South Africa today: the state of the nation
I felt compelled to write another piece.
As the rape and thence murder of Anene Booysens continues to illicit a varied reaction across SA and the world, the deeper issue of the culture of violence permeating in SA has taken center stage .
There are so many problems, so I’ll dive right on top of one of the biggest; though to be honest, no one could really change this in a substantial way – some problems take time to sort out, and some pain will only become manageable with even more time, the scars though, will remain, for a very very long time…
I speak of Apartheid of course, and the fact that the nation of the New South Africa was born out of this heinous and evil construct. The nation which emerged was fraught with problems, but equally so, alive with possibility (to use a marketing catch phrase) and boundless potential.
With such a fractured and divisive past, our subsequent number one enemy has always been ourselves. We know what we can achieve, and have achieved, but division persists with too many corrupt officials/government members, and an inactive public. However, everything I’m saying, and can and want to say, has already been said, so I’ll throw in some quotes here
This is from a recent article on the Daily Maverick online newspaper:
“We don’t know to what extent the frustration of young and old males, at their wits end in a society that has discarded them, where they have no jobs and women tend to get things quicker exacerbates the situation. That is not a cause, but could be an underlying issue behind incidence of sexual violence.”
“We are notorious as one of few societies where children who can hardly walk and grandmothers are raped,” Cooper said. Women who are intellectually challenged have also been victims of gang rapes and exploitation.
“Ours is a violent society. The first resort is a violent reaction. We think afterwards about the consequences and that is a problem,” Cooper said.
The Marikana massacre, rampant service delivery protests, murder, rapes, road deaths, police brutality and other horrors shock us when they happen, but society recovers and moves on quickly. Self-preservation takes precedence.
South Africa seems to be reacting to rape in the same way as to other forms of exploitation such as abuse of power and corruption. We are pounded daily with the rape of the public purse and the political elite using their positions to feather their own nests. As we already diagnosed, scandal fatigue is a new South African syndrome as acceptance of corruption as a norm has set in.
In all these instances, the powerful abuse the weak and society learns to look on dispassionately. This is a far cry from the society that stood up against a powerful oppressive regime and conquered it, where community activism was the frontline defence against tyranny.
The agony and death of Anene Booysen is a signal of a sick society, our society. Hers is more than a story of the violent rape of an innocent. Anene Booysen is our country. The abuse and defilement must stop. We must stop it.
Of all the varied cultures we have in South Africa, the one we’re tending to cultivate and nurture the most in this near twenty year democracy, is violence.
Here, where societal inequality is unparalleled (just the other day I watched a magazine program, showing off the a beautiful palatial mansion with sea views, a swimming pool and an entertainment deck – for the kids to entertain their friends with table tennis or snooker etc… meanwhile a few kilometers away, there are people who don’t even have a toilet in their own tiny house), dividing the country into the “have” and “have not’s”. As one local white comedian/ventriloquist put it “I grew up with the ‘we hate apartheid, but we benefited from it’ group”… the current democratically elected government has seemingly just left its people to fend for themselves – “If you want wealth, go get it”. This mentality, of every man for himself, has perpetuated from government down throughout South Africa, where we only seem to galvanize when our national sports team takes the field.
There’s a lot of angst, frustration, unresolved anger, hurt and passion brewing beneath the surface, issues that weren’t dealt with in the Truth and reconciliation Commission (which should not have ended so soon) for example. Most uneducated black people (a result of every SA gov.) are too quick to haul out the race card whenever something goes against them, and most white people are too afraid/ashamed to talk about the past, and pain and suffering they know little of. I don’t know what it’s like to be forced from my home under an oppressive government and dangerous security police as I’ve grown up in a sheltered environment, mostly in the new South Africa, but older generations of my family can speak of such experiences – and that’s just one aspect… We’ve come out of an evil regime, and simply tried to live normally, act as we usually would if there was never an apartheid to speak of, but the scar on the nation as a whole is too deep to ignore.
Plainly put, there’s very little dialogue between portions of society, a place or moment where one or many can vent their concerns and frustrations. So everyone seems to talk amongst friends, or keep their thoughts to themselves.
I finished compiling and writing this article shortly after an introspective stroll down the Sea point promenade. Sitting there on a bench watching ships disappear and emerge from the mist off shore, looking down into the deep blue of the Atlantic, feeling the refreshing breeze which took the sting out of a hot day…
The violence which has become common place in SA, and which for so many abroad is synonymous with us, is perhaps the civil war we should have had but didn’t. It was a miracle that we averted war – a poster for peace and reconciliation – but the same tools we carried in anticipation for conflict and survival, we now use on ourselves, frothing up in various forms, from drug and alcohol abuse to violence against our fellow men and women, compounded further by corruption, poverty, AIDS, all forms of crime, a lack of education, and thence morals and ethics - it's a different, passive kind of civil war.
It's always amazing to me, just a few days ago my family played host to some friends from Switzerland, and their impression, along with countless others who've visited our shores, was that South African's are a warm and loving people, always ready to accommodate... so, when we put our best foot forward we can be example's for the world, but at the same time, our internal conflict can be the shame of the world - or at least one example of it...
During the last days of apartheid, so many people prayed for a peaceful end, the country was a nervous hive of tension and prayer,as most sought God's guidance in our most trying time... how many though continued, and are still praying for the wellbeing of the nation?