It's Freedom Day in South Africa. Don't Laugh

On 27th April 1994, South Africa bathed in the soft glow of the world community’s smiles. For this was the day when people of all races went to the polls for the first time in the country’s history. The queues to the actual polling stations were often kilometres long. Images of these have since became a symbol of unity and purpose. Millions of people exercising a right which had only been a privilege of those with a fairer skin. As I write this, I am unashamed of the lump in my throat. Because I was there, laughing and crying for hours in a queue with others whose world had fundamentally changed for the better. Apartheid had been legislatively banished and this freshly united country became known as the Rainbow Nation. This was long before the rainbow became the symbol of LGBTQ+. But naturally, sharing the same universal sentiment.

Every silver lining has a cloud

South Africa’s Freedom Day has been acknowledged for 29 years since that liberating moment. I use the word ‘acknowledged’ because, unfortunately, ‘celebrated’ no longer fits the bill. Firstly, the rampaging corruption in the ruling party. It’s all but destroyed most of the basic pillars on which a community is established. The ANC undergoing a rigorous self-audit at the moment, but that’s still a bit like investigating the cause of a multi-car pile up with fatalities. Then there’s the police force, deemed to be the most crooked in the world. Or the former CEO of the broken electricity utility who’s terrified for his life. Yesterday he testified to parliament from an undisclosed location! Even the Premier himself is in the dock for breaking foreign currency laws. Oh yes, the local currency’s value is busy plummeting downwards and might soon keep company with the Zimbabwe Dollar.

All we’ve got left is a decent rugby team and, well, Elon Musk. So much for celebrating South Africa‘s Freedom Day.

The Shoe of ‘Privilege’ is on The Other Foot

You may wish to pull out the race card and suggest this piece has some sort of white supremacist agenda. Let me assure you it’s nothing of the sort. South Africa, right up until the release of Nelson Mandela, was beyond abhorrent for most and had to change.  

The man who followed Nelson Mandela as State President – pretty big shoes to fill – was equally up to the task of making the country work. His name was Thabo Mbeki and he had a vision. which was soon blurred by a faction who used social redress as an excuse for a scale of corruption crippling the opportunities of the people with whom I stood in a two-kilometre queue all those years ago.  

Is There a Phoenix?

But for some strange reason, a parallel for which I can only find in Lebanon, not everyone became part of the South African diaspora. And those who have not fled to Australia have demonstrated a remarkable resilience to the lack of electricity, the lack of a trustworthy police force, the lack of a road repair infrastructure, the lack the lack the lack. And their optimism comes from within themselves and they will not be accused of being delusional.

So today, I am not going to just acknowledge today. I am going to celebrate South Africa’s Freedom Day again, on behalf of the new pioneers of this beautiful country. May the spark which made you such an entrepreneurial example to the world find the fuel to reignite your spirit.