The South African people have been fed lies that have diverted their attention from core issues, a political activist said on Wednesday.
“Two decades of rainbow mythology have soothed South Africa into a state of chronic complacency. We are sold a lie: that the vote would resolve our country’s fundamental problems, if only we had the patience to wait,” said Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh as he read a snippet from his book titled: Democracy and Delusion: 10 Myths in South African Politics.
The young political activist was at UJ’s Arts Centre at APK to preview his book and musical album. Both the book and the album relay a message that seeks to debunk some of the political myths that interfere in socio-economic and political conversations in South Africa.
During the discussion, two of the most dominant political issues in South Africa today, free education and racism were briefly discussed.
In one chapter of his book Mpofu-Walsh elaborated on the myth that free education in South Africa is unattainable.
“The lie that they have fed us is that free education is good but impossible,” he said. He went on to say that free education is actually cheaper if the government starts with free tuition.
However, the term “free” raises controversial questions like: “What kind of education will be provided?”
Some students who attended the event were in agreement with the young author.
“No one must be doing anything for free like in areas of university maintenance; the government should pay for everything to ensure not just free education but zero cost and quality education,” said Vuyiswa Nkombani, who is a student at UJ.
Mpofu-Walsh also shared his thoughts on the fees commission that is currently discussing the verdict on tertiary education fees.
“It’s a total joke,” he said. But he dismissed the notion that even the judge presiding over the issue does not know some of the economic concepts involved.
“I watched one of the sessions of the fees commission and the delegate from the National Treasury had to spend about an hour explaining to the judge the difference between nominal and real inflation,” he explained to the students.
Above all, he emphasised that all these aspects are diversionary tactics.
“They put someone who looks important wearing a judge’s attire and they sit there looking very serious and they release a very long report and people tend to believe its credibility,” he emphatically added.
Racism in South Africa has evolved, becoming more difficult to recognise, Mpofu-Walsh said. It is institutionalised, the system of Apartheid has been decentralised into private schools, healthcare, insurance policy and tertiary education, he added.
“Apartheid didn’t die; it got privatised,” he said. What the system has done is that “instead of legislating that certain people couldn’t come to some institutions, they just put the financial barriers high enough.”
The lower class is effectively excluded from receiving higher education and training. Mpofu-Walsh argued that the current social system operates according to the same patterns of exclusion as the apartheid regime that was based on racial segregation.
Noxolo, a UJ student, praised Mpofu-Walsh for his activism. “I think what he is saying is very relevant, especially what he writes on the issue of racism and free education,” she said.
She also acknowledged how Mpofu-Walsh addressed the problem of young people’s focus being diverted from the issues that directly affect them. A problem which is aggravated by political scandals and diversionary tactics in the fees commission which distracts young people from other pertinent issues.
The book and the Album
The book, Democracy & Delusion: 10 Myths in South African Politics, consists of 10 chapters which elaborate on some of the myths that have led to misconceptions in the South African socio-economic and political context.
The album is titled Democracy & Delusion, and it acts as a companion to the book. Mpofu-Walsh has 10 songs on the album that highlight some of the main themes in his book.
Mpofu-Walsh said there had been some scepticism about his project. “People told me young people won’t read the book,” he said.
He does, however, believe that it is not that young people do not care but it is just a matter of investing enough time in speaking to young people on the issues that matter the most to them.
The activist hopes that his book and album will attract the youth’s attention towards crucial South African issues.
The discussion was accompanied by free musical performances of a few of Mpofu-Walsh’s songs.