Let us set the scene
In 1994 South Africa declared itself a united nation, a Rainbow nation following the first democratic election that saw all South Africans playing an inclusive role. It remained to be seen whether a nation that had been suppressed by an Ideology of separate development would be able to transcend the barriers entrenchedover half a century. In the same breath one should not lose sight of the master race mentality that the natives have been subjected to over the centuries following colonization. Through Madiba and Tutu South Africa was peacefully ushered into an era based on reconciliation, Ubuntu and One Nation Building as stepping stones to a new identity. In the long run jobs which were not accessible to black people were made accessible, Black people were now allowed to shop in the same environment as the white people. Affirmative action was erected to address inequalities of race representation as well as gender in-equalities in the work environment – the disable communities rights would also be addressed in the long run. A new chapter had truly opened for the black people and for all.
Akin to the collapse of the Berlin Wall at the dawn of the 90’s so had the wall that separated South Africans from the inevitable commingling with each other removed. Black and white people were now viewing each other from a close quarters perspective – as equal. And the nation gave birth to the new constitution which was inclusive of everyone’s rights. Now no matter what tribe or colour you were as long as you were South African, you were now seen as part of a fabric that was woven into what was to be venerated as the Rainbow Nation. The South African Soccer squad was hailed the Rainbow warriors, soon to be replaced by the name Bafanabafana and the Rugby team was named Amabokoboko after the name Springboks. A new era had arrived. Senyaka rejoiced with his hit ‘Apartheid law’ which congratulated Madiba’s triumphant victory at the toppling of Apartheid Ideology and Brenda Fassie’s banned classic ‘Black President’ could now be played without fear of persecution. South Africa had leaped into a new dimension and had leaped well, however most importantly South Africa had avoided an eye for an eye approached in dealing with previous atrocities subjected to those who were not in power in the past.
Let us survey…
The recent inhuman treatment to the black staff of the Free State University white students foregrounds the fragility of the Rainbow Nation as a construct. The event clearly shows that while some of us have moved into a new era, there remain pockets and pockets of resistance to the Rainbow Nation Ideal. What is acutely dangerous is that this resistance continues to thrive despite talk of apartheid in the past tense. The case of the white men urinating into cooked meat and feeding it to the cleaning staff of the university is a barbaric act that hits home as far as how some South Africans in this nation are still being brought up with the same hate education that the martyrs that form the very foundation of the Rainbow Nation fell down fighting against. I am talking about the Apartheid Ideology here.
Now when the University Vice Chancellor, a man of the highest education standing, pardons the men who have committed an act sharply tied to the Apartheid Ideology; pardons men who have not even uttered an apology to their victims and our Nation, one get a sense that the Rainbow Nation is a Utopian Ideal to which we are still marching but not realized. The Rainbow Nation is a double sided construct that needs to be evaluated thoroughly in order for all of us to be on the same page, least we go to war in the not so distant future, permit me to add, a war that was avoided post ’94. In order to make my meditation clearer to you I shall summon an illustration in an attempt to sanction your empathy to the victims and why not use you as an example?
…about two years ago you were a first year student in a University in Tshwane, this is your third year. Originally you hail from the Free State and ironically your mother works at the University of the Free State (they never addmitted you to study there). One evening while having your supper, watching the news, a hazy video is shown. The video shows five cleaning staff members at the University of the Free State being ill treated by four white male students; the women and man and are forced to eat meat which has been urinated on. The men claim that they are initiating them. You catch a sight of one of the women, for a while you can swear it is your mother; you inch forward in your seat, baffled. When the amateur camera makes a close up, beyond doubt you realize that it is indeed your mother who is victimized. You reach for your cell phone and call her. She picks up. Is it true, is it really you who those terrible men victimized. She sobs on the other side of the line as she affirms to you that she and the others were powerless. they had no choice but to do as they were told, they were in the grips of fear. She breaks into a cry and you console her that it is now on the news, that the world knows about it, that the government knows about it, that the Human Rights Commission knows about it, that the country has put together a constitution which protects all South Africans. You promise to call her again and you reluctantly hang up. Not quite convinced that something could be done, knowing very well the type of institution your mother works for, that it has resisted change.
Two years later after much deliberation the University pardons the men who forced your mother and her colleagues to eat urinated meat crawling on all fours. The spirit of reconciliation is used as the reason for pardoning these terrible men by the university in the person of JJ the vice chancellor. When JJ is questioned by the nation as to why should the men be pardoned after they have shamed the nation he argues that in the face of all the wrong doings that are committed by high profiled South Africans, and they get away with it, the case of the four men is not that different, why should they deserve a harsh punishment? The nation consoles itself that at least the men will appear at the court of law. JJ goes into silence, hoping that the court of law will not give the men a harsh punishment. The rest is history. To date the men have not received punishment. You wait, the Nation wait.
The Rainbow Nation as an Ideal is in dire state and this is a simple matter to acknowledge. You can see it all around you. When you walk into a mall, at work, at school, etcetera, etcetera, etc. Some South Africans have not bought into the Rainbow Nation as an ideal or specifically speaking as an Ideology. Henceforth the barbaric atrocities based on racism that have continue to occur unto this day. It takes will power to hurt someone who has not harmed you in any way. It takes cultivated hate to hurt an innocent person. At the foundation of your will power there is also points of references and essential education that you are supposedly have gathered from the community that gave birth to you, starting with your parents and exploding from them into the immediate family and then the community at large (school and churches are located between your family and the community at large). We are talking about enculturation here. For much of your behavior is shaped by your social environment. The Reitz Four are evidence of the existence of a lethal society that exists in South Africa. A very dangerous organization that poses a threat to South Africa’s Ideal – the Rainbow Nation. They do not care about reconciliation, for them Black will never be equal to White! Let us be realistic, as much as we may argue that black people in South Africa are in control of the government, economically speaking they are not. Any Ideology for it to be properly entrenched it needs an economic base which can erect a superstructure to uphold it. Who has reconciled with who and who has the money in South Africa?
In a war against any Ideology one can uphold Ideals related to their Ideology as long as they can sustain them. The Ideals are sustained by economic privileges either acquired through descent or erected through wealth accumulation. We do not have to interrogate the methods of wealth accumulation here. The aim of this assertion is to tie and equate Ideals to economic wellbeing of a society. The resistance to bow to the Ideal of the Rainbow Nation is sharply tied to an Ideology that is nourished by an economic base which is not in the hands of Black South Africans otherwise the Reitz Four racist situation would not occur. The Rainbow Nation apropos the Reitz Four’s barbaric inhuman assault at the University of the Free State is as fragile as a myth. As an Ideology, the Rainbow Nation, post the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) should’ve have been gradually evolved and adapted in making it a continuous defense mechanism to racist’s debris of apartheid. That way, in resolving crimes to humanity, consultation and punishment will be meted out accordingly so that generations to come can come to appreciate and protect the Ideology of the Rainbow Nation itself. Justice for all will exist.
To read the afterword link to:
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2009