Georgina Guedes

South Africa’s darkest hours

2015-05-29 12:26

Georgina Guedes


I can remember driving through the streets of Johannesburg on the first day of the Fifa 2010 World Cup. On the side of the highway offramp, a woman was selling flags and hats and banners and vuvuzelas, but she wasn’t walking up and down approaching vehicles. Instead, she sat swathed in her wares, head thrown back, yelling “Ke Naaaaaaaaako!” She was the embodiment of pure joy.

The memory of that moment brings me chills on my skin, a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes every time.

The world was in the midst of an economic crisis. Everything was awful. But while all of that was going on in the grey nations of Elsewhere, South Africa was full of vibrant, glorious, colourful splendour.

People from all around the world flocked to our shores to share this experience with us. We welcomed them with open arms, and proved the naysayers wrong. Our World Cup was awesome.

We were the best nation in the world right then, and it felt like we were at the pinnacle of delivering on our post-Apartheid promise.

All downhill from there

Fast forward five short years, and we are at our lowest low. On the same day that a newsclip of our president tittering about his unlawfully enriched compound went viral, the findings of a crony report were released saying that actually, a swimming pool and a cattle kraal are actually security features.

And as an extra kick in the teeth, we were told that there will be more upgrades because they still need to install motion detector beams and cameras. So not only have we been fleeced, but Zuma’s pal Police Minister Nathi Nhleko would like us to offer up our wallets for a further looting.

But that was to be expected. It wasn’t really going to turn out any other way. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is a rare gem for having the guts and integrity to stand up to our crook of a president. There wasn’t going to be a repeat performance.

They’ll take our World Cup, too

What we didn’t expect this week, though, was to have the carpet of our World Cup happiness retrospectively whipped out from beneath us by the Fifa arrests and allegations. Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has however hotly denied the claims that South Africa paid any kind of a bribe to the organising body.

God, I hope he’ll turn out to be right. But I’m doubtful. I mean, in light of recent events, what reason have we been given to trust government denials of anything? In fact, the way that things unfold around here, it would be more likely that he’d deny paying the bribe and then hand over another envelope in broad daylight and say, “This is not a bribe either.”

This is an impressive double-whammy. They’ve taken away any last shred of hope that our president will be held accountable for his wrongdoings. And now they’ve taken away the best thing that we’ve done in the last five years. (Never mind the blow to our economy and morale that’s come in the form of the Eskom disaster.)

South Africa, I’m losing faith. Give me a reason to believe…

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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