We have two choices in life: we can choose to be pessimistic about everything or to embrace life and find hope even in the darkest circumstances. South Africa has experienced many of these situations, but we also look forward to the future and support the ideas expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State of the Nation Address (Sona) 2024 on Thursday.
First things first. On April 27, the nation will commemorate the 30 years since democracy was established. Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president, will stand in for the joyous moment when Mzansi turned away from the oppressive and depressing apartheid era.
We must acknowledge that our journey through democracy has been rocky, marked by many failures and, at times, regression, moving away from the ideal and course set out by our forebears, who included the wisdom of the towering giants such Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe and Steve Biko, among others who walked this life and are now resting in their graves. Failing to do so would be an act of dishonesty.
To be clear about something very important, if the people in charge of this country had not misdirected themselves and pursued self-enrichment at the expense of concentrating on creating a development state, then the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector including organs of state, better known as the Zondo commission, would not have been necessary.
However, to see what the real world looks like, we need a wider lens. Imperfect. Not just theoretically, but empirically as well, older democracies have demonstrated a susceptibility to strict moral rectitude standards. To add one more crucial point. Why did the US, the so-called bulwark of democracy, have the Watergate scandal that affected the entire world? This is meant to highlight human weaknesses and frailties rather than to justify our destruction of our democracy through thievery and corruption.
Corrupt leaders, however, have no place in society and need to be despised, shunned, and made fun of.
It is important to remember that Ramaphosa’s remarks aimed to uplift and inspire; they were not just self-congratulatory but rather a call for South Africans to collaborate in building a better society.
Ramaphosa made a significant allusion to Tintswalo, the democratic child of fiction, who “grew up in a nation ruled by a constitution built in equality, the rule of law, and recognition of the inherent dignity of every person”.
The significance of the analogy lies in its seeming contradiction but it also highlights the continued lack of the goods democracy should provide for its citizens.
The ideas of inequality, the rule of law, and the affirmation of human dignity are concepts that many South Africans find incomprehensible. South Africa is considered to be the world’s most unequal nation.
Ultimately, the Ramaphosa Sona address was honest enough to point out obvious flaws like corruption, even as it celebrated successes. We salute Ramaphosa for it, and may SA turn into a home for all its citizens.