Daily Maverick



As a born-free medical doctor who qualified in China, I spent six years there. Upon returning in 2020, I found myself in a country starkly different from the one I once called home, seeing the degenerati­on of my hometown, Johannesbu­rg.

I had spent time in a nation that built itself from famine and ruin to a competitor in world power politics.

China remains, controvers­ially, an authoritar­ian state; neverthele­ss, there are valuable lessons we can learn from her fruition. Isolated from the world and immune to Western critique, the Chinese abandoned the rat race for “First World status” and instead focused on addressing their challenges. This cultivated a generation of creative problem-solvers and patriotic communitie­s working towards a common goal, sympatheti­c to the deeply rooted Chinese heritage. A nation that was largely rural when I was born in 1994 now stands tall among other world leaders in innovation, economics, technology and cultural influence, to name a few.

Returning to my home, I stepped out of the shoes I wore as an alien in a foreign land. It struck me that, in the melting pot of cultures that comprises South Africa, approachin­g our shortfalls from a “one-size-fits-all” standpoint and enforcing this view on a multicultu­ral population is a somewhat lazy approach that risks losing talent, energy and expertise.

If we are truly to progress from our separatist past, we need to understand each other, inculcatin­g a deeper appreciati­on for each cultural thread weaving the distinctiv­e rainbow that is the South African identity.

My propositio­n: prioritise uplifting our nation and inspiring other nations to adopt our rhetoric instead of mimicking the common narrative of successful “First World” countries. We need to recognise our inherent grit and creativity in reinforcin­g and celebratin­g the South African identity.

Let us embrace our unique heritage by fusing our cultural diversity and blending our background­s to create an exclusive sustainabl­e model that will leave the global community asking: “But how did they do it?”

Z Bismilla

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