The cracks of the rainbow nation: the year of discontents

2015-12-27 17:22

The cracks of the rainbow nation: 2015, the year of discontents

This was a very eventful year characterised or, rather, captured by the hashtag EverythingMustFall. The year's series of events can also be captured by Chinua Achebe’s book title, Things Fall Apart, as it seems nothing was socially and politically rising in the year 2015 in South Africa.

The year started with ‘pay back the money’ slogan, which dominated parliamentary proceedings in a way that has never been seen since the inception of democratic South Africa. The slogan became synonymous with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) demanding that President Jacob Zuma pays back the money related to the upgrades of his personal homestead. Nkandla was upgraded with two hundred and fifity million rands, and the public protector’s investigation of the issue suggested that the president unduly benefited from the upgrades and therefore necessary to pay back some of the money.

However, to date, no money has been paid despite multiple protests in parliament led by the opposing political parties, particularly the EFF, which also led to their unprecedented forceful removal from parliament by police.

Furthermore, the #RhodesMustFall movement captured the imagination of not only South Africans but also many around the world, as it was the cry for the destruction of imperialism symbols and other similar colonial projects representations across the world. The student-led protests did see the removal of Rhodes's statue and the vandalism of other similar statues around the country. The cry for the removal of Rhodes statue continues in Oxford University amidst attempts by individuals such as the apartheid’s last president to defend the existence of such bloodstained artefacts.

Subsequently, the hashtag #FeesMustFall student-led movement followed suit to respond to the university fees' exorbitant increment that triggered student marches (nationally) to the Union Buildings and led to the president’s address to the nation: there will be zero increase for the coming year. This was seen as a major victory not only to the students seeking escape from poverty through education, but also to the growth of South Africa’s young democracy.

Moreover, Malema’s most revealing critique of Mandela suggesting that he was a sellout who failed to deliver economic freedom further exposed the existing cracks in South Africa’s social fabric. Many disagreed with Malema’s narrative of Mandela’s failed project, but some quietly agreed with him in the face of the blackness of poverty and the whiteness of wealth in South Africa.

Noteworthy, is the recurrence of the attacks of foreign nationals, which seemed to further revealed South Africans’ inability to tolerate difference in the face of social challenges. The attacks garnered global condemnation, and almost isolated South Africa from the rest of the African continent.

The very last 2015 straw that shocked the nation was Zuma’s surprising removal of the finance minister, Mr. Nene, and replacing him with the unknown lawmaker Mr. van Rooyen. Though the latter’s ministerial honeymoon lasted for about three days. This cabinet reshuffle activated the free-fall of the rand to about the record low R16 to the USD and led to the reinstatement of the former finance minister Mr. Gordhan, a move that seemed to be very welcomed by both the markets and everyday people.

These developments further revealed the growing cracks of the rainbow nation and led to the march that demanded the fall of Zuma or, rather, his removal from the office because of this unprecedented cabinet reshuffle. It was, however, observed that the hashtag #ZumaMustFall march was largely white in terms of attendance, which then raised the question of whether South Africans are reconciled enough in post-apartheid South Africa. Again, Zuma’s political slipperiness and ability to survive politically was in full display for all to see, and before we knew it people were talking about race not Zuma’s political wrong move to date.

To this end, all of these major political and social events of the year 2015 seem to be largely connected with economic issues. This seems to be very interesting in the light of the abundance of commentaries pointing to the ticking time bomb phenomenon that is given impetus by the racially skewness of poverty and economic disparities between the rich and poor in South Africa.

Lastly, elsewhere in my commentaries founded upon empirical evidence, I have argued for the need to deal with social injustice if we as a nation want to hold together the so-called miracle of our rainbow nation, democracy, peace, and stability founded upon Mandela’s reconciliatory ideals.

To further expand on this need for social justice and suggest the way forwards, recently, our tourism company Vuk’Africa Tours in partnership with Durban Tourism and Thousands Hills Tourism organised the annual Know Your Neighbour Event on Reconciliation Day. The event brought together black-and-white-owned tourism businesses for not only networking purposes but also possible partnerships in the interest of economic growth and what I call economic cohesion. The idea of economic cohesion speaks directly to the need for social cohesion that is founded upon the general enjoyment of human rights through economic empowerment across the board. This is the very ingredient needed to strengthen South Africa’s peace and stability, and give birth to genuine reconciliation.

Fellow South Africans, as we close this year, let us be generous with our skills, and money in the interest of a secured future for our children and their children’s children.

Happy New Year, South Africans.

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