The Guardian series on “South Africa Today” brings together a selection of South African activists, playwrites and writers to discuss the state of the nation.
Zukiswa Wanner’: I received a phone threat and knew writers were not as free as I’d thought’ – After being an Afropolitian for many years, Zukiswa decided to return home and enjoyed the freedom to write what she liked until 2008. Raging over the government silence around the xenophobic attacks she received a phone call telling her she was “counter-revolutionary”. – Sounds like something out of a Stalinist nightmare!
Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom: ‘It’s fantasy to believe the World Cup will help reduce poverty in South Africa’. Mpumelelo writes on the too successful Apartheid in the sense that it’s legacy remains an every day reality – “What use is freedom when you dont have the means to live freely?”.
Apartheid was too successful. Black people, whether they know it or not, are still trying to deal with its legacy. And white people fail to understand why most black people still can’t forget about apartheid when our leaders preached reconciliation
Margie Orford: ‘Working with these men helped me understand why South Africa is so violent’. Margie worked in Victor Verster men’s prison teaching creative writing which helped her understand the violence that clings to the country and refuses to let go. I dont see it but there are other ways and prisons in their present form are not the answer
Rian Malan: ‘Every day brings momentous exhilarations and dumbfounding setbacks’ on the monkey that is the FIFA Worldcup
Fifa has made a monkey out of South Africa, encouraging us to spend billions we don’t have on football stadiums we don’t need in the absurd belief that we could recoup our losses by gouging football tourists whose willingness to come here was always in doubt. Our own leaders collaborated enthusiastically, partly because they relished the glory of presiding over an event of World Cup stature, but also because they were eager to participate in murky backroom deals that saw politically connected individuals reaping obscene profits on taxpayer-funded construction contract. Now we’re all saddled by debts it will take generations to pay off. I’m so riled that part of me would be gratified if the World Cup were a complete failure.
Albie Sachs: ‘The fact that South Africa is a country at all is one of the greatest stories of our time’
For all its mixed-up character and its many grave defects and contradictions, the fact that South Africa is a country at all, and that its forward-looking constitution plays a central role in its life, is, I believe, one of the greatest stories of our times.
Gillian Slovo: ‘Nelson Mandela came to Britain in 1996 as a testimony to courage: Jacob Zuma was here to inaugurate a brand’ – Insufficient criticism of Zuma – what brand is that – misogyny? nationalism? or just football!
AndrÃ© Brink: ‘I worry that visitors will ask how successful this democracy is’. Brink takes a nostalgic look at the past which is not reflected in the present. But poverty is everywhere and if we use it’s presence to question democracy [a very valid point] then how successful is democracy anywhere – including and especially here in the United States where 14 million live in poverty by any ones definition?
What South Africa needs is to recover the respect and humanity we lost when the country turned away from Mandela’s example. We had it all there for a while. But the country has taken a turn for the worse — with corruption, exploitation and violence. The World Cup could be good as an economic boost. But so much is unready. I worry that when visitors come to Johannesburg, the evidence of poverty will be so enormous, real and inescapable that they will ask how successful this democracy is.