Freedom Day is a solemn affair. We look at the state of the nation and invariably mention Anene Booysen, Marikana, Mido Macia, unemployment, crime, the Secrecy Bill, e-tolls, poverty, the SABC, Lulu Xingwana, Bafana Bafana and other assorted tragedies, and generally feel not so cool about life, the universe, South Africa and everything. But it’s not all bad, writes GREG NICOLSON.
1. Julius Malema
Pause. Take a breath. Listen. Can you hear that? That’s the sound of life continuing when Malema’s not a factor. For years the ANC Youth League firebrand was the focus of conversation – He wants to shoot/kill the boers! Bloody agent! How can he wear a Breitling and purple pimp suit on that salary? – none of it very constructive. Now Juju spends his days farming the farm he previously owned and framing a legal defence while we spend our braais discussing more important developments in Isidingo, 7 de Laan, and asking whether izikothane really burn cash or whether it’s just for the cameras.
There’s nothing cheerful about having to complete a national census or seeing Pali Lehohla in his yellow suit. Reading the 2011 Census report is duller than the terms and conditions in the new iTunes update agreement. But look at the charts and there’s some reason to rejoice: extreme poverty is down, asset wealth is up, matriculants are more diverse and the average income of black families is rising.
Safe to say one or two of you have looked at pornographic material. It might relate to a shoe fetish; maybe you like medieval warrior role-plays; or perhaps you’re just lonely and have eaten too many oysters. Well fret no more. The courts have granted Top TV the right to broadcast pornography and three adult channels are coming your way. The fruits of freedom.
How can Perth help you get over the Freedom Day blues? It’s just a coastal city in Western Australia known for its isolation and proximity to lucrative mines, right? Wrong. It’s home to an army of South African expats besotted with the idea that the once mighty country is crumbling like a castle made of Marie biscuits. Many of them are missed, sure. But many are not. And now they’re gone, you can get on with your life.
5. Press freedom
Okay, sometimes we take some flak from the state. It even gets downright underhanded. But across the country there are journalists trying to hold the state to account and inform the public. Even Stephen Mulholland-types are able to express their opinions, as ridiculous and homophobic as they might be. The Secrecy Bill won’t make things easy, but freedom of speech has held strong. In how many other African countries would Zapiro not be jailed or even killed for what he does?
6. The judiciary
The Secrecy Bill is bound to end up in the Constitutional Court, which brings us to our sixth post-Freedom Day reason to smile. As nefarious and stupid as the government (we shouldn’t forget business) can be, the judiciary remains able to scrutinise its plans and actions in relation to the Constitution and laws of the country. It doesn’t hurt that the public has an almost religious faith in the courts and paranoid fear that the scales of power will be tipped towards the body with infinite resources.
Throughout the spheres of government, of course, there is corruption, maladministration, attempts to increase the powers of officialdom. Many of these dunces are never held accountable. But look on the bright side: comedians have ample material. All they have to do is buy a morning paper and read about guys like Humphrey Mmemezi who bought artwork from McDonald’s for R10,000. The same goes for racial differences. Nation building is all well and good, but without differences in culture and ethnicity South African comedians would have nothing left to talk about and half of the country’s comedy nights would have to be replaced with Steve Hofmeyr.
South Africa is a country where creativity is cherished, just look at the Xpanda. Look at the Democratic Alliance and its Know Your DA campaign, or President Zuma’s speeches. If you don’t like history, just rewrite it. Look at Pieter Mulder and his views on early migration in South Africa. History is a fiction and you can be your own author! Now that’s real freedom.
It’s a virtue and anyone who waits, election after election, listening to promise after promise must be pretty damn virtuous. Hate Joburg’s blinking traffic lights? Just remember the patience you’re learning. Tired of petty excuses for slow service delivery, unaccountability, and those Ponds face-wash ads that associate soap with attractiveness? Patience, my friend, and we will overcome all. Eventually.
10. The people
Some South Africans aren’t so pleasant. Really, you could even be one of them. I don’t get along with some; others don’t get along with each other. But a majority wants a good life for themselves and for others. They are respectful, at times to a fault. And despite the serious problems we have and the obstacles to finding and implementing solutions, many citizens are happy to discuss their concerns and argue about the path to a better life for all. Together, they want a source of hope. One is 27 April 1994, but there are plenty others. DM
Photo by Derek Keats.
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