Monday, 4 March 2013

South Africa: my heart is broken

How selfish that title seems, coming from a privileged woman who lives in a safe home in the suburbs, with her wonderful husband and two totally awesome, healthy  sons. What could I possibly have to be heartbroken about?

The last few months have seen a barrage of bad news hit us – lists of women who have been raped and/or murdered, men who have died at thehands of police officers, children who have been let down by their parents and then the system that is meant to protect them, the thousands of people who have died on the roads because of others’ irresponsible driving, corruption in government, bullying by politicians, in-party political murders and victimisation... the list is already too long for me to carry on – and I probably could for pages.

I’ve always been one of the most South Africa-positive people I know. But I have to be honest: I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve used up our already generous allocation of miracles. At every turn, we hear how South Africans are raping, torturing, cheating, murdering other South Africans – and they’re getting away with it, day after day, while our government sets up commissions of inquiry that don’t achieve anything other than wasting more of my (and your) tax money.

There are beacons of light. There are good folks out there working hard to change things and do things differently, but the beauty of their song is drowned out by the cacophony of bad news. It struck home last week when I clicked through to a coverage link of some work Tribeca did for the Put Foot Foundation. In the middle of the page – an artful shot of the school shoes the Foundation gave to kids who didn’t have any. Every single other story on the page – and there were many – was a story of murder, mayhem and mishap.

How on earth are we supposed to stay positive about our country and its future when every little bit of good news is drowned out by bad! (And, it’s worth noting, that the good news just mentioned only happened in an attempt to address the tragedy of township children who have no shoes or socks to wear to school, in a country that spends more per capita on the education system than most others).

I know that the call should be for us all to rise up, raise our voices, donate our money, and take action to improve the lot of our fellow citizens. I’m happy to do that, but, South Africa, where do I start? How do I choose whether to volunteer at a children’s home, or whether to buy care kits for rape victims, or whether to start or participate in YET another movement that sets out to change things for the better? The thousands of well intentioned movements, foundations, organisations that have been launched off the back of similar despair seem to be fighting a losing battle against the overwhelming tide of lawlessness, anger and violence that is washing our country’s future away.

Right now, I want to go home and hug my children close to me, because the best that I can do right now is to protect them from this crazy place we call home, and to instil strong values in them so that they see the wrong of what surrounds us, that they can stand strong against it, that they can try to find hope in what increasingly seems like a situation that is simply beyond one of the miracles that we in South Africa keep on holding onto for salvation.

But who is going to protect South Africa’s other children? Who is going to fix this place so that it is safe for all of her children – regardless of their age, colour, religion or lifestyle choice? I wish I knew – because even if there was a saviour somewhere on the horizon, I really don’t know how they could possibly fix things.

For the first time in 40 years, I despair for my home, my country.