Time for whites to listen
On Reconciliation Day, I joined more than 10 000 people in the Cape Town city centre to declare that #ZumaMustFall. Simultaneously, around the country thousands more citizens showed courage to speak truth to power and demand an end to corruption in our government.
The call was important and right. It is time Zuma fell.
President Zuma is at the heart of a system within government that subverts the stated principles and purpose of institutions designed to serve the people.
Zuma is part of a corrupt elite that has infiltrated and subverted our democracy for personal gain.
The system of corruption is much larger than one man, but to remove the predatory elite that has subverted democracy and is feeding on the poor, we need to begin by removing the Number 1 predator.
This corruption cannot be the foundation on which we build a nation.
We need to build the nation on trust. Trust is needed for a functioning economy. Trust is the foundation of social cohesion. Without trust we cannot share a vision or build partnerships to implement change. Which brings us to an uncomfortable truth. Most of the demonstrators in Cape Town were white. Many of the newly born political activists proclaiming #ZumaMustFall are integral parts of a corrupt economic system that was founded on apartheid corruption and that still keeps millions of people in poverty.
Many of us who protested on Wednesday are among the predatory elite.
Corruption is just as prevalent in business and other key institutions in the country. Unless we commit ourselves to tackling all injustices in South Africa, we don’t deserve to have a voice for #ZumaMustFall.
Michael Jackson encourages us to look at the man in the mirror, and a wise man once said we should remove the log in our own eye before we point out the speck in another person’s eye.
If we only begin to show courage to act when our direct financial interests are threatened, then we show ourselves to be as corrupt as Zuma.
Our actions as wealthy South Africans show our fellow citizens, who have to live in poverty, that we are not to be trusted. We are unlikely to fight alongside their cause in the future if we have been for so long unmoved by the violent poverty that assaults them daily, yet become hysterical if we lose 10% off the cream of our own comfortable living. Still, I say again: #ZumaMustFall. Our complicity in the system, historical or current, cannot be a cause of paralysis or an excuse for inaction.
Passive disengagement is cowardice for whatever reason. White guilt cannot lead to self-censorship.
But we must use this moment of corporate political awakening to move ourselves to a place where our #HypocrisyMustFall and our #SelfishnessMustFall.
We must fight corruption in government while fighting even harder to tackle the corruption in our own spheres of influence. No corrupt, unjust system can survive. We may feel comfortable in our wealth now, but unless we do something to include everyone in that prosperity, it is inevitable that, within the next decade, the entire system will fall.
The reality is, the Mandela-Tutu dream of a united nation has yet to become real. Many young black people have recognised the falsehood of the national reconciliation and rainbow nation narratives and are engaging increasingly in black consciousness thinking and racial identity.
White people who have found their voice may finally be ready to begin real conversations with their black counterparts.
And yet those conversations need to be based on listening. Whites will only truly know where to fight injustice if they are able to hear, understand and follow those who have experienced it daily.
After years of skewed power relationships and broken promises, this may require patience and years of sitting at one another’s feet seeking understanding. It is not an easy journey, but an essential one if we are to see the dreams of the Mandela generation becoming reality.
If we want to see real and lasting change in the country that will benefit all South Africans, we will all have to work courageously and persevere for at least a generation. It will take high levels of trust to work together in implementing our dreams.
As we celebrated Reconciliation Day, many thousands of us insisted that #ZumaMustFall. We cannot be reconciled with corruption.
But perhaps more significantly, we can commit to changing the way we listen, think and live to enable our fellow South Africans to trust us and our intentions.
Maybe that will bring us a step closer to true reconciliation and a nation we can be proud to call home.
Giljam is part of the leadership of the Unite Against Corruption movement and is a signatory to the ‘Country First’ open letter to President Zuma published last
Sunday in City Press