Written By: Pastor Enoch F Phiri
Pardon me, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the shocking recent interview by the Gauteng MEC of Basic Education Mr. Panyaza Lesufi as he related on Power FM that majority of Afrikaans schools in the province do not teach History despite it being a compulsory subject in the curriculum. In truth, I should be incensed that 23 years into our democracy – there are people who in positions of influence still choose to mislead young minds with distortions of our history with deliberate omissions, all in the name of discomfort.
Although I disagree with the conduct these school principals for rearing misinformed children and showing lack of regard for our hard fought democracy while spitting on the graves of the founding fathers of our nation including Nelson Mandela – I choose not to be angry. In case these principals believe to be shielding the children from the shameful deeds of their forebears – these children will find out the truth anyway and unfortunately it will be in a form of a jumbled puzzle that they will have to struggle piecing together.
Our founding fathers and struggles heroes were visionaries – they showed leadership during the most difficult of times and I imagine it was not so that some school principals can distort history and divide the nation along racial lines. They fought for freedom so that people in position of influence can likewise show leadership. As a leader and visionary, I have the responsibility to help God’s people to keep on believing in and working towards a better future. A future that affirm our differences yet acknowledging the past with all its ills – good or bad.
Today South Africa finds itself at the crossroads – the economy is not growing, inequality is deepening and poverty is ravaging our people. The same South Africa that is a beacon of hope for many nations – a country that exported its Truth and Reconciliation Commission model to Ireland to help them heal as a nation, a country with the constitution that is hailed to be the most liberal in the world and a country that chose dialogue for peace instead of a civil war.
There has never been a better time than now to introspect and put our heads together for solutions, hence I support the initiative by the foundations to establish and facilitate a national dialogue on forging a better future for all. It is quite disheartening to learn that some among us choose to disregard this initiative because of the participation of the De Klerk Foundation. Besides anecdotes, I have yet to hear or see concrete evidence justifying why former President FW De Klerk ought not to be part of the founders of this initiative and he should not participate.
Is it possible that one of our biggest problems in South Africa today is – instead of focusing on the challenges bedeviling us, we chose to look at who is coming with the solution and only then decide whether it is a good or bad one for the nation to prosper? Is former President De Klerk guilty of being a guardian of the brutal oppressive and unjust apartheid system – yes he is. Is he speaking from a point of privilege – yes he is. Does he say the most outrageous things about race relations – yes he does. But that does not make him less of a South African who should play a role in healing our nation so we can prosper.
Fact is – the former President was part of the many men and women who helped South Africa transition into a democracy, it may not have been as smooth but today we enjoy the political freedom because on them. Also, as a matter of fact – he was cleared by the TRC for any charges that were brought against him, so anyone who claims otherwise may be suffering from not knowing the history of our country.
I may disagree with the people opposed to the De Klerk Foundation’s participation in the National Dialogue but I understand their frame of reference. Our nation is still reeling from the pain of the past, apartheid was too brutal and its residue remains palpable even today. We continue to be the most violent nation because we experienced brutality in all its forms during the racial segregation and oppression days. I am not in way excusing the barbaric manner in which criminals continue to terrorise our communities.
Without getting into whether the National Dialogue is necessary or not, I wish to defend De Klerk’s rights to choose and associate. His role and participation in the National Dialogue may be exactly what South Africa needs right now – for all races to come together as equals and negotiate for a better future that will ensure the restoration of dignity of the people, in particular black people who are most affected by poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Our nation needs to heal from hurts of the past and for that to happen, perhaps black people need to sit around the table with De Klerk’s of this world to discuss the universal truths including dealing with inequality by sharing the fruits of our country’s wealth. These sessions may prove to be what the doctor ordered – expressions of what should be done with issues such as land, unfair labour practices, wealth tax etc.
In the old testament, our Lord got to a point where he encouraged the children of Israel to ‘come now and reason together’ – surely as mere mortals we are not beyond reasoning together to settle matters of mutual benefit for a prosperous society. Solutions will not be found if only one section of the population gather to find solutions, we need to force ourselves to sit around the table even with those that we disagree with. They should be part of the solution because they are the reason we have problems today – so I plead that we allow ourselves to accept the participation of De Klerk and his ilk to sit around the table of National Dialogue. There is much to be gained with them around.
Pastor Enoch Phiri is speaker, writer and the founder of Restoration Ministries.