Reflecting on the road travelled

2010-02-06 00:00

IT seems like yesterday when Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela walked hand-in- hand, following his release from jail after 27 years. I remember ANC cadres with high-powered rifles and machine guns ring-fencing the leadership of the organisation as they greeted followers. Mandela had grown older than the person I knew from T-shirts and brochures which were distributed in Lamontville and various other townships across the country.

On Thursday, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Mandela and other political prisoners from jail, and we will be reflecting on the road travelled thus far. There was a lot of scepticism following their release and there was talk of a civil war.

The AWB and some pockets of the Afrikaans community were talking of a homeland exclusive to them, while the rest of the country was on fire, as residents in then-homelands Bophuthatswana and Ciskei were in revolt against apartheid puppets and sellouts Lucas Mangope and Oupa Gqozo. In the midst of all that, Zulus, in the form the ANC and the IFP, were fighting among themselves in the name of political intolerance in a civil war of their own.

The country was in chaos and this culminated in the bloody killing of SACP leader Chris Martin Thembisile Hani at his home in Dawn Park, Boksburg. This is when South Africa turned the corner, I believe, as we were either going to be at war with each other and kill the dream or we were going to make this work.

Some pockets of the white population packed their bags and left the country, fearing the wave of uncertainty that had engulfed the country, while some Afrikaners preferred to dig tunnels, bulletproof their homes and buy a couple of years’ supply of food. The black population had nothing but hope for what lay ahead. Besides, political unrest was part of their daily lives. They learnt to survive within and around it.

It was tough for the previously advantaged as the changes on the political landscape meant they had to share resources which had previously been exclusively theirs and their share of the pie got smaller. The scepticism displayed then by some quarters of the South African community can be likened to that which has been displayed towards this country’s ability to host the Soccer World Cup.

It’s 16 years into our now not-so-new democracy and things are looking up for this country, despite what our detractors would like everyone here and abroad to believe.

Mandela and others are free but ordinary citizens continue to be shackled in the same quagmire they were in two decades ago. As this country rises to greater heights, it needs to do so with its ordinary people or else the people will rise up against the government.

PS. I have been told that Jacob Zuma has come up with his own rendition to rap artist 50 Cent’s song Have A Baby By Me Baby [Be A Millionaire] titled Have A Baby By Me Baby [Be A First Lady]. While Chelsea captain John Terry will feature in his own sitcom titled Other Footballers’ Wives.

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