20 years later we’re underwhelmed

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iol news pic freedom day Union Buildings GCIS The 20th celebration of Freedom Day held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. It was all rather underwhelming with not as much excitement on the ground as there should have been, says the writer. Picture: Siyabulela Duda

There is an enthusiasm gap because we are emotionally drained by what we see happening in our country, writes Khaya Dlanga.

Cape Town - We celebrated 20 years of democracy this weekend. It was all rather underwhelming with not as much excitement on the ground as there should have been. Maybe I was expecting more than I should have. There was no excitement at all. Have we run out of enthusiasm and excitement?

The greatest event to have happened to us was the 1994 election. It was something that changed not just the nation and how we saw ourselves, but also how the rest of the world viewed us.

We were a people who fought against an oppressive system, we overthrew it. We all know that the whole world was expecting a blood bath. They were expecting us to kill each other. Who could blame them for the thinking that after the assassination of Chris Hani only a year before and to top it all, the AWB ramming into the World Trade Centre where the CODESA negotiations were taking place.

Meanwhile, as the world was hailing the peaceful transition, there was bloodshed of unbelievable proportions taking place in Rwanda.

We had the rugby world cup the whole nation became excited over when we hosted it in 1995, with Nelson Mandela leading the charge in unifying the nation behind a team black people believed was a symbol of apartheid. When they won it, the whole nation rejoiced.

The following year we hosted the CAF, another cup we won. We stumbled from one event to another, unifying the nation. The big one was when we hosted the Fifa World Cup. There were some South Africans who were hoping we would fail and become a huge embarrassment but that changed as soon as they saw how well we hosted it. We surprised the world but we didn’t really surprise ourselves. We knew we could do it. We are a nation used to overcoming odds.

Then things in the recent past changed. After the passing of Nelson Mandela, things seem to have changed. There has been a shift in the mood of the people. It was especially evident during the mourning period itself when people began to boo President Jacob Zuma every time he appeared on screen and the cheering that went on when Mbeki appeared. People were voicing their views.

What has happened to the psyche of the nation? Is it a case of people wondering what it was like and what is like now? Why the lack of excitement about these 20 years? What has happened?

Twemtu years was the breaking point in Zimbabwe for example. It was when President Robert Mugabe went down hard on land reforms after Tony Blair’s government unilaterally stopped funding the “willing buyer, willing seller” land reform programme, which had been in place during the Margaret Thatcher years. The country descended into chaos and drove Mugabe into a frenzy from which Zimbabwe still hasn’t recovered.

In South Africa, we have service delivery protests, the Spear painting, we had Marikana, we had the Gupta plane landing and, worst of all, we have all heard the amount that the government had to pay for the security upgrades for the president’s private residence... R240 million, and the country still hasn’t recovered.

We have stumbled from one minor crisis to another, one scandal to another. The people’s confidence in the leadership has dwindled. There is an enthusiasm gap in the people. They are emotionally drained by what they see happening in their country. This is the reason the people have not been excited about these past 20 years. There has been no leadership to inspire them, to make them feel proud of their country.

South Africa is in need of inspirational leadership that achieves results, not just mere rhetoric. We just need someone to believe in.

* Khaya Dlanga is a social commentator and author of In My Arrogant Opinion.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Times



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