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BEE lifestyles

Rich and Black

by Remy Ngamije / Illustration by Alastair Laird / 13.12.2011

I fear success. Let me qualify that: I fear being successful, and black. It just does not work. The two together only seem to create suspicion and infamy in this country. Feature stories on the largesse of my birthday parties, backbiting, no respect, whispers that my connections did all the work for me. My own talent, skills, drive and ambition had nothing to do it. My success would be just another affirmation of affirmative action to many people here. Black millionaires generate the kind of social responses bank robbers, scam artists and sex fiends do. Success as a black man, in this country, would be the death of me.

That is how it feels to be black and on the rise – you will never really make it to a stage where you can be dark skinned and legitimately successful on your own terms. Like Jay-Z or Oprah. Here you will always be vilified for your gumption, always be the subject of controversy and criticism.

Sooner or later, someone will bring it to your attention that you are a) black and b) newly rich. You will never truly belong to the blue-eyed Boys Club of South Africa’s rich and wealthy. There is always some kind of hoop you need to jump through at every level of economic success – the equivalent of administrative forms they neglected to tell you about the first time round. The goalposts shift. Your accent is too rural, too fancy, your qualifications seem fake, your posture seems lazy or hostile, your Mercedes Benz is too big, your contribution too small, your university too obscure, and you don’t spend your money wisely on property and lasting things. You’re just not one of us. You cannot win.

Success in South Africa is always weighed on a black-white scale. The closer it is to white (good school, good university degree, writhing off the beat to dub-step) the more comprehensible and likely. The more familiar and palatable. On the black end of the scale (lavish noisy house parties, multiple rides, bling, the lifelong pursuit of a better weave) books you space in one of South Africa’s dailies. Ask Kenny Kunene. He got hit on the head by this sliding scale. His behaviour is examined and judged with a furious curiosity big shots like Checkers CEO, billionaire Whitey Basson, wouldn’t begin to tolerate. How do we know Whitey doesn’t have a sushi-a-la-naked-girls skeleton in his closet? The media certainly doesn’t go there.

The message seems clear – if you are black and successful, you are guilty until proven a little bit less so. The last thing you are granted is the benefit of the doubt. Suspicion, enmity and ill-will await you.

You will be lumped together with the BEE Fat Cats, government corrupters and tenderpreneurs before you’ve even sat your black ass down. BEE is a convenient racial slur for any darkie that ever banked more than a million Rand. It is shorthand for crook. Your qualifications, your self-sacrifice, your dedication and hard work, your self-belief, your dreams, your rights, your honour, really doesn’t matter when the BEE paintballs start flying. They’ll splatter your suit no matter your integrity.

It is a label that liquidates the time you’ve put in in your industry. It decides your political affiliations for you. It questions your moral fibre before you’ve even opened your mouth. It insists that the opportunities you’ve taken advantage of and earned the right to master weren’t legitimate. That your position in life is a trick. Even your children suffer for it. “BEE babies” are already shunned and envied wherever they go.
Do I even need to say it? Apparently so. Not every black person in a pinstripe suit is cheating and lying and despicable. Not all of us have been handed a free ticket to success thanks to the arbitrary fact of our skins or who our parents once dodged live ammo with in the struggle.

I’m going to go a step further. Get stuffed. Even if every successful black person was a free rider enjoying ill gotten gains and government tenders, which they are not, remember that little thing called apartheid, when white people got privileged, socially engineered pathways to economic stability, through job reservations and land restrictions and the cream of educational resources? Two wrongs don’t make a right but black people wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to learn a cliché like that 30 years ago. They were mentally bred for mines, hedge-trimming and loading cargo. They were reduced to the value of their own uneducated labour. For centuries.

Black success is all too often Kunene-ised in this country. Black innovation and entrepreneurship. Black leadership and drive. These are little understood, esteemed or encouraged. We are just seen as parasitic. You can’t buy a Breitling watch, as a successful black person, for fear of starring in a Zapiro cartoon.

If I fly too high, I’ll be brought crashing down, Icarus-like, by entrenched stereotypes demonizing black achievement. Fly too low and you are just another loser who can’t escape the limits imposed by the past. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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RESPONSES (54)
  1. your mom says:

    where there is smoke there is fire

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  2. Chilla says:

    Anyone can say anything about anyone. If there is no truth in what they say and it has is no tangible effect, why do you give a shit? Needing to be held in fair esteem by the media / uninformed masses to ratify one’s achievements is fucking pathetic.

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  3. Dplanet says:

    “Not all of us have been handed a free ticket to success thanks to the arbitrary fact of our skins”

    Funny how that works for White apartheid apologists too.

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  4. (g)raceless says:

    Ag shame.

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  5. Foreign 'neh? says:

    Even if you weren’t black, you’d most probably be a poes.

    No one gives a fuck about you and your race. Go to work (or whatever it is that you do) earn your money, spend it how you want and shut the fuck up.

    The more powerful you become the more enemies you make, its a simple human trait, regardless of your skin colour or your country’s past.

    This little rant of yours makes you sound like you were born yesterday.

    This subject is so last century.

    We got bigger fish to fry in the modern world than another ‘poor me, poor me’ imbecile.

    Be original, be a man.

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  6. Lizzy says:

    yeah its the curse of living in an occident obsessed world – just ask Homi K. Bhabha. perhaps nothing you will do as a black man will ever be legitimate…

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  7. Lizzy says:

    and – why are people so angry?

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  8. So sad says:

    People are angry because tolerance is in short supply – on both sides of the fence. Pieces such as this on mahala are certainly not helping. When last did you read something here that had something positive to say about race relations in South Africa?

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  9. Ubuntu Bob says:

    Interesting perspective that isn’t often shared.

    I get pissed off as well when I see a 20-year-old madam on her cell phone weaving through traffic in a BMW with MP plates, but as long as a person earns their money through hard work and honest means, they can do whatever the hell they want with it. As long as it doesn’t keep me awake.

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  10. Lefty says:

    So are you saying that newspapers are only vilifying Black corruption and excess? Not like Andrew Brown, Lolly Jackson or Glen Agliotti? Or are you trying to say that it’s not fair that massive displays of excess raise red flags to the press, or that the readers delight in such titillation?

    You may have some point, but I’d respect it if you wrote an article with examples and back up than a rant about your perception. Do some research.

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  11. cnut says:

    Get a grip… I’m a Geny’er, educated, black and well on my way up through a few well-timed opportunities and a whole lot of nouse… and I could care less what anyone thinks…

    Remy has such an inferiority complex he has to resort to ‘that old chestnut called race’ in everything he writes here… perhaps the only way he can get some interest in his own site (say thankyou CNUT)…

    The ‘quill’ is most definitely not mightier than the ‘complex’!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    it just sounds like an excuse to be lazy.

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  13. Zo says:

    Remy only seems to mention black success through tabloid fodder like Jay-z, Oprah and Kenny Kunene. Really? If you read more than Heat magazine you might find that black wealth in South Africa and America extends far further than entertainment.
    Shame man, now i just called your opinion piece corrupt, lazy and show-offy without substance. Must be ‘coz you’re black.

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  14. cnut says:

    Insecurity of a Namibian, Rwandan living in Cape Town… Remy do you remember me asking you to explain (when elected as President) how the Black Law Students Forum could possibly have the words multi-cultural and multi-racial in their manifesto… remember this former alumni now that called you out?

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  15. Chris says:

    CNUT shut the fuck up.
    You don’t write for mahala and nobody wants you around.

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  16. Parker Poesy says:

    Summarized in the third-last para by: “Two wrongs don’t make a right but…”

    Andy, this is shit thinking and shit writing. I know you’re punting this guy because people with opinions who can spell are in very short supply, and it’s fun to rile up the racists, but Remy is damaging Mahala. Of course you can’t pull him now (that way the racists win) but you need to edit him far more rigorously, at first draft stage. Tell him to think much harder than he is. If he can’t, well, then pull him and let the racists win. At least you’ll stop damaging your site.

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  17. Fuck Norris says:

    “If I fly too high, I’ll be brought crashing down, Icarus-like, by entrenched stereotypes demonizing black achievement. Fly too low and you are just another loser who can’t escape the limits imposed by the past. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

    Or just ignore the racist morons of this planet and get on with doing your own thing, exactly like I’m failing to do now.

    Eish, it’s *so* tough being a victim.

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  18. Andy says:

    Ubuntu Bob nailed it:

    “Interesting perspective that isn’t often shared.”

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  19. Fuck Norris says:

    Andy if you really want an interesting perspective that isn’t often shared, please allow me to write you my magnum opus on the cross-dressing habits of Mother Teresa and the important role she played in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I’ll throw in some white bashing in the name of anti-racism to keep it Mahala :-)

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  20. Margot says:

    The obnoxiousness of nouveau riche flagrancy is something that most people find offensive. It’s not a race thing, it’s a taste thing. And in a way, wealth finding its way to people who never had it before, puts this wealth in a sort of early adolescence. Often characterised by a sense of entitlement with no sense of subtlety and finesse. And as with almost all things in early adolescence, the people around it are of course going to roll their eyes, and grit their teeth, and trust that it passes into maturity soonish.

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  21. cnut says:

    The irony of the ‘piece’ is that the student author is twittering away, taking the piss out of his fellow passengers on a 20 hr bus trip back to his country of Namibia as he could not afford the airfare…

    Nope… this is just Andy and co compromising content for attempted hits… is this the last bastion of interest Mahala can garner?

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  22. Anonymous says:

    What a disappointing and narrow minded article.

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  23. Zoidberg says:

    @ Andy: This isn’t interesting or unusual. The quota issue has been bitched about in sports for ages. And how does it differ from the woman who is accused of sleeping her way to the top, or the rich kid who made it thanks to his daddy’s connections? Then he falls back on the Apartheid card. Come on, this is shallow crap one expect’s from a News24 reader. Sounds like Julius with a “white” school education…

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  24. Chris says:

    @CNUT

    Andy please ban this cunt
    It’s him or me at this point

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  25. Sic Napse says:

    The real reason why Remy “fears” success is because it is usually accompanied by extra responsibilities. That is something which any mature adult understands and accepts. This piece was written by a child.

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  26. cockhorser says:

    Jesus.What a hard read. Your man who wrote this comes across as such a vacuous cunt that the colour of his skin is probably the last thing that has anything to do with his insecurities and need for attention.

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  27. Andy says:

    Hey Chris, we have a policy of non-intervention in terms of the comment boards. We’ve deleted about 3 comments in total and those were because the commenter contacted us on email and begged for their injudicious spoutings to be erased.

    I don’t see what everyone is so upset about regarding this piece. It’s a fine example of personal journalism. Remy exclaiming and decrying the situation as he sees it. As it applies to him.

    Now to address the criticism from Parker Poesy, So Sad, Zoidberg et al – who seem to think that this is not a particularly enlightening perspective on Mzansi race relations… well it’s the honest opinion of an articulate and educated person. Remy is publicly airing and working through an issue that is relevant to him. It’s a personal take that resonates on a much larger level for a lot of people out there. How many young black professionals, who constantly have to justify their success, feel the same way? And how many young black professionals are up on this comment board vilifying this piece of writing?

    Whether you like how it’s framed, or not, but this is a real issue. When it comes to race relations, a lot of people in the Mahala-comment-verse seem to want Mandela and Simunye and Freshlyground and feel good faux 1994 rainbow kak. That shit is gone. That was the high water mark, this is the low tide. This is the race debate, happening right here. You’ve got a slice of Remy’s mind here. Don’t hate on it, engage with it, challenge it, push and prod the thinking. Acknowledge your position and milieu and try be sensitive to the idea that other people experience shit differently and make it mean something else. You know, walk a mile in his shoes before you jump in and say what a load of shit he’s speaking.

    And stop looking to me as if I’m the ref and you want me to change the rules.

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  28. Poster says:

    Not a bad article and comment thread (compared to the other).

    One thing is for sure. No one likes CNUT.

    Thumb up5   Thumb down 6

  29. cnut's lawyer says:

    Please refrain from talking about my client like that. I like him.

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 7

  30. John Bernstien says:

    One thing is clear, CNUT, whoever that is, has major beef with Remy….must be a UCT thing.
    As for the article – it is true that one cannot proclaim it as the best analysis of race relations or the position of black people post-apartheid but an analysis it is either way and a relevant one at that. Andy makes a valid point; Remy speaks from his own perspective and rightly so, I don’t recall him suggesting that he was not. Funny how consistently, people who cannot relate to the positions of others find it best to rubbish them. Its like the DA and its affiliate liberals/egalitarians telling black people to get over the past and move on yet ironically that very past is what has shaped the present SA, corrupt politicians or not [after all corruption and nepotism were just as rife in those 'halcyon apartheid days' and it did not deter black oppression in any way]. I thought that mahala was a sight where rational people engaged with each other but seeing from some comments, there are clearly still those who suffer from the incredible delusions of thinking they “know it all” yet I am certain most of them only know 1 or 2 languages, little history or traditions & cultures of any language-group other than whites or the daily experiences of the majority of people in this country. One cannot speak/comment confidently about what they have little or no understanding & knowledge about – to do so is to risk being a fool.

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  31. Anonymous says:

    FFS Andy, you should have had a little violin soundtrack to this shit and maybe thrown in some free twinsavers for both the readers and the author. This is more stale than 16 year old bread.

    “Nouveau riche is better than no riche.”

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  32. Litmus Test says:

    Andy and 2 other people have clicked the FB “Like” button on this. That’s telling.

    Thumb up4   Thumb down 2

  33. mud-debunker says:

    First off let me call bullshit on your basic premise: I know plenty of hardworking, self-made, successful black business people who are neither villified nor held in contempt by any of their peers.

    On the contrary they tend to be lionized for making it against the odds of circumstance and perception. The trick though is that they tend to fly under the radar of public perception and try to get on with things without concering themselves with a need for self-publicity.

    This is the also the key point that you forget: most of those with questions around their virtues and ethics, need to be in the public spotlight to drive their business agenda. If they need that then they are fair game for scrutiny.

    Fortunately, if you have time to write such whiney poo-poo, you dont need to worry too much about the pitfalls of success.

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  34. Who the fuck is cnut? says:

    Dude, who the fuck are you? And why are you so pissed of at Remy? Did this guy sleep with your girlfriend or what?

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  35. CNUT is a bitch says:

    I know who CNUT is. Even in real life the guy is a bitch. I’ve always known, but his comments on this confirm it – he is a bitch. Can’t even comment with his real name. At least Remy was brave enough to put his opinion forward. You on the other had pussied out and commented anonymously. What a bitch.

    As for Remy’s opinion, I do not agree with it completely…but it is an opinion…just that. This is not the Bible. Let the man be.

    P.S: Cnut is a bitch. What a wanker.

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  36. Litmus Test says:

    Name him and shame him. Who is CNUT?

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  37. cnut says:

    Dumb-asses… name and shame me…

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  38. Up the cnut says:

    What is this the Mahala thought police?

    A comments board is nothing without someone who is vigorously and consistently objectionable

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  39. Iceberg says:

    Remy my man. I loved your piece.
    I get your point exactly. It’s a pity you’re speaking to the wrong crowd. This piece would have been home on the pages of The Sowetan or Chimorenga, but not here.

    Don’t let them fool you. Most of these young whities on mahala might come across as neo-liberals, but they are racist at their core. Remember how we snatched the country from their greedy parents and grandparents in 1994? They didn’t like that. And now it’s clear that we’re going after a bigger slice of the economy, there’s not much they can do about this and it pisses them off.

    Anyhow, keep writing about the plight of the new black upper middle class, but choose your publications carefully. Always remember that most whites on mahala are not interested in being your friends, in fact they don’t give a damn how black feel and what we think about race, our past and our future. They were raised to only think about themselves and their feelings, thus it took us decades to overthrow their racist apartheid regime.

    Anyway, ignore the critics and keep writing. Our day will come.

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  40. Fuck Norris says:

    Iceberg, my man.

    “Remember how we snatched the country from their greedy parents and grandparents in 1994?”

    I’m guessing your 17 or younger, pal. There was a referendum in 1992 where white South Africans were asked to vote on whether or not to end Apartheid – i.e. give black people the vote.

    68.7% of whites voted ‘yes’ to ending apartheid.

    Now you know. You were given the country back. Just try educate yourself a little, son, and you won’t come across as such a reactionary racist douchebag.

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  41. Iceberg says:

    F Norris my dude,

    “…in 1992 where white South Africans were asked to vote on whether or not to end Apartheid?”
    So you think you guys had a choice, huh? That’s so funny. You should go and preach that soft-minded white-superiority-complex bullshit to your fellow racist friends.

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  42. Hi5 says:

    wow andy. you’re really brining out the best in people. good work. screw that pansy mandela reconciliation shit. what we really need is race warfare. smart guy.

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  43. MK Veteran says:

    Hey Remy.

    You see? White South Africa hates it when a black man expresses his truest thoughts. Ask Julius. Besides, CT is not a blackman’s turf, especially with blant opinions like yours. You should move to Joburg, buddy. The man can’t fuck with you here, unless he is a card-carrying ANC member, of course. Lol!

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  44. Frank says:

    and this my friends is a perfect example of black mentality. it’s not racist, it’s being frank. unlike the piece.

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  45. cockhorser says:

    Fact is that when most white folks look at a wealthy black person they scheme
    “affirmative action”. And in most cases that wealth will be the result of affirmative action. Say what you like but a large part of the new black middle class and elite are totally incompetent at whatever they are qualified in and have never seen a day of hard work never mind done one.

    And when most black folks harp on about wealthy white people having had their privileges bestowed upon them through apartheid its true too. Fuck hard work,most rich white people are rich because they climbed out of a rich white pussy. How many white lawyers,doctors,engineers,accountants etc. have parents who did the same graft? Golden circles.Nothing more, nothing less.

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  46. Mike says:

    Has this jerk-off ever heard of Mokena Makeka?

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  47. Fuck Norris says:

    Iceberg you need to get yourself to a library this weekend and do some reading.

    Yes South Africans had another choice, they could have voted pro-CP and chosen the route of a militarised state. Sure there would have been sanctions, and uprisings, but a military lockdown of the country was perfectly viable, and definitely an option for some of the more hardcore whites – quite a few of whom saw even old PW as far left wing.

    At the time South Africa had a fairly powerful military that was very much white, and had all the hardware it needed to keep down the population. The TRC reported that 7000 people were killed by the Apartheid regime between 1948 and 1989, so if you think the SADF or Govt had shown even a fraction of the force they were capable of against some students armed with petrol bombs and rusty AK47s, you’re sadly deluded. Take a look at Israel to get an idea of what would have happened if the gloves had come off.

    And if you think an unpopular military dictatorship couldn’t have stayed in power, then keep in mind that 31 African countries have operated under unpopular military dictatorships to date. Unpopular governments can stay in place by force of arms. There would have been a civil war, and the side better armed would have won.and that was the other choice – and the one that wasn’t taken.

    But hey, whatever keeps you hating.

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  48. cnut says:

    Some of you chumps are so easily ‘wool-pulled-over-eyes’…

    Remy has made a written career out of playing the ‘disenfranchised black man living in post-apartheid South Africa’…

    FACT- he is not even South African!

    FACT- if the international students who pay his wages actually read this swill he’d no longer be a RA (glorified tour guide for ‘mostly white’ international students)

    And for you (seemingly many) ‘budding psychology majors’…

    FACT- CNUT as a young successful black SOUTH AFRICAN man thinks the only thing worse than a ‘post apartheid’ liberal Gen X white apologist… is a Gen Y black man that pulls the race card at every turn… or even worse one that does so in RSA to manipulate many when he is NOT even South African…

    FACT!

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  49. Iceberg says:

    White and proud hey Norris?

    Impressive. What are you, a history major? I’ll revisit my history books alright, but i doubt you guys gladly reliquenshed your power in 94.

    I think you buckled under pressure – there were just too many riots and guns in the townships, vicious MK army platoons approaching from our neighbouring African countries, and of course too many white dead bodies surfacing near our borders. But hey, I’ll revert with more facts after reading Moeletsi Mbeki’s Architects of Poverty this weekend.

    I also love how you still managed to keep the economy. That was a nice loophole in our referendum, a nice deal, wonder how you clinched that one. What made our black representatives so gullible, so short-sighted around those negotiation tables? It was possibly a fat bribe from the white oligarchy…

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  50. Fuck Norris says:

    Iceberg, no just white – more a light pink actually. And many more important things that have nothing to do with the colour of my hide besides that, all of which are more pertinent to me. I’m not proud or ashamed of my racial identity since the only time it’s made relevant to me is when I am attacked on the basis of having a pink skin. Like any collection of human beings, whites have much to be proud of and much to be ashamed of.

    I was just pointing out the flaw in your argument – the other choice was to escalate military action in the country: deploy the army in its entirety, bring in the airforce. It’s worked for Israel so far, sanctions, boycotts or not.

    Just out of interest I still have my school journal from 1992, in it is a whole section on the referendum and my feelings about the importance of voting ‘yes’ – I still have it sitting at home, my own piece of history. I was in a multi-racial school at the time, and I just wanted it to end because it was unfair and inhuman. My parents voted yes for the same reasons.

    As for the ‘you’ who kept the economy – I am not sure who you’re talking about. Certainly not me, who is knee deep in student debt, can’t afford a bond, is struggling to stay in the lower middle class, has no trust fund, no pension, no medical aid and works two jobs.

    The part of the economy I ‘keep’ is between my ears and was paid for by debt and lots of long hours in front of books and in shitty service jobs.One of my parents is on a R1100 monthly state pension.. I assure you any resemblance between me and Mssrs Oppenheimer and Rupert are coincidental and based purely on skin pigmentation.

    Also, if you’ve been paying attention to what’s going on you’ll know that our white oligarch friends have more than enough black oligarch buddies – so I guess they climbed through the loophole you mentioned too. Most of my black schoolfriends are several times wealthier than me, and power to them for that – they all got there through studying hard and working hard.

    The problem with your brand of racism is that its identical to the Apartheid mindset. You brutalise the dignity of the individual who does not conform to the stereotype you use to apply your racist vitriol. Your thinking is apartheid thinking my friend, so maybe the revolution needs to happen in your head.

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  51. [...] Rich & Black [...]

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  52. Solls says:

    I just believe any uneducated man who can make millions is more than smart as compared to millions of academics who are well educated but still can’t afford simply stuff until they retire.

    I think being black is good in South Africa and Africa as long as our black brothers know who to use their mind to get RICH legally and help other black to be RICH, and we don’t enjoy this RICHES like whites always do flying over seas and buying expensive boats what and why are u rich in a 1st place?

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  53. BlackManOverHere says:

    Booooooooo hooooooooo so you are afraid to be successful, thats fine remain in your box. I am a black Entrepreneur and I love my work with that said i have no time to ask someone’s permission on how I am doing.

    If you are going to spend your life looking around at who says what about you, you certainly will not get far in life……what you are saying in your article is your cop-out to be lazy and have a life that sucks

    Im sorry my black brother but you have a weak, poverty stricken mindset and attitude……not to mention that you are insecure about your own blackness………are you Kenny Kunene? If not why the hell are you taking his criticism for him? ……your article is largely racist though you are black ….and its racist towards black people because you are taking every successful black person and making them seem like Kenny Kunene

    Please my man, fix your mindset, you are doing South Africa no favors by writing such crap…….no black person appreciates this crap and im sure no white person appreciates this crap either…..so who exactly is this article for?…….the wynerz? if that is your target market….congregate in a park somewhere and cry your eyes out about being black……..i sure wont be part of you wyner community

    good luck

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  54. Soll says:

    Hi u all,

    I am a black South African, and I think we have a beautiful country. In life we always have good and bad people, rich and poor. I always believe excuses is what bring people down, is what keeps people from going forward. I am currently starting a mining business, I have no mining skill or experience, no money or anything, but I do all my best to invite people with skllls. As we speak, yesterday I approach one big mining company to go in partnership with my just started company, and they agreed, they come with their skills, experience and others, I am just making sure I have mining rights and investment in our country and also look for more investment. I am glad to say I work with other black and white south african who also have mining skill and experience. Being black doesn’t stop me from going forward. And believe me, people of all color talk bad about Rich people, blck, white, indian or any. People just talk. U can’t be rich and expect poor people to like u, they want to be rich bt they don’t want to sacrifice their time, and effort and work on being rich. I am not rich yet, but I know I’l be rich in next coming 3 years, I left my job as IT Specialist, my woman left me becoz of that, I lost friends becoz I don’t have any income, I lost my nice car and I am bck home, but I am sure I’l someday soon shake hands with our Patrice Motsepe. Is not about being black, is about being rich, and it happens all over the world. Lol

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