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Thu Oct 23 21:52:40 SAST 2014

SA - as seen by the 'born-frees'

Shaanaaz de Jager | 19 April, 2013 00:58
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University campus

Smuts Ngonyama had to rely entirely on research assistants to ensure that his thesis for his master's degree was accurate and balanced.

The COPE acting deputy president and a former ANC spin-doctor received his M Phil degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University yesterday.

His thesis was titled Construction of a Common National Identity in South Africa, and had a special focus on people born after 1994,referred to as the "born-frees".

Ngonyama said he did not want his political position to intimidate respondents and influence the outcome of his research - so he relied on research assistants.

"I didn't want them to feel they had to answer questions different to what they have answered. They were brutal in answering questions. They were a tough lot," he said.

"They questioned what race had to do with their studies, why tick a box to identify yourself as coloured, white or another race group. They feel we are trying to pass our anger and divisions onto them."

In his research, Ngonyama explored whether South Africa was truly a "rainbow nation" and whether, with the country's "beleaguering past, we have managed to do away with [apartheid]".

He said those he interviewed, from Western Cape schools, felt it was important to correct imbalances. They questioned affirmative action and black economic empowerment.

"They are much more united than us and become angry when we divide them. Young people born in the 1990s do not share the enmity that's still so much with the older generation. They want to be regarded as one nation, as South Africans," he said.

"We do understand what happened but it's for all imbalances to be addressed and dealt with, such as all infrastructure in the townships and schools."

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