Thank you, Trevor, for a rare moment of candour. Meanwhile, the looting of the state continues unabated, the shameless cynicism of billion-rand BEE deals is flaunted unapologetically in citizens’ faces, the arrogance of power stares blindly and dismissively at us from newspapers and TV screens, and a self-aggrandizing racism and venom debases the political discourse.
I can make no grand claims about my own credentials and bona fides, but I do see myself as a democrat, a loyal and proud South African, and as one who believes passionately and deeply in our national liberation, and in social transformation. I believed in democracy, before 1994; I believe in democracy still. But, for the first time in my adult life, I am beginning to despair of my country. I fear the racism; I fear the corrosion of institutions and hollowing out of the structures of democracy; I resent the steady deterioration of roads and streetlights and basic services; I despise the naked cronyism and toadyism that increasingly characterise our politics; and I sense with alarm a growing polarisation within our society, between the haves and have-nots, between the political and BEE elites and insiders and the rest of us, between the political factions and shrill cabals, between the different shades of our pigmentation.
Democracy was never going to be an easy ride, not with the legacy of apartheid still playing out in every room in the land, not with all the things we would have to learn and unlearn, as individuals, as cultures, as a society – but there was a moment, back there, where it seemed that men and women of good will, working together, setting aside their differences, could take on the task of building a nation.
I’m not so sure about that now.