Saturday, 7 December 2013

My salvation lies in your love

Yesterday, incredulously, I watched as President Zuma announced Nelson Mandela's death. Until now he had always bounced back from his numerous hospital stays. What it must feel like to be home, now, to share in the sadness of his passing and the joy his life had brought. In Germany an epic storm is causing floods and blowing away trucks, but what nature inflicts on itself seems tame compared to what people can do to others - it took an indomitable will and a humanity that most lack to be able to forgive one's oppressor as Mandela did.

My whiteness and my youth prevents me from truly understanding what the struggle was, what had been sacrificed and what it meant to live in a country where race controls your life. Actually, no : I have never not had freedom, but I know that race is still a deciding factor in SA. It is a ripple underneath everyday life that somehow refuses to disappear. I notice when I am the only white person because I feel it makes me vulnerable. white + girl = better watch your back. Not always, not everywhere, not because everyone is some criminal, but simply because the ripple of racism is closely followed by the ripple of crime and corruption that washes over any hope for a better future.

I wrote at the beginning that it is astounding what one person can do to another. I wonder if now we have moved past racism to class difference being the main social problem: those who have nothing see no moral qualms in killing another for a cellphone. However, if you have a roof over your head and enough money in your bank account you might wonder how someone could be so dismissive of the rights (and in the worst case scenario the life) of another.

It is difficult for me to speak on these issues while sitting in another country, starting a new life here. But within two weeks three of my friends were assaulted in one way or another and it is very hard to remain 'Proudly South African', to say wonderful things about your home and assure people that the crime is 'not that bad'. I miss my family, my friends and my country all the time, especially after hearing news like this. I miss the sunshine, December holidays at the beach and not looking like a pale vampire. I miss feeling like I belong.

But I also enjoy not having to be afraid all the time and being able to walk home, alone, at 3 AM after a friend's house warming and not worrying about being robbed.

As the blanket of sorrow falls over South Africa and everyone is in a state of mourning, I wonder what Madiba's death will mean for the future of the country. What influence did he still wield, if any? How will power relations in the ANC shift? Will Zuma stay on for a second term? Why do people not see that at least in part they are voting for their own demise? It will be an exciting time to observe what happens to Mandela's legacy, and whether the people of the rainbow nation will manage to find a pot of gold at its end or fail in this endeavour. I choose to cling to optimism because historically South Africans have fought too hard to attain the rights listed in the current constitution. It cannot have been for nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment