Beloved country scarred by its past

2013-02-24 10:00

For a while, foreign correspondents have been mumbling that South Africa is dead as a story until a certain old man passes on.

But, we surprise, and each time, they need to bring in reinforcements, cameras and heavy-hitters for another global story.

The killing fields of Marikana spring to mind.

So does the rape and murder of Anene Booysen three weeks ago.

The story of the Valentine’s Day killing of pretty-as-a-peach model Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius, a sportsman and figure of global heroism, has an epic scale to it.

It is a story of South Africa. And its people.

Pistorius, or just “Oscar” as he’s known locally, is an apt symbol of South Africa, as Niren Tolsi wrote in the Mail & Guardian on Friday.

He is heroic and overcame a struggle against adversity, as did his country.

But Oscar, it turns out, is scarred – like his country – by violence, by rage, by machismo.

Like the country, he seemed to favour the gun over the olive branch.

The bail hearing has revealed more: a criminal justice system that is divided and inept.

Prosecutors and the initial police investigators were undeniably divided, and the initial detective work looks cack-handed.

As the banker Paul Harris wrote about South Africa in a recent letter: “The standard deviation of our emotions are set at Max.”

South Africa’s news landscape moves fast and at highs and lows of striking proportion. Debates are furious and loud; protests omnipresent; opinions varied and fought passionately.

We deserve the epithet “miracle” to explain our birth as a democracy, as much as the adjective “troubled” to explain the gendered, interpersonal and stranger violence besetting the beloved country.

We own too many guns.

High crime is an outcome of joblessness and inequality, both among the highest in the world.

The hearing into whether Pistorius should get bail divided South Africans as the case was sliced and diced every which way.

But what we might do well to remember is this: an accused is innocent until proven guilty.

And that as much as ours may be a miracle nation, at some point we have to face our demons and deal with them to reach the place of peace, unity and harmony chronicled in the Constitution.

The deep anger, the violence, the patriarchy, the racial schisms all deserve deeper intro-spection.

Of course, this is the story of the unnecessary and violent killing of one lovely young South African at the hands of another.

But it is also a story about our country.

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