Apparently there were well over 700 000 hits on social media following the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup win and four times that number of engagements.
Thousands of South Africans celebrated the victory in pubs, shebeens and other big-screen gathering points, or clustered around small TVs or radios at home. And thousands more packed OR Tambo Airport to welcome the dragon-slayers home with that coveted golden trophy. Yet more South Africans of every hue, age and class cheered the triumphant cavalcade as it moved through the streets of South Africa’s major cities. Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus became every child’s heroes.
In the midst of this mass national euphoria, there was a dissenting tweet immediately after the momentous victory. It came from EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, or The Grinch, as he became known. It said: ‘Congratulations to Siya Kolisi … the rest go get your congratulations from Prince Harry’. The social media response was instant and explosive. One of the thousands of comments came from renowned author Zakes Mda who sternly told him not to ‘pee on the parade’. Someone else described the response as being the biggest put-down ever (none of which has, however, distracted the redoubtable commissar from further negative utterances).
So eventually, as the dust begins to settle, one finds oneself wondering what the Springbok euphoria was actually all about. Simply a distraction from the harsh realities of everyday life; a yearning for good news instead of bad; a genuine celebration of black excellence and tangible signs of transformation? Or was it an affirmation of an underlying longing for unity in the country?
I believe that surviving the deafening chatter of political rhetoric and populist propaganda, there is still a spark, buried somewhere deep within most South Africans, of the dream that so inspired us in 1994. There is a conviction that both despite and because of what has happened in the intervening years, we are a people to be proud of; we do all have a place in this beautiful country, and whatever our roots may be, we are all South Africans and our lives are inextricably bound together through a shared love of our country.
Argue, debate, fight with one another as we might (we must be the most argumentative people in the world), there is an understanding that, actually, we have more in common than not. But perhaps most important of all, we share a common humanity, expressed as ‘I am because you are ‘– Ubuntu.
So what is left after the euphoria dissipates? Do we sadly pack away our flags and our patriotic speedos and sink back into a slough of despondency and anger about the economy, crime, Eskom, climate change, poverty, abalone poaching … the list is endless. Or do we say, “Okay, so if a sense of shared nationhood makes us feel that good, how do we make it last beyond a flash mob event?”
Personally, I think a good place to start may be to acknowledge that all of us belong here and that no group is better than another in any sense of the word. We all experience the same feelings of joy and despair; we all want the best for our children; we all need access to high quality, affordable health care; we all desire jobs and homes and we all want the same shot at succeeding in whatever we choose to do.
We have different levels of education and skill sets, yes; some have more material assets than others, yes. But do some of us have a greater right to live here than others, no. As the Springbok captain so succinctly put it, if we have the same goal and we all pull together, we can achieve it, despite our different backgrounds and races.
In this very Overstrand community, there are instances every day, some small, some more significant, of people reaching out to other people across chasms of division to help them over a hurdle (we write about them almost every week in The Village NEWS). But for it to become a groundswell movement, everyone needs to be committed. No more blaming, no more finger-pointing, no more name calling, no more feelings of superiority or victimhood, no more buying into politicians’ vote-recruiting strategies based on hate speech. Like Ndlozi’s tweet, all of this is totally pointless; it goes nowhere, it achieves nothing. All it does is generate more hopelessness, frustration, failure.
The divisions and injustices are centuries old, we know that, but they will not be resolved by denigrating one another on principle. Instead, what the Springbok euphoria seems emphatically to demonstrate is that together we are a proud people, a remarkable people, capable of any achievement we set our minds to. We will not be defined by the criminals, the looters, the train burners, the wife-beaters amongst us; we are better than that.
Of course a victory like that of the Springboks does not happen overnight. It takes grit, it takes passion, it takes falling down and getting up, it takes holding people to account, it takes time and patience, and most of all, it takes teamwork. But I believe millions of salt-of-the-earth South Africans have what it takes to go the distance.
Last Friday in a radio interview the former Public Protector, Professor Thuli Madonsela expressed a similar sentiment when she said, “I do believe it’s possible to turn this country around – with faith, and together.”