Divisive views promoted by the President

South African Coat of Arms

You would think the president would make an effort to unite people to create a stable country where people can go about their lives in peace and equality. You’d be wrong. What we actually get is the president saying this:

Let us solve African problems the African way, not the white man’s way.

If this were the malcontent grumblings of a random citizen, and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard it, then that’d be sad but not of any real concern. That it’s the president saying these things raises a number of concerns.
– It’s divisive, splitting an already divided country on racial lines.
– It doesn’t acknowledge White people as Africans.
– It wrongly tries to set African problems as unique.
– It rejects possible solutions purely because they don’t fit nicely into a certain category.

It’s frankly irresponsible to set up a clash between races, and mostly unnecessary as the tension is already there, when, as the president, Zuma should be trying to unite the country and moving away from the race-based past. How can he lead the country when his comments deliberately exclude a portion of the population and fly in the face of our motto on the coat of arms: Unity in Diversity?

The motto is: !ke e: /xarra //ke, written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people, literally meaning diverse people unite. It addresses each individual effort to harness the unity between thought and action. On a collective scale it calls for the nation to unite in a common sense of belonging and national pride – unity in diversity.

Why don’t I count as African? I’ve never set foot outside the country. I was born and raised here. My parents were born and raised here and my grandparents were born and raised here. I have no family or familial connection to any other country and yet I’m apparently not African. What else can I possibly be? Racially I am not African but it is still my home and it’s problems are still my problems.

African problems are also not as unique as he seems to think. They are human problems that have afflicted every society. We don’t need an “African solution.” We need a human solution; a solution that works and the best way to find one is to look at what other societies have done. They may need to be tailored slightly to fit a specific region or changed to align them with the cultural practices of a country but if something has worked then take that and adapt it.

Strangely that he has no problem with the “White man’s way” of cars or the internet or suits or any of the other Western technology that he uses every day. He hasn’t abandoned those and declared a need to invent an African wheel. His failure to reject fancy cars and planes shows that the concern about an African way of doing things exists purely to remove things certain people find distasteful. We saw the same arguments pulled out over the case of The Spear and now for Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit. It’s poor reasoning to reject something purely because it fits our label. As Jacques Rousseau recently put it:

Whatever ideology or political stance you have should really be a general description of how you view a certain political or epistemic terrain, rather than a set of instructions for how to interpret the evidence. The evidence can speak for itself, and we might simply corrupt it when ideology intrudes on interpretation.

A specific solution to a problem might not be “Afican” but if it’s good then use it. We shouldn’t reject vaccination because it’s the “White man’s way.” It’s the way for all people that want to avoid diseases that otherwise inflict a terrible cost on our society. It’s entirely possible that there are situations where we need to do something entirely new to suit the African context, where the “White way” just won’t cut it, but we should judge that on the merits of the case, not because it wasn’t proposed by a Black African.


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