Maverick Citizen


Letters from Tomorrow — defiance against the injustices, served on a plate

Letters from Tomorrow — defiance against the injustices, served on a plate
Nelson Mandela casts his vote in Oshlange near Durban on 27 April 1994. (Photo: Walter Dhladhla / AFP)

If you could go back to 27 April 1994, knowing what you know now about the collective journey we started on that day, what would you say to South Africa? What feelings would you express about our first democratic elections and what lies ahead?

A few people share letters to South Africa in contemplation of these questions. We hope that these will inspire us all to reflect deeply on where we have been, where we are and where we hope to go. (Lwando Xaso)


Mpho Phalane. (Photo: Supplied)

I see our sweet revolution, South Africa

Dear South Africa,

Just two months ago I turned seven years old, yet I feel like I have seen a lot – and a lot has seen me too. There’s a pacy feeling in the air; the grown-ups are feeling restless. 

It’s funny how, at such a young age, we have the ability to perceive and process the potential dangers of this time. I have a vivid memory of the violence between the ANC and IFP. But this certainly doesn’t feel like the time when I packed my favourite toys into a mesh sack made for oranges, ready to run away because Inkatha was coming.

This time, the restlessness of it all feels strangely good, and I’m going to hold on to that feeling because today – and all the tomorrows to come – you have tasked us to take our belief to new heights.

South Africa, you have asked us to be delirious with our belief, delusional if we must, because this kind of belief does not come from imagining with our eyes open and feet planted on the ground. 

I may not be old enough to be marking the X on that ballot paper, but I will be in the queue with my mom. My job will be to be on my best behaviour, not to cause too much trouble, not to complain too much about my sore feet from standing or about the scorching sun. 

This is a momentous day and it’s calling on all of us collectively to contribute in ways big and small.

I’m also excited because my mom, who is a metaphysics student, imparted the best gift to me: her teachings of visualisation and manifestation. They come from a belief that what we can conceive in our minds, we can bring to fruition. This belief has been my superpower to date – and on behalf of South Africa, I’ve been doing some serious manifesting and visualising what life will have in store for us all after today. 

My vision is rooted in community and joy and the forces of energy they carry. I’ve witnessed this when we all spill out onto the street, celebrating and happy about the simplest things.

I’ve witnessed it in the generosity of neighbours when I’m sent to ask for a cup of sugar. (I often wonder where this strong kinship comes from.)

And I’ve witnessed it when I’m sent to the local spaza to buy half a loaf of bread, watching the shopkeeper carefully portioning the slices and putting half into another bag. Who came up with the idea of portioning the bread slices so that families could go to sleep fed?

There’s magic woven into the fabric of our communities, a resilience that defies logic. And yet, in our quest to understand this magic, we often dismiss it as too simplistic and too idealistic in a world tainted by hate.

But it’s real, and it’s calling on us to lean in and stop searching for answers in distant places. As much as we have become sceptical of it, it is the essence of Ubuntu. I see you, South Africa!

Thirty years from now, there will be much gained and much lost. I will ask myself whether we can ever get back what we have lost – our belief, our trust. I will also ask myself whether we were too naive. Thirty years from now, we will barely comprehend the extent of the erosion, the damage.

South Africa, the thread will rapidly come apart. The question will be once again: can we ever fix this? Can we summon the will, the intelligence, the empathy and care to fix the decay? The future will tempt me to dwell on the negative, but how remarkable it is that I will make it into the future. Three decades later, I will be there. What a testament! 

This hopeful seven-year-old will go on to own a restaurant nestled within the confines of what was once known as the Old Fort prison, which will later be transformed into a human rights precinct called Constitution Hill. 

The irony will not be lost on me that I, a descendant of those who were oppressed and marginalised, will stand as a symbol of their resilience and defiance, working in a space that diminished the humanity of so many through the cruelty of apartheid.

I will reclaim that space. I will find a sense of empowerment: my own sense of defiance against the injustices will be served on a plate.

It’s what I call a sweet revolution. By cooking and telling stories, I will be part of the liberation of a former colonial and apartheid prison, part of it becoming a place that will honour our people’s resilience and their struggle, which have brought us to this moment.

It will feel redemptive. 

Eat. Love. Thrive.

Mpho Phalane

1994: Preschooler

2024: Owner of Food, I Love You

Sesihle Manzini. (Photo: Supplied)

Beware the new enemy

Dear South Africa,

Today is the day we have all been waiting for – including me, even though I made my entry into this world just three months ago.

We revel in the greatness of this achievement, but beware: in the shadows, a new adversary lurks, cloaked in a guise so deceiving. This foe wears the mask of a friend – an angel of light – weaving illusions of comfort and middle-class dreams.

But make no mistake. It is still dangerous. It doesn’t bark “ek is die baas” (I am the boss) or ring the siren of a raid in the middle of the night. No. This new enemy is stealthy. Quiet. Soft, even.

But beneath its honeyed words lies the venom of lies and deceit. It whispers sweet nothings of black diamonds and false promises, lulling us into complacency. Yet, as the dawn breaks, we must awaken from this slumber of illusions.

Today, may we find respite from the relentless struggle, our weary bodies less tense, our spirits momentarily at ease. But let us not be lulled into a false sense of security. The spirit of apartheid, though subdued, still festers in our society. Normalising black pain. Demanding black servitude. Deferring black dreams.

Thus, we must not falter, we must not yield. The struggle for true liberation continues unabated. Let us forge ahead, not only for our own healing and redemption, but also for our neighbours, for their dignity, for their right to thrive. The call to fashion homes of justice and equality continues. Let us not stop. Let us confront our own traumas but, hand in hand, keep marching forward in our quest for freedom.

The road ahead is fraught with challenges, but our resolve must remain unyielding. The long walk to freedom has only just begun, and together we shall overcome.

With unwavering determination,

Sesihle Manzini

1994: Three-month-old

2024: Founder of Anno Domini magazine

Mario Faure. (Photo: Supplied)

Nothing you cannot overcome

Dear South Africa,

Today is a day that so many people of all colours across the country have been waiting for, fighting for and dreaming of.

Today is the dawn of the new South Africa. It’s a celebration for everyone, giving us a sense of freedom and dignity for all. Finally, we are part of the world, joining the family of democratic countries.

South Africa, hold tight and continue to seek peace and freedom, because even in a democracy it can all disappear.

With freedom comes responsibility. Keep working hard for peace and continue being your joyful, hopeful, resilient self. Continue to inspire us and the world.

There will be tough, challenging times ahead, but nothing you cannot overcome.

Cling to your values, your smiles and your beliefs (your braais too).

I hope always to use these words by Nelson Mandela as a guide through the challenges ahead: “It is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it.”


Mario Faure

1994: Matric pupil

2024: Software developer

Read more in Daily Maverick: Letters from Tomorrow — on 30 years of democracy

Read more in Daily Maverick: Letters from Tomorrow — joyful South Africa on ‘the brink, the brim, the cusp’

Read more in Daily Maverick: Letters from Tomorrow — a tree to measure our hopes and deferred dreams

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.


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