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OLD, DAMAGED RAINBOW FOR SALE, Ts&Cs APPLY

Writing not as a member of the ANC but in her personal  capacity as a citizen, Evita Bezuidenhout tracks the nation’s miracle birth under Mandelas rainbow to the capture of the  pot of gold at the end of it

– Evita Bezuidenhout, Financial Mail, 24 October 2019

 

I loved the idea of being part of a Rainbow Nation since 1991. During the Codesa talks there were whispers coming from both sides. The National Party kept hiding the words “terrorist” and “communist”, even though those Ts&Cs still applied. And the ANC was uncomfortably swallowing its accusations of “racist” and “fascist”, while the inebriated Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging were outside the locked door of our World Trade Centre in Joburg singing and dancing, and in my mind’s eye all they needed were red berets to bring me back to the future.

 

On the edge of a cliff at the height of a blustery storm, a rainbow could solve everything with those primary colours that allowed shades of choice. The fact that black and white were not part of the rainbow also boded well for a democratic future. Besides, a rainbow always ended in a pot of  gold and maybe that was the one focus that everyone shared.

 

Did us whites ever think that we would get away with apartheid? We did! Nothing happened to us. There were no Nuremberg trials. No-one was hanged like Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity. A banned freedom fighter (do Ts&Cs apply to him?) came out of 27 years of darkness and gave us light and Eskom gave up. Where would we be today if Nelson Mandela had come out of jail angry? How would you have felt? In jail for 27 years for what you believe in? Away from your children? Your wife goes mad? He could so easily have come out of jail and spoken like Robert Mugabe. Farms would have been taken while hundreds of whites (and coloureds and Indians) could have been killed  and no-one in the world, or on CNN, would have looked in our direction. Instead he took out a rainbow (made in China?) from his pocket and threw it into the air like a toy grenade, allowing it explode over our heads and fill us with hope and relief. (It could have been our new flag if the LBGTXYZ lot hadn’t got there first.)

 

The first democratic election took place in April 1994 with millions of South Africans voting for the first time, and many of them voted many times. The Rainbow Nation was now official. A new national anthem could be sung. Maybe the first punishment for us Nats was to learn the formerly banned words of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! But our colourful umbrella of reconciliation was there and even though we stocked up on tins of tuna, preparing for that eventuality of bloody revolution (I am still eating that damn tuna!), we embraced the delightful sounds of the Soweto String Quartet and sawubonad our way from dining room to kitchen, hugging the former maid as the new soulmate and eyeing the garden boy as our future BEE partner.

 

In a drought a rainbow is seldom on the horizon. By 2009 we had gone through the dizzy honeymoon with Madiba (which went on for far too long), and then the African renaissance of Thabo Mbeki, during which the rainbow suffered its first amputation when he started referring to black citizens as “Africans”, leaving the whites, browns and yellows huddling under a leaking umbrella.

 

Enter the Age of Zuma and suddenly the rainbow had nowhere to go. The pot of gold had been captured. Like a colourful kite without a guiding string, it flapped pointlessly in the new hurricane of discontent, a wind of change that blew away all the colours except the red, which, like blood, remained in berets and overalls, hijacking an age-old symbol of resistance and making it the reminder of a coming tsunami of faux freedom fighting. Even the father of the nation is now being spat at as a sell-out.

 

Meanwhile the rainbow lies crumpled up at the bottom of an overfilled drawer of old Viva Madiba T-shirts and Y-front flags. The yield sign in our flag means that if you yield to the left nothing is right; and when you yield to the right, nothing is left! Do we, after 25 years of a new struggle at last hinting at a new dawn, try to reinvent the rainbow as a battered symbol of a confident nation? Or will the colours be absorbed by the unforgiving red? Will black engulf white and dominate the cluster of colours?

 

I suppose there will be time to still hang out decorations in hope of some celebration. I just have one focus: I want to move away from any colour. I am no longer a white South African. Let me be a South African who isn’t black. Viva! Amandla! Vrystaat!

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