A controversial topic, Fire pools, berets and quick divorces, turned out to be a discussion about the “born-frees”- their struggles in post-apartheid South Africa and their political stance in the upcoming elections.
A well-attended discussion organised by the Women’s Academic Solidarity Association’s (WASA) recently became emotional as issues of race and racism were raised.
The panelists included Malaika Mahlatsi who is also known as Malaika Wa Azania, a second-year BSc student at Rhodes University and the author of the upcoming book Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation; Mthobisi Buthelezi, regional secretary of SASCO and Chelsey Wilken, a Rhodes DASO leader.
The keynote speech by Mahlatsi was centred on her Sunday Independent newspaper op-ed: Black Born frees are not yet born. Mahlatsi pointed out that the academics and political parties construct their own definitions of “born-frees” without their involvement in the process.
“Most of these learned people believe that the “born-free” generation is so liberal in its outlook that it will most likely deliver votes to organisations such as the DA,” she said.
Mahlatsi slammed that claim suggesting that this generation is not homogenous as it is characterised by different individual struggles and view society from behind different lenses.
“We are not blind to the reality that our country is torn apart by white monopoly capital, and that the emerging black middle class is nothing but a buffer between the poor working class black majority and the very comfortable white minority,” she said
On the other side, Wilken contended that the representation given by Mahlatsi about South Africa had an element of untruth.
“South Africa is now better than apartheid, but it’s not the best yet. Young people should ask how we can make it the best,” she said.
Wilken said that South Africa has to move beyond the lines of race, backing the DA’s rejection of racial quotas programmes such as the affirmative action.
However, Mahlatsi slammed at this assertion saying that we need racial quota programmes in South Africa because “it is black people who are disenfranchised in South Africa; we can’t be talking about pockets of black people,” she said.
Buthelezi agreed with Mahlatsi saying that the working class is still not being catered for in the post-apartheid South Africa.
“We have rights enshrined in our constitution such as the right to education, but we have no funds to access them,” he said.
However Buthelezi commended the concerted efforts by the ANC government of providing financial aid scheme (NSFAS) to the financially needy students, however he acknowledged that the cracks within the system such as having students having to pay back the bursary after entering the job market.
Agreeing to Matlatsi’s assertion that young people are not apolitical, Buthelezi stated “young people are shaping political discourse by saying I am not voting,” he said.
“With our votes, we will be declaring that the struggle continues, and that black “born-frees” have not yet been born” Mahlatsi said.
By Sanele Ntshingana
Photo by Ruan ScheepersSource: Communications
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