Can we deal with the future of SA Society?

I watched a programme on Etv this morning.  Steve Hofmeyer was interviewed by a reporter on the situation in South Africa post Eugene Terreblanche.  He was identified as a singer and activist for Afrikaans.  Steve was adamant that the Afrikaner also had a right in SA, rightly so.  He was also clear that the Afrikaner had to be asked about where he came from and what his claims were.  The Afrikaner had a history in South Africa, which cannot be denied.

I watched a clip on SABC TV 2 yesterday.  The Minister of Planning, Trevor Manual, was clear that we could not blame apartheid for our problems anymore, and that we had to accept responsibility for our future.  This sentiment was echoed by the president, Jacob Zuma.  Mr Zuma even made the point that our civil service was the worst in the world!

I can see the opponents of the new political dispensation saying that “we told you so!”

What is the connection between Steve on the one hand, and Jacob and Trevor on the other?

I am concerned that people start thinking that we need to ignore the past and move forward.  I am concerned that we try to deal with the complexities that we currently face by only planning for the future.  Do we need to plan for the future?  Of course we do.  However, we cannot ignore the past.

Jacob Zuma was on record the other day stating that we have not dealt with our history.  I agree.  The Afrikaner cannot claim his rights for the future if he does not want to deal with his history as oppressor.  So, while I have empathy with Steve’s views, I am  not sure I agree with the plan for the future.

Why am I saying this?

If a child was molested or oppressed for his whole childhood, one does not expect the child to function normally when the oppression stops.  One does not also expect the child to act normally 10 to 15 years later on if such a child did not receive psychological help.  Terms such as post traumatic stress disorders, etc are normally used in conditions such as this.  People that do not receive counselling after such episodes are frequently scarred for life.

The Black population in SA have been oppressed for centuries.  Since 1948 this has been done with the full force of the law during the National Party regime.  Yet we expect them to come to the party in a very positive way after 1994, because they now have what they wanted.  My concerns are as follows:

  • What have we done to address the psychological hurt of the Black people of SA?  Are we expecting them to move on because political liberation has taken place?
  • We have not yet addressed economic liberalisation.  Yes, we have the so-called Black Diamonds which are growing in leaps and bounds.  However, what about the millions who are still as poor as they were pre-1994?  To blame the present government is the easy way out.  The economic structure probably has a strong role to play as well.  And this is not something we can blame the present government for, in spite of the many mistakes they have made.
  • What about the psychological liberalisation?  This one is what concerns me most.  It lies beneath the surface and we ignore the psychological dimension all to easily!  It is like telling the molested child to move on with his/her life because the molestation has stopped.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was supposed to deal with this issue.  I am not sure it was successful.  No, I am sure it was not!

So, before we are excited by the statements of Zuma and Manuel, we should ask ourselves whether it is realistic to ignore the history of oppression that nobody has taken accountability for. An example we should take note of, are the Germans.  After 1945 they had “holocaust training” for about 60 years.  This to deal with the situation between 1918 to 1945.  We have more than 300 years to deal with.  Yet we try to deal with the history by ignoring it.

We do it at our own peril!

Steve made a point that we are fooling ourselves to talk about the “rainbow nation”.  I agree with him.  In order to deal with the future and realise our goal of a rainbow nation, we need to adequately deal with our history.  And we are running out of time!

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4 Responses

  1. Christo Nel says:

    My dear friend, I did not realise you are such an articulate writer. Your ideas are really good and touch on some really core issues. Thanks for sending me your blog site.


  2. johanhburger says:

    No problem, Christo. Had some prodding from one of my students. She talks about “crushing it”. This is a term coined by Gary Vaynerchuk. Seth Godin talks about “shipping it” – meaning doing something positive. Artists need to ship. I am an aspiring artist – at the age of 51. I guess you are never too old to become an artist!

  3. Carl says:

    Johan, good reading…all of it, not only the latest part. Pity that not everyone experiences it in that way, some may argue that 16 years were enough time to at least rectify the “rectify-able” part of this country, but unfortunately it is not being done at all. Energy is going all over the show, except there where it is needed the most?

    • johanhburger says:

      Hi Carl, you are correct. We are dealing with the urgent stuff, and are ignoring the important stuff. Probably because it requires us to rise above our current worldviews and mental models to some place where we would be uncomfortable.