South Africans are not patriotic

2009-03-10 00:00

When compared with other countries on this continent, it is generally agreed that South Africa is advanced when it comes to some things and quite backward when it comes to others.

Most people agree, for instance, that this country is more technologically advanced than other African countries. I do not think that there is any country that matches us with the number of universities we have. In fact, most of these countries send their youth and other students to study here. But let me end here before some think I am bragging.

For all our advancement, there is one area where we are so behind that it is a serious concern. I will illustrate this with a couple of examples. Some time back a colleague and friend from Lesotho was visiting. During an informal discussion at work, someone said, in the presence of my friend, that as Lesotho is landlocked by South Africa it would be better if it became South Africa’s 10th province.

Stupidly, I agreed with this view, when I know how proud the Basotho are of their country and their culture. To say my friend was disappointed in me would be to state the obvious. But fortunately, he forgave me when I apologised and said that I do not really believe that South Africa needs another province.

Swaziland is another country that sometimes sends its citizens to train as nurses here. A nursing sister I know said that local nurses are always amazed to see how the Swazis wear their traditional attire, which is often adorned with pictures of the king, with national pride. Also, the locals are often taken aback by the way the nurses from Swaziland defend their country and its people.

This is something South Africans are lacking: a love for our country and our land. When outsiders criticise this country and its people, we are the first to join in and add more criticism. We lack pride in ourselves as a people and a nation.

With so many Zimbabweans in this country and with so many problems engulfing that country, you would expect these people to be providing us with every detail of how evil President Robert Mugabe is. But no, they do not do that. How many sports people, singers, farm workers and shop assistants from Zimbabwe do we have here? Yet it is mostly white Zimbabweans who make the greatest noise. The majority of the suffering black Zimbabweans are very quiet.

The result is that many of the people who constantly tell us how bad things are with our northern neighbour are white South Africans or their Zimbabwean counterparts. In fact, one Sunday paper has on more than one occasion asked why Zimbabweans have not risen up against their government.

South Africans do not understand the meaning of the word patriotism. So much of the negative publicity that this country has been subjected to, I would confidently venture, comes from South Africans themselves.

We do not seem to care how much dirt we expose about our country to whomever is prepared to listen to our whining, and the damage that this does to us and our country.

We behave as if we have another country that we can call home, when we don’t. Of course, I am really referring to the indigenous people of this country. We do this, knowing that African culture frowns upon any family member who airs his or her family’s dirty linen in public.

Small countries like Malawi, Benin, Namibia, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Mali may have less in terms of wealth and resources compared with us, but their people are proud of who they are. They may not have achieved as much as we have technologically, but they have something that we don’t: each one of these countries protects themselves and their leaders from hostile elements.

• Bhungani kaMzolo is a former journalist now working for the government. He writes in his personal capacity.

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