I am Modern South Africa

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When a deep injury is done us, 

We never recover until we forgive.

I envision someday a great, peaceful South Africa in

Which the world will take pride,

A nation in which each of many different groups 

Will be making its own creative contribution.

— Alan Paton, Author – Cry, The Beloved Country

 

Yes, I have the most modern and liberal constitution since the end of apartheid in 1994. I was supposed to celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day 2021. This day gives everyone the opportunity to commit anew to the values inspired by Mandela on the 18th of July, with this year’s theme “One Hand Can Feed Another”.

South Africa: A rainbow nation with diverse cultures. Pic – Pinterest

Instead, on and around that day, I witnessed widespread looting and riots, attacks on shopping malls, massive breakdown of law and order and economic sabotage of a strategic nature in relatively localized regions. People were killed in hundreds.

Thousands have been arrested and are likely to go to jail. The livelihoods of many have been taken away due to the loss of thousands of jobs. Some 40,000 to 50,000 small businesses are closed, many may never reopen.

It all seems to boil down to a number of factors, namely:

– the ANC, after having played a significant role in the liberation of the country from the yoke of apartheid, is now beset by its own problems with factional battles within government, internal political dissension, problems of state failure, corruption, cronyism and tribalism cropping up.

– The political leadership has prioritized its own selfish interests, with some accumulating astronomical wealth, at the expense of the integrity of the country’s democracy, resulting in economic inequality, deep poverty for millions of marginalized and angry people.

After 27 years of independence, my welfare has today become the world’s concern, indeed for most of the continent, the regional groupings – SADC, BRICS, the Commonwealth -, other friendly countries, and India in particular. 

My citizens are being painted with the poisoned bristles of the same brush when in fact this should not have taken place, and even if the dust settles down, the possibility of further pain exists if the government does not act responsibly.

My people as a nation has learnt how to forgive its oppressors, and has shown the healing power of reconciliation after its difficult transition to democracy. “Long live Madiba”. When certain communities have been doing better than others, the underlying sentiments of anger and frustration have been let loose by a kind of trigger – the arrest of my former president.

I have a sizable population of Indian origin people. Under the British colonial system, the first ship carrying Indentured workers from India reached my shores in 1860. Most Indentured labourers came as ‘Jahaji bhais’ – brothers in a ship, and others were ‘ passenger Indians ‘ who came as businessmen. Though a lot of them are still living in conditions that are far from ideal, they grew with apartheid and were viewed as part of the black population. Today with hard work, discipline and integration they have progressed. As a minority with just 2.5% of the population (1.4 million), they have played a commendable role in my social and economic development. They are making their contributions in various areas, particularly education, the judiciary, science, the civil service… 

They are full-fledged nationals, 4th, 5th and 6th generation patriots, and they should continue enjoying all social, political and economic rights that have been guaranteed by the constitution. They are peace-loving, highly religious and tolerant, law-abiding citizens. Ahimsa, the philosophy of non-violence and resilience has taught them to respect their worst enemy. They are practitioners of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam ” – The whole world is one family.

This reminds me of the historical significance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. After spending his political and formative youth and 21 years in South Africa (1893 – 1914), Gandhi in his farewell said: “This subcontinent has become to me a sacred and dear land next to my motherland. I leave the shores of South Africa with a heavy heart and distance will not separate me from South Africa, will draw me closer to it and its welfare will always be a matter of great concern.

I can be a better, a more inclusive South Africa. I need social safety nets, redistribution and social welfare. Revenue that comes from growth should be distributed.

We make sense together, and together we can.

M. Choonee
President Gopio International – Mauritius


* Published in print edition on 20 August 2021

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