President Cyril Ramaphosa would do well to integrate all intellectuals – black and white – in the rebuilding of the country.
The problem of not using experts from a diverse political, social and economic spectrum is a challenge across mostly the developing world and at times this can also be found in highly advanced democracies.
Reasons would vary from one country to the next. But in pre-colonial nations it usually has to do with advancing the party of liberation above everyone else.
Post-colonial Africa is also guilty for the marginalisation of its intellectuals, especially those who are not members or supporters of the governing former liberation movement.
For whatever reason or even reasons, the suppression and marginalisation of black intellectuals in post-colonial Africa, by black governments has hardly been identified as one of the factors why the continent remains the poorest in the world, even though it is the richest when it comes to mineral wealth under the soil.
Various factors could be highlighted as to why post-colonial African governments, in this case, would suppress its strategic nucleus.
One of the reasons for the marginalisation of mostly black intellectuals is that former liberation movements would feel that those black Intellectuals who are not products of the movement, will likely side with former colonialists in criticising a “black government”.
There’s also the issue of loyalty, black Intellectuals who are not associated with a black governing party would simply not be required to toe a party line.
Governing former liberation movements, like many other nations across the world, have serious weak points in many areas including leadership, management, discipline and even professionalism, and turn to be involved in power struggles at the expense of the masses’ empowerment.
Independent black intellectuals are not shy of pointing out these weaknesses.
The few who have access to comment through mostly the media week-in and week-out are able to point to the failures of its government. This to the embarrassment of the “parties of freedom”, who when, they were fighting for liberation, had promised to do far better than the colonial regimes, when it was their turn to govern.
Notably, most of the whites who opposed apartheid were intellectuals.
Therefore, colonial and post colonial South Africa marginalised intellectuals, be it white or black intellectuals.
But it is black intellectuals’ contribution that is needed in the black communities more now to help fix the problems that the government has not resolved.
The black intellectuals in “Black Universities”, have not made their presence felt, especially in black communities, in so far as guide the direction they take in the reconstruction and development of the country.
In 2006, former president Thabo Mbeki created the Native Club, which was supposed to organise and integrate black intellectuals into the national developmental agenda.
This was met with resistance mostly from independent black intellectuals.
Some black intellectuals questioned Mbeki’s timing, as to why only after all this time since he took over from Madiba in mid-1999, he called on all black intellectuals to team up with the government in developing the country.
Other black intellectuals accused Mbeki of trying to use them to hide the ANC government’s failures.
One student even asked if Mbeki was serious “where was the office of the Native Club?”
Needless to say, in September 2008, Mbeki was recalled by his party and even by then, there had been little heard and seen from the Native Club.
And under the Zuma years, black intellectuals would find themselves more isolated and irrelevant.
The National Planning Commission was established in 2010 and responsible for strategic planning for the country. It consisted of a tiny minority black experts, who mostly appeared as politically connected and wouldn’t engage the rest of South Africa’s intellectual arena.
Fast forward to today. While the country is faced with a pandemic, we also have to deal with forces advancing an insurrection and economic sabotage, according to authorities.
How did we get here? Can the experts come to the rescue, even by organising the communities they grew up in, in fixing problems confronting those communities?
The role of black and white intellectuals during the current struggles in stabilising and rebuilding the country, could become the story of innovation and proactiveness when the country most needs new leadership.