The black middle class has become what white people were during apartheid, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
Pretoria – My relative who for most of his adult life has not cared much for politics, took me to task for being part of the sell-out generation the other day.
In his view, the Struggle has been sold out by people like me; black middle-class people who, once we got the jobs and the tenders thanks to employment equity and economic empowerment, forgot that we were the exception rather than the norm in contemporary black South African life.
He reserved special vitriol for me because unlike some of my relatives who are also beneficiaries of the post 1994-dispensation, I “work in newspapers and have a voice” but I have never interviewed him about life in the townships.
If I was not indifferent to the conditions of people like him and their children, he would have seen me write about the conditions that the poor in the townships still live under; I would have written about the queues and the indignity that those who receive social grants are exposed to.
If my children were not enjoying the benefits of being born middle-class, I would also be showing concern for the scourge of nyaope wreaking havoc in the townships instead of “making a big deal about some guy having sex with a grown woman when he did not force her panties down”. I assumed he was talking about Zwelinzima Vavi.
It was because of people like me that he would be joining amaberethe, the Economic Freedom Fighters, so named for their trademark red berets. “At least these kids talk the language of people like us and do not go on speaking big English that takes us nowhere while the ANC fellows grow fatter and fatter”.
My relative has a point.
The black middle class has become what white people were during apartheid. Just because we enjoy the fruits of the present-day administration we have chosen to see or hear no evil.
Access to the “better” schools, usually those in former whites-only suburbs, and to amenities such as medical aid, have made the middle classes of all races think narrowly about whether our country is going where it needs to go, and, more importantly, taking everyone along with it.
In the process, a constituency of those who feel they and their children are increasingly being left behind, seek alternative platforms to catch up with what they hear some people in the same country are enjoying.
While pundits worry about the ethics and morals of some of the EFF leaders, many like my relative see them as a voice they thought had been muzzled by the large amounts of caviar and expensive champagne in our mouths.
It has become common to dismiss the narrative of the most marginalised as “popularist” without engaging any further with whether it has any merit to speak of.
Another fashionable trait is to label anyone who points out the self-evident fact of black marginalisation, poverty and landlessness as a racist themselves. It would seem some South Africans wish to be in a non-racial heaven but are not willing to tackle racism, let alone die for non-racialism.
President Jacob Zuma could not have made things any easier for my relative when he dismissed the quest for economic freedom.
“Some say they are fighting for economic freedom. Who is oppressing them economically? Who do they want economic freedom from?”
I had been hoping that the Presidency would again say that Number One had been quoted out of context, but I am still waiting.
Zuma forgot that the ANC states in its official documents that its key reason for existence is “the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society”.
“This means the liberation of Africans in particular, and black people in general, from political and economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor.”
If, however, Zuma has forgotten this, how can ordinary people like my relative believe that their issues are still important at Luthuli House and in the corridors of state power?
My relative then asked me whether I thought his newfound political home would win the elections next year. He must have thought it was typical of a beneficiary of the ANC policies that I had to burst his bubble and tell him I doubted that they would even be the official opposition.
I admitted to lack the crystal ball to show whether its leaders were genuine about what they say they stand for.
One thing I know for sure is that unless someone seriously starts putting the issues of the most marginalised on the agenda and the state starts actively working towards improving their plight, parties like the EFF will always be with us.
We can choose to be indifferent about, or even hostile to, the EFF, but we cannot afford to be turn a blind eye to economic and social justice imperative. It is the elephant in the room.
* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of Pretoria News.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.