Today as we celebrate Heritage day, it’s a moment to pause and reflect on what it means to be a South African. What makes me proud to be an African?
Shew, the question alone brings a lump to my throat….
It hasn’t been an easy year being a South African, especially if you are from Kwazulu Natal. Covid, businesses in distress, riots, fire, looting, home schooling, unrest, a massively incompetent government and of course crime. Many people have “skriked” properly and are pulling the plug. I don’t blame them and I don’t judge them. Africa is not a place for the faint hearted. We, however, are staying put.
I have lived abroad and I know that no place is perfect. Every country has its challenges. That’s life. But I have learnt that as much as there are problems, there are also solutions. You can stay at home and moan from your couch, or you can get up and get involved.
What makes me proudest to be a South African, time and time again, is the spirit of the South African people. We can take kak on an unprecedented scale. But every time we show resilience and rise to the challenge. We knuckle down. We put on our big girl panties and we do what needs to be done to move forward. We are feisty as hell, but my goodness we have massive hearts and are willing to embrace, love and forgive with as much force as we are willing to fight. And when we fight, it’s the issue we are tackling. Not the person.
I have always said to my kids that an amazing person is one that can say sorry. That takes balls. It is my belief that South Africans are quick to admit when they’ve made a mistake and they can say sorry. Our president is no exception. In the looting and riots, he addressed the nation and said he was sorry. They were wholly unprepared. Well of course we were the army and the police force so we didn’t need to be told that. But Cyril admitted failure and asked us to set aside our differences and help clean up. We loved him for his candor and honesty. So we did.
I decided to clean up my area. There were many people on security duty in the area where I chose to help clean up. As I started bending and sweeping, they got involved too. That’s what we do as South Africans. We live and work together. We are not afraid of getting our hands dirty. We help where we see help is needed.
The riots confirmed to me that there is a bad element in South Africa. But they are the minority. There are far far far more people who are good and kind. All of us want to live in peace. We want to provide for our families. We want service delivery we can rely on. Education to improve our lot in life. Hospitals that can nurse us back to health when we need it. And As South Africans we want laughter.
When I lived in the UK, I remember reading a review written by British journalists on a touring South African Comedy Show. The journalists were mortified at the extent to wish South Africans make fun of themselves and laugh at big problems. But we do. We are from a country of sunshine and laughter is always on the tip of our tongue. When problems seem too big. We laugh. And Dance. That’s just our DNA.
So this year on Heritage Day, as I light my braai and drink a beer with my chommies, I am proud to be South African. There are cracks in our country, many of them deep, dangerous crevasses, but there are equally the most magnificent mountains that I watch in awe and wonder. Where there is risk, there is reward. My fellow South Africans, you are what makes my life. Thank you to you. Your spirit inspires me more than you will ever know and I am ever so proud to live amongst you.