We are in a similar situation. We are the boxers, the MMA fighters, and the World Wrestling Entertainers! The following century is set to be the match of all time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s introduce the fighters:
In the left-hand corner, we have an undefeated tag-team duo: please put your hands together for Poverty and Wealth Inequality! This tag team from Hell have not lost a single match during their illustrious career. This season has seen them take down giants like the US, India, Brazil and the Russian Federation. Tonight, they will enter the arena to defend their title.
Helping them, we have fighters who have brought the African Circuit to its knees Make some noise for Racism and a Complicated Yet Devastating Legacy of Colonisation and Exploitation!
Tonight, these two sickeningly successful teams will take on an underdog from the south, our last hope of stopping them. Our fighter is weak, divided and in a hopeless situation please welcome: the Republic of South Africa!
Ding Ding Ding. Fight!
Boxing metaphor aside, this fight is real.
South Africa is facing problems left, right and centre. In every corner there is something waiting to destroy us. Racism, Wealth Inequality, Climate Change - crisis after crisis taking us on the road to chaos.
You could spend a lifetime discussing these issues and thinking of radically revolutionary solutions, and an only 10-minute long speech is just not going to cut it. So I am not going to bother. I’ll leave that to you guys.
These issues are lining up, waiting to destroy us, and at the rate we are going, we are going to let them.
South Africa is fundamentally unequipped to survive. Like a hiker without a map, or a soldier less the gun, we are not going to last long on this journey of nationhood.
The 21st century will see the end of our republic, for one simple reason the concept of being South African is dying.
I love the requirements that NIDPSC has given us. “No party political stance may be taken,” it says. Brilliant! I shouldn't take a party stance. You shouldn't take a party stance. Nobody should take a party stance, because they’re terrible!
They divide us and make us squabble among ourselves.
And any history student will tell you: those who are divided are conquered!
The sad thing is that we do not have to be so divided.
Yes, our history is uniquely terrible, but other nations, not too different from ourselves, have experienced similarly, but have triumphed in 10 times more brilliant a fashion.
We don’t even have to look far.
You know that country just north of us, the one without any water? I’ve forgotten the name
Oh right, Botswana!
It’s such an unassuming nation with so little going for it.
Seventy percent of their country is taken up by the Kalahari Desert, and as for the rest of it well let us just say their national motto is Pula, the Tswana word for rain, so you can guess what they are doing with that land.
They should be a rural, famine stricken, backwater, the place where Unicef would go to film their starving children ads, but no.
Botswana is miles ahead of South Africa!
In 2016, our GDP growth was 0.5%. Theirs was 2.9%.
In that same year, they had a GDP per capita of $3400 (R43820) higher than ours!
In that same year, Botswana’s industrial growth rate was 2.5%. Do you know what ours was? - 1%! Somehow our country - bigger, richer and with a longer history of industry - shrank in industrial growth, while Botswana grew!
Lets face the facts. Botswana is doing the impossible. They have the lowest corruption levels of any African state and they are succeeding economically. Why?
It’s for a number of reasons, but the biggest is their national co-operation.
You don’t have immigrants' shops being looted, nor do you have racially-based hate crimes running rampant. The Batswana people have unified behind their country. They’ve decided to give this weird experiment of forming a nation out of an artificially created colonial mess a try. They’ve done it by pragmatically putting their differences aside and working towards the benefit of all.
Botswana isn’t perfect, but they’re doing a hell of a lot better than us. They show us that the myth, the dream, of a non-racial post-colonial African state is within reach. Atlantis is real! This magical world can exist.
There is no reason why we cannot also be the next African miracle.
But we’re not. We are still divided. We still have hearts of hate. Apartheid is over on paper, but if you walk outside right now, you will see a country that Hendrik Verwoerd would be proud of.
The “white” women will still walk to the other side of the street if a “black” man is coming past. A child will be told that he’s not allowed to play with his “coloured” friends from Sunday School, or date that “Indian” girl from church.
Things are getting better, but we’re going at such a snail’s pace that the Limpopo River will run dry and the Drakensberg will erode to mounds of dirt by the time true healing has occurred in our great nation!
This year has been one of factionalism, tribalism and division. Division, like long division in maths, is mostly useless and a hindrance to progress.
The British are gone and the National Party is history, but another threat just like them will rise again. Neo-colonialism and corruption are facing our state with capture, and what do we do? We blame each other! The Zimbabweans are stealing our jobs; the Somalis are stealing our money. The Nigerians are selling drugs to our children. The coloureds are gangsters and Indians are shady business dealers.
All lies that we tell ourselves to convince us that the problem is simpler than it really is.
It's not the foreigners, it's not a specific race, or family, and it’s not our president. All of us are to blame.
Our national crises require nuance, something we have in deeply short supply. We supplement this deficiency with hatred, blaming others and differentiating ourselves from the problem.
Differentiating ourselves from the problem is like differentiation in maths, it seems like a good idea, but it just causes pain in the end.
Tribalism and othering are killing our country. Those who wish to take advantage of us know it!
Settle in kids Matthew is going to tell you a bedtime story.
Got your pyjamas and teddy bears? I hope not; one might think you were lost.
A long time ago, in a United Kingdom far far away
A PR company went astray
Dirty campaigns were all the rage
New tweets at every stage
Racial tensions were stirring
Bell Pottinger strings were pulling
Causing racial tension and strife
Conspiracy around their employers was rife. Can you believe it? A foreign company using our differences against us?
No no no!
That isn’t even the saddest part. The real tragedy is that we choose to let our divisions weigh us down. We have allowed Bell Pottinger into our heads.
As evidence point A, I refer you to Singapore, the Lion City on the Bay.
If you think South Africa is diverse, you haven’t seen Singapore. They have Chinese, Indians, Malays and Europeans. Every religion, from Judaism to Sikhism, Islam to Taoism, Hinduism to Christianity can be found in Singapore. All are tolerated, all are celebrated, all play their part, and they thrive because of it.
They went from being a poor backwater to being the beating heart of global trade. They are a city state with zero arable land and no natural resources, but their GDP per capita is higher than Ireland’s, is higher than ours!
We could also be in this magical reality, if we only could stop blaming each other and work together to engage in this little thing called Nation Building.
We are currently divided, and because of it we are abused, exploited and kicked to the curb. If we engage in the process of nation building, we will emerge victorious.
Luckily for us, we can climb out of it, by following four principal guidelines - the 4 “* ’s”, as highlighted in Liberty’s Surest Guardian.
The first P is Partners.
An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” Perhaps we should take our own advice and go together. This means building relationships and getting all facets of society to buy into this idea that is South Africa. From farmer to financier, from herder to miner and factory worker, people will only buy into South Africa if they think of themselves as South African.
The next P is Process.
Rome was not built in a day, and a unified South African people will not come about overnight. We need patience and a clearly set-out process, not just a once-off band aid like the World Cup.
The third P is Problem Solving.
People will never back a country that is filled with problems, same as how you would never get on a ship riddled with leaks. To get people to believe in our nation we need to give them something to bite on. We need some progress, in any form, so they know that it is worth trying to fix this place.
Then, lastly, we have P for Purpose.
We need a national goal, a national mindset, not just development goals cooked up by executive councils behind closed doors. They do not relate to ordinary South Africans. They are not communicated to ordinary South Africans. They are not implemented by ordinary South Africans.
Lets go back to that boxing match. Nation building is the only way that that underdog can get his act together, the only chance he has at beating that double tag-team monstrosity. He only has a chance if he uses what is at his disposal: diversity.
He has the best scientists, athletes, public speakers, students, teachers, comedians, sportsmen and every day heroes. Nation building means having unity in that diversity.
That’s an idea so great that it could be our national motto, oh wait
So don’t see yourself as Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Pedi, Afrikaans, Indian, English or coloured. See yourself as South African. You exist because of me, and I exist because of you it's this thing Mzansi has called Ubuntu. And if we can just use it, if we can embrace Ubuntu, engage in nation building and unite as one people, then we will be the African Miracle, we will reclaim our title as the role model of the world.
Our hands will indeed be raised at the end of that boxing match. Amandla!
Matthew Field, 17, is a pupil at St Alban's College, Pretoria. He is the co-president of its Oratorical Society and placed third in the National Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (NIDPSC) earlier this month. This is the speech he wrote and delivered in the competition. He has been selected for the South African team for the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships.