Is rainbow nation dissipating and disappearing?

Tapiwa Gomo

develop me :Tapiwa Gomo

SOUTH AFRICA is not only one of the young nations in the world but one of the richest. Its independence was born out of both struggle and negotiation and these two informed the underlying narratives of the country.

First, its constitution is described as one of the best in the world and there are many reasons why this is the case. It is largely the Western inclined voices that have been vocal about how good the constitution is, simply because it allowed Nelson Mandela to come out of prison and ensure he recited the constitutional stanzas without expressing what that really meant. Mandela played ball by solidifying the tenets of the constitution and this was crucial as it meant that South Africa would avoid taking the same route as other African countries in addressing the historical and economic imbalances created by the settlers.

In short, the South African constitution protected property rights of the settlers while granting the majority civil rights. In simple terms, the constitution cemented the pre-existing economic imbalances while granting the black majority all their freedoms and rights. It meant that those who had snatched the land, minerals and all the economic opportunities during the colonial period, the reasons for which the struggled was fought, were left untouched, free to keep their loot while enjoying the protection of the new constitution. They were the biggest beneficiaries of the struggle.

The settlers, who stole from the black South Africans, could now confidently retain their colonial loot, while the majority enjoyed all the freedoms and rights, including to protest against their own and new black government. Problems that informed the war of liberation were handed over to the new black government, which on the other hand, was constrained by the constitution from addressing the issues other than make false political promises to its people.

Second, this formed the foundation of the much-touted democracy in South Africa were the majority were hoodwinked after fighting for real change to accept rights before winning the real war on the means of production. To quell future dissent, South Africa was then described as a rainbow nation — a concept coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and advanced by 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.”

Third, the concept of the rainbow nation was to blind black South Africans to see, hear or say no evil about the new political arrangement built on the assumption that the white minority, who still owned the means of production, would be sincere in supporting the equitable distribution of wealth. That was part of the negotiations. The concept of the rainbow nation was also intended to encapsulate the unity of multi-culturalism and the coming together of people of many different nations, in a country once identified with the strict division of white and black.

These three aspects of what constructed the post-apartheid South Africa missed several important points. The first point was that independence without economic empowerment would result in a borrowed period of peace which would expire if promises are not fulfilled. Second, is that, those who owned the means of production before independence were not willing to share with blacks because doing so would mean a major defeat on their part. They came to colonise and enrich themselves. These two points simply meant that the economic divide would widen resulting in major political collisions that would threaten the rainbow nation.

What is unfolding in Senekal, a town situated on the banks of the Sand River in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa is one of the many examples that have emerged so far — a stark reminder that the rainbow is on the verge of evaporation and in need of a new breath of political humidity to keep it alive. The increasing crime rate, the rising cases of corruption and political dissent is a sign that something has not been right, people need their government to address issues or they will go back to the trenches — a situation that may result in everyone losing whatever they possess today.

Just like any other African leadership, there is a tendency to use police, military and cheap political solutions to deal with these deep-seated issues. The fact of the matter is that hungry people will not allow themselves to die of hunger when they see food on the tables of those who own the means of production. The best way to bring or maintain peace is to ensure that everyone is able to put food on the table and that allows a lull in addressing pending issues. This is urgent.

A real dialogue among the people, the different races and those of different economic strata in South Africa is now relevant to save the goose that lay the golden egg. The people’s voices cannot be ignored forever. Scapegoating foreigners for problems that require leadership solutions will not help in burying what is brewing in South Africa. The massive responses to Julius Malema’s calls is a clear sign that the African National Congress government needs to change its course or rather revert to its original agenda of empowering the African in the country.