Words, Visions, Dreams, Voices of an African Woman Expressed by Thulisa Qangule
I bang my head against my recliner with absolute disillusionment in my heart.
The sun that once shone brightly in my face as a symbol of glee and good things has suddenly become like the sun rays that hit after a long night on the dance floor and lack of sleep that it begins to hurt.
The air that once promised to deliver oxygen to the core of my being has begun to suffocate me as it is filled with stealth and the smell of strife, promising to wring one more sign of life out of me.
I am not alone in feeling this way about a country so beloved, it caused the smartest and strongest of men to go out and risk their lives with the most intense belief in our democracy and that the seeds they were planting would create a better future for us.
I of course cannot speak for this other generation that’s known as the ‘born-frees’. The children who were born in 1994 and afterwards. I sing Kumbaya to them.
They often-times feel as though they too have been set up as P-R tools but then again hey, I had said: ‘I cannot speak for this other generation…’
This is the story of My Generation. Yes. The one everyone forgets to mention, that one that’s deliberately edited out all the time.
We are the ‘Almost Frees’
We were here both during and after Apartheid. We witnessed the so-called ‘change-over’ as South Africa danced off to a euphoric party that was according to many, nothing but a facade to merely silence the masses, the trouble-makers who had held so much power this country was @ tipping point and knocking on Civil War’s doors.
That campaign paid off for the silencers.
It paid off because…
* We now have a generation of boozers who don’t know who they are running around, more than half the time, possessed by despotic demeanour.
This generation prides itself for its possessions not for its strength of character or mind.
This generation understands that money is the key and core driver behind anything and will sell-out at the drop of a dime.
This generation has become the antithesis of who our predecessors once were in 1976.
*a standing ovation is due to whoever the mastermind is/was that still remains invisible*
In this generation, our own black people have come to perceive wealth as something that is still a God-given right to white people. You will find evidence of this when you speak of moving to surbubia and you hear someone say: ‘surburbs are expensive, they’re for abelungu (whites)’. So not only have we become the antithesis of our predecessors, we have internalised suppression and oppression to the point that we’ve become self-denying.
This self denying behaviour is so corrosive that we even fail to wish each other well.
All the while, I see the best merchandise in terms of fresh veges and fruit, the best of the stock, ferried to the minority in the land while our people continue to feed on corn-meal/mealie-meal or pap.
Even more disturbing here is that, in Africa, OUR NATURAL and CULTURAL FOOD is WHEAT. In Xhosa we call it: Ingqolowa.
It was taken away from us and replaced by corn (mealies).
Today, everywhere you go in South Africa, Pap (stiff cornmeal porridge) has become the beacon of our ‘culture’ and has even been labelled as one of our ‘traditional foods’. We have allowed this for we don’t know well enough about who we are, about how deep the rabbit hole goes. ‘Monkey see, monkey do’ huh!?!
Yes, we made uphuthu / umphokoqo BUT from Wheat. Ingqolowa. Amabele.
We made Ting.
We made soft porridge, mageu from it.
If we’ve internalised just that much, how much more that isn’t ours have we come to own? Who guides us in the process? No one.
We’re a train speeding down the rails with no direction. This generation, my generation. The ‘Almost Frees’.
I am of that generation that experienced no pleasure as peace flags were raised. We were resented by white teachers in multi-racial schools. There’s a lot that remained unspoken.
Black parents continued to be in denial as all they worried about was the hell of a lot of money they spent on good education and ‘thy shalt be grateful’.
I remember as an art student- being made to feel lower than low because of my preferences. Yes. I preferred to paint the Kora to painting the Violin, for that I would always be marked down and stood as an example to every other black kid in the school as though to say:
‘Don’t you dare. Mandela may have taken over the government BUT this is our school, our neighbourhood, our property and we will show you who is Boss’
My generation had to deal with those parents who wouldn’t want their kids to sit with black kids in class. Those individuals in South Africa who wanted to send mails to God’s complaints department stating:
‘how come there are now blacks next door? Can you not see they are cheapening our neighbourhood?’
Yes. That’s right.
This is while the majority of our people dared to look at us with eyes that overflowed with envy.
We represented what many poor black South Africans wanted. To get out of the township and be where the whites were as though being the ‘new white’ is some sort of prize.
Sadly, that’s just what’s happened in South Africa. We’ve seen change but without transformation.
In workspaces, the black spy of a policeman who used to lynch on his own people for a small fee has been replaced by a new kind of workplace ‘Prefect’, usually in the form of an ignorant rich Black or Indian to reinforce again, the idea of the one who lynches on his/her own.
The same Black or Indian who fills this seat is also just NOT part of the system they sell out for either. Ussually the person is so unaware, so power-hungry, that they too are victims.
Because there’s the ‘better than you’ syndrome going around.
Some of our Indian and Coloured folk never woke up to the hypnotic lullaby that apartheid put them to sleep with that goes: ‘the blacks are inferior to you’. So they emulate the white baas and treat blacks, sometimes even worse than how the baas would. It is painful. Then there’s protectionism that goes on in such a way that you start to feel defeated before you have even begun screaming.
Then we have the ignorant rich Black whose symptoms of the ‘better than you’ illness is believing that due to largely circumstancial factors, he/she is suddenly superior to other black people. ‘Madam, Missy or Sir’ will not think twice before going off to engage in gossip and slander about his/her own people.
This is normally achieved by giving this black person a slightly higher perk than others, a professional title or some other form of reward.
These things are painful to watch…
Rich spoilt kids who start working in companies and don’t know how to embrace diversity. They don’t read newspapers and have no political savvy and don’t give a damn either have to share space with kids who have to jump hoops everyday just to get to work.
Those people in South Africa who are up way before dawn breaks, at 3am, 4am to catch a series of taxis (an unsafe mode of transport). By the time they reach work, they’ve had half a day’s experience.
Many are AIDS orphans, bread-winners and all the money they make goes to the care-giving of their families.
What do they get?
They are subjected to answering to current dress code rules.
Do we expect that a woman who lives in Soweto and travels 80km to work, via public transport, and has to do a whole lot of walking to reach the office MUST have a wig/weave/artificial hair in the smouldering heat of the African summer?
Are we demanding that SHE shows up @ the office wearing 9West shoes?
Because on the day she shows up wearing flat shoes and natural hair we don’t even ask her how she’s doing, but she gets whisked off to H-R offices that sometimes feel like torturous detention chambers?
Many of our people earn less than what those men and women who died in Marikana fought for. R12 000 salaries.
Yes! From the belly of all these glitzy offices. Its not like it is portrayed on TV or by the media.
That anyone works in some corporate organisation in South Africa is NOT equivalent to wealth. Not @ all.
Workers will be requested to show up at glittering events, often with no financial support. Expectations are high, resources are low and unfortunately those who hold these high expectations at heart are the ones controlling the purse strings.
Someone working @ some customer care desk, dressed to the 9s and back might be earning a lower salary than an underground mine-worker and 7 times out of 10, this is truly the case.
The blue-collar overalls and plastic helmets simply got replaced by white-collar suits and plastic hair weaves, extensions, wigs and things.
65% of South Africans use the public transport system, mainly taxis.
If you have a car, you’re in the minority.
Less than 8% of JSE listed companies are fully and truly black-owned. Any and everything between Asian and African is classified as black, giving way to loopholes in the Black Economic Empowement system.
Often, titles and roles don’t match. They’re there to win BEE scoring over. Windowdressing. Fronting.
On average, no more than 25% of any company is owned by blacks in terms of share-holding. This should tell you what happens inside boardrooms when voting is required. Do black South Africans have a voice?
The state of national debt is another thing altogether.
Yet people walk around beating their chests about this ‘freedom’ and believe that we can live like we’re on an episode of the Kardashians?
WAKE UP SOUTH AFRICA!!!! WAKE UP!!!!
The party has ended, we remain with the bitter after-taste of disillusionment. The burps of lost and deferred dreams in a country that holds up a volatile economy, angry people, an insecure minority, manipulation, filthy power games and yet so juxtaposed against that is the backdrop of dreams, hope, men and women who relentlessly never cease to give their best to make this country a better one to live in, on a daily basis. I thank them, the latter.
I now lean my head against the recliner, tired of dreaming and craving resolution, action and solution.
This generation, my generation, the Almost Frees are a people dying from too many dreams and no manifestation. Too many goals and the goal-posts keep getting changed. Too much promise and no delivery.
My generation, this generation, the Almost Frees are yelling the loudest screams for redemption, in absolute silence because they told us South Africa was free.