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Thinking in English : South Africa and the two faces of "African" values

Posted by paa.kwesi on Fri, 05/18/2007 - 01:49

In the land of our birth, there are two value systems. The "African" values and the "School" values. The temptation of two often competing value systems that are not clearly defined by anyone allows for a great leeway of judgment.

If what I read here ( [quote]The South African government, which appears to have expected a perfect score of 10 out of 10 claims the report is contradictory and inconsistent. The government's argument that with its legacy of apartheid, the country faces unique challenges is perfectly justifiable. In fact, in view of its dark past, the country has done remarkably well in the 10 years since the end of apartheid and the panel acknowledges this. "In all respects, South Africa has, for the past 12 years already embarked on what the APR Panel has recommended", the government insists. This suggests that the panel's findings are not as wide off the mark as Mbeki and his government claim. The only difference may relate to how far the panel, looking from a detached standpoint as a peer should, perceived the government to have gone and how far it still has to go in tackling the problems.

In language reminiscent of that used by Zimbabwean authorities to describe a United Nations report on the demolition of dwellings under the controversial Murambatsvina clean-up exercise, the South African government said: "Embedded in (the) discourse are ideological and value-laden propositions." As their Zimbabwean counterparts were reminded after Murambatsvina, it needs to be pointed out to the South Africans that by its very nature, undertaking an evaluation of any activity or process inherently involves making value judgments.[/quote] is anyway true I'd proffer the following unsolicited opinion.

On the one hand, Mr. Mbeki says, "let's have the APRM", and on the other hand, he accuses the subsequent report of being burdened with "value-laden" prescriptions. I don't think, Mr Mbeki, that you can prevent fellow Africans from judging your society through the eyes of "white racism". They are no less African opinions than those who are sympathetic to a more "native" interpretation which takes into account South Africa's history. Instead of reacting angrily, please address them as Africans, rather than as cultural mercenaries. If necessary, patronize them to bring them round to your more native views, but by no means do not attack their recommendations as "value-laden propositions", where the APRM and the SA government are defining "value" differently. May it not be said by posterity that the originator of the idea devalued it before it had had full occasion to blossom.

But I hope it is not true. Because, this practice of selective interpretation of "African" values has caused us too much grief already. Yes, we have cultural mercenaries aplenty, many who will gladly sell their dignity in exchange for hollow praise, fatuously embrace what they cannot understand, and actively undermine the motherland because they have no avenue for other hope or ambition. But they are all members of our family, to be reformed, not rejected. Again, let South Africa lead the way with maturity.