Cry, the Beloved Country – of Mandela and 62-million hopeful optimists

QUOTE: “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving; they will find that we are turned to hating.” ― Alan Paton, author of the epic social novel Cry, The Beloved Country.

Durban Dateline: In 30 short years, South Africa had galloped gallantly from an apartheid-based, police state of minority rule and the racial segregation of people of colour to a new nation founded on democracy, freedom, universal franchise, social justice, non-racialism, non-sexism and multi-culturalism.

In 2024, a once-revered Rainbow Nation celebrates its democratic milestone – barring nine wasted years of state-capture corruption under the ANC-elite-Zuptagate-enterprise – a make-or-break milestone of the realigning of the political landscape and ushering of a coalition government – a far cry from the birth of a multi-party parliament in 1994. Voters could change the course of a country with a bitter-sweet history on the fifth poll’s busy ballot.

In the beginning of this horrific human drama. A mineral-rich country of gold, diamond, platinum, coal – the only bloc in Africa hemmed by a sea of two oceans, seamless surplus of seafood and fisheries, trading ports and strategic sea routes – the old country attracted the world’s economic migrants, all were lured to the land of milk and honey, exclusively reserved for the appetites of the White tribes of Caucasian cultures at the expense of the majority of people – indigenous African tribes, indentured Indians, enslaved Malaysians and Chinese and a homegrown mixed-race Coloureds.

This choreography of colour-bar politics reigned from the colonial Dutch-British settler ruling classes to control and conquest defined by bloody wars, intra-racial and internecine conflicts and clashes with the marginalised indigenous tribes.

Apartheid – literally meaning apart-ness held an iron-like sway

Then colonialism ducked out. Apartheid – literally meaning apart-ness held an iron-like sway from 1948 to 1994 of racial segregation of an all-white government over the non-white majority population to a third-class world of separate development.

The hardline, right-wing regime of the National Party imprisoned the leaders of the central liberation movement, the ANC and its anti-apartheid allies, outlawed extra-parliamentary opposition to racist laws, banned and house arrested resisters, pushed left-wing opponents into the profoundly lonely corridors of exile and triggered an armed resistance that spilled into bloodletting into neighbouring, newly-independent nations.

Some progressive, liberal-minded Whites were on the right of history and were not the entire privileged majority of citizens who favoured apartheid. Over 20s escaped conscription into a brutal army that was hell-bent on bushwhacking a coterie of free nations that backed the banned ANC and the UN sanctions against the polecat of politics.

SA’s democracy came at a high death toll, packed with fear, persecution, prosecution and drama. Nelson Mandela and his Treason Trialists commuted to life in prison; the massacre of pass-law resisters in 1960 Sharpeville and the 1976 students uprising in Soweto – culminating in the 1980s fight-back through the anti-apartheid forces inside and outside the country – then apartheid’s epitaph became a writing on the wall of a shame of a country at war with its people.

Two iconic statesmen entered into a détente and dialogue.

Two iconic statesmen, FW De Klerk – Last White President – and NR Mandela – First Black President – stepped up to the podium, entered into a détente and dialogue, quashed right-wing and tribal rebellion, created a multiparty parliament and charted the new nation onto a road of reconciliation, recourse and retreat towards democracy. These brave hearts shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, the world’s ‘darling of democracy – a ravishing rookie republic – takes its pride of place at the UN, Commonwealth, African Union, IOC, IMF, G20, and BRICS – and transforming the Union Buildings into the home precinct of dozens of foreign embassies, consulates and trade missions.

Both these legends of SA’s liberation are now in the Great Blues Skies – probably praying and hoping that (Cry, the) Beloved Country will stop crying as one of the most unequal countries in the world and get on with the national collective of deepening democracy, upholding the rule of law, waging an all-out war on corruption, malfeasance, fraud, and all forms of post-apartheid shenanigans on the gravy train of abusing the State tender and procurement systems, tribal nepotism, jobs-for-pal cadre-deployment and looting of state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Social scourges have blurred and blighted The Promised Land. Alcoholism, crime, gender-based violence, rape, deep racism, home invasions and robberies, motor vehicle hijackings, drug and alcohol abuses, drugs and human trafficking, foreign criminal syndicates, cash-in-heist robberies, gangsters, overcrowded and corruption-fuelled prisons, political assassinations, fake academic qualifications, influence-peddling, tender-rigging, political hooliganism and thuggery and a host of other negative and toxic trends have linked the country-in-crisis at the crossroads of change to a generational curse where disillusioned citizens are comparing life between an incomparable apartheid to the deferred dream of democracy.

SA is a crime scene of 68 murders a day.

SA is a crime scene of 68 murders a day and 5 500 carjacking a year; seventh worldwide crime capital in a global index and third in Africa; fifth biggest consumers of alcohol and drugs; 7 000 police facing charges for murder, rape and robbery; criminal syndicates target and kidnap wealthy business people, families for hefty ransoms: ‘’South Africa’s crime networks, often fuelled by corrupt relationships, have entrenched the criminal economy deeply within the country, leading to a “crisis of trust in government and law enforcement and is worsened by state-embedded actors who work in cahoots with criminal networks.’’

We’re a democracy where dinosaurs roamed 2 million years ago, fossils intrigue palaeontologists at the Cradle of Humankind, medicinal plants and rooibos tea a new cure for diseases and a people of cross-cultural fusions and fashions – we all need to press pause, press reset. – Nkosi Sikelel‘ iAfrika (God Bless Africa).       

MARLAN PADAYACHEE is a still-practicing and seasoned journalist and photographer, former political, diplomatic and foreign correspondent, currently a media strategist, consulting editor, freelance journalist and publisher at MapMedia GreenGold Consulting (Pty) Limited; recipient, 2021 Ammen Award for Excellence in Media, member, International Federation of Journalists, Southern African Freelancers’ Association (SAFREA), SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), and Institute for the Advancement of Journalists, recipient, USIS International Visitor and British Council Fellow and Life Member, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio International), board member, RK Khan Hospital  (2001-2022).

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