December is not going to be easy in South Africa.
Frankly, it’s been a tumultuous, at many times, catastrophic year. From Gordhan to Nzimande getting the axe to yet another failed motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, and the economy shaking at every reshuffle, 2017 has proven that we are far from a stable democracy. And, even further from that notion of a rainbow nation. The string of hate speech cases before the Equality Court, xenophobic tensions and the many racial attacks spewed on social media overshadow that rainbow. Don’t dwell on what the official crime statistics reveal. The reality is that more South Africans feel less safe.
All these are likely to feature in the 2017 year in review that journalists across the country’s media houses produce in December. Bookmark those pages online and keep those print edition supplements – it’s a part of history your children are likely to study in future.
And, while you’re still nursing the wounds inflicted from the shrapnel of the explosive book The President’s Keepers by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw, brace yourself… Another book – Enemy of the People – by Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit launches next week.
But, let’s get back to December. The ANC’s soul must be laid bare. Yes, I believe the party still has a soul. To refer to Gordhan once again – he aptly pointed out recently that the elective conference is not simply about the succession race, but about the ANC’s legacy. Even with the massive effort to pay tribute to the legacy of the longest-serving ANC President Oliver Tambo on his 100th birth anniversary, the voices within and outside the party are clear – that legacy is at risk.
Does this disturb you? It should.
(Painting by Peter Jonas)
But, it’s December and you have a to-do list of things as long as your child’s Christmas wish list. Even if you are not of Christian faith, that wish list is ready. It’s part of the December fun! Ticking off that list though is not fun. More so, because barely weeks later, you will have to tick off another list – the back to school uniform and stationery list. So yes, financially, December is a mess. There’s also a fuel price hike expected. Top that off with the demands of entertaining and cooking for the extended family, and you’d be forgiven for wanting to literally run away. But, you are a South African, and we don’t run away. We make the best of every situation. We are resilient.
Last week, I stumbled upon a conversation among my colleagues that made me smile from within – one of those true smiles where you don’t worry if your face looks wrinkled or your teeth are showing too much.
Colleague 1: Right, I need to shop for my Choice Assorted biscuits and Oros for December.
Colleague 2: Oh yes, me too. The 2kg Choice Assorted. They sell quickly this time of the year. The sooner I get them the better.
Me: Of course! It’s a must for every South African home in December.
That tradition warmed my heart. Instantly, I remembered the fights over who grabbed the pink wafer biscuit first or who snatched the shiny red wrapped biscuit – or called dibs! And then, there was always someone who would hide their stash of biscuits to savour with tea when no one was looking.
Oh, the simple pleasures of life in South Africa! Yes, even with the consumerism that has engulfed youth and adults alike, there are some relatively inexpensive traditions that still hold value. Like the Day of Goodwill will always be beach day – and braai day too! Okay, braai day can be any day in South Africa. Whether it’s a bring and braai or the chop and dop type or a gourmet braai – it’s not the meat that really matters. The most important thing about braai culture is that everyone sits around the fire, together.
Dams and parks are popular spots – but nothing beats the braai in your backyard. I’m vegetarian by the way – so it’s butternut, sweet potato and mealies on the braai for me!
As you gather to enjoy biscuits or a braai with family and friends in December, inevitably the discussions will gravitate towards the challenges this year has heralded. And you will be tempted to complain.
Instead, ask yourself – what are you going to do to make next December easier for you as a South African citizen?
We have too many armchair critics, others who are too quick to post on social media rather than raise issues with relevant authorities and many more who simply accept the status quo. History will judge not only politicians, but you too.
2019 is more than an election year. It will mark 25 years of democratic South Africa. Use that benchmark to determine how active you have been in this democracy. Get involved in community organisations, support causes that you are passionate about and protest peacefully if the need arises. Your democratic rights are not limited to voting.
And smile more often – to your neighbours, to fellow South Africans and to those who seek a safe haven here amid turmoil in other nations. Maybe, that rainbow will appear again.
Disclaimer: This post is not promotional but mentions two brands that have become firm South African favourites over the decades.
December is not going to be easy in South Africa.