Like a train wreck that you can’t seem to look away from, I’ve been following the story of three South African men who brutally murdered a family in Gauteng and then laughed their way through the bail hearing. What makes this especially horrific is the sheer violence of the crime and the fact that a young child was bound, gagged and drowned in a bath of scalding hot water for witnessing the murders of his mum and dad. I will not go into the gory details, you can read it here
While you’re there, take a gander down to the comments section – the actual focus of my post. As is the case with most serious issues related to South Africa, the comments section of an English publication reads like a litany of close-minded, uninformed bias. The sentiment never changes (damn natives) and the general consensus is that South Africa is a violent, crime addled, polygamous society…completely lawless and, by the way, what is Mandela doing to stop this rot?
But hold on…this could mostly be true, right? Whenever I read these comments (which I do because my partner is British and I’m interested in how his friends and family perceive his adopted country), I tend to jump on my rainbow nation horse. How DARE they say these things? And then I am reminded that in some ways ‘these things’ are true. We do have a polygamous President. We do have very brutal and violent crimes. We have rapes and women and children are hurt everyday in a very matter-of-fact way. This is all true.
What is not true – and this is the big rider – is that we are ok with it. No, world…the average South African is not ok with it. But it’s also a matter of your media-skewered perception vs our reality.
Our president chooses to have several wives. Culturally he is allowed to do this and while I will never be happy to be a wife number 2, it is not my culture and I must respect that. In no way should this fact be held up as a reason for his failure or success as a president and leader.
So much more than that, we are not happy with rape, murder and theft and I am incensed that the world would think I am. And leaving my house is not akin to entering a war zone. Contrary to popular opinion, the government of South Africa does not condone the killing of farmers or any other of its citizens generally and we take great exception to the idea that you can come over here and ‘buy a murder’ (I’m looking at you Shrien Dewani). No, it’s not perfect…fuck…not by a long shot. But what it is, is a nation of people that remain optimistic, striving and willing to take on the challenge of still reshaping what is basically a fucked situation post-apartheid.
Point is, while we go crazy with all the bad news and overseas media cries foul about our ‘lawlessness, South Africans are still mostly doing the right thing. Yes, it might seem glib of me to say that as corruption is rife and our education system is shambolic. But people are held to account. In the media, in the streets, around the braai and in the workings of our constitution, people are still being held to account. Lawlessness is not the order of the day.
You see, what these commenters fail to understand is that with our young democracy came a voice. And most South Africans are quite adept at making their voices heard. So while they see the sense of entitlement, the corruption, the murders and the rapes, what they are not realising is that the majority of South Africans are saying, “This is not ok.”
As far as I am concerned, it’s not enough to say it’s not ok…but it’s a helluva’ good starting point.