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Ntshala Mahase is a Law student at the University Of the Free State. He is the author of the novel Life Out of the Ordinary. He is a social activist. He writes black consciousness opinions for Outlook magazine.

Hope for a better South Africa

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Like most other South Africans, especially those who have benefited a little from this new political dispensation “democracy.” I used to look at our country from a different eye, an eye of a disadvantaged black South African. When confronted with the question that most would rather prefer not to answer. The question on whether we have, since obtaining our democracy, made much needed progress from a state in which our country found itself in twenty or so years back. The question that seems to have its roots from the circumstances that one find himself in. If you were to ask me this very same question couple of years back when I was still a kid, playing around with some white kids at the back yard, I would confidently with a silly smile say we have made quite a substantial and remarkable progress since we became a democratic country. For at that time I most probably knew nothing or less about racism, white privilege, reverse racism etc. For at that time I was unaware of my surroundings, all I could see was that we could afford food at home, I can play with kids from different cultural and racial backgrounds. My decision would have been clouded by my lack of in-depth understanding and sober assessment of how the society operates, of how it views people and their worth in its eyes based on gender, skin colour and language. My decision would have been impeded by the level of unconsciousness I would have found myself in at that moment, not being conscious enough to realise that vast majority of black population are still very much psychologically and economically oppressed and that it is difficult for them to liberate themselves because the economic policies and structures are not user friendly to cater for them. Couple of years after, if one would come back and ask me the very same question. Being as conscious as I am of my surroundings. Having been stuck in a circle of poverty, not knowing what to do to make the ends meet. Having witnessed how the other side of the society lives, where the grass is certainly much greener. Having been subject to racial attacks. After realising how, after long since we claimed we have gained freedom, people are still without shelter, all they can afford is shacks covered with plastics. Without proper running water, sanitation and couple of other basic needs, which I at least think one is rightfully entitled to. If you were to ask me this question after I was chased by dogs, running for my life, just for falling in love with someone of a different racial group as I am. Not just running for my life, as if it was not enough pain, being told how much of a kaffir I am and how I do not deserve to be with someone I fell so deeply in love with. If you were to ask me this question when my friend had just been stabbed to death for his cell phone, if last week my friend just shot dead his wife after she found out that he was cheating on her. If I could draw the state in which our country finds itself in, underpinned by corruption and self-enriching government officials. I would, with a furious and arrogant voice, reply “things are still the same if not worse.” I would give you thousands of reasons why I say so, of course based on my circumstances. Just recently, one other guy at the student cafeteria decided to sit right next to me in silence. I became anxious, more so when he attempted to break out of his voice, which happened to sound weird. I soon realised this guy, like most other friendly university guys, just wanted to have a pep talk just before his class started. “Do you honestly think we have made a progress as a nation twenty years after liberation?” The guy said. The very same question that seemed to have followed my conscious seemed to have made its way back into my lively life. At this time, just after being admitted at an institution that was formerly exclusive to whites, predominant Afrikaans University of the Free State. I also happen to be among those selected few individuals who possessed at their disposal a bursary from the Free State government. I took a while before answering the dude, of course, like any other South African my decision was pretty much influenced by my surroundings. With a snobbish accent, like a typical university student, I replied; “Yes we have made a progress.” I mean I had more than enough reasons to back this statement up. From these three situations one might realise that one will see our country from an eye which his circumstances direct him to. Without being subjective nor being emotional, I decided to look at the progress our country has made from lens of an activist citizen. I suppose if only most of us can just put our differences aside and look at how beautiful our country is, be constantly reminded of those privileged people who are doing their bit to help those underprivileged, those willing to fight such an unjust cause and see a country which is equal and fair to everyone without reference to skin colour or gender or sexual orientation, of course still acknowledging the fact that there is still a lot to be done. With this mentality there is bound to be a great and prosperous future ahead for us, there is certainly hope for a better South Africa.

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