There is no easy answer.
16 December marks the Day of Reconciliation in South Africa but the question that hangs in the air, 24 years into democracy is: Have we as a people reconciled with the past?
To find a suitable response to such a difficult question requires a deeper look into a range of complex issues that are faced by South Africa.
One would have to define what a democracy is in a country as diverse, both in race and class,
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A lecture that was published by Hilla University defined democracy as
“a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office.”
The system of a democracy is one that is meant to unite people in electing leadership and defining the identity of a country in unison. However, can that description fit the mould of South Africa today?
Another tough question. This could be a little clearer with a look into how far we have come from reconciling the ills that once plagued our nation.
At some point in the distant past, society functioned in segregation. The only perception one group had of the other was more stereotypical and shadowed by the propaganda the apartheid government flooded on our TV screens on a daily basis.
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That has surely had its impact on our psychology today. It is telling then, that in modern South Africa, you find people like Vicki Momberg, Julius Malema, Andile Mngxitama and Adam Catzavelos who use stereotypes to define racial lines.
With this in mind, let us take a look at three units of measurement that will, at the very least, help us build a clearer image of the state of our nation with regards to peace and reconciliation.
How do you speak on racism today without directly linking it with apartheid? It is a global phenomenon that will exist for as long as humanity distinguishes itself in groups.
In 2018, we saw quite a considerable number of racially-fuelled incidents, where people were named and shamed on social media for blurting out racial slurs. Momberg is the exception to that verbiage. She unleashed the k-word more than 40 times.
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So then, why, after
It is closely linked with the political landscape of South Africa. Political parties often use racism to fuel their propaganda.
Malema, the leader of the EFF, uses aggressive tactics to build the ‘pro-black’ narrative that converts well with the poor majority.
The African National Congress (ANC) has, since 1994, used the memory of apartheid as a tool to maintain control over the country.
‘Don’t forget what they did to us‘ is a narrative that has been passed down from generation to generation and its potency has seen the ruling party enjoy power for so long, even at times when the leadership may not have been serving the interests of the people.
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The Democratic Alliance (DA) is the only opposition that attracts the support of the minority in South Africa. The party stands for democracy and equality but there have been instances in 2018 where allegations of racism ruptured the party’s constituency in the Western Cape.
Political allegiance in South Africa is closely attached to racial dynamics than democratic policies that are for the betterment of our society.
A considerable amount of people will read this and associate blame to a specific racial group. Let that sink in.
Minority groups in this country control the bulk of the economy. This is one thing that has not changed since apartheid.
I won’t go into it much but a lot happened back then that caused the displacement of the majority of our society today.
Because of this, the barrier of entry into economic activity for people of colour is much higher than it is for white people and the cause of that is historically placed.
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Why is it then that when institutions like Discovery Bank launch benefit schemes like the one they currently have — where black depositors get a share in a 10% equity stake — it is deemed as being segregatory to the minority groups?
This aspect of our society is a sensitive one because we champion equality but what does that mean when we purposefully provide the advantage for one group and exclude the other?
The answer to this can be found above but it says a lot about where we are today if we are not able to empathise with each other and allow for the instruments of equality to take shape in balancing society.
Considering everything that has been stated above, it is rather obvious that we have a long way to go.
Politics thrive off inequality and for as long as their is a pursuit for a shift in power, the ills of our past will forever be thrust upon us.
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Reconciliation is a detriment to this form of engineering. Democracy as a concept is a beautiful thing. However, it was never going to work the way it was intended to in a society that is a traumatised as South Africa is.
The TRC was a mere formality. The trauma of our past has been misdiagnosed and what we are dealing with today are the ramifications of the failures of our leaders (both pre and post-apartheid) who could not see past their own agenda.
Charlamagne Tha God, in his latest best-selling book, Shook Ones: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me, summed up our condition (in an American context) beautifully.
“Consider this: a few years ago a study found that the children of Holocaust survivors had stress levels in their genes that couldn’t be attributed to the relatively untroubled lives they were living in America.
“There is no question in my mind that just as with those Holocaust survivors, the trauma of slavery has been passed down generation to generation.”