Nothing unites a country like having a common source of outrage, and the Gupta wedding gave us an outcry that momentarily moved us past our age-old race war.
As the Gupta wedding reached its apogee at the Lost City, I was returning to my car at my local shopping centre. I noticed a bakkie making its way through the parking lot. Standing on the back, holding on to the bull-bar were three youths.
The tallest had a floppy kind of Mohawk. He was white. The second was also of the same race, though more nondescript. The third was African, and he was also the shortest.
The boy driving was also African, and there was a traditional Zulu impala headdress hanging from the rear view mirror.
In middle-class and lower middle-class suburbs, there is genuinely non-racial socialising. These kids represent what we had for decades rather wistfully dreamt of – a society that was not determined by an accident of birth such as race. And if that Zulu warrior’s headband – umQhele – was anything to go by, the African pals have not forsaken their culture.
Yet when I am at a braai where the guests are not carefully vetted, or happen to carelessly let my eye wander beyond the end of an online article, it is clear that the dream of a non-racially polarised society is light years away.
Any public discourse, especially in social media, is infected with racism of all kinds.
So it was from a surprising quarter that South Africans, after months of bad, divisive news, got a boost.
When the Gupta brothers decided to fly out a plane full of guests for the wedding of young Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia, little did they figure it was going to be a master workshop on nation-building.
At the wedding was recalled president Thabo Mbeki’s number one mate and advisor, Essop Pahad. Also there was a good sprinkling of Mbeki’s nemesis Jacob Zuma’s allies. You see? This just brings us together. Outside of the wedding invitees, South Africans across all race, tribe, economic and political divides joined in a massive chorus of outrage. The ANC, as well as its puppies, the ANCYL, were joined by the DA in crying foul (DA was a bit slow, but we all know why, hey). The Defence Force and the police joined COSATU in calling for heads to roll. Esteemed Twitterati and trolls howled in protest. We are all one.
While I am not entirely convinced by Atul Gupta’s suggestion that we should be grateful for their investment, I do want to thank them for this chance for all of us to connect on a deep, patriotic level.
Indian astrology, Nimmita, suggests events that kick off with a bad omen should be postponed or cancelled. I beg the Guptas to let those young lovers be joined in holy matrimony.
I am sure our nation will use this occasion to heal wounds and move forward to a better, Gupta-less future. It might even be a Zuma-less future; if those wedding portents that compelled young Vega and Jahajgarhia to marry at this time and in this place are indeed correct, we are all blessed.
And so the auspicious omen of the bakkie with the four boys of different heritages might indeed come to play. Of course, the boys stopped outside the liquor store, which slightly damaged the wholesome mental picture I had formed, but I remain optimistic. Optimism is all I have. DM
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Born in South Africa in 1962, Greg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative photojournalist and is co-author of The Bang Bang Club, a nonfiction book on South Africa’s transition to democracy, and Murder at Small Koppie based on his investigations into the Marikana massacre of miners by police. He is an associate editor for Daily Maverick. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2013/14 and teaches photojournalism and visual journalism at Boston University’s Journalism school, where he also indulges a passion by leading analogue workshops on archaic film cameras.
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