The late president Nelson Mandela. Picture: REUTERS
The late president Nelson Mandela. Picture: REUTERS

A “Black Conference” took place in SA some time in 1994 before the first democratic elections. All black leaders were invited, representing former liberation movements, bantustans, sports bodies, professionals, religions, the fourth estate, creative industries and the business sector. It was a who’s who of the black community.

Nelson Mandela led the ANC. There was only one item on the agenda — our freedom, our responsibility. Now that we have our freedom, what can we do to nurture and protect it? We agreed that apartheid was wrong  and must be buried. It was a corrupt system intended  to benefit only one group at the expense of others. It created resentment and fear. It trampled on human rights and stunted the country’s economic growth. It was bad for SA.

We also talked about failed African states and their mistakes. We asked ourselves hard questions about why a resource-rich country like Zimbabwe was poor. Who benefits from those resources? Why are other African countries bogged down in endless wars? What are they fighting about?

Tribal conflicts and corruption. The greed of some former liberation leaders. Africa’s Big Man syndrome. The Africa that is chasing its talent away. We said “not SA”. We will learn from others’ mistakes. As black leaders we will demand and expect more from ourselves. We won’t waste time fighting each other. We will deal with our problems in a mature and sober manner.

Then 1994 happened, and we have repeated all the mistakes these countries made. And we have gone further by destroying infrastructure. Corruption has became the order of the day, as has the vicious cycle of political  infighting. What happened  to the dreams and aspirations of the Black Conference?

Dr Lucas Ntyintyane
Via e-mail