Today is South Africa’s birthday, and at 21 years old this country is about as well-behaved as your average legally-an-adult-but-mentally-still-a-teenager who is still coming to terms with the new-found freedom that comes from escaping the restrictions of the parental home and the ability to legally purchase alcohol (which happens at eighteen over here, but by twenty-one most have not yet adapted).
In the weeks leading up to this auspicious date we’ve had people throwing feces at (yes, we’re still on that one) and otherwise defacing numerous statues dating from the colonial and Apartheid eras (including statues of people who had nothing to do with colonialism nor Apartheid, Ghandi among them). We’ve also made international news through attacking those not born here, resulting in various African countries evacuating their citizens, closing their consulates and sending our diplomats home.
Our national electricity provider is changing CEOs more often than I change oil in my car, while they keep switching off our lights in an effort to avoid a total grid collapse. The national airline keeps going bankrupt and the national broadcaster is plagued by one scandal after another. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any parastatal, government department or political party that does not have at least one scandal (which, one might argue, is par for the course in any country, but not, I would counter, at quite this scale).
We’re still not over the night of the white shirts, when government tried to jam cellphone signals in parliament so the country wouldn’t see when armed policemen threw an opposition party out of the State of the Nation address. And I’m not even going to get into the president’s home, which has gone from a mere scandal to something between a running joke and an urban myth.
Come to think of it, the average twenty-one-year-old is probably better-behaved than this country. Hopefully we’ll grow up fast.
It’s my niece’s birthday as well today. She’s two, and much better-behaved than her country. For her parents’ sake I hope she stays that way.
In other news, yesterday broke the record for the most views in one day on if all else fails…use a hammer. Judging by the views/visitors ratio and the number or unique posts read, it would seem that one person buckled down and read most of this blog in one sitting. Whoever you are, thanks 😀
4 thoughts on “Happy birthday, Mzanzi”
The whole situation just makes me sad. I remember when people would threaten, “We’re going to end up just like Zim!” and other people would insist, “Nah, can’t happen – our infrastructure is too strong.” Oy…
We’ve a long way to go yet before we’re in Zimbabwe’s situation. And infrastructure has nothing to do with it. Rather the fact that there are enough people willing to fight when government tries to go against the Constitution, and the fact that when they do fight they tend to win. When that changes I’ll get worried. The rest of it is merely, as I said, bad behaviour.
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I hope you’re right. I do want to point out, though, that when people started saying “We’ll never be like Zim”, Zim wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now. Not trying to be a wet blanket or doom spreader … but I am desperately sad, and also often worried about people I love who live there.
Things are bad, sure, but we’re still a very young democracy. For the first time ever we have a viable opposition (possibly two oppositions – the jury’s still out on whether the EFF will self-destruct or not before 2019) and at this point things can go either way, i.e. it can get worse, but we also can turn it around. The names currently being speculated for the next ANC leader are all but one (that would be our current Speaker) people I can potentially see myself voting for, so unless some big upset happens at their next national conference I don’t see things getting much worse specifically as regards leadership.
Just yesterday I learned that there’s an index of failed states, and South Africa ranks in the top third as one of the more stable states in the world (fourth in Africa). Keeping that in mind we’re clearly still in a place where we can dare to hope.
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