Nearly twenty years down the line since that first historic democratic election in 1994 – hope is still floating, but only just. Gravy trains and ego trips, not to mention incompetence, lawlessness and widely varied violations have disturbingly become the order of the day.
Sweeping generalisation? Long explanations and motivations aside: right now we are not on a roll. Certainly not when compared to the dramatic and triumphant take-off of the rainbow nation…
April 27, 1994: We went out in droves to cast our votes on that clear autumn day. Almost tangible was exuberance, anticipation, trepidation, anxiety and, in all honesty, also a measure of apprehension. There was no telling how the day would turn out.
More than anything else, I remember my heart almost breaking for my mother. Emotionally she was brimming with a concoction of a brew. For her that was nothing strange. Her heart was pulling in all imaginable directions. But there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
Actually the entire atmosphere above South Africa billowed and blossomed with the emotions of almost 20 000 000 registered voters who came out to cast their votes. There were lumps in throats, tears, laughter, banter, scuffles and above all miraculous unity. Miraculous order. The absence of chaos and violence.
Relief and resignation prevailed. At last the road to normality lay before us. For the sake of my/our children more than anything else I, like many others was eager for the new dispensation to commence, to proceed and most of all to succeed. (The ruling party had come out shy of a two thirds majority, but nonetheless with a comfortable lead.)
Spearheading the culmination of the struggle for political freedom for all in this country was of course none other than Madiba. Nelson Mandela – leading the people of South Africa into the arena of level playing fields. Cheering him on were familiar – some famous, some notorious – figures from all walks of life. One of the boldest and most outspoken but at the same time most appreciated and beloved was the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Rainbow People of God
Soon the phrase ‘Rainbow nation’ became synonymous with the ‘New South Africa’. It was in a series of televised appearances that Tutu spoke of the ‘Rainbow People of God’. From Wikipedia: “Rainbow Nation is a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa, after South Africa’s first fully democratic election in 1994. As a cleric, this metaphor drew upon the Old Testament story of Noah’s Flood, and its ensuing rainbow of peace. Within South African indigenous cultures, the rainbow is associated with hope and a bright future (as inXhosa culture)”.
Also from Wikipedia: “The phrase was elaborated upon by President Nelson Mandela in his first month of office, when he proclaimed: “Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
To me it is true and undeniable that in fact each of us is ‘intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country’… This is our country of birth. This is where our destiny unfolds. This is where our sweat and sometimes blood soak away into the soils and sands. This is where we are rooted. We are South Africans. A rainbow of… South Africans.
But if rainbows could be troubled, ours would be. And somewhat murky, clouded over by eroded ideals and twisted realities, shortfalls and shortcomings that do not belong in a rainbow.
Madiba has become quiet.
Tutu, on the other hand, remains as endearingly outspoken as ever. Bearing his heart on his sleeve. And his heart is troubled about this beloved country. About the direction it is hurtling towards.
Where are our rainbow boffins? Hey! we cannot allow disappointment and disillusionment to buckle and bend and befuddle our covenant token!! Would you rather join Alan Paton in lamenting ‘Cry, the beloved Country’?
Let US – ALL OF US rainbow people – put those victorious smiles back – not only on the faces of the pioneers, but also of our peers and of generations to come.
Let us say NO to a murky rainbow.