“Unity in Diversity” – In 21st century polity, this national motto remains the quintessence of contemporary South Africa, embodied in its Coat of Arms and regurgitated by politicians like a mantra to deflect from the reality of civil breakdown rampant throughout the land.
My experience first hand with the highest echelons of the Rainbow Nations’ political hierarchy last year, amid a period of turbulence and uncertainty, was an eye opening journey, if only to witness the widening disparity between the rich (almost all politically aligned), and the poor, an army that represents 99% of the population. Whilst scouring the streets of Durban, we saw children by the roadside bleeding profusely from several orifices, a desensitising experience trumped only by their younger siblings staring at us in a daze and begging for coins, completely unaware that the fate befallen upon their brethren was not normality, or maybe, WE stood in complete disbelief ignorant to the fact that the concept of society WE take for granted and project upon unknown environments is a privilege in a world where suffering remains the status quo (even in the most unlikely of places).
One of the "better" townships
Either way, amid the graphic poverty, inhumanity and wide scale corruption, the politicians of a nation that came out of the shadows of apartheid and years of racial oppression at the hands of a minority only to be shackled once more, this time by greed and administrative mismanagement, continue to use “Unity in Diversity” as THE lens within the looking glass.
What soon became apparent though, after visiting the deplorable townships that litter the region, was the innate joy and pride of the people, arguably some of the poorest, most disadvantaged on this planet, that radiated from within their sunken eyes and emaciated bodies. A generation of black South Africans doomed to a seemingly eternal imprisonment within the derelict and squalor, yet able to vindicate the oppression by the simple fact that the masters enforcing this systemic enslavement are the overlords THEY chose, elected BY them, FOR them, a priceless victory these people have achieved that may forever distort their perception of the reality they face.
My observations and reflections on South Africa could go on for pages, so I will restrain myself in an attempt to finish this blog before computer technology is superseeded by mind control and becomes archaic.
Standing upon the soils of the African continent is an enthralling and life changing experience, if only to know that somewhere on this same piece of land, the dawn of man came into fruition. Again, ignoring the terrifying truth that the country has one of the highest murder rates in the world, there is a life force that can be felt and seen through the eyes of the poorest of people here, a point highlighted again in a small township meeting, where a local politican attracted a crowd of hundreds, including a swarm of children who clambered upon us, scaling skyscrapers of human opulence as they traced the circumference of our silver watches with malnourished fingers, in awe at the numbers that lay trapped within the glass housing.
In the townships of Durban
As we canvassed the township, one of the most underdeveloped in the state, where “hope” and “ambition” is replaced by “survival” and “inevitability”, the reality of life in South Africa, the REAL South Africa, behind the whoring of culture that successive governments (Black and White) have used to deflect growing concerns of hegemony (much like Australia and the indigenous heritage), registered within our minds and shone a spotlight on the shameful shadows of ignorance and lack of appreciation Western society continues to foster for the luxury of life itself. Taking photos of some of the children, and having them explode in a chorus of celebration and amazement at their own images staring back at them through the digital camera display crystallised one of the most humbling moments of my life, one divided amongst all who were fortunate enough to be trapped within that moment in time and space, but no less significant.
The rhythm of democracy
The essence of democracy, the right to be able to delineate the politics of their nation, both present and future, is a gift that is celebrated by the poorest of South Africans, and despite the indescribable hardships and horrors they face, this privilege remains a beacon of hope in an otherwise daunting existence, a triumphant war medal, symbolic of the years spent fighting apartheid for the right to define their own destinies and exercise freedom of choice, freedom of will.
To the people of South Africa, politics transcends its traditional underbelly of deceit and manipulation and remains, in the hearts of those that have nothing, a celebration of liberation (irrespective of their current damnation), sewn from seeds of discontent laid by apartheid and harvested by the blood and sweat of those who (at the time) had the audacity to dream of something more. Witnessing the election process in 2009 was a truly life changing experience, and makes one realise the concept of “entitlement” we throw around so freely is truly a precious gift that should be appreciated for all that it embodies.
When South Africa won the rights to host the 2010 World Cup, the relevance was lost upon me, due partly to my lack of interest in football. After visiting the country, it is clear that the event has the opportunity to inspire and evoke a sense of pride and dignity within the hearts of the South African people, the entire African continent in fact, that no other event except the “World Game” can provide. Despite being plagued by logistical issues and the ongoing ticket fiasco, the event will be no doubt be a success and may hopefully inspire the millions of children condemned to a life of destitution to dream of a world beyond the squalor and heartache that currently besieges them.
On the eve of the planets biggest sporting event, and the chance for South Africa to prove to the global community that beyond its “developing” status lies a spirit that encompasses the very essence of humanity, it would be a damn shame for this opportunity to scale the heights of the worlds imagination to be compromised by certain politicians.
Without further ado, I give you The Mayor of Johannesburg: