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The Great Divide(r)

9th April 2010

By: Amy Witherden


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Just over two months ahead of the FIFA World Cup, South Africa is in crisis.

The current political climate in the country seems to suggest that the country has not progressed towards the ideal of the ‘Rainbow Nation' in the 16 years since the advent of democracy in 1994. In fact, South Africa may even have regressed.



The hope and elation experienced by most South Africans in the early days of democracy - a time that I associate with the heady excitement and solidarity of the 1995 Rugby World Cup - has descended into despair and hatred.


The problem, it seems to me, is that the country is stuck in the past: races at odds, barbed wire separating broiling crowds outside a Ventersdorp courthouse, dancing extremists and murdered extremists, racist songs and threats of revenge.

Without laying the blame for this state of affairs on any faction - let's just say that South Africans have not truly embraced the spirit of a new South Africa.

However, there is a certain brand of leadership that threatens the future of the country. This type of leader is fanatical, outspoken and blinkered.

African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema's behaviour, widely condemned and condoned by difference sectors of society, only serves to take South Africa backwards. He acts as the great divider in South Africa.

Malema is a backward-looking public figure that does not seem to want South Africa to move forward. His racist taunts towards white people and opposition figures, as well as his backward understanding of human rights and the Constitution, indicate that he is content to rage on in the past.

This is, unfortunately, a common trait among South African leadership. The ruling ANC has a tendency to be a backward-looking organisation; a liberation movement, rather than a governing party. Similarly, most opposition parties seem to be ineffective because they focus on past mistakes rather than on a positive future.

The point of studying history, I was told at school, is that we should learn from it and never make the same mistakes again.

This may sound like an idealistic point of view, but the fact remains, that as long as we cling on to past practices and prejudices, we are going nowhere.

It may be too difficult to forgive past offences because of all the hurt associated with apartheid, but if we do not take a lesson from the past - that a divided nation is a stunted nation - and found a new future based on common respect, then South Africa will remain trapped in a dark non-future.

The overall message: move forward, South Africa.




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