Goodbye world, hello South Africans

2010-07-14 00:00

THE magic of the World Cup is still in the air. We can still hear the Vuvuzelas in the background and see the brightly coloured flags flying. Not only has the World Cup provided marvellous entertainment for football lovers and turned ignoramuses into enthusiastic experts, but it has buried negativity about South Africa at home and abroad. We showed ourselves and the world that we are a country and a province to be reckoned with.

There is a new sense of unity, warmth and tolerance among South Africans, but we have also embraced our brothers and sisters on the African continent. South African hearts filled with pride when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored that first goal of the tournament, and when Bafana Bafana beat France we wanted to sing “our cup runneth over”. We embraced Ghana with passion and pride when they were the only African team left and wept when they were defeated. The last thing on our collective mind was racial and other differences.

KwaZulu-Natal has always been the most popular domestic destination, but lagged behind Gauteng and Western Cape on the international front from an investment and tourism perspective. Those days are gone. We are now firmly on the world map as the warmest place to be in every sense of the word.

The stage is now set for a new dawn in KwaZulu-Natal. Our international friends will come back — not only as tourists but also as investors and trading partners. But this has not come about by itself. The KwaZulu-Natal government had a well-thought-through strategy in place to derive maximum benefit for our province from the World Cup. We seized the moment to showcase our province like never before. Strategic international guests, i.e. potential investors and trading partners, ministers from different countries, royalty, ambassadors, celebrities and the international media were hosted by our government under the leadership of Premier Zweli Mkhize with a view to forging stronger ties with the international community. Our guests included people as diverse as the Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, and Ben Southall of The Best Job in the World fame. We strengthened our relationship with Brazil by giving a Brazilian delegation an opportunity before the Brazil vs Portugal match to tell us about the next World Cup which will be hosted by them. Our guests have been waxing lyrical about KwaZulu- Natal and South Africa.

For the past month we have seen ourselves through the eyes of the world. We saw a nation that we can all be proud of. We saw a nation united and at peace with itself. We saw a nation that is not only warm, hospitable and fun loving, but also efficient and capable of hosting one of the major events in the world. We saw the beauty of our country and our province.

But as our international guests leave our shores, we dare not allow that beautiful picture to fade. We must keep alive the positive spirit that has enveloped our country. We must actively look for that which unites us and not dwell on our differences which are often more perceived than real. But where there are true differences, let us display greater tolerance towards each other. Part of our charm and strength is our rich diversity.

South Africans experienced oppression mainly through something as arbitrary as skin colour. But when we start peeling away the layers, we often find that the dividing issues are actually class, gender and cultural matters. However, given our past of racial injustice we are very quick to label any differences as racism. Of course there is still racism which must be rooted out. However, let us build on the gains of the World Cup and stop blaming everything on race when it has nothing to do with racial differences.

The world has long been in awe of our democracy after such a violent past. Now the world is in awe of what we have achieved since the birth of that democracy. Let’s take the positive spirit of the World Cup further by working tirelessly to achieve even more — socially and economically. Let us continue building our nation by making a conscious effort to get to know each other.

We have succeeded in building “a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations” as pledged our Constitution. But our work is not complete.

So, goodbye World and thank you for giving us a new perspective on ourselves. Hello fellow South Africans and thank you for making us proud.

• Ina Cronjé is the KZN MEC for Finance.

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