EM­BIT­TERED EX­ILES: Moulded in the col­lec­tivist in­tel­lec­tual cli­mates of the for­mer Sovi­ets

Finweek English Edition - - COLUMN - STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND

These politi­cians were ex­iles,

iso­lated in strange so­ci­eties in which they rapidly lost touch with the dy­nam­ics of

our so­ci­ety

THERE ARE VAR­I­OUS MEANS to get peo­ple to do things that au­thor­ity de­sires them to do. Ev­ery par­ent knows about the dif­fer­ence be­tween en­cour­age­ment and in­cen­tives as against co­er­cion and pun­ish­ment. And in busi­ness it goes with­out say­ing per­sua­sion, en­cour­age­ment and in­cen­tives are far more ef­fec­tive than dic­tates and threats. How­ever, it seems be­yond the com­pe­tence of politi­cians to grasp those fun­da­men­tals of hu­man be­hav­iour.

Thus our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers – in pur­suit of right­ing the unar­guable evils of the past – have im­posed a sys­tem of racial and racist de­mands on so­ci­ety which, if not obeyed, can eas­ily lead to ruin. In this blind and mad rush to re­struc­ture our coun­try in its ev­ery as­pect so as to re­flect the de­mo­graph­ics of the nation, ir­repara­ble dam­age is be­ing in­flicted.

For ex­am­ple, in­stead of ex­ploit­ing the of­ten world-class qual­i­ties of a favoured group – and, let it be said, qual­i­ties gained un­fairly – our lead­ers drove a gen­er­a­tion of ded­i­cated teach­ers, en­gi­neers, pub­lic ser­vants and many oth­ers out of their po­si­tions, tak­ing with them their skills, ex­pe­ri­ence and in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory, never to be re­placed. That was a de­struc­tive and neg­a­tive pol­icy.

It de­fies logic that our new rulers would have in­flicted such gross in­jury on our so­cial fab­ric. For ex­am­ple, what they did in­stead was to take our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem – which pro­duced gen­er­a­tions of tal­ented grad­u­ates, in­clud­ing No­bel Prize lau­re­ates, world busi­ness lead­ers, judges of high courts world­wide, med­i­cal grad­u­ates who to­day run some of the world’s lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions, nov­el­ists and so on – and re­duce it to the ru­ins of some­thing called Out­comes Based Ed­u­ca­tion, a dis­cred­ited fad that had been aban­doned around the world.

Now it can be ar­gued the politi­cians who did that to us weren’t re­ally South Africans. They were born here but formed out­side, as ex­iles, iso­lated in strange so­ci­eties in which they rapidly lost touch with the dy­nam­ics of our so­ci­ety. They were moulded in their for­ma­tive years in the col­lec­tivist in­tel­lec­tual cli­mates of the for­mer Sovi­ets. They ma­tured with­out the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in SA, poi­soned as it was by apartheid but in which there was a grow­ing un­der­stand­ing among whites that ma­jor­ity rule wasn’t only in­evitable but far more de­sir­able than the dic­ta­to­rial reign of PW Botha and his pre­de­ces­sors.

This is the sense they were ex­iles, led by Thabo Mbeki, an em­bit­tered and an­gry per­son­al­ity es­tranged, through no fault of his own, from the dy­nam­ics of race re­la­tions in the coun­try of his birth. Ex­iles are by def­i­ni­tion lonely peo­ple, cut off from their roots and, in the case of our own ex­ile class, from an un­der­stand­ing that there ex­isted – be­neath the hor­rific veil of apartheid – a sym­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing be­tween white and black that was wait­ing to be en­cour­aged and nur­tured as a new so­ci­ety emerged.

In­stead we ex­pe­ri­enced a wave of vengeance re­plac­ing the in­spi­ra­tional and calm­ing lead­er­ship of Nel­son Man­dela in which all – black, white and ev­ery­one else – could feel con­fi­dent and safe as we marched and worked to­gether to­wards a new nation.

That was re­flected in Mbeki’s re­mark that if “you want rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween black and white you need to transform so­ci­ety. If we have an econ­omy that is geared to ben­e­fit the whites and dis­ad­van­tage the black ma­jor­ity and you do not ad­dress that you will not have rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

Clearly Mbeki wasn’t in­ter­ested in the gen­uine and al­most des­per­ate de­sire on the part of the ma­jor­ity of whites to try to atone for the sins of the past. There was no need for im­pos­ing such neo-Na­tional Party poli­cies as black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment. Far bet­ter to have tapped into both white guilt and a gen­uine de­sire for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and of­fered in­duce­ments through, for ex­am­ple, tax breaks for those com­pa­nies that broad­ened their share­holder base to in­clude their own black staff and fur­ther tax ben­e­fits for those who pro­vided pro­mo­tional, ed­u­ca­tional and train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­vi­ously de­nied to blacks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.