Thursday, September 07, 2006

Our hopes are being destroyed

The article lower down (with hyperlink) refers. Tim Modise is a well respected talk-show host and current affairs anchor person. He made his appearance on the national broadcaster's English television channel in the last years of apartheid (early 90's), as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) grudgingly started reflecting the change that was underway in the country. Modise has a pleasant persona and quickly gathered quite a following. After a few years at the Corporation he faced the typical dilemma that many popular talk-show hosts / anchor persons have to grapple with, how long do I want to do this? If you think about it, these kind of positions probably loose their appeal quite quickly. To a large extent you're a figure head. Yes, you have to be able to think on your feet and have good interviewing skills. But all the challenging preparation, digging, research, etc. is done by someone else.

Modise was then appointed as chairperson for the Proudly South African Campaign that got of the ground a couple of years ago.

I find his article (see link below) both encouraging and perplexing. The encouraging bit is that a prominent black individual is highlighting serious issues that faces not only black South Africans, but do impact hugely specifically on that section of our nation. He asks critical questions about (black) African culture. It is not a popular line to take and for that he must be commended. Modise points out in no uncertain terms that black males, in his view, have become the 'bogeymen' of their own people. In his guest column he deals mostly with the position of women and their victimisation through heinous crimes such as spousal abuse, rape and murder.

What I find perplexing is his proposed remedy. I find it strange that he focus exclusively on males when it comes to addressing the above scourges. In his column it seems to be the male population that has failed society and it is the same section of our society that is called upon to remedy the situation. All of this has merit. But what about women? Is a view of society / community that places power and responsibility exclusively in the hands of men not part of the problem? I would argue that elevating women in terms of their position in society is a crucial ingredient in all of this. If women are to be the powerless recipients of all things good, rather than taking control of their own destinies - can we realistically expect any improvement?

My view is that the hierarchal position that men is entitled to in traditional patriarchal African culture is a fundamental part of this problem. The patriarchal approach to society is of course not unique to (black) African culture. It is very much present in the Afrikaans community in which I was raised. However, traditional (black) African culture seems to trump everyone else in this respect. I assume that Modise has simply chosen to address black males in his article and does not necessarily exclude women from the issue. However, in the broader debate it is crucial that the emancipation of women should be placed centre stage.

Our hopes are being destroyed: "I deeply appreciate that I have been given this opportunity to reflect on developments in the public arena as well as on current affairs in general. I suppose this will give me an opportunity to reflect on what our society talks about on radio and television as I enjoy a sort of front row seat into the psyche of our nation.

I was approached to write this column during the month of August, a month when our country, correctly, commemorated the role played by women in the struggle for justice and freedom.

The usual but unflattering issues were again highlighted. Women living in abusive relationships. Women living in fear of violence and being raped. Women still not socially and economically empowered enough to determine power relations in the scary era of the rapacious HIV and Aids pandemic. The era where the dominant family structure is the single-parent-mother-headed home.

Fifty years before, women had marched for justice and freedom, yet they were still living in fear of, this time, their own brothers and fathers. They were now more terrified and angry with the very men who made it part of the democratic state's agenda to have women empowered and represented fully in all spheres of society.

These observations made me ask troubled questions. Why would the men who historically have been the custodians of the fate of the African people become the bogeymen of their own people? These are men who for centuries negotiated difficult and hostile environments to create communities and cultures that sustain up to today."

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