The fight against apartheid was clothed in the rhetoric of justice, peace, democracy, transformation, equality and redress.
I remember the days of political rallies, marches and protests where demands for racial and gender equality were as vocal as the chants of the clauses of the redistributive agenda of the Freedom Charter.
As activists we despised the exclusion of the black majority from political and economic power.
White minority domination was a sin and declared a crime against humanity.
We knew we were tired of being third-class citizens and wanted to share in the natural wealth bequeathed to South Africa by the Almighty.
We believed that the overthrow of apartheid would empower black South Africans with rights to socioeconomic and political self-determination.
1994 was ushered in with fanfare around the persona of Nelson Mandela and his reconstruction and development programme.
The RDP died a quick death, followed by Mbeki’s Asgisa, then Gear, then several permutations of black economic empowerment.
The ANC came into power bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, wanting to carve its own path to economic growth and prosperity, refusing to learn from the former enemy, who, despite their illegitimacy, built up a behemoth of educational and healthcare institutions, law enforcement agencies and financial infrastructure for the advancement of white people.
Coloured, Indian and black people benefited differentially and marginally from all this development.
The notorious Bantustans were meant to promote self-determination for the tribal authorities, a system undergirded by heinous forms of structural violence. Bottom line is: the apartheid government cared for its own to the extent that even under black majority rule today, white people are still top dogs.
This is borne out by Stats SA’s shocking indicators of poverty under the supposedly venerable party of liberation.
Over 30 million South Africans are poor – that is 55.5% of the population; 17 million are on social grants; and 27.7% are unemployed, of whom the majority are young adults.
Add to this stats on crime, violence against women, the murder of farmers, and the debilitating networks of corruption that spread their tentacles transnationally and the future looks grim. Yet big business pretends all is hunky dory.
While secretly disgusted with the Zuma regime, it refuses to raise its collective voice against the kleptocratic state run by the president, depending on civil society and the media to be the voice of conscience.
The semblance of media freedom and the right of civil society to protest in alliance with opposition parties means nothing when the state has strategically captured the law enforcement agencies.
The slow erosion of the rule of law and the use of the Hawks, NPA, Sars, the police, the public protector and other agencies to fight political battles and rivals has resulted in credit rating agencies giving South Africa junk status.
This “African thing” of taking us all down with the kleptocrats if they cannot own the economy as entitlement for “saving us” from apartheid must stop, otherwise there will not be a next generation of educated leaders to move the country forward.
Big business often benefits from the ineptitude of government, finding loopholes to enrich itself. It’s time for the private sector to come to the party and provide moral leadership.