Saturday, May 16, 2009

It was the best of times, and the worst...

We live in a schizophrenic society in South Africa. Maybe that sounds harsh, or negative. There is a dichotomy that exists that is, on the one hand incredibly beautiful, and on the other deeply tragic.

Much of it comes from the hangovers of the past, for which there has been no instant-bloody-mary cure. No hair of the dog. No breakfast beer. The hangover just mutates and never seems to shake the tremors and anxieties and paranoia of the night before.

It’s too much to give all the credit for the best in South Africa to Nelson Mandela: The sense of community has always been there, and will remain here, and he tapped into that as the country tentatively went on those getting-to-know-you dates in the early 90’s.

But here we are: Facing horrific poverty, crime, drug abuse, gender violence and child abuse. Murder. Rape. And yet we stay here. We choose to. I hope that we can remain optimists, rather than survivors. That when we celebrate, and the world wonders why, they will see that we are a nation joined by tragedy and hope.

Here’s the reason for this reflection:

Yesterday, friend Tertia (famous blogger) gave birth to her son, Max, that in itself part of an ongoing miracle for her. And the sense of community is so great that the communal celebration pushed it into the top three Twitter trends in the world. #MaxDay was, for me, what represents the best in South Africa- a people who are capable of empathy and joy, and who show no reserve in that.
See the articles and links for more information:

And the worst of South Africa? Also picked up on Twitter- a blogging friend sent a message saying her friend’s father had gone missing. That his car had turned up. Could we help find him? And today she tells us that his body was found. This may be conjecture, but it is conjecture based on wide experience: I’m almost certain he was killed in a hijack/murder. I’ll of course retract that if it isn’t true, but it happens, hmm, every week? Day? People die for cellphones, cars, cigarettes, ten bucks, a pair of shoes... Certainly, South Africa has the highest per capita rape rate in the world- The Guinness Book says so. To our shame. And those are reported rapes, not the ones concealed for reasons of embarrassment, fear or shame.

Yet we can celebrate together, sometimes. We like it when our sports teams win. But that isn’t enough. Sport dominates the headlines in a way that dishonours the people of this country, that almost undermines our corporate mourning.

The sun rises over Africa, and shines on the South, and sometimes it is eclipsed by what can only be described as evil. But we know it will not set beyond the horizon never to rise again. We will wait for the morning with hope in our hearts.


  1. I'm not one to deny the existence of evil but is there more to this violence? Poverty must clearly be an issue but poverty alone doesn't drive people to violence - the world is rich in happy poor people who find contentment in their families and what little they have.

    Sorry, I don't really have a point here, this post just seemed like something deserving of comment even if it's just an ill-informed comment.

  2. @MDL: Quite right- there are poor, yet peacable, people elsewhere in the world. I suspect that a combination of social factors compel a portion of society to respond in this way. Even in SA there are poor people living with dignity and faith. Drugs, gangs and a criminal subculture are just the usual reasons, but seemingly more widespread here than in other countries.

  3. It is very frightening and very sad when senseless shit keeps happening. And I get really angry when people sing "shosholoza" together at sports events and get all excited by how everyone gets along...


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