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FIKILE-NTSIKELELO MOYA: Why SA can't afford to be preoccupied with racism

OPINION

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s confession – for that is what it was – that the party is racist and tribalist does not come as a surprise.

Racism is South Africa’s original sin. The institutionalisation of racism-fostered tribalism as many indigenous communities fell for the divide-and-rule tactic.

I expect that someone out there will argue the academic definition of racism and point out that black people do not have the power to be racists and can therefore not be racist.

This is not an academic paper and racism is defined in its crudest sense: the belief that you are a superior human being because of your skin colour and others are inferior because of theirs, and should be treated as such.

The trouble with Duarte is that she leaves matters at describing them, instead of suggesting solutions.

She did the same when saying the PIC should not liquidate the Independent Media Group because it would leave the media space with no black ownership of a major media company.

She did not say what then should happen when a financier was not getting the expected repayments from those they had lent money to.

The same with racism. It is not enough to describe a problem, especially not one that is part of the South African DNA as racism is.

To overcome racism, we have to start thinking creatively rather than repeat the problem that got us here. Being racists to racists is no better than raping the rapists. It just multiplies the number.

Albert Einstein famously said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. He was right.

The appointment of new Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter is a case in point. There is already a valid enough argument to contest whether he is the best candidate without having to resort to his race or sex. The performance of the company he is currently the CEO of is not exactly shooting the lights out.

To reduce transformation to replacing whites with blacks and women with men is to have missed the whole point.

Yes, a society that had by law privileged white males over everyone else must start to reflect that there is more to society than just white males.

To treat transformation as wishing away the existence of white males is to seek to solve a problem using the same mindset that created it.

We are where we are because we had a legal framework that sought to wish an entire population of black people and women away.

Transformation requires that we transform our mindsets. One can tick all the 'transformation candidate boxes' but still lack appreciation of the diversity of South Africa.

A transformed society is one that is honest about its past and seeks authentic solutions for the future.

A transformation candidate should be any person who is conscious of their own place in the class, urban-rural and heteronormativity divide and commit to doing what is within their capability to correct the historical wrongs.

This means not pretending that history has privileged white males but refusing to use the standards of a racist society as the measure of what must be done going forward.

Those who refuse to acknowledge this fact and those who refuse to move from that spot are on flipsides of the same coin.

South Africa’s problems are many and deep. To be preoccupied by matters that are literally skin deep is to fiddle while the country burns.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.

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