February 2018 was a momentous month for our country by any standards. At last President Jacob Zuma stepped down. Parliament elected Cyril Ramaphosa into the highest office in the land. The wheels of justice turned at heightened speed to uproot systems of patronage, cronyism and self-enrichment entrenched during the decade of Zuma’s presidency. And the first post-Zuma State of the Nation and Budget speeches were given in Parliament.
The Foundation has publicly welcomed Zuma’s resignation and congratulated President Ramaphosa on his election. We have applauded the signs of the new administration’s commitment to cleaning up what has been ruined and fixing what has been broken, and we have signalled our conviction that, as important as these interventions are, in the longer term our people need deep, structural transformation.
We worry about a budget that, at best, constitutes a holding act and that, at worst, deepens patterns of inequality. We worry about a private sector resistant to employment equity, as well as the principles of sufficiency and the public good.
We worry about a growing rage in communities across the country at resilient patterns of white privilege in relation to land ownership, both rural and urban. We worry about recurring acts of violence and racism in many communities across the country. The recent attack on two young athletes in Potchefstroom and the state’s responses to it have again illustrated how black lives do not matter nearly enough. The dispensability of black life has been demonstrated in different ways by the murder of a young Taxify driver in Tshwane and the humiliation of two female workers in Germiston.
Findings presented to The Mandela Initiative on poverty and inequality reveal shocking statistics on what it means to be black in South Africa.
How is it possible, for example, that in 2018 one in four South African children – the overwhelming majority of them black – are stunted? How is it possible that most crèches in townships cannot access state subsidies and are therefore forced into being detention centres rather than places of stimulation, growth and development?
How is it possible that in 2018, the centenary of Madiba’s birth, the structures of power and privilege in South Africa disadvantage people of colour? How is it possible that the “previously disadvantaged” are still systematically disadvantaged?
Combatting structural violence and all its societal manifestations remains a top priority for the Foundation.
In 2018, The Mandela Initiative will be searching for cross-sectoral game-changing strategies. Already it is becoming apparent that whatever else we do to combat inequality, protecting and enriching the lives of our children in the first six years of their lives is non-negotiable. Also, this year our participation in the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity programme will enable us to focus attention on the underlying causes of symptoms such as the racist attack in Potchefstroom and, indeed, the continued gratuitous public displays of the old national flag by some South Africans.
We have brought an application to the Equality Court to have displays of the old flag declared an act of hate speech. We do so after months of reflection and analysis following the Black Monday protests in November 2018.
We do so as an indication of our insistence that black lives matter and our belief that the reconciliation promoted by Nelson Mandela has to be premised on commitment to ending racial and all other forms of structural violence. Apartheid was a crime against humanity. Rubbing the symbols of apartheid in the faces of those who still suffer its consequences is simply not acceptable.
Reckoning with the failures of the democratic era is imperative, as is finding a decisive intervention to make “post-apartheid” a reality. We cannot wait any longer. It is clear that South Africa is at a critical moment in its history, one that, as we have said repeatedly, offers South Africans a unique opportunity to reflect, to rebuild and to transform. Making this moment work for the vast majority of South Africans would be to honour Madiba in the best way possible.