Storm Clouds Gather over the Rainbow Nation
Growing up in South Africa or the Rainbow Nation as the country has become known since the days of Nelson Mandela provided many defining moments.
It was heady days in the early 1990’s in the cities and villages in South Africa. FW De Klerk, the then Prime Minister had made a stunning announcement in parliament that he was unbanning all political parties and releasing all political prisoners. The path towards democracy had been set and the helter skelter journey began away from colonialism and all that went wrong with South Africa.
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(Above: Nelson Mandela captured the African spirit and presented South Africa with a dream. Sadly the Rainbow Nation is facing serious problems)
There was a new buzz between people of all colours in the streets. “Viva South Africa Viva” was in the air as we cautiously reached out over the colour barriers that had ruled life in our country for too long.
They were hectic days as well as it was not certain that South Africa was safe from spiraling into a civil war. Kwa Zulu-Natal (KZN) was already a war zone in which thousands of people would ultimately lose their lives. The ANC and Inkatha fought a brutal war for control in the province while the AWB embarked on a wild raid into Bophuthatswana, one of the independent homelands that we have all forgotten about already.
Any one of these conflicts could have sparked chaos in South Africa but somehow Nelson Mandela steered the ship to still waters. We were all proud to be South African. We had pulled off the impossible and were proud that we had become a nation where all could live in peace together….the Rainbow Nation.
The New South Africa was hailed as an example to the world. We had forgiven each other over the past and were birthing a new nation together. And with Mandela at the helm we all believed it would work.
The Mandela era can be best summed up as the nation building part of South Africa’s fledging democratic history. The coup he pulled off at the 1995 Rugby World Cup when he wore Francois Pienaar’s Number 6 jersey to the final won him the hearts of white South Africans.
Bafana Bafana the beleaguered national soccer team pulled off a similar feat in 1996 when they won the African Cup. It felt great to be a South African and we were the “Proudly South African”.
South African entered a phase of economic growth and the JSE soared, as did the real estate market. Houses were being built; people received electricity and running water for the first time in their lives. We were the land of opportunity.
However, all was not well in the powerhouse of Africa and the wheels probably started falling off around the time of the Arms Deal. This was corruption on a grand scale and when the highly successful Heath Special Investigating Unit was ordered off the arms deal investigation, it was clear that there was major political involvement.
Problems have arisen that no political leader has been able to solve thus far. Crime is out of control, the education system is on its knees, the justice system is being abused by those in power and public heath care is in shambles.
Can South Africa gain the high ground again? Can the country become the catalyst for the African revival? The next five years will be critical to the Rainbow Nation.