South Africa: Cry the beloved country

Cry the beloved country, Alan Paton’s acclaimed novel about South Africa, written way back in 1948, has much to teach us today.  That’s especially true right now, as the beautiful country of South Africa, with so much potential, finds itself under siege from a deliberately planned insurrection.  An insurrection that is determined to bring the economy to its knees and its citizens to the brink of desperation as the behind-the-scenes insurrection leaders and their followers attempt to overthrow the government and existing societal structures.  Leaving citizens of all backgrounds traumatized.  Leaving them angry.  Leaving them feeling hopeless.

SA-CryTheBelovedCountry

I wasn’t going to write about this topic today.  But some emotional exchanges with one of my blogging friends in Durban, SA and then a more careful read of mostly overseas media have made me realize that the full extent of what’s happening in South Africa is far worse than a few riots that will die down.  People’s lives, livelihoods, and hope for any future at all are at stake.  Hundreds if not thousands of stores have been gutted, and of course the investments and livelihoods that go with those stores are gone.  Up to $1BN of foods and goods have been looted.  Let that sink in.  There is no cash in the ATMs and no fuel at the gas stations.

I realize that there are other parts of the world experiencing terrible, terrible situations as well.  And I realize that I’m not going to change anything by writing about yet more depressing world news.  But South Africa could and should have been a leader on the world stage in showing how a multiracial population can succeed in a united way.  They have the natural resources and people resources to have a vibrant economy that supports everyone.  They have a diversity of geography and climate that other nations would give their eye teeth for.  They have the capacity for abundant agricultural output.  And they have all those magnificent wild animals!  But South Africa has been increasingly lacking leadership that is there to serve the people as opposed to serving themselves.  Take note, everyone elsewhere, this should be a wakeup call for all democracies – never mind the autocracies – where leadership is not all it could or should be.  Guard your democracies with care. Never take them for granted.

As we all know, South Africa actually did have a leader who inspired not only his own people but people the world over – Nelson Mandela.  And this is precisely why I decided to write on this topic, because, in perhaps as great an irony as one could imagine, today is Mandela Day.

MandelaFlag

In 2009 the United Nations proclaimed July 18th, Mandela’s birthday, to be Mandela Day to honour his legacy in human rights.  It’s not meant to be a public holiday but rather a day used to honour the values he taught through example by volunteering and engaging in community service.  In South Africa today, people have been asked to honour Nelson Mandela by helping with the massive cleanup of the heart-wrenching destruction caused by the looting.  Other people are helping to distribute food to all those who are unable to find any thanks to this insurrection.  Let us hope with all our might that this coming together to contribute to recovering from this onslaught can accomplish exactly what Mandela would have encouraged, uniting the country in moving forward peacefully.

Nelson Mandela has sometimes been referred to as the Gandhi of South Africa.  Gandhi was certainly an inspiration for Mandela.  People much younger than I am might not be aware that Gandhi himself spent a full 21 years in South Africa as a young lawyer, practicing his skills at preaching human rights and proactively engaging in passive resistance, before returning to India and eventually leading the overthrow of British rule using those very techniques.  Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, two of the most impressive human rights and peace activists the world has known, both making their mark in South Africa.  We must hope that their spirit will rise again in the country where they made their mark.  And emerge victorious.  Very soon.

SA-MandelaGandhi

And now a few images to give a taste of the beauty and variety of South Africa.

Camp Bay Beach, near Cape Town.
SA-CampsBay

City of Durban, where so much looting occurred this week.
SA-DurbanInNormalTimes

One of South Africa’s many vineyards.
SA-Vineyards

Traditional rondavels in the Transkei.
SA-RondavelsTranskei

An Oryx enjoying the spring colours.
SA-Oryx

Lots of thirsty elephants!
SA-Elephants

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25 Responses to South Africa: Cry the beloved country

  1. I pray for our country 🙏.

  2. I had no idea things were so bad there, Jane. Nothing has been mentioned on CBC, CTV, Global or any other major network I check in with almost daily. What a tragedgy.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. The coverage in Canadian news was/has been remarkably scant. There was a bit more in the Washington Post and NY Times, but mostly in the British news. None of it lasted long, of course, as the crisis continues in SA. It’s a tragedy for sure. So sad.

  3. heimdalco says:

    My heart aches at the plight of these diverse & courageous people. And my heart aches at how so much promise can be dashed by poor & corrupt leadership. Our blogs on these subjects may not be responsible for immediate change but they are responsible for bringing awareness to our readers. With luck & perseverance our messages may reach enough people to make a difference. Bringing awareness & hope are as important as physical participation in many circumstances. We fight with the weapons at our disposal.

  4. Lynda Homer says:

    This is scary and so sad. I really didn’t know how bad it was. Heartbreaking!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. Even though I saw the unbelievable destruction of all the malls on BBC World News, I hadn’t processed the enormity of what was happening until I read a short blog post from a fellow blogger in Durban and got in touch by email. She said it was like a war zone and sent me some media links to read. It really is heartbreaking, you’re right, Lynda.

  5. conover1310@gmail.com says:

    I read that novel about 45 years ago…..must re- read it….Bel

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I haven’t read it for many decades either. The fascinating thing about rereading it might be that Paton published that book shortly BEFORE apartheid was brought in. so much water under the bridge, and yet so much more to come.

  6. Roy McCarthy says:

    Thanks Jane, I had no idea. Whatever is going on is very under-reported over here, apart from the Lions rugby tour of course. I must catch up though it’s much easier to ignore issues elsewhere.

  7. BernieLynne says:

    I saw a brief report about how extensive it has been. Entire blocks burnt and stores just totally ransacked. It seems surreal considering how hard the country worked to turn it’s past around but as you said, without good leadership, bad stuff happens. Democracies around the world should take heed.

  8. Alan Paton would be sad. I am, too.

  9. DM says:

    wow, I did not realize the extent to what was going on either. Your blogging friend from SA..who do they think is behind this, and where do these people want to take the country?

    • Jane Fritz says:

      If I understand correctly, those associated with Jacob Zuma, who’s being tried on massive corruption charges and jailed for obstruction of justice, want to throw President Ramaphosa out of office and reinstall Zuma or another crony with similar leanings. It’s really frightening, the extent of the damage. I don’t know how it gets fixed. All these people who have lost their shops, restaurants, hair salons, you name it. And all this on top of a COVID wave with virtually no vaccine.

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