It’s a common trait amongst the various societies that make up the human face to categorize people according to their race, ethnicity, gender, eras and particularly generations. Such categorization makes it somewhat possible to assess and determine the contributions made by ‘The Categorized’ and in this article it is a generation of certain period. Frantz Fanon, the Martiniquean born, Algerian revolutionary theorist, once said, in his critically acclaimed book: Wretched of the earth, "Every generation must out of relative obscurity find their cause or abandon it". When one examines that quote in closer proximity it becomes clearer that it seeks to convey that people aren’t just born by default or chance, but rather that for every person that is birthed a purpose naturally accompanies that person and in most cases it seems that the purpose eludes its subject, but it remains imperative for him or her to identify it and fulfill it. It is important that Fanon’s statement finds accommodation in the psyche of today’s young people(the Freedom Generation),especially in the minds of young Africans because there seems to exist an amnesia that is at a constant acceleration in our minds.
We seem to think that all the privileges we enjoy were simply handed out to us. History teaches us not undermine the domino effect certain event have on succeeding generations. For instance the generation of Langalibalele J. Dube(the first president of the ANC) and Thekiso S. Plaatjie(the first secretary general of the ANC) were among the first, if not the first products of missionary education in South Africa and these men saw the importance of education not only as an instrument of individual betterment, but also for collective bargaining and leverage of some sought for Africans to be able to negotiate with Europeans who, at that time, had monopolized everything to themselves. So Dube and Plaatjie’s generation’s ’cause’ could be summarized as that which tasked Africans with the duty of making sure that they empower themselves with education because education formed the basis for communications with the colonialists, who regarded the native people as savages especially those with out education. Their ’cause’ had a major impact on the generation to follow, that of O.R Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Anton Lembede(founding president of the ANC Youth League), Robert Sobukwe and Lilian Ngoyi amongst others.
This particular generation’s ’cause’ was more militant, because they felt the ‘old guard’ was soft in their approach towards the minority rulers. And so this is the generation that took action in various forms such as Klipown\Freedom Charter of 1955, the Anti Pass Law Women’s’ March of 1956 and subsequent results, although a few years later, was the Sharpville Massacre of 1960 and they eventually took up arms struggle. It goes without saying that the children who were young at those times were psychologically impacted on by the preceding events. They, too, felt had to undertake a ’cause’ of some sought and that saw the formation of the Black Consciousness Movement under the tutelage of SASO which culminated in the forms of high school unrests across the country particularly in Soweto and eventually leading up to the attainment of democracy in 1994. So here we are, 14 years into democracy and never has it been more important for a generation to find its ’cause’ in the history of South Africa. Because we, the freedom generation, are the first ones to enjoy the ‘perks’ of a state governed by a Constitution that is or ought to be the benchmark of our democracy. We are the people who didn’t experience apartheid or the brute force of the previous regime.
There’s a duty to maximize and fully exploit all privileges that are at our disposal and ensure that at the out put of our generational measuring ‘machine’ emerges a generation that succeeded in exterminating illiteracy, because in order for people to rid themselves of poverty they must be able to access information and be able to consume it and put it to good use. That we be possible only if people can read. Maximization of the privileges that we still enjoy is critical for us such as employment equity, but we must be capable first then be Black. We have already seen Black(Africans, Indians, Coloured) people especially Africans take up positions of executiveships in the various sectors of economy such one Peter Matlare who is the Chief Executive at Tiger Brands and Simpiwe Tshabalala who is Chief Executive of Standard Bank’s SA operations and Arcelor-Mittal appointed Nonkululeko Nyembezi Heita as its new Head. All these goals we should strive to attain while bearing in mind that although apartheid is over, its legacies still continue to plague South Africa. We should also rid ourselves of the cancer of entitlement because our preceding generations warned against being a beggar people and playing the apartheid card will not hold water very soon. 30 years from now the majority of us will be in our late forties and early fifties and we honestly won’t be able to blame apartheid for what would have become of us if we do not find our ’cause’ and do it justice. Something tells me Ayi Kwei Armah’s Beautiful ones are already born, we
just haven’t realized it yet.