EMBITTERED EXILES: Moulded in the collectivist intellectual climates of the former Soviets
These politicians were exiles,
isolated in strange societies in which they rapidly lost touch with the dynamics of
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.