Sunday Tribune

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.

 ??  ?? Former presidents FW de Klerk, Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki at the national dialogue.
Former presidents FW de Klerk, Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki at the national dialogue.

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