Nelson Mandela casts his vote at Ohlange High School hall at Inanda near Durban, on April 27, 1994. File picture: John Parkin

How dare we declare a failed state when the real journey has barely made it past the proverbial front gate? asks Chris Badenhorst.

Johannesburg - Their names echo throughout many years of human hardship and struggle – Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, Emily Hobhouse, Nelson Mandela.

Ordinary people who did not simply one day wake up and proclaim their place in history – to the contrary, the one common demeanour would be that these ordinary people all answered to an inner call and took up a long, troublesome and painful journey in the name of courage.

With elections only a few weeks away, election manifestos are (or rather, should be) pretty much a topic of heated discussion around many a fireplace – a fought-and-died for luxury few of us recognise while engaging in the act. But, regardless your political dogma and cultural background and whether you relish in the tales of a Christiaan de Wet, Shaka, Moshoeshoe or Cetswhayo – they all shared a common ambition: freedom.

Freedom against a sometimes faceless oppressor, that has throughout that particular point in history crushed and maimed more human souls than perhaps taken on the battlefield.

Today, however, we face a different and in many ways a more incapacitating enemy: fear. It is this fear that has once again, much as back in 1994, taken countless South Africans hostage. But unlike in 1994, we have no Mandela looming on the threshold of greatness to instil hope and belief. This time around each and every South African would have to take up arms against the demons and uncertainties buried deep within himself and fight the moral cowardice that manifests itself in the negative discourse that seems to indeed determine the course for so many lately.

It is indeed this negativity that prompted this letter to the media and my circle of close friends, whom I deeply cherish and care about. I am not blind to the countless and serious challenges that face our democracy – education, crime, corruption, healthcare, and infrastructure. The list seems endless. The question, however, is: How dare we declare a failed state when the real journey has barely made it past the proverbial front gate? Would this not constitute a moral mutiny against the spilled blood of many before us?

Back in 1992, I was advised to pack up and leave this country. The same calls echoed once again in 2008. Yes, ultimately we are faced with these two choices: you can leave, or we can stay and make this work. I am blessed to be in the fortunate position to have friends from all circles of life stretched across the globe. I have in my life been in the fortunate position to be a frequent traveller of many countries abroad. I can safely and unequivocally declare that nowhere have I found citizens of any country completely content with their governance and circumstances.


Modern day media exploits the darkest of all human traits and has the tendency to feast on the fears of the masses. Issues that have the potential (regardless the angle of approach) to fuel mostly irrational fears make headlines, and headlines sell newspapers. Quite simply put, it is my belief that if you think negatively, you become negative and you inevitably act negatively and thus spread an infectious disease among your circle of influence.

Social media and its character carries with it the curse that it is immediate, sometimes opinions are uttered without so much as a second thought and can literally reach hundreds and thousands of people within a matter of minutes if not seconds.

Have we not become our own worst enemies? Take a hard and honest look at the rest of the world flickering by on our TV screens, and I will submit a clear-cut case that we (as South Africans) are not performing too badly.

A study last year by Goldman Sachs reminded us that:

* Since 1994, GDP increased from $136 billion to nearly $400bn.

* Tax receipts increased from R114bn to R814bn.


* Gold reserves from R3bn to R50bn

* Social Grants reach 16.1 million people as opposed to the 2.4 million people in 1994.

* Inflation fell some 14 percent between 1980 and 1994, and from then averaged 6 percent up until 2012.


As we approach the May 7 elections many remain uncertain of where they will leave their mark. Some experts predict the highest percentage of stay-away voters since our hard-earned democracy emerged in 1994. Sadly, most individuals won’t realise that the true power of a democracy lies within their grasp – the power and moral courage to change what is wrong with our country. Complacency has replaced oppression as the enemy. Ke Nako! The time is now.


Chris Badenhorst



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

The Star