A few years ago wise human and fantastic astrologer Rod Suskin compared South African democracy to a child. At the time I think we were celebrating 13 years of democracy and Rod said that our country had just entered its teenage years. I thought the analogy was brilliant, and it helped me look at where we had come in such a short time, and even made me more comfortable with some of the excuses we all had to make about where we were at; after all, it was a 13 year old child we had created and now had to manage.
Using the same analogy; today, democratic South Africa has just turned 17. South Africa is on the brink of becoming a ‘young adult’ democracy but it still carries the childish burden of sulky teenager. Democratic South Africa still has problem skin; it erupts on the surface, red and flaring, just like the flashes and outbursts of crime, racism and reactive behaviour. South Africa is passive aggressive, sulky and rebellious, but on the verge of being ready to be a legal, responsible adult. South Africa is just a learner driver, not yet ready to go for its license. It still has to study, and finish its matric! South Africa is still a little too preoccupied with labels, and brands, and bling, still concerned about what its friends will think, even though it says it isn’t. The government is more like a junior SRC where ‘problem kids’ have been given a chance to grow, to prove themselves, and there is still room for mistakes and forgiveness. But time is running out, and teachers and parents are becoming impatient! There is still the teenage tendency to play the blame game, to be reluctant to own up, to complain bitterly during detention. There is the tendency to play rough and then cry when the game gets dirty, still the habit of stealing its mom’s car for joyrides, still the recklessness of a youth that struggles to hold in its present thoughts the poor, the needy, the old, the suffering.
I still have huge hope for our seventeen year old democracy. But, the truth is, I can’t wait for it to grow up properly and get to the work of big people.