LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

A six month leadership curriculum both in South Africa and Washington, DC,  supplemented by ongoing alumni opportunities.

COMMUNITY
ENGAGEMENT

A core element of SAWIP, expressed through individual and team projects, both in South Africa and
Washington DC.

PROFESSIONAL EXPOSURE

Real world experience provided through six week work exposure in prestigious environments in Washington, DC.

 

 

alumni of the month

 

The South Africa-Washington International Program is helping to prepare, inspire and support diverse new generations of emerging South African leaders to serve our people.

Viewing entries from Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder

Erik de Ridder

Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at the University of Cape Town.

He firmly believes the pursuit of happiness, bound to the deepening of democracy, the proliferation of broader and substantive social justice, equality, and realization of peace and the fair rule of law, rooted in the principles of Ubuntu, to be the broader aspirational and categorical, pursuit of his generation.



Building a bright future for South Africa

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Monday, 03 October 2011
Experience 0 Comment

 

At the end of this Programme it seems only suiting to work towards developing a new understanding to fit a new stage of development.

 

Tags: Untagged
0 vote
by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Monday, 01 August 2011
Experience 0 Comment

19.01.11

----

*the photographs are from in and around southern Africa from the Eastern to the Western end. Thanks to my brother, Cobus, for the best of them.

Once upon a time

The year is approximately 22 989 BC; human behaviour is recognizably modern for the first time in archeological history. Hunting, painting, and fishing and family structures are evidenced. These are the ancestors of the only indigenous southern African human beings: the SAN.

11 AD: the first Bantu speakers arrive from West Africa in what is known as one of the greatest “human migrations” and “cultural transformations” in modern human history – they become the first colonialists of southern Africa. The SAN are marginalized, servitude through manual labour is enforced and large portions of indigenous SAN languagespeakers are absorbed into Bantu cultures and languages.

In 1488 the first Europeans arrived in the form of the Portuguese, followed by the first established colonies attributable to the Dutch around 1652.  France and England goes to war in 1780, the Netherlands joins France and southern tip of Africa comes to form part of the battleground. The British invades the Cape in 1795 and post their victory, eventually takes complete control. In 1836 the Dutch proceeds with the Great Trek inland and settles. The Boers displace the then ‘indigenous’ peoples of the region to establish the Transvaal. The Boers declare war with the British Empire in 1899, in what is most likely the 9th major territorial war in southern Africa, following eight ”Wars of Dispossession” between the Khoisan, AmaZulus, AmaXhosas and European settlers at different stages in the 1700’s and 1800’s throughout the sub-continent; three ‘groups’ who had been in the background all along. Enter the Union of South Africa in 1908, Apartheid in 1948, and follow the story and development of modern South Africa, as we know it, culminating in the landmark 1994 democratic elections.

To develop as a country or nation, there are questions that we need to be comfortable in not only asking, but also answering. This is one of those questions and yes; it has been debated endlessly... Who is South African? This debate is usually muttered euphemistically in terms of ‘who is African’, but everyone knows this is not the real question.

You know it!

There it is, simple as that. The black and white (so to speak) history of how South Africa came to be South Africa. If you didn’t know before, now you can say that you do: there is no such thing as a South African anymore.  Can it be said that individuals from all origin, be it West Africa or the Netherlands or wherever, have bled for their ‘right’ to exist among these hills and thus have equal claim to the title of being South African? At different stages throughout the history, all these ‘groups’ have been subject to war, oppression, imprisonment, their languages have been threatened, their cultures undermined and some have even suffered in concentration camps – not all in equal parts – but all, nonetheless.

Who is and is not a ‘true’ citizen of this land may thus merely be a question of time frame, which is an inherently abstract and relative measure. There is at most one people (the SAN) who can truly ‘claim’ this title leaving all of us, the group of people debating this question, in equal terms and at best: imposters. What did the one donkey say to the other donkey? Well, apparently, he said ‘I was a donkey first’; in which case the truth was self-evidenced from the start and all results of arguments, debates and wars had in the interim are null and void. It follows then that the question remains abstract, inconclusive and largely dependent/relative.

Say what?

Peering back to the year 1910, the then South African Minister of Justice set out what he figured it meant to be a ‘good’ South African in a series of questions: Is this country first and foremost for [you]; and does it exclusively command [your] loyalty? Albeit an estranged source for such an important defining question, it would seem universally applicable. Is the measure of South African identity one of loyalty?

In 1941 the British journalist, G.H. Calpin published a book titled ‘There are no South Africans’. In it he narrowly considers this question from the perspective that the Boers and the British are the only legitimate contenders, leaving aside the rest of the population. In it he points out though, to his credit, in the context of the modernization of the region, “the failure of great wealth and great industrial progress to offer to millions of people in older countries a life consonant with the dignity of man” and further in reference to the mechanization of this society and extension of state influence in the region, “none of these things is certain to bring social contentment or spiritual satisfaction”. Herein he alluded to the substitution of material progress in southern Africa for actual progress in attaining true identity; all the while seemingly too terribly occupied with economic development to mind the question in more detail than it can be comfortably comprehended. This is oddly familiar given democratic South Africa is grappling with this very phenomenon today, 70 years later.

Of late this incomprehensibly large and significant question has been popularized and concatenated into the straight and narrow confines of race/colour.  Either it is the case that we are/were too dull to understand the ‘problem’ in all its complexity or we are willfully ignorant in the realms of history and we choose this simplification because it is easy. The latter seems the more likely of the two. Is race an adequate indicator of who is and who is not South African? In light of history: no. It is ironic that our thinking is out of date, given that it is history itself that we don’t seem to understand.

The 1955 Freedom Charter offered its benign and infamous interpretation: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it’ – which is assimilated in the Constitution.

In so far as this definitional relates to the concept of nationhood and nationalism; Benedict Anderson of Cornell University postulated in his famous 1983 Imagined Communities:  Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism "…It is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.” In this theory the question of why such a definition is required arises, given that the end-goal of such a search will be imaginary. However causation could be inverted to arrive at the conclusion that if a final definition is attained in this quest: there will exist this ‘horizontal comradeship’. Thus making the real quest for the imaginary answer, worthwhile. So a ‘South African’ is a fantastical creature of the imagination!

In the same year Ernest Gellner in Nations and Nationalism provided the following succinct, temporary and not necessarily mutually exclusive universal definitions:

  1. "Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating.
  2. "Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognize each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words, nations maketh man; nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities. A mere category of persons (say, occupants of a given territory, or speakers of a given language, for example) becomes a nation if and when the members of the category firmly recognize certain mutual rights and duties to each other in virtue of their shared membership of it. It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind which turns them into a nation, and not the other shared attributes, whatever they might be, which separate that category from non- members.

In a multicultural and ethnic society, definition number one doesn’t get us anywhere. By two, a South African is an entity, which comes into existence only by mutual recognition and cognizance. Simple enough.

But, what of values? Can definition or nationhood be found, as it was in the establishment of the United States, in common values and aspirations? Thomas Jefferson’s infamouspursuit of happiness certainly set a people apart; which is what we are trying to do, right? Can a modern South African then be any person who shares South African values and aspirations; which are usefully already defined in the Constitution albeit scribed as reason for having the Constitution in the first place; nonetheless the following is in summary, our pursuit: [to] improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.

And in 1994 Mandela helped us along at his inauguration in the following: “The South Africa we have struggled for, in which all our people, be they African, coloured, Indian or white, regard themselves as citizens of one nation is at hand.” This adds clout to the idea in political terms at least that a modern South African is merely an individual who finds residence in this geographic region – but we know this already?

In 1996, then Deputy-President Thabo Mbeki offered what can be considered his view in the praised ‘I am an African’ speech in the National Assembly: I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa. Thus, following this reasoning you are African if you were born of people who originated here. This takes the question back to its beginnings if it is considered that all modern human beings are originally peoples of the continent of Africa. In modern times however, this definition hollows out the hopes of European descendants; or does it? If the set of Chinese fossils discovered in 2007 is anything to go by, this theory will need to be revised in its entirety – time frame dependent of course.

All together now

What is a South African and who is a South African is easily muddled.

Here is the ‘what’ so far:

South Africans are individuals loyal to their country; who occupy themselves with material progress as a substitute process for a true and substantive quest for identity; cannot be defined by race; recognize each other as such; live within the physical geographic bounds of South African borders; regardless of cultural heritage, are one nation; are born of the peoples of this continent; aspire to improve the life of all citizens and free the potential of each person and they are, despite all this, an imagined community.

Note the mundane and simple nature of the totality or connected-string of each of these individually profound ideas.

That all you got?

One thing is certainly clear: it all depends. Where you look, when you consider and most importantly: why you care. In absolute terms there is only really one small group who can call themselves South African – the SAN, who barely exist anymore as a sovereign entity anywhere in South Africa. This leaves us, you and me, the ‘real' amakwerekwere, with this question anew.

So, who is South African? No one really: we will have to settle for what is a South African as a sufficient ‘measure’. There is really no need for all these quarrels/debates and pseudo-constructive involvement on this matter. It will all be the same in the end, because as Darwinian logic extends: over the course of a few thousand years all our differences may well be assimilated and a new, universal and homogeneous 'race' will preside in this southern stretch. And finally in a country with an immaculate natural offering and near boundless economic/social opportunity -  are there not more productive pastimes?

Any thinking and bio-connected, existential being that finds expression in lexis and picture and seeks comfort in companionship at a very fundamental and evolutionary level and regardless of social stature or economic status, seeks only a few unmovable concepts. Safety, security, comfort and companionship; with the same alike and deriving equal or near pleasure at knowing that those within arms reach have the same opportunity – sounds pretty South African to me.

REFERENCES

  1. South Africa: Prehistory
  2. World Civilizations: Since 1500 [Pager 169; By Philip J. Adler, Randall L. Pouwels]
  3. New Linguistic Evidence and the Bantu Expansion [J. Vansina – WITS]
  4. African History: Pre-colonialists
  5. Jacques Rousseau: Who wants to be African anyway?
  6. National Geographic: Oldest modern human outside of Africa
  7. Ernest Garnell – Nations & Nationhood
  8. Benedict Anderson – Imagined Communities

RELATED ARTICLES

The Daily Maverick's Jacques Rousseau - Who wants to be African anyway?

Mail & Guardian Thought Leader's Sentletse Diakanyo - We are not all Africans, black people are

 

Tags: Untagged
0 vote
by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Leadership 0 Comment

 

A vexing question: What does it or should it mean to be a young leader in South Africa today?

 

0 vote

INDEX THIS | WASHINGTON DC

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 17 July 2011
Reflection 1 Comment

 

I have become product of my environment in so far as my environment has become a product of me. To say this to you is as saying it to me - notwithstanding the less than obvious soliloquy, such is the truth and absolute nature of agency.

 

0 vote

Die Wit Huis

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Experience 0 Comment

Daar sal altyd mense en spasies wees wat ‘n ons, as persoon, in ‘n ernstige manier beinvloed. Wat ons druk in rigtings waar ons, onself nooit sien gaan het nie; of draai in direksies wat ons nooit verwag het nie.

 

0 vote

“Future, on canvas” | Congressional Forum Speech

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Leadership 4 Comments

 

"This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease." As it were, Robert Kennedy stated this in a speech delivered at the University of Cape Town, 1966.

 

0 vote

Where are the youth of which we speak

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Friday, 08 July 2011
Experience 1 Comment

The most significant block of youth in the country, which we speak of the very often, are likely to never have read anything written about them in major news forums.

 

1 vote

Here, have some 8,175,133 people

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Experience 0 Comment

New York is a different country. Maybe it ought to have a separate government. Everybody thinks differently, they just don't know what the hell the rest of the United States is.”


 

1 vote

Heroes

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Friday, 17 June 2011
Reflection 3 Comments

It's not about remembering our heroes as part of our legacy and heritage; it is about remembering their ideals and their magic and making it alive within ourselves. A name does not do to history what the motives for the actions of the agent do. 


 

 

 

0 vote

Journey

by Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder
Erik de Ridder is an undergraduate student of civil engineering and economics at
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 29 May 2011
Experience 0 Comment

As any journey, this one began with a ten-page application, an interview and a camp. Fifteen bright young minds have been chosen from a very large group of exceptionally bright young minds and have embarked on the titular task of leadership, development and leadership development. This seemingly innocuous activity undoubtedly holds many a heart throbbing tidal wave ahead. Orientation activities have been had, wild animals fought off, coffee drank, community service defined, anthems sang, stories heard and stories told, norms and values established and a 2011 Team Promise framed.

Tags: journey, progress
1 vote



Facebook Friends of SAWIP