Much has been said this year about the leadership of our country. And, let's be honest, with South Africa cast firmly in the global spotlight following Madiba's passing, the comedy of errors couldn't be more unfortunately timed. From a bogus schizophrenic interpreter with a history of violent behaviour nonchalantly sharing the stage with the world's foremost leaders, to a raucously heckled president at the same occasion. From the Northern Cape Premier's finger-licking R50k fast food binge to the Big Fat Gupta Wedding graciously (if somewhat inexplicably) hosted via Waterkloof airbase, we thought we had seen it all.
And then came the invention of the world's first (and incomprehensibly expensive) residential "fire pool", complemented by a rather grand retaining wall remarkably reminiscent of an amphitheater. Features which (amongst others) raised the well-manicured eyebrows of our public protector as supposed "security" upgrades of the president's hotly debated homestead. As South Africans cringe in collective embarrassment, the rest of the world could be forgiven for thinking that we are intent on demonstrating, in the most vivid ways possible, just how dull this former jewel in the African crown has become.
But let's forget, for a second, the sycophantic babbling of Nxesi, and Phiyega's woefully inadequate yet wildly entertaining defense of Nkandla's chicken coop. Momentarily, let's ignore the mystery of Limpopo's disappearing text books and the sad travesty that was the Marikana massacre. Let's "EFF" off the red beret, take a step back from the Security Cluster's see-through smoke screen and "fork off" the ANCYL's self-indulgent rhetoric. It's time for the proverbial meta-cognitive slap. Because, as monumental as these issues may seem in the here and now of our political landscape, they are perhaps quite inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things.
What really matters is a simple game of numbers. The basic yet inescapable truth is that those of us who frown upon the conduct of our reigning leaders are (and will for the foreseeable future continue to be) in the minority. Regardless of whether we are black, white, caramel or green. Notwithstanding whether we are unemployed in the townships, sweating it out in the working class suburbs, languishing amongst the Bedfordview bourgeois or styling with the Camps Bay elite - we remain in the minority.
To the majority, the purported shortcomings of the president are not nearly as earth-shattering as they might seem around well-laid Sandton dinner tables. There are two things of true significance to the majority: finding hope and dispelling fear amongst the direness, the crippling poverty, the unemployment and the crime-riddled destitution that is the reality of most people in this country's everyday existence. The post-1994 leadership of our country - the 'new regime' - represent a collective symbol of hope to the South African majority. The hope of overcoming one's circumstance despite humble origins, and achieving success in life. Sometimes deservedly, and sometimes without having a proper education, or without developing the necessary capability first. Sometimes even purely through connections or dubious deals rather than merit, but success nonetheless. The hope of that magical rise from the ashes to a palatial homestead in Nkandla, or a Malema-esque mansion in Sandown.
While sadly, opposition parties such as the DA represent to this electorally important majority not hope, but fear. Abject fear of the return of the oppressor, of history repeating itself. Fear that dreams of redemption from the leaden shackles of reality will be shattered. That everything we have worked for in the last 20 years would be overturned in the marking of a ballot. A paralyzingly real fear that will almost certainly preclude a significant shift in political sentiment.
And so, when it comes time to vote in 2014, the majority will prevail - as indeed it should in a healthy democracy. Driven, in equal measure, by hope and fear. For these are two of the most fundamental tenets of the human condition. And they form the basis of a battle that will always rage more strongly in our hearts than in our minds. Until those of us in the minority (and especially the political leaders of South Africa's opposition) acknowledge and embrace this basic human reality, change will remain but a dream.
In the meantime, my fellow South Africans: grab your popcorn and Coke, buckle up and settle in for a bumpy ride. Get ready to continue being surprised, saddened, amused, ashamed, entertained and disappointed as we proceed on our journey in hope and fear. And be sure to smile and wave at the e-toll gantries as you pass them by along the way!
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