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A made-up country known as South Africa

* South Africa is a “fictional” country, according to Siyabonga Hadebe. This article was first published on Culture Review.

This ‘new’ country was always assumed to be a political resolution of a long-running contest between the African majority and the white minority. European settlers colonized this land and ruled Africans. Apartheid’s 46-year reign supposedly ended “the oppression of one by another.” When Mandela was sworn in as president, it was assumed blacks would no longer “suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.” Blacks live in the Third World with fewer rights.

South Africa’s political system is fragile and lacks’ shock absorbers to contain and withstand social problems. The ‘new’ South Africa was a realization of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 speech to end apartheid. He said, “Never again shall this beautiful land suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.” Never said which world.

The new South Africa was destined for a historicized journey to nowhere, but maintaining the status quo was the theme of the reunion of foes. The origins of South Africa’s brutal state were forgotten to fit neoliberal discourses of democracy, private property, and free markets against a history of dispossession and oppression. South Africa is a colonial construct that linked its white minority to the Western world culturally, politically, economically, and otherwise. So apartheid’s crimes were fine. Blacks had to accept assimilation into colonial society as the vanquished.

For many, the end of apartheid meant that Africa was free from colonialism, except for Western Sahara and a few continental plate territories.

In his article titled ‘SA as a possible Third Republic — we can learn from France’ (Daily Maverick, 5 July 2022), Marwala says “the First Republic started in 1961 when the apartheid government broke off from the UK, and the Second Republic in 1994, which ushered in democracy and saw Nelson Mandela come to power.” His treatise says apartheid was a leadership “mistake” rather than colonialism and a crime against humanity.

Marwala should apologize to all Third World diplomats and presidents who fought for South Africa’s decolonization in the UN’s Fourth Committee for the profane language. Perhaps he’s not alone.

Like Marwala, the ANC saw the end of apartheid as a continuation, not as Africans’ freedom after centuries of foreign rule. The term ‘new’ South Africa meant blacks were in charge and whites had stepped down. Only the segregationist nature of the First Republic was to be changed. The ANC sought normalcy in an abnormal situation.

A new government developed policies to create a new “nation” from the old unreceptive republic that never recognized blacks as equals. South Africa created the Rainbow Nation on non-racist principles. The ANC promoted non-racialism as an emancipatory concept and urged blacks and whites to rally behind it.

Mirage: the so-called South African miracle. Clyde Ramalaine argues, “Any careful analysis of South African society will highlight the complexities, structural intricacies, confusion, and this idealism as practical reality since the content of non-racial in the ANC remains a conflated, lazy, hashed, and over-abused rhetorical construct.” This political mix-up prevented the black majority from gaining status. Few educated people were co-opted and now have superficial access to the colonial state’s political and economic machinery. Hence, their belief that the new South Africa is an attainable dream.

Alongside the non-racialism principle, the transformation agenda was launched to end colonialism and apartheid.

The transformation agenda promotes equality and positive discrimination, which have opposing logics. The new South Africa was founded on equality and nondiscrimination. Blacks needed preferential treatment to promote equality.

Abnormalities in South African society continue as Marwala calls for the Third Republic, “where democracy, economic prosperity, and human solidarity will become South Africa’s culture.” The new South Africa is flawed because the Freedom Charter mentality prevented it from fixing old problems.

European settlers in South Africa create nobles or untouchables who hoard land, wealth, and know-how. Through non-racialism, their status is unchallengeable. This puts blacks on the margins of a state not built for them. Instead of seeking emancipation and freedom, they remain guests of honor scrambling for bottom spots.

New South Africa virtualizes apartheid. The black majority lives in poverty, destitution, and hunger in squatter camps, townships, and rural areas. The white settlements, whose demographics and character have barely changed since 1994, are the core. As before, the center offers food and jobs.

South Africa has always been an insider-outsider system. Marwala believes his separate republics are whole. Crime, poverty, violence, drugs, alcohol, and disrespect for life infest the periphery. Black areas protect white settlements like bees. So was born South Africa.

The periphery-core divide mirrors the Chinese hukou system and post-Soviet propiska. dompass and homeland passports were outlawed years ago, but they still exist. Cheap rural laborers migrate to cities, aggravating inequalities and the two-nations economic problem. Much-touted transformation hasn’t balanced the scales. Talk of a township economy is an illusion to placate the marginalized.

A Venda-speaking person in the north and a Xhosa-speaking person don’t know much about each other. As poverty and joblessness hit rural South Africa, many people converge on the center. Afrikaans-speaking, mixed-race Cape Africans see Eastern Cape Africans as intruders. African migrants – primarily Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Nigerians, and Malawians – who were similarly abused throughout South Africa’s history are also present.

Locals first pushed out foreigners because Dudula targets them. Different ethnic groups have issues, too. Nobody talks about this because the new South Africa is based on the illusion of black homogeneity. People battle for limited space and jobs, making this sameness unrecognizable. In the new South Africa’s rush to achieve non-racialism, unequal regional development and access to opportunities are never discussed.

On 12 July 2022, a Twitter user wrote, “We have a lot of unemployed Soweto-born youth who wants to fight crime, but SAPS is recruiting Venda and Tsonga from Limpopo Giyani!” “They must return to Limpopo.” Bantustan ideology is resurfacing in new South Africa. Nobody knows.

Because the new South Africa is conceptualized as a continuation from the Apartheid Republic to the Democratic Republic, the colonial infrastructure of tribes and regionalism is ignored.

As poverty, unemployment, and population growth worsen under the new dispensation, the new South Africa’s utopia and fiction are questioned.

Rising intra- and internationalist sentiments are blind spots. Tensions exist on multiple levels, not just between whites and blacks. Periphery is busy. The marginalized argue over who is ‘first nation’ Who’s Zulu? Intergenerational disputes increase gender tensions. Neglect of children and the elderly raises questions about the new South Africa’s political viability.

As the rainbow fades, the nation despairs. Mandela’s nationhood, built beyond ethnicity, religion, language, and history, is disintegrating and repelling. Unfortunately, colonialism and apartheid exploited these elements. South Africa is a “imagined community” What does the future hold for future generations of this mythical nation?

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