We are responsible for our own progress

Phumlani Majozi says young black people need to focus on self-improvement

Over the past weeks, I couldn’t help thinking about how important it is for us young black people to remember that we are responsible for our own progress.

Much of what we usually see and hear in the media about the socioeconomic challenges faced by black people, is not based on facts. It’s largely rhetoric that can’t pass any empirical test.

Those with influence in politics, media and academia, have recently been hell-bent on convincing the whole world that today, black people can’t progress as fast as they could because of other races or cultures. This persisting narrative is totally untrue and very very destructive.

A very important message overshadowed by this destructive rhetoric – is a message of how individual responsibility is key to success. That we are all individually responsible for our own progress in life.

If and when we make rational decisions – with an understanding that we are responsible for our own success – there is and there will always be a reward for us.

A few years back, I was on TV with Moeletsi Mbeki. Moeletsi is the younger brother of Former President Thabo Mbeki – and is deputy chair of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

On that TV program – hosted by the famous Redi Tlhabi – Moeletsi said that black people had been liberated. Guess what? He was booed by the audience and his very true comments dismissed – which I found painful to watch.

Mbeki was correct. We black people of South Africa should accept that we were liberated twenty-five years ago - and now focus on improving our lives while holding government accountable.

To improve our lives and achieve a great deal in the democratic South Africa, I propose a formula that can help young black people avoid poverty and speed up their socioeconomic progress.

It’s basically the same formula that has been preached by famous American radio talk show host – Larry Elder. This formula can be applied by any person of any race from any socioeconomic background. Because it requires one to only alter their behavior.

However, it’s very important to stress that the formula is even more crucial to young black people who are mostly from poor neighborhoods across South Africa.

The elements of this basic formula are – without order of importance:

1. Finish high school – and pursue education intensely

2. Don’t have children before you can afford them

3. Get married

4. Have a strong work ethic

5.  Save and invest a percentage of your income

The effectiveness of the five elements of this formula has been studied by scholars – and data shows that people who apply it in their lives live in less poverty than those who do not.

I will spend more time on the less obvious ones – the importance of getting married, having children only when you can afford them, and a strong work ethic.

Getting married and having children only when you can afford them minimizes the likelihood of fatherlessness.

Fatherlessness continues to plague South Africa. Data has shown that more than 60% of children are in fatherless homes in South Africa. We black people are the hardest hit.

The magnitude of the damage done by fatherlessness in our country is understated. It is saddening to see that fatherlessness is not widely spoken about. To me the fatherlessness matter deserves serious and urgent attention than the unfounded claims of widespread “systemic racism”.

The subject of fatherlessness affects me personally. I grew up with both my parents – but some of my relatives did not – and there’s a big difference between me, my siblings and them. The difference is in terms of education, income, values and may other things. Some of these relatives have been in trouble with the law enforcement – which is unfortunate.

Children who grow up without their fathers are more likely to transgress in life. Girls more likely to get pregnant in their teens, boys more likely to be involved in crime, and so on.

Fatherlessness needs to be addressed and reduced urgently. It’s our individual, rational actions that can achieve the reduction.

And then there is a strong work ethic. Research around the world has shown that a strong work ethic is a prerequisite for success. If you work hard, you’ll succeed in the pursuit of your goals. It’s as simple as that.

As long as you are healthy and an able human being – you are capable of working hard – regardless of your race or ethnicity. Work hard in your studies and workplace – you’ll be rewarded.

Our struggle as black people against apartheid – an evil and oppressive system – ended in 1994. As Moeletsi said, we were liberated twenty-five years ago. It’s now time for young black people to work and advance their purpose.

If young black people apply the formula I have outlined above, they’ll avoid poverty and succeed in life. They don’t need to be rich or poor to apply the formula. Anybody can apply it since it only requires behavioral change.

Phumlani M. Majozi is a senior fellow at AfricanLiberty.org. Views expressed here are his own. Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi