Imbila Yaswela Umsila Ngokuyalezela

By Unathi Kondile

It’s 4am.

I’ve been asleep since 3pm.

I suppose this happens when you spend an entire week on the road.

5446 kilometres travelled in one week – distributing Isigidimi SamaXhosa, talking to chiefs, teachers, ward councilors, rural community dwellers, shebeen patrons (oolova baseKasi) and my favourite – children.

The overall experience: I am gutted by how our people have resigned themselves to a life of dependency. It’s as if we’ve become addicted to help. Drive past any SASSA office in the Eastern Cape and you will see hoards of iinkonde neenkondekazi (the elderly) queuing there all day long – for grants and grants to be granted by grantors.

“Bhuti, sicela usiphe imali yedrinki!” were the words three Thembalethu High School girls uttered as I drove past them, in George. I stopped. Gazed at how short their uniform was.

Thought was not: “Damn, that’s sexy!”

Thought was: “All school girls must wear long gray school trousers!”

This thing of showing so much thigh at school is distracting, to put it lightly.

“Andinayo!” was my response, “imali yam igqitywe leliphepha lesiXhosa lam” as I showed them a copy of the newspaper.

“Kodwa uhamba ngemoto entle kangaka!” said one pointing to the rented I20 I was driving. “Sicela usiphe ilift ke; uyosibeka ekhaya!” That’s another thing about our township and rural communities – a car attracts attention like faeces attract flies.

I caved in, gave them a lift but along the way gems came out of their mouths – things like “poverty is inherited bhuti, maybe we will stop asking for things when we are older!” and more was said by these girls. As they got out they asked for copies of the newspaper and promised to write about what’s going on in Thembalethu. I am not going to hold my breath for that.

Throughout my travels in the Eastern Cape one theme kept reasserting itself: girls are easy prey there; especially if you’re driving whatever you’re driving. If you have wheels and can afford a six pack of Red Square or Hunters Extreme you are a woman’s dream-come-true waiting to happen in some parts of this country.

My conclusion: If only all those feminists in big cities would take a break from conferences, art and Twitter, and head down to rural areas and townships to empower young girls there; perhaps change would come.

On the subject of conferences, Twitter and being busy I have further concluded in my head that change will not come from people who are busy presenting in conferences, speaking at breakfasts or people who are locked down in 9-to-5 jobs. Change will come from people who are prepared to down tools or commit career suicide (as Nomalanga would put it). We are not going to change anything in this country if we are resigned to this thing called work. We have to resign first.

This trend of young people finishing school, getting a job, buying expensive wheels and committing themselves to buying things they can’t even pronounce must come to an end. People who are committed to creating debt for themselves cannot possibly be the same people who can commit to changing any society. If there are people in this country who can live on R1200 per month grants I think anyone who earns above that is overpaid and surely can make an effort in terms of saving their money. By this I mean anyone earning above R1200 is in a good position to resign after a few years and go do some good with their savings. This however requires a culture of saving and divorcing the what-will-people-say complex, first.

I have seen many such young professionals gracing activist initiatives like the Education Stokvels and other similar black empowerment initiatives. The reception is great. Everyone comes and pledges their support to initiatives that promise to improve the lives of the majority. A launch is done. Canapes and wine are served. All attend. Within a week it’s as if nothing ever happened. Promises. Promises. Pledges. Pledges. But nothing.

People are way too busy being busy. Busy servicing debt. Busy working towards enriching their employers. Such that doing side social gigs become difficult for them. Look at the dead end jobs we’re in – who do we serve? Do our employers allow us time to go and fix where we come from? No. You’re working, working, working from one pay EFT to the next – never a moment to spare to go do some community work, build a school with friends or so on.

No such.

Tough cookies.

And when it becomes hard for you to do social work it becomes easier for you to look to government. Blame government. You easily develop the Government-Must! syndrome many liberals suffer from. This syndrome blinds you to the reality of “I too, can make a difference, with the little that I have.”

Sadly, it becomes the empowered, well-positioned, too-busy-being-busy types who consistently put the blame on government’s foot.

I am absolutely sick and tired of hearing about government. The problem is not government; it is us. We are the ones who vote. How on earth do we “employ” someone then call them “boss” or a leader soon thereafter? We are the employers. That’s like employing a babysitter and thereafter treating that babysitter as if they were the parent that is you.

This happens. Nannies become the real parents and parents end up bowing down to the very nannies they employed. Why? Because we are too busy being busy. And that being too busy of ours slowly breeds a culture of help and dependency. It breeds a culture of looking up to nannies like president Jacob Zuma for everything. We no longer know how to do things for ourselves. If it itches, we don’t scratch. That’d be too much effort. Get a masseuse to scratch the itch.

If you can’t even scratch yourself or raise your own child, how on earth can you help entire communities? You will inevitably end up looking for nannies to help you with your own problems.

We work, get paid, start debt and leave the rest to nannies called governments.

What on earth is that all about?

Government cannot do much for us. As I travelled the length and breadth of this country it became clearer that government is trying; but we – the parents of our problems – are not. The solution to this country is not a new government or nanny. The very same problems will persist irregardless of which nanny we employ; the problematic child will still be a problem child, even to that new nanny.

For things to work; we must nanny our own problems ourselves.

I have seen communities get together and build mud schools and thereafter roping in the services of retired teachers to teach for free in some rural areas of this country.

I have seen retired nurses coming out of retirement and converting their homes into clinics.

I have seen people who earn close to nothing taking care of the elderly and sick.

I have seen and learnt that no money is needed to help others.

We only need human capital, human care and human time.

How do we raise these three?

It was around 1986, in Cala – 46 kilometres from Queenstown, when learners burnt down Mazibuko Senior Secondary School.  Actually, many a school has been burnt down in our illustrious past. This culture of destroying libraries, schools and other services that benefit communities has long been with us. Its roots are firmly entrenched in defiance. You destroy that which is essential in the hope that it will grab attention. Attention Seeking 101 has never been easier. So when this destructive culture persists in 2012 protests we shouldn’t act surprised nor ask “why?” – that is the only working form of yanking attention, for some. And it works. Why stop doing something that works?

So anyway. 1986. Mazibuko Senior Secondary burnt down. Who rebuilt it within a month? The very same community whose children had burnt it down. Parents, teachers and farmers got together and rebuilt that school within a month. Children were back to school.

There are many more such schools in the Eastern Cape. They were built by the hands of the community with little or no support from government. That was in the 80s. Before 1994 we rarely ran to government when we had problems, we sorted things out ourselves, yet in 2012 we struggle to do anything for ourselves. Even though it is claimed we are free?

What on earth is that all about?

What exactly are we too busy doing? Busy being busy?

Anyway. Back to the Calas. Upon building those schools those that have cars went out and got textbooks from government departments. If said department had none they made photocopies of textbooks until government had. At times they approached the publishers direct and made deals. The point is they did something.

Moral: Just do something. Anything, but protest and running to courts. That is time wasted.

This dependency tendency towards Mr-Delivery-Will-Do-It simply leads to no textbooks getting to schools. In Xhosa we say “imbila yaswela umsila ngokuyalezela” – “the rock rabbit has no tail, because it chose to send someone else to get it for it” – this culture of having someone do something for you is foreign to us Xhosas. We cannot have situations where communities are obsequious to nannies and Mr Deliveries. To get things done, you do them yourselves. Government eventually responds and adds on a few buildings to what you have already built. That is called active citizenry. Especially where education is concerned. Those are our children. If the nanny refuses to change our children’s nappies, we have to be the ones that change them. We’ve become the parents that don’t mind children being in soiled nappies the whole day. Our problems in this country are our responsibility. We cannot sit and wait for things to get done on our behalf anymore. Those that have bakkies must go and get the textbooks for their community schools. What kind of nonsense is this that when a problem emerges no one does anything about it except to point to the nanny that is government?

What kind of culture is this that prefers to sit back and pontificate over its problems?

We all know what our problems are. Listing them and and establishing bitch-and-moan NGOs achieves nothing. We “Do” or “Doing” people. Enough with talking good English and asking the right questions. Do.

What kind of culture is this that is complacent with writing good articles and organizing marches for its own problems?

What on earth is that all about?

Is it because we are too busy? Too lazy? Or that we do not care anymore? The future of education in this country will not be resolved by government. The future of education in this country will be resolved by the resolve of communities like Cala who still are hands-on on the education of their children. If you, the parent or young black, do not care about the education of the future then I am afraid you should be afraid of the future.

Caring or activism is not marching to government buildings. Especially in 2012. Why on earth are you marching against someone you employed, yourself. The employer doth protest against the employee?

What on earth is that all about?

Caring or activism should be about doing. Especially in 2012. Activism should be going to communities, establishing what is missing and going out to get what is missing. You will find that in all this activism that is aplenty there is actually enough money to render services or do get things done. But instead that money is spent on tea, biscuits, venue hire, speakers’ flights and accommodation and so forth. So that people can sit, talk organise a march that they will talk about for days afterwards. That’s passivism. Not activism.

What on earth is that all about?

If we are serious about getting this right, if we are serious about helping one another then we have to get over this government-must-do-this-and-that complex. Government is clearly failing in some aspects of its functioning and running back and forth to their offices expecting miracles simply won’t work. What will work is us rolling up our sleeves and doing this work ourselves. Government will join us along the way. They always do – it’s part of their looking-for-success-stories-we-can-hijack mandate.

Until then, I only have these words to say: imbila yaswela umsila ngokuyalezela. Go and get that tail for yourself.

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One thought on “Imbila Yaswela Umsila Ngokuyalezela

  1. Unyanisile bhuti. There is something about all of us, urban or rural, rich or poor, that has psychologically imploded into this ‘someone else’s fault’ mentality, and it is killing us.

    But I particularly like your point about the amount of so-called good-will effort that goes into printing t-shirts and booking venues. Completely wasteful resource expenditure masquerading as do-good conscience absolution. NGOs (especially NGEOs) are not accountable to the public: they are not elected officials, and they are constrained by whatever their private funders want them to do. Which is why we must fix our civil service and not allow it to be covered for by NGOs, bought out by private for-fee services or pillaged by corrupt officials. A civil service is exactly like you say: a SERVICE. It is not meant to be a nanny. It is meant to be (and CAN be) the most efficient, transparent and accountable mechanism of ensuring basic infrastructure and services reach everybody: water, electricity, education, health care etc. Accountable to and ’employed by’ its taxpayers and people.

    We’re building a new public school in Imizamo starting next January. Would love half a dozen copies of Isigidimi for our reading club kwaLanga and the school in Imizamo so that the kids banokufunda ngolwimi lwabo lokuqala. Please let me know how to order/find copies eKapa. Enkosi.

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