South Africa – A Pendulum
There are times when I look on South Africa from abroad and remember with fondness the rich and beautiful country of my birth. I left South Africa some 10 years ago, to go and experience and grow my career. During these last 10 years I have done a fair amount of soul searching and questioning of my place in this world, where I am best suited to live, and what the future holds for me in each of the choices in front of me.
Firstly let me start this analogy by stating that I am hugely optimistic about South Africa and what it has to offer its entire population. This is said for all races, creeds, religions and the entire demographic. South Africa’s people are some of the most hospitable, warm-natured and giving people I have come across in my travels through Africa, Europe, Asia and America.
I miss walking down the road to the shop and greeting anybody that I passed along the street. Whether it was ‘Eita Baba’ or ‘Sawubona Sisi’; ‘Ja Oom’ or ‘More Tannie’; or just the casual nod and smile to the fellow passer-by. I still believe this to be true for most people in South Africa and hope that the level of distrust in each other and our very different upbringings both from the ‘privileged’ white people or ‘previously disadvantaged’ black folk that this has not stopped. This does not happen in many places in the world I have been to, and one of the things that makes me miss South Africa.
I am in no way an apartheid apologist, if anything I am a realist, and I realise that as white people who account for only 8% of the total population, held the country under its control under a brutal regime for the better part of 90 years.
“The term Apartheid was introduced during the 1948 as part of the election campaign by DF Malan's Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP – 'Reunited National Party'). But racial segregation had been in force for many decades in South Africa. In hindsight, there is something of an inevitability in the way the country developed its extreme policies. When the Union of South Africa was formed on 31 May 1910, Afrikaner Nationalists were given a relatively free hand to reorganize the country's franchise according to existing standards of the now-incorporated Boer republics, the Zuid Afrikaansche Repulick (ZAR – South African Republic or Transvaal) and Orange Free State. Non-Whites in the Cape Colony had some representation, but this would prove to be short-lived.”
Now I know our segregation started and was implemented way before this, our history of transfer of land ownership under ‘white man’s law’ goes back way further than this. The many battles fought in our history whether between the Voortrekkers and Dingaan’s soldiers in the battle of Blood River in 1838, or the Anglo-Zulu war fought between the British led by Lord Chelmsford against the Zulu King Cetshwayo in 1879.
This is all history that can account for much ill feeling that has been promulgated on both sides, and evidently there has always been one clear successor in nearly all these battles. This ultimately led to our more recent history and the formation of racial segregation.
South Africa is a very new country in terms of history. I only really realised this properly after living in a country where I have seen ruins that date back to the Romans in Britain to AD70. The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre in the basement of one of the old guildhalls. The guildhall was built and founded in 1411, a full 370 years before the Dutch and later than the British arrived in South Africa. The British Democracy was created, formulated, changed, adapted, written and rewritten over the course of centuries. South Africa as a ‘true’ democracy is barely starting to sit up and identify with the fact that it’s alive. Like a new-born baby sitting up for the first time.
South Africa is one of the only countries in history to go through the transition of power from minority controlled government to majority controlled government without bloodshed. Look at Mozambican Civil War (1975-1992), Rwandan Civil War (1990-1993), Kosovo War (1998-1999), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995), Ivorian War (2002-2007), need I mention Libya or Syria or the many ex-colonial failures throughout Africa. This is just a fraction of the wars in the last 30 years. All due to transitions of power with one government holding on to power, and factions that were fighting against this. This could so easily have been part of our recent history. I believe South Africa and South Africans of all creeds do not want this to happen. That there is enough good will and honesty amongst the normal South Africans that this will never come to pass. This is why we have been regarded internationally as the Rainbow Nation. This term is not given without merit a testament to the great strides we have made as a nation from a dark and horrid past.
South Africa will take generations to adapt and grow, to formulate and bed in its own Constitution. There will also be a time of restitution. A time where the first people at the front of the line will indulge and splurge and lose touch of their bearings. Unfortunately at the expense of the people who truly need the assistance to grow our great nation. It would be naïve to think that this could be resolved in the first 20 years of our infantile democracy.
I truly believe that the Pendulum needs to swing the other way for a period before this is ever going to settle. This will probably not happen in my lifetime, yet I understand and respect this process that is needed for South Africa to reach its potential.
South Africa, I have one wish for you, and that you roll with these punches. Deal with the strikes, the mining industry, the corruption, the land claims, the crime but please keep dealing with all of these issues from the front foot. Don’t let it break down to total anarchy where chaos reigns and only the elite prosper. Let this current government make the mistakes that are going to happen, and let there be strong wilful people to pick up the pieces and grow the country to where it is supposed to be, when this government falls flat. It does not matter if it is ANC with intellectuals at the helm, DA, IFP, COPE or any party, just a party with the right ideals, the right culture, and right values to help South Africa reach its potential.