We Need A New Heritage

On behalf of my foundation, The Rams Mabote Foundation and the initiative we have established, Future Kings, it is my singular honour and privilege to be your guest speaker marking this Heritage Day. Greetings to you all.

I promise not to keep you long here.

Before coming here, I had to do some reflection on what Heritage means in relation to and in the context of the work we do at Future Kings.

The late Irish Actor Maureen O’Hara once said: “My heritage has been my grounding, and it has brought me peace.” X2

I come here one week after a schoolboy stabbed a teacher to death in front of other students.

I come here in the week where on social media I saw videos of young girls – in their mid-teens – appear in disturbing videos talking about or performing sexual acts and capturing them on video.

I come here in the same year that across the road from here, Zolile Khumalo, a first year student at Mangosuthu University of Technology was beaten, kicked while bleeding on the floor and then shot dead by her own boyfriend.

In the same decade of Anene Booysen, Karabo Mokoena, Eudy Simelane, Charlene Leonara Smith, Ofunneka Molokwu and indeed Fezeka Khwezi Khuzwayo.

If this does not make sense to you, let me share some statistics:

In 2008/9 South Africa had 46, 647 reported rape cases.

  • In 2009/10 48, 259 reported rape cases.
  • 48, 158 in 2010/11
  • 47, 069 in 2011/12
  • 48, 408 in 2012/13
  • Same number in 2013/14
  • 43, 195 in 2014/15
  • And 42, 596 in 2015/16

And these are only the reported cases. Experts say for every one of rape and sexual assault case reported, there are probably five more that go unreported.

I have not touched on the gender based murders yet, and I won’t. I am sure you get the picture.

Let for this moment pause a little and ask ourselves two questions:

  • Who are these 326 093 women and girls who were raped and sexually abused in the seven-year period stated earlier?
  • Who raped and abused them?

The simplest answer, and in fairness, the honest one is that we don’t know right? Well wrong. Although that answer may be honest, it is untrue. Let me help you with the truth.

These 326 000 odd women are your mother, your friend’s sister, my daughter, the headmaster’s niece, the housekeeper’s granddaughter, your brother’s wife, your cousin, your girlfriend, your aunt and your neighbour.

And these 326 000 odd women were raped and sexually assaulted by you, my 16-year-old son, him and all the other men in our midst. They are raped by the priest who lays his praying arms on a vulnerable woman. They are abused by the doctor who victimises a trusting patient who is just seeking good health. By the teacher who preys over a young girl in search for education. By the same politician who today is standing on a podium shouting platitudes about our heritage.

And this gentlemen, is our heritage in today’s South Africa. This is what in truth we should be celebrating as much as we celebrate our cultures and traditions, our mountains and valleys, our clans and totems, our victory over colonialism and apartheid, our boerewors and our majestic wines. We should also celebrate our hatred of women, our rape and attacks on women, our killing of women, the fear we visit on them daily, the verbal abuse, the chauvinism and the basic disregard for them.

Our heritage is equally that of bullying our buddies. A heritage of ridiculing those who are weaker than us. A heritage of using our economic status to dominate the less fortunate. It is a shameful heritage of not waiting our turn, swearing at those we don’t agree with, urinating in full view of the public, littering, playing music that is racially and sexually abusive, not tucking in, disregarding authority, and disobeying laws and rules.

We live in a society where “Men Are Trash” and are not ready to stand up and say “Not In My Name”. We live in society where chauvinism and patriarchy are unwritten attributes of our world-celebrated constitution. Men still get paid between 30% and 70% more than women who do the same jobs. There’s 85% more men in managerial and leadership positions than women. Songs we sing and download onto our phones refer to women as bitches and whores. Videos we download show women as nothing but pieces of meat meant for men to enjoy and devour.

Gentlemen our heritage is that woman who cannot take a jog alone at any time of the day. Our heritage is that granny who is terrified every pension day. It is that female business executive who spends each passing day evading and ignoring sexual advances. It is that woman who cannot dress anyway she chooses to, without being subjected to perverts and insults. Our heritage is indeed women who cannot leave their children alone at home. Instead they have to lock the children in. And at times, in unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, those children could be consumed by a freak fire and die.

How then do we change this? How do we make ours a heritage of pride, respect, love, celebration, safety, prosperity and peace? I do not have a definite answer. In fact, I know some of the things have to be left to others. The police must protect and serve us. They must bring law and order. They must arrest the lawbreakers. The courts must convict the guilty, hopefully to long sentences. The prisons must keep them locked and not let them escape back into society. The taxes must uplift the poor. The churches and the mosques and the synagogues must pray for the meek. Industry must employ people and pay them well. Schools and universities must produce skilled people.

But You Sir, can start by doing a few small things that can build up to a great heritage that Ms O’Hara speaks about. You can Be That Guy that starts by respecting your fellowmen and women. You can Be That Guy that says “no” to the first offer of a cigarette puff from your class or roommate. You have to Be That Guy that refuses to join the chorus and acts of abuse and disrespect of women. Be That Guy that will refuse to take pictures of girls’ thighs and breasts, and sharing those pictures among friends.

I ask you to Be That Guy that will say NO to that teenage girl that offers to masturbate you or even have oral sex with you in class. I ask you to Be That Guy that will not take a video of your mate performing oral sex with a teenage girl. Be That Guy that deletes or reports that video once it is shared on the WhatsApp group. Be That Guy that does not distribute the same video on twitter or Facebook.

Am I asking you to be a fool? You bet I am. I am asking you to drop your ego and rather be the odd one. I am asking you to choose being a laughing stock among your friends if being a hero is harassing and shaming women, smoking a cigarette, popping a pills or smuggling alcohol into class.

Seeking the approval of our peers by doing wrong, is a function of our egos. We want to be accepted by others to a point of being stupid, doing wrong or even harming others. So I stand here in front you to ask you to Be That Guy that drops his ego for five minutes. Let them laugh at you for not being dope. Like Kendrick Lamar, I ask you to be humble. But unlike Kendrick Lamar, I won’t call any woman bitch.

“My heritage has been my grounding, and it has brought me peace,” so said the late Maureen O’Hara.

You too can create a new heritage. But where will that heritage be grounded? It must be grounded in respect for others, and service to society, and burying your ego of trying to please others. If you can do just this little, you will be amazed how much contribution you would have done to society. You will help create a new heritage that we all need to build the nation we want to be.

YOU can imagine a better heritage. YOU can create a new heritage. If not for yourself, I beckon you to at least do it for your mother, for the female teacher, for your cousins, your aunt, your granny, and for my 10 year old daughter.

I ask you to join this movement of #FutureKings where you and I can make this a better world, one man and one boy at a time.

Thank you very much for your attention and your generous welcome.

[Follow me on twitter @ramsbythehorns]