have “legitimate” complaints based on whatever category they have been labelled with. Surely freedom means that all South Africans have the right to raise their concerns about the shortcomings of the government regardless of their race, social or economic status. Gratitude of a South African surely should not be reduced to accepting mediocrity and ignoring blatant incompetence that goes uncorrected. Because we the middle class have tasted the dream, have seen what could be and what should be, we have strong belief that South Africa could be one of the best countries in the world.
It is exactly because of patriotism that I am concerned and cannot remain silent about the rot I see in my country. One ignores the rotting potato in a potato bag at the risk of the other good potatoes, surely we can ill afford that as a country. It is for this patriotism that in spite of name calling, I will continue to raise my concerns and seek out solutions. My patriotism demands more from me and my government, more action, more accountability, more commitment to improving the South African life regardless of origin, race or ethnic group. I want to see a South Africa that affords my children and my neighbour’s children more opportunities than we had. My opinion, it is those who stay and remain silent that are unpatriotic, not just the ones who leave or those who criticize the government. As a man who believes in God, I accept the fact that it is He, Who has authority on who governs the country, and I spent significant amount of time praying for the leadership of this country and soliciting others to do the same. At the same time, I also learn from the bible that many great prophets did deliver messages of criticism at the risk of their own lives to their kings. They would not just hail the king, because of their reverence for God, they spoke the truth in spite of the eminent risk to their own lives.
I use my Freedom today to say, South African government, I am part of the solution to this country. Don’t misinterpret my criticism for being unpatriotic, but see for what it is, my love for my country and desire to see it succeed. Inspire me rather to continue being part of the solution, if my concern is misplaced, direct me rather than categorize me to undermine my voice. I exercise my Freedom today to let you know that I am a patriotic concerned South African who will not be silent and watch his beautiful land deteriorate into a blood bath, moral deterioration, apathy to upholding the law and the constitution, exaltation of criminality and unaccountability, growing divisions among our people, growing poverty, hopelessness with no end in sight. Not only am I available to pray, but I am also available to get hands and feet dirty.
From a Concerned Clever Black!
Jabulani Zwane is a Pastor at Greater Grace Ministry South Africa, where he ministers in both Pretoria Arcadia and in Nellmapius township as well as assisting in Mozambique. The ministry is affiliated with Greater Grace World Outreach. Having been a pastor since 2008, he also teaches Theology at Greater Grace Bible College in association with Maryland Bible College and Seminary in the USA.
He holds a Bible College degree in Theology and a Business Qualification from GIBS. Currently residing in Pretoria with his wife and three children, he is originally from the Free State town, Lindley. As a pastor he is involved in community leadership and training community leaders in Nellmapius. As a Bible teacher, he specialises in Biblical Leadership and Apologetics. He also teaches in other African countries namely, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda and due for Malawi next month.