South Africa from the outside-in

Every South African, the world over, remembers where they were when Mandela passed away. One year on, I find myself overseas and sentimental (again) — disconnected from the umbilical cord of home and contemplating what’s really going on behind closed doors at the head-quarters of the rainbow nation.

And let me share this with you: looking at South Africa from the outside-in is no comfortable position for a proud and stubbornly passionate South African.

Corrupt and complicated
Joburg CBD: corrupt and complicated

South Africans on home soil have become immune to it all: corruption, poor service delivery, cronyism and violent crime. Just think about the year in review: a Post Office strike, Eskom load-shedding, water-cuts, the Oscar Pistorious trial, the murder of Senzo, mall robberies, the lying circus at the public broadcaster, mismanagement of social and economic services, the benches of parliament coming close to a punch-up, R246-million of taxpayer’s money spent on the President’s back yard and R1.6-billion spent on his cabinet.

Watching South Africa from the outside-in has taught me this: race is not our country’s biggest problem.

Look at the news. Take a step back and carefully look at the news. Read between the headlines and open your eyes to what’s really going on. Race is the scab; the healing part of our country’s wounds. Race is our ‘default setting’. It’s what we use to justify what’s going on when we’re too slap gat to give it a good think. Race is our knee-jerk reaction. It’s our ‘go-to’ because it’s what we’ve used for 20-years. And race is easy to see: Black. White.

Race is our ‘default setting’. It’s what we use to justify what’s going on when we’re too slap gat to give it a good think.

But take a closer look at the inner-workings of our democracy where our country’s biggest problem has become harder to spot. Our country’s biggest problem is no longer about race; rather it’s evolved into a twisted story of corruption; a story of the haves against the have-nots, the strong dominating the weak. Our country is in crisis between those who are helping themselves to the riches in the pot and those who are suffering as a result. It’s George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And it’s a much harder problem to see.

While the rich deepen their pockets, steal from state coffers and further the rich-poor divide; the general public are growing increasingly disgruntled, disillusioned and disarmed.

And the South African public — for whatever reason — can do nothing about it. We simply have to shake our heads, count our blessings, roll over and accept it. The tragedy is that we’ve become immune to it. Even the Public Protector — try as she might — can’t put a stop to it. Even the media — as much as they report on it — are merely that: reporters, by-standers of the truth.

It’s evolved into a twisted story of corruption; a story of the haves against the have-nots

And while the everyday, hardworking and tax-paying South African does what they do to put food on the table; the spineless and unaccountable infect our society at a rapid rate, breeding a population that has come to accept profiteering as normal. We watch insipidly as the corrupt steal from right under our noses, ostentatiously and without any skaam because “that’s how everybody does business these days”.

I’m no politician. Or economist. Or academic on the matter but it doesn’t take a Doctorate to see that corruption is killing our beautiful land.

We’re kidding ourselves South Africa. Race is not the biggest problem here.

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Storm, snow and sobbing for Madiba — with love from Sweden

And special thanks to my high school history teacher, Sven Zimmermann, who always takes the time to comment. Sven and his family moved from South Africa to New Zealand a while back. He wrote this comment and I thought it too apt not to add as an aside to my original piece:

[Our] freedom struggle is over the pigs [who] have become the humans. To quote George Orwell: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Animal Farm should be mandatory reading for all. It has a becomes fool’s paradise and we are all the fools.