Freedom

Ages (one year) before Mel Gibson did his thing in a kilt, although some time after Bill Wallace allegedly shouted the same stuff, came 1994 and South Africa’s first democratic elections, as today’s Google doodle reminded us.

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Much has been achieved in the 21 years, although I think that you’d be absolutely correct if you were to say that a whole lot more could have been done with a bit better government and a great deal less corruption.

Is this really the best South Africa can do?

Nothing to do with sport, or blogging, although I’m sure that the phrase will have been used many times in these contexts.

No, while I am uploading photos from LAST weekend, and indeed this weekend, I thought that you might enjoy(?) this biting column by Mark Gevisser on the 20th anniversary of the first democratic vote in SA.

Gevisser compares Zuma and Pistorius far more incisively and accurately (for me) than Jani Allen’s pisspoor open letter managed to compare the latter with Eugene Terreblanche, and paints a damning picture of the current, rather depressing situation here.

With Nelson Mandela dead and his African National Congress increasingly troubled, Pistorius and Zuma have, distressingly, become the poster boys for South Africa’s 20 Years of Freedom celebrations.

We South Africans love an underdog, perhaps because of our history, and both Zuma and Pistorius have milked that role. From an Afrikaner Calvinist tradition, Pistorius offers a story of triumph over adversity through God-fearing hard work. Then Zuma, from a poor rural Zulu and working-class township background, presents a narrative of the cunning trickster with little formal education who always finds himself on his feet and takes what he needs with a nudge and a wink.

Both men have been breathtaking in their perseverance and achievement. Zuma stopped a bloody civil war in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. And, as an undereducated peasant who has risen to the very top, he stands as a symbol to black South Africans that they can be masters of their own destiny. Similarly, Pistorius transforms our understanding of what “able-bodied” means, even in the way he strides up to the dock.

It makes difficult reading, perhaps most worryingly because there’s nothing untrue or even vaguely hyperbolic about what he tells us. So, because I’ve apparently been quite grumpy lately (moi? grumpy?!?), I thought you might like to have a read of just how rubbish it is here right now.

It’s not really. We had a great birthday party for Alex today and there was 15kg of Lego and a chocolate fountain involved.

Indie Songs for Public Holidays

Number 1 in a series of 1. So far, anyway.

Hands up if you remember the Soup Dragons. Indie one hit wonders in that great era of the late 80s and early 90s, they are often confused with Jesus Jones, although Jesus Jones had three hits and the lead singer had much floppier hair.

Anyway, The Soups’ 1990 reworking of the Rolling Stones’ I’m Free seems suitably suitable for Freedom Day here in SA.

Named after a character from the Oliver Postgate 1970s series The Clangers, the Soup Dragons went their separate ways in 1995, but are all still active in the music business, having amassed a total of only one fewer hits than they did when they were together.

Any suggestions for an Indie Song for Worker’s Day on Sunday/Monday?

* Real, Real, Real; International Bright Young Thing and Right Here, Right Now – to put you out of your misery.

Some Freedom

Today is a public holiday in South Africa. The first of three this week. On May 1st, we have the ubiquitous Worker’s Day and on the 2nd, an “extra” public holiday which was only granted in late March, for reasons that no-one really knows or wants to ask about in case it gets taken away again. This means only 2 working days, which means that we have the obligatory dose of Short Week Service Syndrome ahead.

But celebrate, for today is Freedom Day – the National Holiday to commemorate the 1994 General Election and the “official end” of apartheid. While many were delighted to welcome the non-racial elections, there were some disappointments, not least the poor showing of the DikWankWetla Party, who only managed to capture 0.1% of the vote. I know very, very little about the DikWankWetla Party, but they have an absolutely awesome name and for that alone are probably worth a vote even if their policies are a little ropey.

So. How has SA done over the last 14 years?
I guess that would be one of those questions with a host of “no win” answers, basically drawn out along racial lines. Let’s just say that the majority of people in this country are better off than they were pre-1994.
Of course, it hasn’t worked for everyone. Somehow today, it was even more saddening to see the beggars with small kids and babies in tow at the traffic lights. Some freedom for them. One wonders if they recognise that today holds any special significance for the country.
I gave away an entire 2kg bag of apples on the 3km run back home from the supermarket. Not much, I know, but trying to help, at least. One day, I hope 0.6 will understand why he didn’t get his Granny Smiths today.

Happy Freedom Day, South Africa.