As part of our occasional series on views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, psychology student, Vincent, tells us about men’s wellbeing in South Africa.
South Africans began the millennium full of hope and pride, having avoided a violent clash of cultures in 1994 with the ANC’s rise into political power in a previously white-controlled nation. Many men of all races laid down their arms and put their hatred to bed to accept the new age of peaceful integration under the noble but ageing shadow of Nelson Mandela.
These men fought for, or against, Apartheid, both convinced of the existential threat the other posed to their family’s future. No doubt that leaders, politicians and opportunists made good use of their willingness to die for these causes. The liberal class had spent the ’80s watching South Africa be vilified for its persistent racist policies. The ‘Rubicon’ speech in 1985 crushed the spirit of a mostly liberal nation because it removed hope that change could happen and that it could be peaceful. PW Botha, president at the time, began hopeful, talking about change but ultimately backtracked and denied South Africa an honourable transition to democracy.
As a young white Italian male, I witness the xenophobia endemic in Africa. It still plays a role in our culture. Tracing the origins of the antagonism between tribes, cultures and races in South Africa is a sad and ultimately futile endeavour. It seems to be in the soil. Yes, Apartheid divided us, but before them, it was the British Colonial System. Before that tribalism, and preceding that, it was down to droughts and fertile pastures, causing migration and battles for resources (Burman, 1981).
Here we are in 2021.
In a speech given during hard lockdown, South African men are targeted by the democratically elected leader Cyril Ramaphosa; “a war being waged against the women and children of our country”, he said on live TV. He refers to the sudden increase in Gender-Based Violence and rape, which occurred during the lockdowns.
It seems that to withhold alcohol from families living in poverty with little else to distract them from their suffering was a very bad idea. Regardless of how you argue the causes of violence, the scapegoat is the same: men.
I ask, have men not also borne the brunt of lockdowns? Have men in South Africa not paid the price for this new nation one way or another, only to be vilified by their president during a global pandemic? Is it not the same governing party’s policies that have caused the collapse of labour-related jobs for the majority who are unskilled men, leaving them powerless? (Bernstein, 2016).
Is male violence a cause or a symptom?
It is the goal of incompetent governments to find a scapegoat, to blame someone for their failures. Rather than question the rhetoric which is carefully strategized by the ‘command counsel’ of the ANC, we swallow it all. So, we deepen the crisis by ostracising and vilifying the men who could contribute to our growth. Under the modern ideology of intersectionality, the corrupt ‘struggle’ ANC veterans find common cause under Marxism’s shared banner. The children of anti-Apartheid liberal South Africans are urged to find new scapegoats to relinquish the generational guilt. Religion has been lost to this new generation. The ‘demons’ of yesteryear are now their fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, and husbands.
Are we not eating our own?
My experience with men from all over Africa is that they are deeply wounded by their inability to provide for their families. This helplessness leaves them crushed, leading to violence, crime and, significantly, the catastrophic suicide rate we see; three times higher than the UK.
I would encourage respectful masculinity revived from the proud heritage of a resilient continent. Traditions within Africa have sought to give young men rites of passage to adulthood; we can build on this to grow pride, honour and respect within the dynamics embedded in traditional culture. By addressing the needs of males rather than belittling them, by empowering the young father, by giving them self-respect through jobs, through appreciation, we open new versions of masculinity that have so far been denied the men of Africa.
“The temptation to become the vanguard of purity’ as has happened with Marxists, is very great but should be resisted to ensure our remaining in touch with the realities of ordinary people in their day to day struggles” (Ramphele, 1990).
About the author
Vincent is an adult psychology student in South Africa. He also owns a business for 20 years and is involved with his community. As a passionate creative, Vincent has chosen psychology to find expression for his view of the post-Aparthied South Africa and the problems faced by men in a post-conflict era. For three decades he has reflected his ideas through his art and is now finding a voice through the useful constructs of modern psychology. Vincent is married with no children by choice but is conscientious of the world that adolescents are seeing. You can engage with Vincent on twitter @Vincenz59109253
Burman, S. (1981). Creating a Nation. Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-04639-3_2
Gender Equality in South Africa. (2021). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from http://www.genderindex.org/country/south-africa
PW Botha gives the “Rubicon” Speech in Durban (2005). Retrieved 2 23, 2021, from sahistory.org.za: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/pw-botha-gives-rubicon-speech-durban
Xenophobia: SA Army deployed in Alexandra, Durban. (2015). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from http://www.biznews.com/undictated/2015/04/21/xenophobia-sa-army-deployed-in-alexandra-durban/
Bernstein. (2016, April 21). South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis the Worst in the World [Text]. NGO Pulse. http://www.ngopulse.org/article/2016/04/21/south-africas-unemployment-crisis-worst-world
https://www.timeslive.co.za/authors/tanya-farber. (2020). Shocking stats on gender-based violence during lockdown revealed. TimesLIVE. https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-09-01-shocking-stats-on-gender-based-violence-during-lockdown-revealed/
Ramaphosa on gender-based violence: ‘Their killers thought they could silence them but we will speak for them’ (2020). SowetanLIVE. https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-06-18-ramaphosa-on-gender-based-violence-their-killers-thought-they-could-silence-them-but-we-will-speak-for-them/
Ramphele, M. (1990). Do Women Help Perpetuate Sexism? A Bird’s Eye View From South Africa. Africa Today, 37(1), 7–17.