“Wild at Heart” and “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” are two television series set in Southern Africa. Relying on entirely sanitised, romantic depictions of life there, these shows nonetheless manage to convey something special and unique about what we all love about the place and its people. I’m going to argue that there was A Golden Opportunity to make things right, but it was lost not by government, but by the fallibility of you, the people. The result is what you see in front of you today.
Before 1994, the deals were already done and the ruling elites had set a course that was destined to bear the fruits that we are all too familiar with in Africa. For recent reference, examine the patterns to be found in your neighbour to the north (actually pretty much all your neighbours to the north). The ruling cliques are as cunning as they are ruthless, and they care as much for the Afrikaner farmer as they do for the ordinary township resident. This is slowly dawning on the populace, as evidenced by the concerned columns of both black and white newspaper commentators. The problem is, it’s about a decade too late. What you, the humble South African resident, see is the tip of the iceberg. Like the doomed travellers on an infamous ocean voyage a century ago, you’ve been very busy. Busy re-arranging the deck-chairs, that is.
Many of us are familiar with Smuts Ngonyama’s “I did not join the struggle to be poor” comment. Take that, people, as the creed of the current elite. All of you are now confronting the daily consequences of being governed by greed. But wait, it doesn’t end there. The culture of the nation is one of crude heartlessness, crass materialism and untrammelled and conspicuous consumption. You are all aware of the ills of the rainbow nation, so no need for further elaboration. Societies are built on good governance, sound economic management and strong institutions. Most of all they are built on values. Today ask your friends and yourself, ”What are the values of our nation?”
No country is perfect, as we see from the economic troubles in the more prosperous nations. This isn’t a call to vote DA, nor is it an exhortation to emigrate (although I can assure you that the latter can be a very worthwhile decision). It’s about the soul and identity of a very unique and incredibly diverse and beautiful country. It’s about seeing things as they are and confronting some difficult truths by asking the awkward questions. It might already be too late (I personally believe that the country will fail) but maybe there are some brave people out there who can prove me wrong? Who reckons it’s time to think about the kids and emigrate? Either way, there are some tough decisions ahead. Best of luck, South Africans. You’re gonna need it.