Chin up South Africa

A lot of South Africans are feeling pretty bleak at the moment. Some of the reasons:

Our electricity supplier, Eskom, has been implementing load shedding for weeks now as the system is under maintained and over demanded on. Our president blames Apartheid some 23 years after Mandela was released and 21 years since democracy landed. So, the lights are out and a lot of people feel kicked in the gut.

Our president recently built a massive homestead for some R 230 million while people are uneducated and starve in the street. He says he needed a fire pit (read pool) for security reasons and didn’t really know what was going on as he’d left the upgrades to his wife. Some architects is taking the fall – unwillingly I’m sure. The loudest opposition party want him to “pay back the money” I tend to agree with them on this point but I’m not holding my breath.

Most recently, the annual State of the Nation address turned into an absolute circus. Cellphone signals were jammed. Members of parliament were forcibly arrested – some for doing almost nothing except being part of the opposition, others for shouting “pay back the money” while the president was speaking.

It’s been nasty and your everyday citizens who have heard about this, (because, let’s face it, not everyone even has access to unbiased media- or any immediate media) are upset. This SONA has gotten more attention than just about any other one and for all the wrong reasons.

This happened on Thursday and since then it’s been part of every conversation. I’ve stopped listening because the rhetoric has just become the same. I know, and understand, that you’re unhappy, but saying the same thing ad nausium is not really going to change anything. Make a difference by leading with a good example and being kind and helpful to those around you who really need it. The true citizens of South Africa.

At times like these, it feels to me like we forget about what we really have and we forget about each other. You can’t really complain about how hard your life is when you’re sitting at a braai on a Saturday afternoon while a solar panel heats your geyser and you do own the property you live in.

I’m not saying that things are great. I’m not saying we should ignore the problems. But I also believe that we’re not the only country with problems. Things are very relative. I also believe that a lot of these problems are good for our democracy. Cellphone signals are blocked because you’re trying to hide things from an ever increasing media and literacy savvy citizenship. A citizenship you might truly be concerned about when the next voting period comes along. The government should heed its citizens, it’s healthy when turmoil erupts when things are not going well. No, I’m not encouraging a South African Spring. I’m taking note of what is happening and I’m not inclined to fret just yet.

As a 702 radio presenter put it before 6 a.m this morning “Chin up South Africa. Look out the window. The country is there. The sun is rising.”

“It’s a hard day in Africa”

When I am feeling particular satisfied with life, and generally sitting outdoors under South African skies, I often sarcastically say “It’s a hard day in Africa.” Everyone around me laughs or nod in appreciation because while watching a braai crackle and hearing birds sweet while sitting under a green tree is most people’s idea of a perfect place to be.

When I consider how negative people are about Africa and South Africa that sarcastic comment is one I revel in. More often that I appreciate I am truly blessed to be living on this Southern tip of the “dark” continent.

What is great is that I know that my joy in SA is not exclusive because the tree is in suburbia. I know that there are millions of South Africans who are living more or less a good enough life. Society has it’s polarity between it’s rich and poor. The haves and the have nots and those who want at all cost. Those who want at all cost are either incredibly ambitious and dazzle despite their circumstances and then there are those who revert to crime which is obviously a problem.

But where I am under my tree, and the postal clerk or gardener or cleaner are under their tree or in their neat little yard, life in Africa is not hard at all. Because despite our troubles, and our polarity and our economic gap, most people are really satisfied. Maslow would be proud when I say that a roof over your head is a roof over your head no matter where it is. Food in your stomach is a full tummy whether it’s lobster or chicken. I can’t afford lobster and so I like a good roast chicken – and I’m happy.

In fact, it’s the poorer communities that are often happier. Their “little” house has all the space they need and they don’t have to pay off a large mortgage. If they need help their family will band together and support them. Unlike a lot of wealthy people who end up fighting over wills or divorce settlements.

It’s a weird place where dusty children playing soccer with a tattered ball in the street are having more fun than the child who wants another Xbox game. But then there is also the more privileged child who delights in filling a Santa Shoebox near the end of the year because he know he’s helping someone who needs it.

So, no matter who you are around here – and here we are, you can be truly content in this amazing country of generous and friendly people. I won’t let the politicians and the power utility get me down because I could be somewhere else. But I like my tree, and I like my free range chicken on the braai and I love the sun which will come up every morning and make it warmer all year round than in most other places.

Fare well Proteas – no really

The fans gathering to send off the Proteas
The fans gathering to send off the Proteas
The Cricket World cup is upon us and the South African team, our Proteas, are ready to get on a plane tonight. I am lucky enough to work in Melrose Arch, where their final farewell is being hosted. A lot of people took off work to say good bye to our national team. A team we are proud of – most of the time.

I like cricket. I like the sentiment, I know the rules, I like it’s relaxed, yet highly technical and strategic way. I love that all you need is a bit of space, a longish flat surface a bat and a ball to get a game together. A street and some neighbourhood friends can make for a great game. The barrier to entry is very low so all ages and all genders can play in the same game. It really does bring people together. It’s a cool sport. I also love our national team. The Proteas consist of highly skilled, often best in the world, players. They beat out the opposition in great fashion – most of the time.

And therein lies the problem, for all the love I have the Proteas, I’m always waiting for them to disappoint me. Some way or another they are going to lose a winning streak. Or bat like Trojans and then field like mice. For a group of “best in the world” people they get if wrong more often than seems conceivable, year after year.

I know that our rugby team, the Springboks, also lose. They’ve actually not been that great lately, but they have got two world cup victories under their belt. I watched both victories, I can recall in precise detail what those victories looked like and how I felt. The Proteas have not delivered this to me. Even Bafana Bafana who really have performance issues have pulled one great victory at the CAF Cup.

It’s a weird place to be for our cricket team. It must be hard on them. The nation really does like them, some people don’t miss a match, will set aside entire weekends to watch tests, and yet, somehow, we don’t know if they can pull of a world cup victory.

So, dear Proteas, farewell on your journey and then please fare extra well at the tournament and bring home some silverware