Dear citizens of Azania (South Africa) located geographically south of Africa and the diaspora, President Cyril Rapahosa, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, and all commissioners of 4IRC. We write to you from a place of love, for ours is but just a love story for Afrika and her people.
We and other fellow youth leaders from diverse walks of life and different organizations we work with/for will use Club Readership (CR) to share our responses. CR is a youth-led publishing institution with a clear mandate to create African content and encourage the culture of reading in Africa and the diaspora (Club Readership, 2016). We will use CR as the central platform to publish our responses to the eight (8) recommendations published through the outlet of Mail and Guardian written solely by Prof Tshilidizi Marwala on behalf of the 4IRC instituted by the President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.
Given that we are in the dawn and era of 21st-century technologies, we will also use 21st-century applications to reach a broad audience, to humble ourselves, and be where people are. We locate our conversation at the confluence of leadership practices leveraging 21st-century digital technologies situated in a context guided by values of botho/ubuntu and principles of inclusivity. These values define how we serve and how we ought to imagine service in the 21st century. These principles and values will contextualize our approach. Our input is connected to socio-materiality in the canon of leadership theories as well as socially responsible leadership. In this response, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) conceptualization serves as a reference to the commission and not as an acknowledgment that the current industrial revolution is the fourth. We believe there have been many before the first. It just depends on who is counting.
We offer our ideas and suggestions because one of our leadership Tieho Hans in this journey of our becoming once said, “We have answered a calling of callings, to the cause of causes, which is to serve.” Around the same time, we were affirmed by leadership Mahlodi Kgatle who postulated that “we are not future leaders. We are present-day leaders equipping ourselves with the tools, skills, knowledge, and values to manage the future better.” It is from this backdrop that we answer the clarion call.
We take up this space of ideas with the awareness that the intellectual work and duty does not require one to be voted for by a branch or reach a threshold in a particular political organization conference. Furthermore, the space of battle of ideas does not require a minimum entry of wearing a specific shirt. We occupy the space of ideas out of the willingness to serve and the capacity to organize thoughts. The ideas are not only acquired from a written text but equally from our lived experiences, stories of our ancestors, their art, their songs and poetry, and, most importantly, the training and developmental process we have been through and are still undergoing.
We take up this space of ideas as per the very most injunction and highest mandate offered by Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi. This very mandate aligns with Frantz Fanon when he once articulated that, “every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” Our mission is a juxtaposition of service both on the ground and the space of ideas. We are the ground forces and the intellectual spirits of Afrika and her people.
The response cohort will be made by what, in our view, constitute the best and great young people of Azania with an orientation to social justice, as evidenced by their commitment to serving Africa despite located across the length and breadth of Azania, Africa, and the diaspora. This intelligentsia is the talent that is serving Africa without any form of political office. We will be co-creating collaboratively and inclusively to protect democracy and safeguard the space of ideas (Eatman and Levine, 2016).
We are committed to enriching the national discourse dominated by a few experts in the recent past. We believe that “leadership is not a position, but rather an activity”. Mpho Mashishi says that “it is an act of service for Afrika and her people” (Mashishi, 2016). Furthermore, we will attempt to represent the silenced voices, as we are the children of those located in rural areas as well as those living in inhumane conditions in the townships as a result of land dispossession and other forms of exclusions.
We problematize the recommendations and the process of their publication and offer alternative solutions for consideration with the highest level of political tolerance, intellectual generosity, emotional sensitivity, and cultural humility. This cohort will equally demonstrate its capacity to leverage 21st-century technologies to address the complex challenges of our fast-changing, interconnected, and diverse world (Sergi, 2016). The world of the 21st century is characterized by complex problems that demand different voices to solve the challenges. Azania is part of this world and is confronted with complex challenges (Ndebele, 2007). These challenges cannot be solved by a single voice of authority, as observed in what transpired with the publications of the recommendations. We are lifelong learners and do not own a monopoly of knowledge (Freire, 1970).
Our guiding principles are the values of botho/ubuntu. Our approach is for these values to find expression in our articulations and through our responses, which will be written by diverse people wearing different lenses. Beyond everything, our approach recognizes that the struggle is inter-generational. That is, we have inherited the challenges we are confronting. The fight is also intersectional (manifesting and affecting different members of society differently). From here, there is “nothing about us without us.” We have the fundamental duty and moral obligation to serve.
Structure of the preamble
The preamble will be eight (8) fold. The genesis and entry points are to situate our orientation and paint a picture of what could be expected regarding the upcoming responses.
- The first aspect of the preamble points out the ahistorical nature of this work and it not being situated in context.
- Second, we recognize that many voices were silenced due to the dominance of Prof Marwala’s views as the mouthpiece and undoubtedly the foremost thinker of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the context of Azania and the world.
- Third, we highlight the media platforms we will use and equally highlight the limitations of relying on one media platform.
- Fourth, we surface the lack of linguistic democracy in the post-apartheid Azania; 26 years in democracy on pertinent issues of our land.
- Fifth, we share how the response process will unfold.
- Sixth, we list the recommendations published by Marwala, reinventing the citizens to reread and come back to the conversation, stay on it, and process the ideas.
- The penultimate aspect is our gratitude message for welcoming our input and allowing us to be part of the commission in intellectual spirit despite not having been initially invited.
- The final and last part is the concluding remarks and message of hope as well as the resources and references which guided us in our conversation with the commissioners and people of Afrika.
- Ahistorical characterization and context
As a point of departure, we acknowledge that, throughout history, the voices of marginalized people, predominantly black people, black women, members of LGBTQIA+, people living with a disability, rural people, and township people, in particular, have were silenced. Their stories have been stolen or erased in writing history and imagining the future. The subconscious or conscious act by Prof Marwala to silence others by leading the conversation of national importance, continental relevance, and global significance constitutes nothing less than an act of violence and exclusion. These acts perpetuate exclusion and go against the first recommendation of building human capital, which we will address in forthcoming writings. Building human capacity means giving people a voice and space to learn, make mistakes, grow, and be heard.
The responses are just the voice of Ntate Prof Marwala, and this makes us question the role of the other commissioners in the first place. We wonder if the commissioners believe in the recommendations. If they believe in human capacity, they should live up to the expectation of their collective recommendations and not let one voice of one man dominate the narrative. Our view is that the other commissioners must write and share in different media platforms to educate the nation and demonstrate their capacity.
The perspectives of the recommendation are inherently Eurocentric and not Afrocentric at all. Marwala, as the mouthpiece of the commissioners, writes from a Eurocentric lens and counts industrial revolutions from the European context, when there have been many industrial revolutions in Africa connected to the history of modern human beings. We are challenging the continuation of the erasure of African stories in the canon of ideas. It is an act we must reject with the discontent it deserves. We recommend that one of the meetings for the commission be held at Origins Center Museum at The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. We worked in this museum as student volunteers on science projects, at the time the institution was the best in Afrika.
Former President Thabo Mbeki launched the museum long before we came. He can make a great guest to open the meeting and breathe a Pan African spirit to the conversation to align and balance the perspectives to our context. In this museum, there are highlights about the Early stone Age industry, Middle Stone Age Industry, and Later Stone age, which are technological revolutions in their own right, which happened in Africa. We also would like to state that there are other industrial revolutions which predate those mentioned above.
Former President Mbeki opened the museum with the sole and ultimate purpose to restore the dignity of Afrika, and her stories have been stolen, erased, and distorted. One highlight in this museum is the mining and trading in the Kingdom of Mapungubwe precolonial period. We will return in future writings to other industrial revolutions that occurred in Africa, demonstrating not only the capacity of African people but also how we leveraged technologies in our societies.
- Silencing of other Voices by Prof Marwala: An act of going against his recommendation.
Marwala writes the recommendation alone, an act of going against developing human capital, because, to develop human capacity, you need to let them do the actual work of thinking and writing and speaking about the issues they are working on. We are also worried that the narrative is controlled and is not representative of demographics from the commissioners as well as broader Azanian people.
In embracing the view and advancing the human capacity recommendation, we recommend the commissioners to translate the recommendations in all official languages so that our brothers and sisters and grandparents in the rural areas and township can read and understand. This will allow the commission to provide an expression of its first recommendation, by having its writers learning how to write in their languages and thus developing their capacity. This will be a first step towards achieving the linguistic democracy and Cultural Revolution we have been yearning for. The point of departure is that we should build capacity and develop our languages and, therefore, our culture so that we can reclaim what was took from us.
Furthermore, the recommendations should be recorded as video (with a sign language interpreter) and audio as well as braille to accommodate diverse groups. If the other media platforms publish exclusively in English, we as Club Readership are open to publishing their translated work as we advance African languages and culture. We will provide an email to submit the translated work after you have reached a consensus on this suggestion. When they send their representatives on radio and television, the commissioners should invite the respondents so that there is no single story narrated, but a nuanced and balanced perspective for the public. These things must be dialogic.
- Diverse media platforms and ways of knowledge creation to democratize information.
We have noted the recommendations were published only in Mail and Guardian newspapers. Why not Daily Sun given the significance of this conversation. Why not soccer laduma for once, given that soccer was interrupted by COVID-19? Why are the same articles not re-published in local newspapers? Who reads Mail and Guardian? Who is the commission for, and who is the commission omitting? We will intentionally and deliberately share our ideas on Facebook to include those who use Facebook lite and are in free mode. We will also use LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, and all existing media platforms to democratize public knowledge and reach a broad audience and find people of Azania where they are. After all, ours is to serve on the ground and space of ideas, to be everywhere and anywhere like the spirit.
We will do everything humanly possible and ask the spirit’s intervention to guide us as we democratize knowledge and public information. Public education should not only be for the elites in society, and it has to be for all. We will use multiple ways of engagement, including but not limited to audio, video, and writings, to reach out to the majority of the people and be more inclusive. We are aware that not everyone can read; we will, therefore, make videos. We are aware that not everyone can see; we will, therefore, make audios. That is the act of spirit of service to the people, and we hope we will be able to work with someone who can communicate in sign language in the future.
We recognize the likes of Somizi, Dj Black Coffee, Abuti Zakes Bantwini, Bonang Matheba, better known as Queen B, and Dj Zinhle, among others as media leaders due to their influence in society and followership on social media. We recommend that they should be invited as volunteers to do country duty and have other commissioners and ourselves having conversations on their live Instagram to educate young people about these issues.
Dj Black Coffee had already demonstrated his orientation towards social justice when he encouraged other artists on 2 June 2020 to observe the challenges of systemic exclusions. We paraphrase, “as creators of culture, it is our responsibility to come together and hold each other during difficult times and fun times.” We also believe in coming together during moments of creating new content for our people. These Azanian people influence young people. We have to leverage their influence to advance the national agenda during serious conversion and not only for campaigns.
We have seen this work during elections when Bonang Matheba AKA Queen B and AKA (the person) connected with the President to encourage people to vote. AKA must rap about the commission ideas. Winnie Mashaba must sing about the commission ideas, and Mmabatho Montsho must paint about the ideas. Lebo Mashile must lead us with poetry about the dawn of the 21st century digital technologies. This is how things ought to be communicated with people at every level in ways and means that it is culturally relevant to them (Jones, Guthrie, & Osteen, 2016).
We would like to categorically state that Mafule directly messaged (dmed) Queen B on Instagram, but he did not respond to this day, this was our attempt to include her voice in these perspectives. Our view is that the citizens, as mentioned earlier, must serve the nation with their Instagram and Facebook to educate us now more than ever before. Young people have to be given slots equally on radio and television to lead this conversation in African languages to inform all people located in Azania, geographically, south of Africa.
- Linguistic democracy
Mulalo varangaphanda va duvha na duvha.
We will also write in other African languages to demonstrate capacity and commitment to linguistic democracy as well as a commitment to advancing and preserving African languages. We are grounded in the view that the development of the people ought to enrich their culture and develop the languages of the people. The people ought to be part of the creation of their culture (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 1992). For example, if development is in Africa, it must develop African people’s languages and not culturally exterminate them. We ought to be sensitive in our approach so that we do not advance the colonial agenda.
Writing only in English excludes indigenous people of Azania like the previous arrangements of colonization and apartheid, exterminating many cultures such as the Khoi/San people. There is no advancement of a people if they only advance the languages of other cultures while abandoning their languages and culture, which is just an act of perpetuating colonization (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 1992). This call to advancing and preserving African languages is connected to the ideas developed in the Center for Emerging Researcher (CER) around topics of history, culture, and decolonization (CER, 2020).
Our brothers lead the institution, the likes of Muimeleli Mutangwa, Dr. Mukovhe Masutha, and Ntandokabawo Jama. We had the pleasure of being invited to offer support at the launch of CER at the University of Johannesburg in 2018 (CER, 2020). They are equally instrumental and strategic partners in our programmes and events we run. We collectively believe in the ancestral mission of ‘opening doors of learning and culture” and questioning everything written by apartheid experts.
Our organizations are young, and we are just servants. However, we are also looking for people to translate this work of ours to the indigenous languages of Azania. The use of the English language is an act of exclusion for the majority of Azania and Afrikan people (Wa Thiong’o, 1992). For us, this is the first criticism of ourselves as we enter this conversation. We hope the commission will realize the significance of advancing African languages from the views we have ushered.
We recommend the Chair and deputy chair to delegate other commissioners to translate the work written by Prof Marwala to the other ten official languages of Azania (South Africa) so that all citizens, regardless of their ability, can learn about these developments. Failure to do so will result in the perpetual exclusion of the black people who were, and still are excluded racially (systemic and institutional), culturally, economically, spiritually, linguistically, and otherwise in their land. If the commissioners do not have the capacity, Club Readership (CR) can work with the government and introduce Cultural Revolution alongside advancements associated with #4IR. The commissioners can submit the translated work to this email, and we are happy to publish: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Response Process
We will email the commission responses to the President, who is the Chair of the commission, the deputy chair Prof Marwala and some of the commissioners. The other responses will be released as and when they are ready. We invite other young people to respond to the recommendations in their capacities and not leave our country’s future to chance or a select few. For the second recommendation response, we will also propose the institute of Artificial Intelligence (AI) be named after Prof Tshilidzi Marwala to demonstrate that we recognize him but differ slightly with his ideas and how he balances perspectives.
We hope that these ideas will be received with warm hearts and spirit and given the attention they deserve. We are a generation that draws inspiration from Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Chairman of Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof Njabulo Ndebele. Prof Ndebele is an advocate of democratic engagements, he suggested in his book, “Fine Lines from the box” that, we should have the courage to embrace diverse views and live together in disagreement (Ndebele, 2007).
Our responses, which will follow in no particular order of importance, will represent diversity in pure form. This will be in thought, demographics, and also in terms of skills and knowledge background from the co-creators of the knowledge dedicated to advancing the national discourse (Eatman and Levine, 2016). These young people have earned their stripes and credentials and lived experiences of the ground of Africa. It is from this backdrop we will unpack and unearth the ideas. The ultimate purpose is for views of young people to find expression and to enrich the national discourse. We need more people to engage in this issue of local relevance, national importance, and global significance.
We will take the approach not to tell, but to show. We will show how we wish the process of responses should have unfolded by taking a collaborative and inclusive approach leveraging on multiple forms of 21st-century technologies. Our process will reveal, among other things, the available talent that is unseen, untapped and unrecognized due to either politics of patronage or lack of awareness by the state in terms of who the players in the youth space are. We will also take a quantitative and qualitative approach to narrate these stories in response to the public and commission.
- The list of responses will follow in this fashion.
- Development of Human Capital;
- The building of AI institute;
- Establish a platform for advanced manufacturing and new materials;
- Secure and avail data to enable innovation and incentivize future industries, platforms, and applications of 4IR technologies;
- Build 4IR infrastructure;
- Review and amend or create policy and legislation;
- Establish a 4IR strategy implementation coordination council in the presidency.
7. Gratitude message
We thank the public, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Prof Marwala, and the commissioners for welcoming our preamble. We hope you will wait with bated breath for our future perspectives. We enrich this conversation and create conditions for more young people to participate in the creation and imagination of Azania (South Africa).
We will also like to add that we are available to offer a different perspective to that of Marwala in these conversations, in particular when he is on national television. It will be of value for the young black women, disabled people, and members of the LGBTQIA+ communities and people from townships and rural areas to see someone who looks like them on screen, engaging Marwala about the issues. Our view is that of a dialogic approach to liberate the oppressed (Freire, 1970). There is a danger of having a single story dominator by a select few.
You have all realized by now that we mention poets and musicians, the DJs and influential influencers, the painters and writers, the academics, and leaders in this conversation because we believe in inclusive practices. This is what ubuntu/botho is all about. A person is a person through other persons. Umuntu ngu muntu nga bantu. Motho ke motho ka batho. We hope the artists as mentioned above and other members of society, including dingaka and pastors can be represented in future meetings because academics and professionals live in different places and live different lives to the masses on the ground.
The academics may have the knowledge, but the artists are the best communicators of it. If you don’t believe us, remember the song of King Monada “idibala,” otherwise if you are old school like us, replay in your mind the song of the late legendary Brenda Fassie titled “Vulindlela.” These songs influenced society, and it is time for academics to partner with those who shake our community and heal it with their talents. This is how we solve the complex challenges of the 21st century, and it has to be all of us, not only those with degrees. We encourage the public to respond, ask questions, engage, refine, and advance these ideas. Share your views and what you think with us.
In sum, we are entering the conversation at the dawn of multiple pandemics, including but not limited to COVID-19, Gender-Based Violence, Drug, and Alcohol Abuse. We urge the commissioners to equally imagine the recommendations to address all these other challenges as they are part of the national challenges. The commission ought to situate in the real context of these dynamics at play. Our key message was highlighted by Sibusiso Gama (2016) when he said, “We ought to have the audacity and the tenacity to divorce old toxic ideas” and have the courage and humility to embrace new ideas and ways of being in this unfolding world. We will narrate and tell this story like our ancestors, and we firmly believe that “the story is unfolding, the best is yet to come, and the best pages of our lives are yet to be written” (Moswane, 2016, p. 124).
*by Sibusiso Gama and Mafule Moswane*- 27 June 2020
Sibusiso Jwanis Gama and Mafule Moswane are both University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg science graduates. They are authors at Club Readership, directors of Faculty of Best Advisory, storytellers, and jam lab media fellowship graduates. Sibusiso is an entrepreneurial generator of Wits Business School. Mafule Moswane is 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, 2018 ASRI Future leaders Scholar and 2016 ASRI Future leaders fellow. They both write in their capacities.
Resources and References
Eatman, T. K., & Levine, P. (2016). Publicly engaged scholars: Next-generation engagement and the future of higher education. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Gama, S. (2016). Life’s stains and wonders. Ink Matter.
Fanon, F. (2007). The wretched of the earth. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Jones, T. B., Guthrie, K. L., & Osteen, L. (2016). Critical domains of culturally relevant leadership learning: A call to transform leadership programs. New directions for student leadership, 152(2016), 9-21.
Moswane, M. (2016). A learner’s guide to academic success. Club Readership
Ndebele, N. (2007). Fine lines from the box. Penguin Random House South Africa.
Schwab, K. (2016). The fourth industrial revolution. World Economic Forum.
Sergi, V. (2016). Who’s leading the way? Investigating the contributions of materiality to leadership-as-practice. In J. Raelin’s, Leadership-as-Practice (pp. 124-145). Routledge.
Wa Thiong’o, N. (1992). Decolonising the mind: The politics of language in African literature. East African Publishers.
https://crmagazine.co.za/ (Club Readership Magazine)
https://www.clubreadership.co.za/ (Club Readership)
https://facultyofbestadvisory.org.za/ (Faculty of Best Advisory)
https://emergingresearchers.org/ (Center for Emerging Researchers)