Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On grieving

A few weeks ago, a video I was watching with a group of people (I forget where), included a clip about the growing violence in South Africa. At one stage, the camera zoomed in on a bunch of hurting, angry (black) women, shouting their fears and concerns into the camera.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I said to a friend, "Look. My people." She laughed, thinking I was joking. Her reaction is not uncommon - after all, my skin is what we term 'white'. But I was born and raised in South Africa among its people, as were my parents and grandparents. Even most of my great-grandparents... and futher back than that.

My bloodline includes English, Scottish and Dutch settlers as well as black slaves. I have an honorary Xhosa name, given to me somewhere along the way - Thandiwe (the one we love). They are 'my people' - the colour of their skin is entirely irrelevant. We share generations of history. So the future of the country is of equal significance to us all.

It is unfortunate that this article appears in a sensationalist UK newspaper, but I ask you to see past the purple prose to the real menace that underlies it.

I don't care that Jacob Zuma has four wives. That is a cultural issue. Many Zulu men have more than one wife. I don't care that he likes to dress and dance like a Zulu warrior. That is his heritage and he has every right to celebrate it. None of that is anything to fear, as far as I am concerned.

But I do fear for the future of my beloved country. And I fear even more when I see Madiba looking so frail. While he is alive, the deep love and respect that most South Africans have for him might hold catastrophe at bay. But he will not live forever. And as he ages, it will become increasingly easy to hide truths from him, should they become too unpalatable.

I have a great deal of respect for Helen Zille and if, as this report states, "her words are heavy with fear for the future," then there must indeed be grounds for fear.

Many of my liberal South African friends (of all colours) are expressing abhorrence for Zuma's increasingly colourful rhetoric. Many have taken up the chant, "Not my president!"

Is my homeland headed for more war and bloodshed?

I suspect so.

I hope I am wrong. To make a successful future for itself, South Africa needs all her people. She needs to leave racial hatred behind, not stoke its hideous fires back up again.

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