Picture: My grandparents Mme’ Keadimilwe and George ‘Tolla’ Truter.
I was born in 1981 in a modest home in a small village called Bakerville in the North West province of South Africa. This is also where I spent the first six years of my life with my grandmother.
My grandmother, Keadimilwe or Mme’ Keadimilwe as she was known was the centre of my universe. She was my rock, my shield and my anchor and thanks to her I had the most wonderful childhood. Though a subsistence farmer, she could also make butter, jams, preserved foods, cured meats and numerous other goodies which she sold to other villagers and workers at the nearby diamond mines.
As the only grandchild living with her, I accompanied her all over the village and sometimes town, some 20km away. And so I became aware of the injustices meted out to her and others like her. My grandmother had a sweet tooth, one of the ‘bad’ traits I’ve inherited, and once a month we would visit the Diamond Bakery in town to buy jam tarts, milk tarts and lots of biscuits. Unlike white patrons, she was not allowed inside the bakery, she had to make purchases through a small window, in the passage between the bakery and the neighboring building.
I remember an incident (around 1986) where the apartheid police decided to raid our little village. I am not sure if they were looking for a particular individual or whether it was simply a tact to terrorise the community. This unexpected incident and brazen display of brute force quickly spread terror through the village. Every house was raided by intimidating armed white policemen. This incident traumatised my grandmother and as a 5 year old I had to witness it. I had never seen my grandmother so weak, terrified and broken before. Today I am still haunted by this scene.
Village life in itself was tough but it was certainly made tougher by an unjust oppressive apartheid regime. My grandmother passed away in 1990, a few months after Mr Mandela was released from prison, sadly never having experienced political or economic freedom and never having reached her full potential. Born in 1914, her life was doomed from the start. Though enterprising, the apartheid system were never to nurture her abilities and talents.
My backstory is that of millions of black South Africans.
Sadly, though apartheid thawed in the early 90’s, millions of people are still devastated by its consequences. The black majority still suffer in terms of access to decent education, economic opportunities, infrastructure and meaningful participation in the economy. The economy is still concentrated in the hands of a few extractive capitalists; think banking, funeral care, insurance, supermarket chains, healthcare…the list is endless and until black South Africans co-own major sectors of the economy, grave socio-economic conditions will persist.
To deal with the huge socio-economic challenges require a paradigm shift and an economic model geared towards socio-economic development. The solution to onboarding millions of black South Africans to own portions of the economy is the cooperative. Millions of people in rural areas, townships and peri-urban areas must organize themselves into various cooperatives spanning agricultural-, producer-, retail-, insurance-, property- and banking.
Every community in this country must as a minimum have a cooperative food store, cooperative funeral care and a cooperative bank to keep money circulating in the community, create jobs and new entrepreneurial opportunities.
My book ‘A new vision for South Africa’ reveals the cooperative as a weapon to overthrow South Africa’s extractive capitalist system. Using the UK based Co-operative Group as a template, this book shows how cooperatives are powerful forms of organizations that can radically transform South Africa’s economy for greater equality. Whether the goal is to lift 12 million blacks out of poverty, break the ever-present ‘monopoly capital’, or create new sustainable jobs, the cooperative is the only proven form of organization that can save South Africa right now. All South Africans are called upon to join forces and build a new national cooperative economy that will yield fruit for all our nation’s people.
Get a copy today from your nearest African Flavour Books or email firstname.lastname@example.org.