Revolution Going Wrong, Perhaps?

I was 7 years old when the first democratic elections took place in South Africa. I wept, because I was not old enough to vote and wanted to be a part of history in the making. It was a big day for me, not only because of the excitement and joy I saw all around me- but because even at that tender age, I knew where we had come from as a country.

 

My mother was involved politics since her student days. I remember her sharing stories of the Black Consciousness meetings in Montshioa and also keeping me constantly updated on what was happening politically in the rest of South Africa. I also remember when the right wingers tried to stage a coup in what was then Bophutatswana and we had the army tanks bearing the AWB flag constantly driving up and down our roads. Many children did not know what was happening, they thought the soldiers were there to protect us from a war happening in South Africa- which we were not a part of. It made me feel good to be to know what was happening, not that I breathed a word to anyone about it.

 

State Security came after my mother’s fellow comrade, doing him severe damage- he wasn’t the only one. My mother didn’t hide this from me, something I appreciate. I always knew what was happening when she came home reeking of teargas, with endless cuts and bruises. Although I feared for her safety, it made me proud to have a mother standing in the frontlines. Although not as glamorous as the heroic activities often showed to us on TV, she and her fellow comrades were (and still are) my heroes.

 

Here I am today as a soon to be 26-year old woman, 18 years into democracy. And the majority of black people in South Africa are still living in poverty and in severely underdeveloped areas. Without a doubt, I always knew that centuries of oppression would never be undone in a few decades. It stands to reason that it would take a long time and a lot of hard work to undo the great atrocity that is South Africa’s past.

 

However, it cannot be ignored that the revolution in South Africa did not complete its manifestation. Even before the ANC took over power and became the governing party, the revolution had been undone. During CODESA, many concessions were made and the will of the majority was given up for the co-opting of a few. The full-reach of apartheid was thus not fully dismantled and the after effects can still be felt today.

 

The lesson that should be taken from this history of South Africa is that, contrary to popular belief, fighting the same enemy and even ‘overcoming’ that enemy together does not make you friends. Nor does it mean that you are fighting for the same thing, which is what most assume. In our midst are people working for change, but the results of the change being worked for are not necessarily the same. South Africa’s history and more recently, events in Egypt teach us that there are people who usurp revolutions to suit their purposes. This is dangerous as it often means not really ending oppression, but rather changing the faces of the oppressors.

 

Fast forward to 2012, a year that saw my interest in gender issues develop into something more. I started reading up on women’s movements in South Africa and connecting with feminists and feminist groups, using social media. I read many articles from prominent feminists and was very pleased to discover that they are increasingly using the tools at their disposal to advance the cause. It is also clear that there is a growing call in South Africa for a revolution not only to end violence against women, but to advance women’s rights as a whole.

 

This revolution is not only about choice. The choices we make are not made in a vacuum, they happen as a result of the various socialisers which we come across straight from birth. This includes not only the family, but also community, school, church and even politics amongst others. So a revolution for women, should not only be about choice, but also about interrogating power, which often ensures that the women are socialised by patriarchal standards and thus, womanhood is defined by these patriarchal standards and symbols. It is also about reclaiming that power, so that women’s bodies and beings can be taken back, with us having total and complete control of them. Over and above this, it also means interrogating the racial and socio-economic dynamics of power, amongst its’ various other functions.

 

My interest in this is what a revolution of women would mean to the woman who does not read op-eds; the woman to who words like phallocentric misogyny and patriarchy have no meaning. The woman who may never read this post. The woman who will never read the many articles and papers defining what some envision this ‘revolution’ to be.

 

I know this woman, in fact, I know many of them. Women who like me, have no knowledge of theories and women for whom the knowledge thereof would have very little bearing on their daily lives. These women I know are amongst many whose actions and way of lives are no less radical than anyone wearing any label. But I am curious about what the women’s ‘revolution’ would mean for her. A life of impositions from the labelled? Because from where I am looking, that is exactly what it seems to me.

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6 thoughts on “Revolution Going Wrong, Perhaps?

  1. The ‘silent majority’ of the women you’re representing and speaking for and about is, regrettably, cowed, silent and acquiescent in her historical oppression. Usually she is both the witting and unwitting collaborator in her own oppression

  2. Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise. I can’t wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

  3. Great work Koketso. Indeed you express that which I often talk about and call organic feminism. This is a feminism that is born out of lived experience and struggles. This is the feminism that is practical and is not based or grounded in theories and academic postulations. This is, simplistically speaking, the feminism of a woman standing up for herself and saying no. “You, will not beat me today, or ever again.” Some of it will come from the sheer will to survive, but there is an urgent need to women like you who have direct contact to these women, to get close, and to nudge persistently so that they are able to start thinking and seeing themselves as human beings deserving of all the rights that men have. They need to be able to see themselves through a balanced lens that deconstructs patriarchy and how it has all of us in shackles. Once this happens, the willingness to fight for those rights can be born, and the realization that they fight with others, not in isolation, brings the needed confidence and security to forge ahead. A major component of this struggle for emancipation, is economic empowerment. No matter how little, women need to have some sustainable economic means in order to be able to make different choices about their lives and those of their children. Women are often enslaved to whomeever pays the bills. This needs to change first. I look forward to your next post with great anticipation. You are on the right track. Aluta!

  4. Thanks Koketso, I can relate to the piece very well, your experience reinforces the idea that we need o reclaim the monopoly over ideas by certain sections of our Society

  5. I was 7 years old when the National Party came to power, and they were in power for the greater part of my life. The first democratic elections were like a dream come true, but when you wake up from a dream, the dream fades. The prboblem with the present is not what was given away at Codesa, but what was given away afterwards. On the night of the 1994 election victory, at a victory party, Nelson Mandela said that one thing was not negotiable — the RDP. Yet after a year, the RDP was ended. Why? Who negotiated it away?

    But I like one thing that is being said by those involved in the revolution in Egypt: the power of the people is greater than that of the people in power.

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