How do you defend SA? – Mandy Wiener

Mandy-Wiener-author.jpgMandy Wiener hits out at those who grumble and gripe about the state of our nation.

Have you taken the temperature of South Africa lately?

We don’t seem to be in a particularly good place. The collective psyche is more negative than it has been for a very long time and it feels like everyone is just gatvol. We’re grumpy. We’re cynical. We’re jaded.

And that’s because we’ve got a lot to complain about – or at least more than usual.

While it is not a particularly accurate litmus test and not exactly a scientifically accurate gauge of public opinion, my Facebook timeline does tell a story. Over the past few weeks it has been filled with vitriolic outrage about ‘this country’ and how rubbish the government is. ‘Friends’ are liberally sharing any piece of propaganda, true or not, that paints the country in a poor light. They rage about load shedding in ‘darkest Africa’, the embarrassing behavior of parliamentarians, the brutal wave of crime, the idiocy of politicians, the cancer of corruption and the general incompetence and uselessness of any kind of uniformed official. They throw around phrases like ‘police state’ and ‘slippery slope’.

Those who have left for greener pastures ooze a sense of schadenfreude as they backslap one another and justify to themselves again why they have chosen to emigrate. They ask in bewilderment how those who have stayed could choose to do so and bang on about how terrified they are for the safety and futures of their loved ones.

They lament about ‘the short time it has taken the incompetent and corrupt government to degrade the infrastructure of the country, the education, health, military capabilities, education and security services’ and complain about ‘the fact that all the previous government officials and qualified workers, who were well trained and organised, were gotten rid of and replaced by incompetent cadres’.

Sure, of course, I’m generalising and the majority of those complaining are white. Without doubt there is an undertone of racism in the bulk of these posts. Some even longingly hark back to the ‘good old days’ in cringeworthy reminiscence.

It’s not just on social media that this is seeping through. I spent three hours at a Home Affairs office last week waiting to collect a passport. A whiney young woman in the queue made it her mission to let everyone around her know how useless the administration was. She stamped her well-heeled foot and declared that she couldn’t wait to go back overseas where she has been living. Almost in unison, half the room turned around and told her to bloody well leave if she didn’t like it here.

The majority of my own family live abroad and while they visit South Africa regularly and love and miss many aspects of this country, they are amongst the most critical. I’ve spent years attempting to disabuse them of their negative perceptions and convince them that things are ‘not as bad’ as they think. They warn that I am like a frog in a boiling pot of water and I am blind to reality. I defend South Africa to the hilt – I’m patriotic and optimistic and would never want to live anywhere else in the world. This is my home and I’m going to stay. I’m going to be committed to making this country a success.

Here’s an email I recently received from a friend who has emigrated:

There are many issues that seem to be getting worse. Instead of progressing, it seems that there is a regression – what I once believed would be the shining African hope is actually quite the opposite – a dark void – I mean I cannot remember the last time I used a gas lantern, and wouldn’t dream of using one today, however this has become the norm if load shedding occurs and no portable lighting or generators are available as all stock has been cleared out.

I have colleagues come up to me at work wondering what I think about the fact that Zuma talked about the repossession of land. It seems that South Africa will go the same way as Zimbabwe and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.

On the plus side – South Africans are friendly, have a sense of humor and know when to keep their distance J I miss many things: smelling the fresh air after the first rains, laid-back people, salt and vinegar chips, woolworths, 2 day weekends, countryside, biltong, and most of all FAMILY – that’s the hardest thing about being away from SA.

The reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend South Africa against legitimate criticism.

How do you defend the blatant abuse of media freedom in Parliament through the installation of a signal jammer, undermining our hard won constitutional rights?

How do you explain armed police officers physically removing elected officials from the National Assembly and literally seeing blood on the floor of Parliament?

How do you justify countrywide, rolling blackouts, planning our lives around ‘load shedding’ schedules, and relying on torches, gas and candles in the modern era?

How do you not condemn the very obvious dismantling of the country’s crime and corruption fighting institutions – SARS, the Hawks, the NPA, the SIU, the SAPS are all riddled with problems and have lost the faith of the public.

How do you rationalise a decision by the ANC to effectively ban all foreigners from owning any land in this country and repelling much-needed foreign investment?

Every time a cop is arrested, or a tender is irregularly awarded or another dismissal goes to court it erodes my case against the critics.

But I am still going to defend South Africa. I refuse to stand on the sidelines and laugh or despair.

I am going to loudly support court action to ensure media freedom and object when my rights as a journalist are trampled upon. Like my colleagues, I will wave my cellphone in the air and demand that the signal be brought back.

I am going to support civil society organisations when they take the fight to the country’s courts to ensure that justice is done and that those who should be in positions of leadership remain there.

I am also going to call out my ‘friends’ on Facebook when they choose to share and post illegitimate criticism and nonsense from non-credible news sources just so they can rack up the likes and stir up anti-South African sentiment. They also need to know that they are being racist, even when they assure us ‘You know, I’m not racist but…’.

Admittedly, we are not in a happy place. But we do have a good story to tell – maybe not the one the ANC and government will lead us to believe we have. But, we do have one and we need to make sure it stays that way.

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