There’s only one person I dig less than a foreigner criticising South Africa. Actually, let’s start again. there are only two people I dig less than a foreigner criticising my country and those are a South African expat living overseas whingeing about South Africa and a South African living here in the most amazing country in the entire chuffing world but banging on about how bad things are and wishing he was in Perth. Or London. Or Vancouver. Or Chernobyl. Or anywhere in the world but in South Africa.
What is this all about? I, the first person in South Africa (even before President Jacob Zuma) to be medically diagnosed as “SA-positive”, cannot get my head around it. That might well be because I’m phenomenally stupid. Fair dos.
But I think there’s more to it. A lot more. A festering, rotting, stinking lot more. And this became clear when Dianne Russell, a Canadian now living in South Africa, wrote a “guest post” on this blog, giving \”10 Reasons Why A Vancouverite Would Rather Live In Cape Town\”.
Dianne was simply exercising her right to give her personal opinion about her experience. As she did when she exercised her right to join her South African boyfriend here in Cape Town. Her eyes, unlike those of many whining South Africans, were opened to the beauty of our beloved country. Not just the physical beauty of the landscape but the beauty of our fascinatingly diverse peoples, their friendliness, their openness, their warmth, their vitality.
But clearly she had not chatted to that weird group of South Africans – mostly, in the words of that nincompoop Julius Malema, of a “white tendency” – who live frozen in fear behind their electric fences and only come out by day to make large amounts of money and to go to braais held by their similarly-minded friends.
There they will wolf down humungous amounts of steak and boerewors, sluk on brandy-and-Coke and Castle Lager and whinge incessantly about how terrible crime and corruption is, how this country has gone to the dogs and, maggies, have you checked how bad the potholes are on the road to the office? These South Africans stand around the braai rooted in their collective consciousness and abject fear, moaning and wishing they could go to live in a “civilised country”.
They mourn “the good old days” (read the apartheid era) when most of the national resources were handed to them (a small percentage of the population) on a plate and the vast majority of South Africans had to get by on the scraps thrown to them. Now that our new democracy is founded on sharing everything equally among everybody (and the government is struggling to do that and make ends meet), these “SA-negative” people dream of supping on the “milk and honey” which apparently abounds in other countries.
Yeah, yeah. Pull the other one. When are these previously over-privileged South Africans going to grow up? Get real, mense. Have you even travelled abroad to grasp at the reality of living in stultifyingly over-regulated, overly politically correct and plain boring countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand? Please do. and make it a one-way ticket. You’re holding us back, bru. And your negativity is draining the beautiful energy the rest of us are putting out.
And some of you had the ignorance to write into this blog to bash away at the positivity Dianne Russell, a Canadian, feels about South Africa. Your anger was tangible, so much so that a rather confused Canadian blogger has brought it to the attention of Canada. How dare a foreigner move to our country and have the audacity to tell us how wonderful it all is? Who does she think she is? A South African? Ja, if she were South African she would share our pain at the moerse potholes our double cabs disappear into on a daily basis. And to be truly South African like us, she must give up her Canadian passport, hand in her Canadian dollars, stop being a “party girl” and sitting around sipping cocktails outside Caprice in Camps Bay and come to stand around our braai in Hierdieplekisblerriekakfontein and endlessly bemoan the increasing girth of Julius Malema and potholes.
Eish! But there is hope for these people. Remember Brandon Huntley, that sad South African okey who claimed political asylum in Canada after telling some gullible immigration officials there that he had been mugged, assaulted, sodomised and even sworn at at least five times a day while living in Mowbray, Cape Town. You do? Well, there you go. I’m sure there are quite a few countries that will give you full citizenship on the grounds that those potholes are getting so bloody big that you can’t get your double cab around them on your way to work. Then you can freeze happily ever after and leave us to somehow struggle on in the brilliant sunshine of our South African lives.
And I tell you what. Before you go, I’ll let you in on something personal. Back in the day (yes, under apartheid rule), when I was mos a laaitie – and before PW Botha’s military taught me how to shoot a R1 rifle at the commie terrorists on “the border” and before Home Affairs confiscated my passport because I refused to work as a spy for them in London and before they tapped my phone when I joined the Anti-Apartheid Movement there and before they detained me and interrogated me at Jan Smuts Airport when I next came back to South Africa to visit my parents… yes, before all of that – I used to play soccer barefoot with my friends, white and black – on a golden field near a river running through Pietermaritzburg. Late into the night and by the light of nearby houses.
And the next day, we would go down to that river and feel our chests thump as we whooshed down that foofie-slide that Uncle George had fixed high on a tree. And then, slightly bruised and bleeding, we would slosh around in the river, worried about bumping into the much-feared legavaan (Varanus abigularis or Monitor Lizard) that apparently could break a child’s leg with a swish of its tail.
Then we would collect tadpoles in the river to take home to watch grow into frogs, stopping only to munch mulberries off a number of trees and grab a few leaves to feed the shoeboxes of hungry silkworms about to go through their cocoon-moth-egg-silkworm cycle. And once, when the river came down in flood, the boy next-door and I borrowed my mom’s zinc bath (used to bath the dogs) and sailed merrily down the river. We ended up about eight kilometres away, on the other side of Maritzburg, and I had to borrow five cents to phone my mom and ask her to come in the car to pick us up as we couldn’t carry the zinc bath all the way back.
It was a beautiful childhood. Until I became gradually aware of the racist policies of the government of the day. I owe a great debt to my country. South Africa owes me nothing. I love South Africa.
No more so than when I see, around where I am blessed to live, children of all tones of skin kicking a football around on the village green. And getting very animated when they spot the seal that has taken up residence in the river that runs through Stanford. These children won’t grow up to be told to shoot rifles in a crazy war, they won’t be asked to spy for a crazy government and it is highly unlikely that they will be stopped at OR Tambo Airport and interrogated about why they belong to an organisation that campaigns against a racist South Africa.
That, my friends, is why I believe that we live in a far better South Africa. A South Africa that is not without great challenges, for sure, but a South Africa in which I choose to live and die in. So, when you are around that braai this sunny weekend and the dop (liquor) is going down fast and freely – and perhaps you are watching the Bulls play Super 14 rugby in Soweto, nogal – please try to get your potholes drama into some perspective.
And, even better, perhaps you might want to clamber out of your huge pothole of fear, leave Dianne Russell alone, put on a Bafana Bafana jersey, get hold of a vuvuzela and join the rest of us “SA-positive” people in celebrating our uniquely wondrous country and the sensational World Cup we are about to host. Feel it. We SA-positives are here!