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Having spent two weeks in the US prior to the start of this auspicious Month, allowed me to settle into this new and somewhat strange environment before embarking on one of the most spiritual months in the Lunar calendar.

Ramadan in DC is similar to the Ramadan I observed in Ulsan, Korea three years ago. Both places are hot, humid and in the Northern Hemisphere.

They are both far away from home.

Home. Where the smell of Daltjies and Curry permeate the air in a natural candenscence of homely atmosphere. Sometimes, in our eagerness to unite as a Muslim Ummah, we forget how our individual cultures assist in creating the environment for spirituality to thrive. Something as simple as sharing cake/treats with your neighbour prior to Iftaar, creates a sense of community which feels lost in places like Ulsan and DC.

However, Ramadan is more than the cultural attachés. It is a month of introspection and reflection. A time to rededicate ones life to the spiritual path laid for us by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

So while I miss the sense of community and culture of home, I relish in the opportunity to utilize the space and time away from it, to delve into states of introspection which seems easier being alone.

Ramadan Kareem

Chat  —  Posted: June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

Did SA Fail?

Posted: May 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

An Opinion piece I did two years ago, which I think is still relevant today!

With the imminent demise of former President Nelson Mandela looming, South Africans are confronted with the cold reality that the ideals born at our nation’s inception in 1994, has failed to transfer into action. With abject poverty, high unemployment and the failure of BEE to effectively take root in the corporate sphere, South Africans are now forced to reflect on a dream long forgotten.

Yet the ANC, who won the election in 1994, has remained unchallenged in the national elections. President Jacob Zuma has repeatedly asserted that the ANC would “rule until Jesus comes”. This is not merely an expression of arrogance or entitlement. This statement is born out of the doctrine of national democratic revolutions, which super-imposes upon ANC leaders a moral obligation to serve the people until the ultimate objectives of the movement are realized.

This means that their aim will be to rule until they have delivered on all their promises. Ordinary South Africans hope that this “delivery” happens sooner rather than later. Opposition parties like the Democratic Alliance vehemently disagree, arguing that the ANC’s poor track record of service delivery over the last 19 years, will count against them in the coming elections. Hence, South Africans are reflecting on a future reality of a 40 year ANC rule. For many, including the opposition, this seems unfathomable. But is it really? What would a dominant one party democracy mean for our country?

One–party democracy

The conditions promoting the consolidation of democracy are likely to impose various structural constraints on the development capacity of new or born again democracy. Since 1994, development has been slow in South Africa. In 19 years, the inequality gap has widened and the advent of democracy has failed to bring about substantial development. Many put the blame solely on the ruling party and its many ineptitudes.

Acclaimed political scientist, Samuel Huntington, makes the point that for a democracy to be fully consolidated, it needs two successful turnovers of power. This means that the ANC needs to be beaten in a national election. Opposition parties hold onto this notion as if it were the ‘Holy Grail’. However, in a heterogeneous society like ours where people still resort to violence to show their dissatisfaction, a turnover of power might just de-stabilize the nation, rather than unite it. Perhaps a dominant party state is exactly the type of consolidation we need.

South Africa is not alone in its one party dominance. It is traditionally assumed that if one party is dominant for an extended period of time, an authoritarian system will develop. This is not always the case. Japan, Singapore and our own neighbour, Botswana, are perfect examples of this. In Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party held power without break from 1955 to 1993. This ensured policy continuity and a dynamic development strategy that did not have to deal with the whirlwind of changes which a turnover of power brings.

It is important to note that South Africa like Botswana and Singapore saw the emergence of a dominant party democracy because of the strength of these parties at the point of independence or move to democracy. The dominant parties in these cases played a role in the establishment of the new state, and hence many cannot see them as separate from the state. While we have a dominant political party, we could and should be moving towards becoming a coalitional development state. This does not, as is popularly assumed, mean that there is coalition of political parties.

Reach out

If the ANC rules for the next 20 years, it will need help to reach its objectives and deliver on their promises. Hence, politics is only one element of proper development in a democratic system. There needs to be a coalition between the various bodies of influence within a country. A broad agreement must be negotiated between all major stakeholders in this country. This agreement would stipulate the direction, shape and pace of our development strategy.

So that even if by some miraculous turn of events we are ruled by a different political party, the development strategy will be kept on course. This is especially true where one community holds the majority of political resources and another community controls a major part of the economy – in essence the black/white divide.

 

Hence, our current government needs to extend its hands to the predominantly white controlled economy and they need to work together to create the type of development we envisioned in 1994. The issue is not whether a one-party state is democratic or not. It is whether our specific brand of democracy will promote the type of development we saw in countries like Singapore, Japan and Botswana. It is therefore foolish to believe that democracy is a sufficient condition for development.

Finally, if the ANC manages to navigate around the “clever” campaign strategies of the opposition and survive for the next three elections, they will need to focus more poignantly on translating their sound policies into concrete development strategies. 

http://www.vocfm.co.za/index.php/news/2013-02-27-07-46-11/item/9789-did-sa-fail?

ANC

20 years into democracy, it is an unalienable fact that South Africa is a better place than it was in 1994. By implication, we cannot remove the improvement in the South African society from the African National Congress.

At times, in our fervor to criticize, we fail to acknowledge that as a Liberation Movement, the ANC was simply not ready to govern in 1994. This statement is based on a retrospective analysis where we have seen the ruling party embark on various initiatives and programs, seeking to fundamentally change the conditions of the majority of previously disadvantaged South Africans.

By looking at the intended outcomes of these policy positions, we can unequivocally say they have failed. In fact, many of the policies undertaken were completed in a “Trail and Error” fashion. International consultants and organisations like the World Bank played an instrumental role in assisting the ANC to conjure these policy positions. Over the past 20 years we have seen the introduction of RDP, GEAR, NDP, to name a few.

The reasoning behind the constant changes in policy positions underlines three important points.

Firstly, the ANC has shown a commitment to delivering on the promise of making South Africa a more equitable society. While this “delivery” did not always come in the form of a job or house. The constant evaluation of the strategies being utilized shows a synchronization between the “desire to make a difference” and actually “making a difference”. The fact that they kept changing strategies, shows the determination of the ANC to get things right and ultimately deliver the South Africa we all dreamed about in 1994.

Secondly, the simple assertion that a specific ideology like “Social democracy”, or “Liberalism” will eradicate poverty and unemployment or tackle the land reform issue, is flawed. It is evident, that no specific ideological position holds all the answers. This postulation is derived from the failed RDP and GEAR Programmes, which were socialist and liberal in nature, respectively.

The ANC Government made “Ideological quantum leaps”, as soon as they realized that holding onto a specific ideology was not bringing the type of results envisioned. In fact, a collaboration and fusion of all ideologies, tempered with an understanding of the South African condition, is where we will find our “ideological holy grail”.

Thirdly, having ruled for 20 years, the ANC comprehends better than anyone in this country, what works and what does not work. An understanding has festered within the organisation that pure “socialism” or pure “liberalism” does not work within the South African context. They understand this, because they have attempted to apply each and failed.

We have walked a treacherous road. The ANC has been forced to go back to the drawing board several times. They have failed more often than they have succeeded. However, even in the perceived failures of the previous RDP and GEAR programmes, progress has been made. The lives of millions of South Africans have improved:

• From 1994 to the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis, we had the longest recorded period of uninterrupted economic growth, growing at twice the
rate of the last 19 years of apartheid.
• Since 1994, five million more people are in work, with total employment at 14 million.
• Twice as many young people attended university and twice as many graduated in 2012 than in 1994.
• More than 1.4 million students have benefited from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
• The Public Works and Community Work programmes have created 6 million work opportunities for unemployed people, 40% of them young people.
• Nearly 5,000 farms have been transferred to black people, benefiting over 200,000 families.
• Nearly 80,000 land claims, have been settled and 1.8 million people have benefited.
• The number of people receiving social grants increased from 3 million to 16 million.
• Over 3.3 million free houses have been built, benefiting more than 16 million people.
• About 12 million households have access to electricity, 7 million more than in 1994.
• Around 92% of South Africans have access to potable water, compared to 60% in 1996.

No other political party has had the opportunity to test their ideologies within the South African context. It is far easier to theorize a projected policy and its outcome when one is not governing. However, the workability of a policy/plan can only be fully tested when one is governing. Our first 20 years of democracy will attest to this…

Therefore, there is no guarantee that the policies and plans of opposition parties will work. Can we really put another inexperienced* party into power and wait another 20 years for the inequities of apartheid to be addressed?

No we cannot.

The ANC was not ready to govern in 1994 because they simply did not know how. It is my belief that based upon the experience governing in the last 20 years; the ANC is now more equipped to develop a strategy (which takes into account the failures of the RDP and GEAR) to fundamentally tackle poverty, inequality and unemployment.

This is one aspect of my reasoning in voting ANC (both ballots) on May 7th

(*By inexperience, I refer to parties’ which have not yet governed)

Can we eradicate poverty in our lifetime? Is it the sole responsibility of the state? If it is, do we currently have the best strategy? Is creating a welfare state an economically sustainable venture, or does it perpetuate maintaining the status quo?

The time has come for all South Africans to critically examine where we are, and what we, as a citizenry will do to change things. We need to stop moaning about what is wrong… for there will always be things that are wrong. We need to instead ask, what am I “Jane Doe”, going to do to solve it…

Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State John Kerry were among the international leaders who sent South Africa messages of congratulations on reaching 20 years of democracy

DA's Grant Pascoe joins the ANC

At Luthuli House with Jesse Duarte and Jackson Mthembu

Image  —  Posted: April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags:

So there I was about an hour ago in the sauna at the gym, minding my own business, thinking about my trip to Cape Town tomorrow, thinking about my awesome profile guest for the show tomorrow before I will have to rush to the airport….

Enters 50-something chatterbox white man, who starts talking to me, without greeting, without, well, caring whether I am interested in chatting. Let’s call him John Smith.
John Smith: You know, sure it’s amazing that blacks in this country were all peaceful and stuff after 1994….but I tell you, white people do a lot hey. I read your columns. But let me tell you hey, us whites might be very quiet now during democracy, but we do a helluva lot. Some people think we are conceptually conservative, but we get our hands dirty.

(He pauses. I say nothing. Return a neutral expression to him instead)

John Smith (continues): I mean, I listen to Radio Sonder Grense, and I must tell you, when white women call in, they call in and speak about deep principles of humanity, not black and white references. These are ordinary white people. White tannies who go into the veld to help black women. I have white friends who own construction businesses who don’t just look at the black men who work with them as labourers but who teach them business skills. White people are doing a lot on the ground to build this country. And it is not acknowledged hey. Black politicians do nothing. The black yuppies I know do nothing. I can’t talk about the lower class blacks though, I don’t know them….

(He pauses. Looks at me.)

Here is how I responded: [INSERT BIG LONG LINGERING SILENCE AS I STARE AT THE HOT STONES IN FRONT OF ME]

John Smith (looking scared or disappointed, puzzled by my silence, lowering his voice now): Anyways, ja, you’re the expert. That’s just my opinion hey. Interesting times.

I got up, looked at him, half-smiled, and politely parted, ‘Cheers mate!’
 
 *****

I bet you’re impressed I bit my tongue yes?

Silence, I tell you, is overrated. Equally, as my cousin Rurik McKaiser rightly insists, the journey of a white person who lacks self-awareness about unearned privileges, and in many instances a journey into, and out of, their own racism, is THEIR journey, not mine.

I cannot do his work for him.

And a dialogue would have affirmed him in some ways. It’s important for him to chew on my silence, and on his own warped views of the world we both live in. And if he doesn’t, at least I spared myself the emotional and intellectual fatigue of engaging someone who lacks self-awareness. If, however, he self-examines WITHOUT me, the achievement is more likely a genuine transformation.

Just as I did not aid my dad’s homophobia, but let him grapple with it while I lived authentically, I equally have increasingly less time for people who are blind to their own racism, bigotry, sexism or general prejudices.

 
Of course, I lie a little: dialogue does matter to me as one tool for helping us to achieve social justice and I am too vested in this country to never engage an interlocutor or ‘the other’. But the point is that on SOME occasions, you must not underestimate the power of letting someone stew in their own rubbish. Silence can be more powerful than speech at times.

Only my Facebook friends are entitled to regular dialogue

I hope John Smith struggles to sleep tonight. I suspect not.

He has work to do. Many of us too…