What has, hasn’t, changed since 1994?
government of national unity.
Every generation has to decide on a path and pursue it to the end. The reality is South Africa did not choose a path of Nuremberg trials but one of healing and reconciliation, with all its flaws.
Calls for an approach that ignores the truth and reconciliation path are meaningless and should be condemned as an attempt to relive a moment in history long passed.
To demonise De Klerk – or try to prevent any South African for that matter – from taking part in a conversation to build a new nation on the basis of the ground already traversed is hypocritical.
Are other former presidents on the panel perfect beings who did nothing that would disqualify them?
Should Thabo Mbeki not be disqualified for his stance on HIV/ Aids, for example? Should Kgalema Motlanthe not be disqualified for his failures under Jacob Zuma? If so, why pick on De Klerk?
The real conversation we need to be having is what the agenda of a national dialogue should be – and such an agenda must be the business of every citizen, black and white.
It is clear that after 23 years of freedom, there is an urgent need to answer the question of why the freedom dividend has not flowed to the most oppressed and marginalised. That dividend included the issue of landlessness and inequality.
Once we answer this question, the flowery issues of a rainbow nation will unravel.
Black people can no longer be content to accept poverty, while white people equally cannot wash their hands of what they consider sins of their fathers.
So the dialogue has to interrogate why wealth has remained in white hands while blacks remain with crumbs.
This is the difficult conversation we should allow all South Africans to face and not create a climate where some are excused from facing that conversation because of their past or our prejudices towards them.
The second key conversation is to allow an objective introduction of the two decades of freedom and answer the question of how those who have held power for 23 years have created a foundation or have squandered that power to allow the economy to be condemned to a no-growth trajectory with festering corruption the way of doing business.
The scourge of corruption in the public and private sectors cannot go unchallenged. This has come to define conversations about how public officials relate with limited resources.
A fundamental conversation must also take place about racism. Recent events reflecting a flare-up of racial incidents show that after 23 years of freedom there is still a need to attend to the scourge of racism. Reckless pronouncements by leaders on all sides of the debate show there is a need to arrest this matter once and for all.
It is clear that the mere notion of a rainbow nation was not enough to make us such a nation.
In her book Why we are not a nation, Christine Qunta says: “South Africa is a dishevelled society in which two groups with disparate goals share one geographical space. It is a country where forgiveness is overrated and justice underrated. For these reasons, South Africans are perhaps as far from being a nation in 2016 as they were in 1994.”
As if anticipating this debate about the national dialogue, Qunta opens her book by saying: “Because we did not ask the questions we should have asked in 1994, because we did not have the conversations we should have had then, we have arrived at a place of profound danger. The sparks are everywhere and sparks can ignite a raging inferno.”
To avoid the inferno Qunta alludes to, we need to be honest in assessing what has changed and what has not since 1994.
A wrong diagnosis that seeks to paint everything with a doomsday brush or in only glowing terms will not take us forward with that dialogue and will create resentment we don’t need.
The legislative framework that characterised apartheid governance has been removed, but we must appreciate that its mere removal has not translated into economic emancipation for millions.
The tale of land deprivation alone indicates a people expected to reconcile on a hungry stomach.
This is crucial to acknowledge, to identify the propellers of a conversation that can build a new society without pretence and prejudice.
I wish the pioneers of the dialogue well – let a thousand flowers bloom.
• Keswa is a businesswoman. She writes in her personal capacity.