Although I am not a rugby fan, I am a fan of South Africa. I am a fan of the team that represents all South Africans and that has shown that “together we are stronger”, writes Howard Feldman.
South Africa might have won the Rugby World Cup in 2007, but for some reason, this week feels like 1995. Not because Hillary Clinton is the First Lady of the United States, and not that we are dancing to the Macarena. And certainly not because Kate Moss and Johnny Depp are still together. But rather because there is a feeling of positivity and optimism in the air.
1995 was the year that saw Braveheart win Best Picture at the Oscars. Mel Gibson also took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of freedom fighter William Wallace. Wallace of course was known to have courageously fought the English, without underwear. Wallace that is, not the English. The fact that he ended his life hanged, drawn and quartered by Edward I of England, I am hoping will not impact on this otherwise very optimistic narrative.
Over the past few months, there has been a visible attempt by South Africans to be positive. The #ImStaying movement, although a little irritating at times, is firm proof of our need to appreciate that which we have in the country. Most of the stories are not about the slick infrastructure, or magnificent medical or educational system, but rather about the spirit of Ubuntu that has come to represent the people of the country.
For years we feared that the dream of the Rainbow Nation lay in tatters at the feet of Jacob Zuma and his corrupt cronies, and we feared that the financial crises they caused would forever destroy the goodwill of the people. Strain does terrible things and there were times when we turned on each other, rather than on those responsible, to vent our anger and our frustration.
But within a short time, following Zuma’s exit from office, it is possible to see tangible evidence that the spirit of South Africans has returned and that we once again have the chance to become the nation that Nelson Mandela believed that we are capable of being.
Although I am not a rugby fan, I am a fan of South Africa. I am a fan of the team that represents all South Africans and that has shown that “together we are stronger”. I am fan of our captain, Siya Kolisi, who has proven that with determination, drive, hard work and talent we can achieve the impossible. And I am a fan of his father who will be travelling abroad for the first time in his life, in order to see his son lead the country into battle. I am a fan of President Cyril Ramaphosa who playfully tweeted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson:
“See you on Saturday BoJo @BorisJohnson when you will be watching Siya, the team and I hoist high (the) Webb Ellis Cup. A STERLING showing once again by the @Springboks. Our national teams have just been doing amazingly on the international stage. #WALvRSA #RWC2019 #StrongerTogether
I am a fan of the fans who wear their green and gold to work, just because they can, and I am a fan of the barista on the SABC’s morning show Espresso who predicted that South Africa will beat the English “2-1”.
Whereas I am not a fan of Total Sports’ decision to remove Eben Etzebeth’s posters from their stores because “they chose not to be controversial” I think that we should give them a break and move on. Just as we should give Panyaza Lesufi a pass for having made a mistake about seeing an apartheid flag in the crowd. He was wrong. He apologised. No more needs to be said.
1995 might have been the year that declared that Brad Pitt was the “Sexiest Man Alive,” but it was also the year when for the first time all South Africans stood together and supported the same outcome. It was a year of hope and infinite possibility.
We need to bottle that and party like it’s 1995.
– Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
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