How Black Am I?


Fifi Rhodes What does previously disadvantaged mean? Please, no more talk about the previously advantaged whites. Maybe it is time that we get more clarity on the matter. I some time ago read of white folks who don’t think they were advantaged in any way in the past and people talk about black people who were not previously disadvantaged at all. Let me try to put it clearly. According to an independent source, there is according to the government’s policy on BEE nothing like a previously disadvantaged white Namibian. As we all know, in the past apartheid was all about racial discrimination in a big way and not economic discrimination. If you were white you had all sorts of chances: education, public transport, cheap labour and access to financial services to name but a few. To be advantaged does not mean that you were rich. It only means that the previous government gave lots of opportunities to its white folks to become rich. I still remember Van Zyl borrowed money from the bank. A year later his son went to the same bank and borrowed money to buy his father’s farm for twice the price. Both of them benefited because the money stays in the family and so they remain rich through that scheme. This means that a situation was created for a white person to flourish in the economy, while black people were condemned to perpetual servitude. How can you trust a black man, was the attitude of the system. You were always told that we would build your houses for a small fee and water would be free. Food would be rationed in accordance with the work done. Even at school, a black person was not allowed to study science but had to take up subjects that would make him a plumber, a builder or choose to become an ordinary labourer. You blacks, it was said, will become too clever and may rebel against the master. We had to finish school and we did not make progress, we had to drop out to start working somewhere in the market. Today you have to be black to qualify as previously disadvantaged. Having applied for many loans through the now famous BEE scheme over the last two years, it seems that the colour of my skin is still a factor with the right pigmentation, although I possess a lot of good qualities to become, say, a farmer, businessman or even an advisor. Let me see if I can make you understand the meaning of “right”. It is important to understand that the apartheid system then wanted to exclude blacks but there were those ones that under that circumstances got ways to amass some wealth, sometimes through “illegal” means. Despite their income today all blacks in the country to my understanding qualify as previously disadvantaged simply because the previous government discriminated against all of us. One cannot say there was no discrimination because we after all did overcome the system. Black people were discriminated against simply because of their skin colour, including Coloureds, Basters, Namas and all other ethnic groups of lighter pigmentation. Discriminated against or not, BEE is here to rectify the race discrimination and not for any other purpose. No one can deny that apartheid was planned very well and executed brilliantly, so well that 16 years later, we still sit with the scars that are part of our life. Through my whole life, I have always been discriminated against. After 16 years, BEE is discriminating against me. Sharing the resources in the country could benefit all of us as long as all of us have goals in life. Therefore if that happens, black entrepreneurs could rise above their white counterparts. That’s now all blacks. This can be true as many success stories of BEE programmes can testify to. So then, when are we ordinary blacks getting our share and not only the recognised previously disadvantaged blacks?