The significance of the Eldorado Park protest

Very briefly, The Eldo (commonly known for Eldorado Park in Johannesburg)  protest is significant on two fronts:

1. Coloured people, too, have agency.

There are too may opinions, justifiably or erroneously, that the Coloured community is too apathetic on social and political matters. But if one studies an honest South African history, the coloured community has always had activists during the apartheid struggle and it continues this day, just have a look at the increase in the discussion of the coloured identity in popular and social media, the rejection of violence, gansterism, and chemical substance abuse, and political marginalisation. The significance of the Eldos protest, however, is that it is a community that is protesting and not only a few select individuals. Furthermore, it’s the most intense combined protest action by a coloured community post ’94. Too often is the coloured community portrayed as a burden or a by-product of society but it is a burden that was too easily accepted by the community. Coloured people can make a difference in their own lives, the community, and the country. Agency begins in the reality that we matter.

2. Coloured lives matter.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you embrace or reject a coloured identity, systemically, we will always be Coloured. The system, which is artificial and often oppressive, does not allow one to escape or shake the categories of identity politics that were designed to be descriptive. Politically we might be black, but socially and culturally, we are coloured. Yet, while it is systemic, It’s more than just a system that has locked coloureds in a category that is perceived as negative. There are many arguments that trace a coloured reality to the indigene people’s of Africa. Yet, it is too difficult to make such a general claim that all coloureds are Khoisan. It negates or denies the  Cape slave trade, the assimilation of other black people, and the evolution of the coloured community as a social and cultural group. While the term “coloured” might be a political creation, the person is not. The coloured needs to reject the false belief that we are a political creation or the product of miscegenation and therefore on a lower cultural status than the white or black person due to no inherent cultural identity. We need to reject the saying “that we are not white enough or black enough” and accept that the coloured life, indeed, does matter.

Caveat: There were many generalised and sweeping statements made and I realise that I cannot and do not speak on behalf of all coloureds.

Back at the office

It feels like a lifetime since my last post. In this post, however, I would like to reflect just some thoughts of being at work and being back in the office after two years of absence. In subsequent posts, I will reflect on what my time out of the office was like.

Being back at the office during my first week, after not being in the office for two years, does require quite a bit of getting used to. At first, it was an immense struggle to motivate myself to go back to the office when I have had the freedom of coming and going as I pleased and by setting my own program for the past two years according to what was important and less likely to the urgent. Yet, driving every morning to the office along the R21 highway in Pretoria, I am filled with a great sense of gratitude and humility. As I approach the city center of Pretoria toward the ending of the R21 highway, I am greeted by the awesome presence of the UNISA (The University of South Africa) campus. The UNISA campus, which looks like a sleeping giant, towering the landscape cannot be ignored. Some might argue that it is the least most attractive building in Pretoria (I think it’s pretty awesome), yet, the attractiveness of something cannot undermine or remove its importance and impact. A lesson in that, beauty or the lack thereof, is subjective and is only as effective as what one would want it to be.

What a privilege it is to firstly, have employment, in any form. I have long learned that there should be no discrimination in what one does for a living. Yes, often what one does, does affect our self-worth and confidence but that is only due to the pressures that society deems as important and worth any value. Don’t succumb to the horrible myth that there are degrees of worth and value in certain types of work and not others. Each has an important role and part in the ecosystem of our society.  Not everybody is fortunate enough to be able to do what they want to do. I am privileged to have employment especially at UNISA where I am able to make a difference in one person’s life through education. No matter what gripes there are against UNISA or any other educational institution for that matter, we should not lose sight of how many lives and families and futures have been changed for the positive through education. While I acknowledge the value of education and educational systems, it does not imply that we should not critically engage with such systems. As societies changes and evolves, so too, should such systems. I, therefore, am fully behind the #feesmustfall and decoloniality of education campaigns.

Secondly, I have learned that education cannot and should not be commodified. Education should never be about producing cogs for employment. Yes, the outcome is a graduate who is equipped to make a fundamental difference in society. Ultimately, education should be about the transformation of the individual. Education should be about expanding the individual’s horizon and worldview. Education should be about moral transformation. Education should NEVER be about employment. Unfortunately, in our context like South Africa, it has become all about employment. It was about landing the cushy and high paying job. But of late, it has become about the release from the grips of poverty. So, if that is what education has become, then what a job educators have. To supply the content of knowledge, the skills required by the marketplace, and the moral transformation for the well-being of our society into a three-year program.  Furthermore, in theological education, it is also about equipping the individual to share the good and transforming news of Jesus Christ.

So, sitting in my office and staring at the computer screen, I am tempted to berate my situation when comparing it to the freedom that I have previously had but that would be a gross injustice and insult to many who simply do not have the privilege that I have. We have what we have in order that others may also have what we have. So, in the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:29, “That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me”.