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Black Intelligentsia, stand up and be counted


I worry, and it’s not a joke. If you grew up in the culture of vigorous debates of the Mass Democratic Movement, you might understand. The issue is about the deafening silence of a black intelligentsia that guides development and transformation in Mpumalanga.

At an address to a group of academics recently, the ANC Provincial Chairperson, Cde Thabang Makwetla articulated a concern that has also been worrying me for some time now. Cde Thabang worries that “there seems to be a paralysis of thought or a withdrawal from an open engagement of the burning issues of the day among this important section of our population, which is difficult to explain.” In my first installment of 4, on this subject, I ask questions that will probably help me and other readers understand a few issues facing us today in Mpumalanga.

Historically the intelligentsia consists of persons with a fair education and a passionate preoccupation with general political and social ideas. They become the vanguard of their society.

Firstly, I bravely contend that, it is not the black intelligentsia that is driving the economic transformation of our cities in Mpumalanga today. You only have to walk around Nelspruit and Witbank and other towns to agree with me. My first emphasis is cities, because I haven’t seen a single city (or city shopping mall and industrial area) reflecting signs of a transformed Mpumalanga economy. I emphasize cities because it is more than 5 years since the ANC clearly defined “South Africa – the two economies”. We surely have a predominantly black government, articulating BEE so well.

But, beyond tenders, please show me this black intelligentsia that influences ideas about the economic direction that our cities are taking. I mean the strata of society that, despite having money, it is frustrated by lack of land, or land rezoning and subdivisions; frustrated by municipal officials, yet it is supposedly close to political power. Is this a lack of leadership, lack of ideas or mere powerlessness?

Please help me understand.

If it is about lack of urgent and dynamic convergence of ideas in society, then we are in trouble. Those that are currently dominating the terrain of ideas and systems will not give it up. Albeit, the ANC Alliance partners in various current documents acknowledge the urgent need to instill hegemony in all sites of power and influence. But to me there is no hegemony in determining major spatial developments in our cities now. Maybe that is why there is so much political emphasis on the Mbombela 2010 project, because to some it reflects a “hegemonic victory” of sorts?

Maybe the issue is not ideas but talentmanagement. Maybe, it is because in Mpumalanga we have systematically silenced our own intelligentsia or scared them away like the rest of Africa? One writer helped me understand this scenario that: “Asians do not have a problem losing their talent. Their talent stays at home. Africans continually moan about losing their intelligentsia to the West.

The truth is that Africa is actively chasing away its talent by not creating the right working environment for its people. The truth is that many African leaders see their intelligentsia as a threat.”

Another side of this coin may be that we sometimes do not believe in those of our own, and hence we cannot listen to them. Is it that we are so convinced a national leader is out there, not here?

Please help me understand and be convinced that; in the terrain of day to day local economic development we have leaders who create a sense of urgency, leaders who build a clear growth vision, and leaders who inspire all of us to follow the vision.

As a young student leader I always believed that ruling ideas are not neutral, but reflect dominant social forces in public and private life. Wherever they have retreated to, I am honestly searching to find this influential black intelligentsia.

Black intelligentsia, please raise your hands and be counted!!


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