"OUR so-called leaders have become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation" – Onkgopotse Tiro, April, 1972.
Today, almost 41 years after that historic graduation speech, many of the poor and vulnerable majority in our society are being failed by those with knowledge, education, power and money.
Those with knowledge and education continue to use it for their own selfish interests and to maintain the status quo.
It looks like all the years spent fighting colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, was only meant to benefit those with knowledge and education, while the vast majority of our people still have to "taste the benefits of our freedom". It is sad that some among us think providing social grants and food parcels are a perfect barometer to measure the effectiveness of our freedom. Some often refer to themselves as revolutionaries and radicals, but if you closely investigate, if there is anything tangible that they have done to benefit the poor and vulnerable majority, you will find that they always stand to benefit more whenever they get involved in the so-called peoples' struggles.
This knowledgeable and educated group are very skilful and they know how to manipulate the poor to get their support and, for some reason, they always get some external support and funding. A good example is what happened in Angola after independence from Portugal in 1975. The late Jonas Savimbi, leader of rebel movement Unita, studied medicine at the University of Lisbon, in Portugal, and obtained his doctorate in political science at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland.
He broke away from the Popular Union of Angola and formed Unita to fight with the MPLA government from 1975 until he died in 2002.
What we should ask ourselves is, did his knowledge and education benefit the poor and vulnerable people of Angola or did it benefit the poor and vulnerable people in the continent? NO! He instead used his knowledge and education to destabilise and fight the MPLA government through support from South Africa, China and the US, among others.
The point I am trying to make is that with the number of knowledgeable and educated people in South Africa, we should probably have been one of the best countries in the continent, if not the world, having had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the other failed democracies on the continent and elsewhere.
It is so sad that even in South Africa we have our own Jonas Savimbis, armed with knowledge and education, but not using it to help our people in their hour of need. These are people who use their knowledge and education to skillfully pursue their own selfish and personal agendas and, at times, use various political parties to maintain the status quo.
By and large, these are the same people who are involved in corrupt activities and manipulate processes to suit their personal agendas.
I have accepted long time ago that South Africa is not a homogenous society and I don't expect it to be one soon, but what makes me really sad is how the majority of us with knowledge and education use it to advance selfish and personal interests, rather than help to advance the interests of the marginalised.
I am not advocating a one party state, otherwise it would defeat the whole purpose of multiparty democracy and limit people's choices. All I am asking from the knowledgeable and educated in our society is not to become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation.
"Of what use will your education be if you can't help your country in her hour of need?" Onkgopotse Tiro asked in 1972. It is therefore important for those of us with knowledge and education to ensure that we use it to advance our people's struggles, as it were, rather than advancing personal and selfish interests. We must defeat the Savimbis' mentality and tendencies emerging in us.
We must stand up and support the organisations that honestly seek to free and advance the interests of the marginalised, poor and vulnerable majority, rather than our own personal interests.
Our people need to "taste the benefits of freedom" now – they can't wait for another 18 years!
Lesego Sechaba Mogotsi[i], Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) member, Ward 85, Tshwane, Gauteng