Unleashing potential of African male activists who are re-defining the present and future

THERE has not been a time in the history of black people in this country when so large a number of African men have been possessed by a spirit of self-reliance and determination.

Yet this is difficult to see because the initiatives are disparate, disorganised and lack unity. This calls for a men’s conference.

The key message is the same: African man, save yourself by taking full responsibility for what happens to you, be it good or bad.

Just when many think the Zondo Commission into state capture reflects the corruption in the character of African men, there are increasing pockets of activist men who defiantly shout “not in our African name”.

What expresses and articulates this principled position is the Empowamen day-long conference in Midrand, Gauteng, last weekend. The gathering was attended by more than 500 men with a common desire to reclaim their power and position in society. They are moral agents of change who wish to acknowledge their shortcomings and weaknesses in the face of temptation. Their desire is a willingness to promote change by changing themselves at an individual level before they call one another to be accountable.

The conference was the brainchild of Empowarworx’s leaders Sipho Mnyakeni and Simphiwe Masiza. They worked on the enterprise with cultural-political activist and commissioner for gender equality Mbuyiselo Botha.

They have drawn on the experience and strength of professionals and activists who have a track record in moulding the moral, philosophical, cultural and spiritual character of African men, families and communities, among them social architect Dr David Molapo, thinker Bishop Joshua Maponga, medical practitioner Dr Victor Ramathesele and substance abuse activist Abner Mariri.

Other esteemed speakers were gender activist Josina Machel, writer Siya Khumalo, marketing strategist Sechaba Motsieloa, traditional healer Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi and transformational coach Dr Aaron Lechuti.

The development marks a paradigm shift towards unleashing the potential and power of African male activists who are not preoccupied with political affiliation or identity.

They are qualified professionals and thinkers passionate about examining the content of the character of African leadership in a democratic society. They have looked at how South Africa has evolved under an unskilled and unprepared political leadership, and have taken it upon themselves to seize the opportunity to redefine the present and the future.

They are, largely, a new calibre of leadership that neither depend on government handouts nor seek political favour or praise.

The advent of self-reliant men who walk the talk of “empowamen”, will require that people pay up themselves for their creative social enterprises.

What this signals is the emergence of businesspeople, academics, intellectuals, prominent athletes, pastors, entertainers and professionals who have been emboldened after 25 years of constitutional democracy.

Ironically, this might spell the collapse of faith and confidence in the government and a growing rift between active citizenry and political representatives. The latter are increasingly seen as corrupt and might be seen as illegitimate as more people don’t turn out to vote.

Politicians and Struggle-istas are seen as different from those who have attained middle-class status through hard work and/or education. The former are seen as deficient and decadent.

With hindsight, it was a relatively tiny segment of the black population who were politically active, imprisoned and exiled. Most were opposed to apartheid but knew that with the rising number of skilled and qualified black people, it would collapse and die. The leap in the black middle class is a result of apartheid wanting to protect and preserve itself.

In the 1970s, the loosening of influx control to expand urban rights was seen as a political strategy hatched by the likes of the Urban Foundation to use the middle class as a buffer zone between the haves and the have-nots.

It could also be seen as reflecting the gains of the freedom Struggle. But this would be a serious indictment because the Struggle was not to attain and entrench what is described as “the most unequal society in the world”.

The novelty of returned former liberation fighters is wearing off. What is seen as bad and prevents black advancement is attributed to Struggle politics and shenanigans in the liberation movement, especially the ANC.

The black professional class is flexing its intellectual muscle. They have come of age at the height of an unjust patriarchal capitalist economy.

When you have money it means power. The professional class is seen as an example of what black excellence and achievement means. They present as models of a good life that transcend one’s background and social circumstances. Thus they are more part of the solution than the problem.

Initiatives like Empowamen rarely have government sponsorship or leadership. Yet it is the calibre of activists in its ranks that the government needs to be relevant.

The days of indifference to black misery and suffering that has seen the professional class well-adjusted to injustice seem to be coming to an end.

Making things happen through self-reliance and determination seems to be the new agenda of the African professional class.

For the government to be more effective in its implementation of programmes of nation-building and social cohesion, it will urgently need to forge result-oriented partnerships with civil society initiatives.

For those who have the professionals skills, education and ingenuity to come forward with African solutions, nothing gives them more peace of mind and pleasure than to be seen to be doing something.

Like any self-actualising person, being regarded as selfless in the service of the needy in society gives a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Artcle originally written by SANDILE MEMELA and published in Sunday Tribune, 28 July 2019. httpss://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/sunday-tribune-south-africa/20190728/282836487683501


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