Guest Column

OPINION: Why we should believe in South Africa again

2020-02-21 15:20
History will remember and celebrate those who ignorantly and naively thought they could change the world, not the cynics prophesying doom, says the writer. (iStock)

History will remember and celebrate those who ignorantly and naively thought they could change the world, not the cynics prophesying doom, says the writer. (iStock)

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Do not expect to start having hope for South Africa when the reforms take place, because the reforms will never be enough, and the corruption will always too much. Do not expect rationality to convince you to be an optimist, because that will never happen, writes James de Villiers

South Africa is a country of believers.

Our entire existence have been defined by an unshakeable belief in the future; that behind the next decade lies the promised land.

The past few weeks, turning into months, our nation has, however, seen a heaviness descend into our hearts.

Instead of seeing the joyous laughter at traffic lights I once saw, I see depressed humans simply begging for an existence.

I've seen the tears of friends who have lost their jobs to retrenchments; swearing with them at the "white monopoly" companies who would treat their loyal employees in such a cold-hearted manner.

I cried with them, wondering where they will find the money to take care of their young children.  

And, I saw my friends and family, black and white, who booked tickets, immigrating to greener pastures, and wondered if I should be doing the same.

The past week, reading and writing about President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address I wondered where the belief in the future that once defined this nation fled to.

Reading through his sentences about fighting corruption, and building homes, I wondered why he was unable to inspire our people with a direction for the future.

Why, when South Africa is arguably in a much better place it was three years ago, do we stare aimlessly at the future?

There was a time in South Africa's past where our people had hope regardless of their circumstances.

From the day the African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912 - for nearly a hundred years - it fought a cruel, oppressive, dehumanising apartheid system, unwavering in its belief of a free, non-racial South Africa.

Despite the forces against it seemingly overwhelming and progress limited over many years, the ANC held on to the belief of a reborn nation.

What happened to that blind faith in the future?

Faith, I believe, is a decision, not a feeling.

To have hope things will improve is a conscious act of choosing optimism above cynicisms.

History will remember and celebrate those who ignorantly and naively thought they could change the world, not the cynics prophesying doom.

History will remember the man in India picking up pieces of trash on a beach, believing that his actions would one day lead to a clean beach.

History will remember the woman who planted hundreds of trees over 70 years, one at a time, doing her bit to fight deforestation.

History will celebrate the 17-year-old girl with Aspergers,  protesting every Friday against climate change.

And history will remember the men and women in rural Harrismith who decided to fix the sewage pipes themselves when the local government let them down.

These are every day heroes who defied rationality, naïvely believing that their actions can build a better world.

And like the downfall of apartheid, together individual actions form a wave so invincible that it can topple anything standing in its way.  

Do not expect to start having hope for South Africa when the reforms take place, because the reforms will never be enough, and the corruption will always too much.

Do not expect rationality to convince you to be an optimist, because that will never happen.

Instead, we need a naïve people who are brave enough to believe that their actions can change this country, and change this world.

Let’s stop allowing the column writers, who get paid to be cynics, to speak on our behalf.

Instead, let’s us, individually, start doing our bit to define our own destiny.

- James de Villiers is a journalist with Business Insider

Read more on:    apartheid  |  democracy  |  freedom
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