Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is the 'rainbow nation' merely an illusion?

A piece in Johannesburg's Daily Mail and Guardian opines that 'Something is rotten in the rainbow nation.' The piece notes that many of the authors who attacked the apartheid regime in South Africa have delivered searing indictments of the state of the nation, sickened by what they see as an inexorable decline towards corruption and lawlessness.

André Brink, whose novels such as A Dry White Season brought him regular opprobrium from the apartheid rulers, has also burnt his bridges with their replacements in the corridors of power.

He has described two Cabinet members -- Health Minister Manto Tsabalala-Msimang and Safety Minister Charles Nqukula -- as "monsters", despairing at what he regards as indifference to the rising tide of crime.

Brink acknowledged to Agence France-Presse (AFP) that crime has long been a problem but he said the situation has now reached breaking point.

"The cumulative effect has just reached a point where one cannot take any more, and where the attitude of the authorities goes beyond all acceptable limits," he said.

"The attitude of Nqakula [who told Parliament that those "whingeing" about crime should emigrate] has made it clear that the government simply does not take it seriously enough and, in fact, is in itself reason for despair."

Brink added that he had in the past 12 years told those who had doubts over South Africa that the negatives of the transition period were of a temporary nature.

"I can no longer say that today," he wrote
in a French newspaper.

Literally minutes after I read these pieces, I caught a sickening report entitled 'Baby killed, penis cut off.'

I'm hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions based on one-time sensationalist events like this. But there is universal acknowledgement that South Africa is suffering from a social crisis of violence against women and children. The recent rape trial of former deputy president Jacob Zuma brought to attention this plague.

I think this is quite possibly the most tragic legacy of the apartheid period. During that time, grotesque violence was part of the everyday life for black South Africans. When you are subjected to, or at least surrounded by, massive violence all the time, you become desensitized to it.

Women and children are the main victims. A man returns home to a violent neighborhood with no running water and miserable living conditions from a menial job with low pay where his dignity is assaulted. So to blow off steam, he takes out his frustrations on the only people lower on the social pecking order in a patriarchical society: his wife and kids. This dynamic doesn't suddenly change just because the man occupying the presidency happens to share the same skin color.

Clearly, most South Africans are now better off under the present democratic and representative government. However, the government needs to do far more to tackle crime and misery. If the tyranny of state violence is replaced by the tyranny of random violence with the tyranny of poverty unchanged, then the efforts of the freedom fighters will have been for naught.

Update: Despite the problems of modern South Africa, this guy won't be missed.


At 12:40 PM, Blogger Yzerfontein said...

Crime seems to be dependent on unemployment. Perhaps South Africa should concentrate on reducing unemployment and the rest will follow?

At 5:19 AM, Blogger sokari said...

"is the rainbow nation" a myth? Most certainly and in my opinion the violence that was alll pervasive under apartheid is what underpins and continues to drive the violence and the divisions today!


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