What went wrong, South Africa ?

Today’s funerals resemble parties, the youth spin cars, criminals rule the country

Ten years on, we cannot continue blaming apartheid and colonisation. It is time for the youth and the elderly to sit up and take stock, Pite Mogoje believes.

Before the historic April 27 1994 elections, we justifiably blamed everything on apartheid and colonisation. Ten years later some of those who were carrying the torch have moved out of the townships for the comfort of the high-walled suburbs. This has left a huge gap in terms of the number of successful role models that can be found in previously disadvantaged residential areas.

And they cannot be blamed either. Sipho “Hot Stix” Mabuse, who is well known in the country especially in the great and historic city of Soweto , is one of the prominent role models who got robbed of his car in broad daylight in Soweto a few years ago.

Others were not that lucky – they lost their lives due to cruel acts by the greedy, lazy “tsotsis” (criminals) who want to take a “short cut” to success. Though it can be accompanied by deadly consequences, car hijacking is a profession to some criminals.

A young girl told President Thabo Mbeki at the National Children’s Day event that “the police don’t do anything when we report the case at the police station, they say they are scared of them.”

At funerals, both the youth and the elders compete with each other in terms of carrying expensive cellphones and driving flashy cars. It has become normal for the youth to shoot several times in the air as a “rest in peace message” to a “criminal colleague” who is being buried. This sends a clear message that even if they are gone they will be living in the “world of crime” for many years to come . The youth will be spinning the cars at a funeral of a colleague who died in the skirmish with the police.

I strongly believe that the spinning of cars by the youth as a “farewell gesture” to their friends who died committing acts of crime, the “after tears” concept that has become part of our new culture, the “look at my expensive clothes and cellphone” exercise at a funeral, are a clear indication that we somehow have forgotten who we are and where we come from as Africans.

The “after tears”, the drinking spree after a funeral has become part of our new culture and it is not right. It lacks respect in terms of showing sympathy to the family of the bereaved. This is partly because it is where old relationships are betrayed or broken and new secretive ones are started.

These days whenever there is a funeral, the nearby taverns and pubs are assured of a roaring business shortly after a funeral service. The “big mamas” shebeens have been replaced by loud music-playing taverns and pubs.

And when the youth start to show results of wrong influences, the elderly people complain that they are being disrespectful.

But both the youth and the elderly are guilty of not having played their part when it comes to continuing to try our best to unite and work hard to heal the terrible effects of apartheid.

Gone are the days when we used to raise our clenched fists punching the air, the spirit of oneness keeping us together and carrying placards written “you will kill us but you will never finish us.”

During those turbulent days we would watch the film ” Mississippi burning”, listen to African-Americans singing the song “We shall overcome”. They encouraged us to continue fighting until the monster called apartheid was dethroned.

Is the youth of today appreciative of the painful sacrifices made by the youth of yesterday? It was heartbreaking to see the late Mrs. Makhubu, the mother of Mbuyiselo Makhubu, passing away before the elections a few months ago, without knowing where her child was. Mbuyiselo was seen in televisions around the world carrying the dying 13 year old Hector Peterson on June 16 1976 . The apartheid state felt threatened by Makhubu’s continued presence in the country and he later disappeared without trace.

And remember Onkgopotse Tiro who fled to Botswana after challenging the ill-treatment of black elders by white kids at the University of the North in the ’70s. He was blown up by a parcel bomb sent by the “dark forces” to his address in Gaborone .

But parents are equally to blame – are they teaching their children about our rich, brave but painful history?

It is sad to think of the “everybody for himself” attitude that rules the lives of our society today. The country’s youth, the leaders of tomorrow, must sit down and examine where they are heading. And they will be able to realise that “we are taking the wrong direction, let us regroup and ask our elders for advice on how to handle the challenges of life.”

And the elders must also do the same – they must ask themselves: why are some of our kids no longer respecting us, what have we done wrong that be must corrected, where is the spirit of unity that helped us to survive the brutal years of apartheid and PW Botha’s “total onslaught” era?

Both the youth and the elderly have the answers.