Author of the recently published book Raising the Bar: Hope and Renewal in South Africa, Songezo Zibi, has cast doubt on the credibility of South African racial unity saying the “so-called unity” is just a fragile truce between bitterly competing interests.
Zibi, who is also editor of the Daily Dispatch’s sister publication Business Day, was speaking at the Daily Dispatch and University of Fort Hare dialogues on Tuesday night at the Guild Theatre.
He said South Africa had a “very long and stubborn history” which had given the country a certain racial order.
“Until we have walked in other people’s shoes and we understand the pain of the exclusion and the injustice that we visit upon them, I do not think we can credibly say that we have a society that we want to have,” he said.
Also on the panel with Zibi was Rhodes University lecturer Dr Nomalanga Mkhize, who referred to the book as “prophetic”.
Mkhize said the time for some of the assertions made in the book had not yet come.
“This is a book whose time has not come. It has not come, precisely because of the things you say in this book. The people who have to engage with this book are not yet ready.
“In a way I’m calling it prophetic because the society you describe in this book is a reactionary society: thin-skinned, hypocritical and unwilling to face the truth,” Mkhize said.
However, Zibi said South Africans needed to talk about issues raised in the book and engage with them critically. He said over the years it had become politically incorrect to talk about race unless we get angry.
“We need to talk about the history of our racism; we need to talk about how it has influenced the shape and structure of our society; how it defines what is normal and correct to do.”
He advised that if South Africans wanted to build a united nation, conversations and dialogues about racism needed to be initiated to ease racial tensions.
He also lashed out at politicians, questioning their trustworthiness and credibility.
“The problem with our leaders is that, even if they are telling the truth, one finds it hard to trust them,” Zibi said.
“But the sad reality is that the majority of us see no problem with the people whom we elect. You must remember that the same leaders who led Africa out of oppression, are the same leaders who are abusing Africa.” — firstname.lastname@example.org