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2017: Great Expectations ahead for South Africa


Busani Ngcaweni is Director-General of the National School of Government, South Africa.

Happy New Year to the new South Africa. You are not so new any more! The songs of innocence do not belong to you any more.

My son turned 22 last year. When I look at him I see South Africa @ 22.

I see hopes and aspirations.

I see successes and triumphs.

I see life and vibrancy.

I see colourfulness.

I see dreams. 

I see a bright future, painfully divorced from the hurtful past. 

But also, as I look at him I witness what has become of the 22-year old South Africa. The parallels are stark. 

I see squandered opportunities. 

I see restlessness.

I see dreams deferred. 

I see excesses and wastage. 

I see pain and suffering. 

I see a struggle for identity. 

I see growing pains. 

I see trust deficits. 

I see poverty amidst opulence. 

I see lies and deceit. 

I see lethargy. 

I see rage, blood on the floor – from the machete and the pistol. 

The unintended consequences of the raging sexual revolution are as costly as the foretold persistent drought. 

That is the story of the past 22 years. 

The story of growth and survival against the odds, of shouldering the heavy weight of history which will continue to impose its legacy for many decades to come. 

The trend-line points to deepening democracy and improved quality of life. Yet the headline screams: service delivery failure, poor education outcomes, corruption, democratic indifference.

But like the young man and his “fallist comrades”, Mzansi will break through. There is sufficient resolve and social capital.

There is knowledge of what success means, knowledge of the disadvantage of failure, understanding of the responsibility of membership of the community of nations. 

Like the young man who is a product of an antagonistic past, South Africa will eventually outlive colonialism and apartheid, however long it takes. 

At least the students have once again proven that injustice and inequality are intolerable. And so the struggle to break the frontiers of coloniality continues. The march towards reclaiming our ontological density is gaining momentum. 

The young man appreciates the responsibility of being a big brother. He is fully aware that, like his country, the shadow of a father figure or a Mandela is not sustainable – he must build his own future, his own legacy. 

My job is done, to a large degree. He must now get out of the cage and fly or be just as stunted as SA is in many aspects of public life – like the stubborn spectre of inequality, conspicuous consumption and the burden of disease. 

Great expectations lie ahead for South Africa as she enters 23 years of democratic rule in 2017. 

Many believe that 2016 was a difficult year, just like my son who wanted to drop out of “this boring honours programme”. Giving up is no option. So much has been sacrificed.

Happy New Year to the new South Africa. You are not so new any more! The songs of innocence do not belong to you any more. 

You are at a moral crossroads: bingeing wololo, excelling dololo. At least according to public opinion fueled by mass and social media. 

Zodwa Wabantu is our zeitgeist; hopefully a passing festive passing fad. 

Babes Wodumo is our national icon! Breaking records and bottles. Hopefully the tills ring too. 

With blessers and blessees flaunting their loots on reality TV and social media, we are not only keeping up but now living with the Kardashians. 

National iconography is accentuated with accessories of conspicuous consumption. 

This is our total experience, stepping stones to the future. 

Rise up, South Africa, and build the future you want and deserve to live in. The struggle for national unity, non-sexism and, most important, economic freedom in our lifetime, continues. DM

Ngcaweni is co-editor of Nelson Mandela: Decolonial Ethics of Liberation and Servant Leadership, published by Africa World Press and Deputy Director-General & Head of the Private Office of the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.


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