Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mzansi Rocks

I can honestly say that Mzansi or South Africa is the most beautiful country I have ever been too. It inhabits all the landscape that makes my heart blossom. I remember a visit to Durban and staying on the coast in Umlhanga and Amaxinthoti. I often relive the effect of looking at the southern most tip of Africa where supposedly three oceans meet. Whether it is the beauty of Veldt of the Eastern cape or the lush grapevines overlooked by the Table mountain. It is truly Gods own country and this is not just a marketing strapline.The most awesome love pitch is President Mbeki speech on this issue titled 'I am African'. It is truly as he says. However in the middle of all of this is a nation with an amazing challenge because it refuses to come to terms with elements of its character that is the cornerstone of its uniqueness. Its Africaness.

Lets use the Omoluwabi elements to take a systematic view.

The first point is the Isiju or Olaju element. What are the revealations that emerge from seeing Mzansi with fresh eyes? It is one angry nation who in an attempt at respectability and western decorum stops itself from acting out like it feels other African nation have done. Somehow she tries to earn as well as keep the infracstructure and industrialisation by distancing itself from the premevial nature of what it sees as its Africaness. It is so rare to hear the noise, smell or even the colours of the rest of Africa in a city as large as Johannesburg. So it takes the noble course, rainbow nation, truth and reconcilation commission, model c schools. In spite of that, the duality plays itself out. The township protects the soul of the land, the blind unquenched anger of the young toughs, the possibility of a Zuma presidency, the loneliness of voluptous sisters waiting to exhale with dignity. The ever nagging doubt that maybe the masterminds of Aparthied might be right, exercebated by the glaring reward that is still bestowed on their benefactors whose inheritance are not being diminished but legitimised by BE programs.

Lets review another element called Oju Inu, the insight into the dynamics. The very things that helped the Black South Africans fight aparthied are now becoming burdens. The obsession for Social Justice is congealing into ever present sense of entitlement. A nation that protest incessantly that even the whites have no shame bleating discrimination even though they are largely a priviledged minority. At the top of the pecking order is an Activocracy always protesting one thing or the other. The highlight being the unions and their role in society. A society that focuses incessantly on cooperation treating her partner in evolution, competition with contempt. Its industrial development and infrastructure convinces her that life is linear and processed unlike the chaos in her sister countries to the north. Enter Ama Nigerians , brash, loud and big. Finding an angle in everything as well as bending rules everywhere, taking advantage through their sheer gall . All the insecurity of Mzansi finds a scape goat in them. Never mind the stereotypes of Hillbrow drug dealers it is the professional class in every university, hospital et al that is the real driver for insecurity. The Nigerian to use their individuality competitively sets them apart in a world that abhors confrontation and is easily embarrased to collude in its own timidity.

So what does this forecast or what are the signs or Ami of what is on the horizon. Everyone talks ceasellesly about HIV or AIDs and even Crime. The more sophisticated focus on the landless and the potential revolution in the manner of Zimbabwe. They lose sight that Mzansi has more powerful omens playing out. Watch out for the wealth at the bottom of the pyramid especially in the townships. Do not miss out on the drama of the Nigeria, South Africa investment and labour market twinning. What happens when South African Xenophobia becomes Nigerian anger? Does anyone remember 'Ghana must go' ? Also what will happen when the emerging , empowered South African women fight against the raw deal that seems to come with unaccountable males? Mzansi is where most of Africa meets and works in an urbane space, what trans african lessons emerge from that platform? Are white south africans a dying breed of Africans or a genuine and authentic representation of how everyone can embrace the Africa in them? Watch out for whether Mzansi acknowledges the heavyweight that Thabo Mbeki really is. Also watch how honestly it handles the Xhosa hateing green monster that is leading to the Zuma candidacy as well as support. Especially look at how inclusive the World Cup plays out either as a Pan African spectacle or an exclusive self congratulatory soiree.

The issue of Iwalewa i.e. the behaviours that can help evolve Mzansi are very specific and potentially liberating. In fact some are happening already:

- Reclaim the many African elements of its culture

- Allow itself to confront and compete openly and honestly

- Recognise the many sacrifices other Africans made to facilitate its current liberation. An historic amnesia that has to be corrected.

- Use the opportunity of townships to create a Renaissance

- Define differences beyond Race into culture

In trying to do these things she must recognise another element Eniyan Laso mi. Her success is dependent on the quality of its relationships. In defining itself a rainbow nation it must recognise the potential of mass migration to diffuse current unplesant ethno national rivalries. It must develop a more honest relationship between all its ethnic nationalities. It needs to develop a relatioship with other African countries that is mutually respectful rather than reward the wealth of the Western tourist.

It is difficult to see where the shift for the future will come from since the young South Africans need to be the force for their country as a new African possibility or as their President describe it a backbone for a new African Renaissance.

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