Mandy Wiener says South Africans experience the full spectrum of emotions on an almost daily basis.
This country makes us so angry sometimes. Like throw things against the wall angry.
At the top of the long list of things to be angry about is e-tolls and the rage was almost tangible when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced the revised model for e-tolls. It’s a festering sore point for motorists in Gauteng and instead of listening to what the people had to say, government pissed most of the public off. They did this by offering the sweetener of reduced rates and lowering the ceiling on monthly payments, but then went and linked the payments to car license renewals, backing us all into a corner. This made people angry. Very, very angry.
Vying for the top spot on the list of rage-inducing issues in South Africa is without a doubt load shedding. Nothing drops the red mist like having your power cut for four hours, on a daily basis, despite paying your taxes and expecting a basic service to be delivered.
This country also disappoints us and makes us despair. Like when you hear that the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2015 was at its highest level since 2003, at 26.4%. You feel desperate when you look at the figures releases by Statistics SA – that the working age population is 35.8 million, which included 15.5 million employed, 5.5 million unemployed and 14.8 million not economically active. Twenty years into democracy, you would hope that more real jobs had been created, clawing society out of poverty. It is desperately disappointing.
Then there’s the fear and the terror. Invariably this is drawn from the prevalence of brazen crime in the country and not knowing if you’ll be sprayed by bullets walking through a busy shopping mall like Bedford Centre, or if you’ll be followed home from the airport and be held up at gunpoint in a hair salon, like former Bafana Bafana star Benni McCarthy. You know how it goes – everyone knows someone.
This country also makes us feel heartbreak and terrible sorrow. Like when the body of a baby is discovered in a municipal rubbish bin upended by protesting taxi drivers. Or when four children die in a shack fire in Khayelitsha. Don’t forget the shame – the emotion we feel when xenophobia takes grip and fellow human beings are chased down and beaten like animals, herded into camps and sent away, all for being foreign. We feel embarrassed at the inhumanity of it all.
Yes, we feel angry and disappointed and terrified and sad and shamed. But in South Africa, we experience the full spectrum of emotions on an almost daily basis. The needle is rarely ever planted just in the red.
We rally in unity in the face of adversity, supporting civil society movements like Outa, Freedom Under Law and Casac as they fight for our collective rights and protection of our much-valued constitution.
We feel overwhelming pride when we watch that stirring Springbok World Cup video and rush to pull on our national team shirts to back our players, whether they’re playing like a bunch of losers or a bunch of winners.
We also celebrate homegrown success, staking claim to anyone who achieves on the global stage, even if they’re only marginally South African. Elon Musk. Trevor Noah. Charlize Theron. Dave Matthews. Chris Froome. We’ll take them all thanks.
We are also incredibly good at laughing at ourselves. We roar with hilarity at what we get up to and have a somewhat warped, dark humour that helps us deal with the madness we encounter each day as South Africans.
So you see, we experience a rollercoaster of emotions in this country. We veer violently from rage to shame, plunge into pits of despair and sorrow and we are launched high into fluffy rainbows and clouds of pride and camaraderie. So you can pack your bags and scuttle off to where the grass is greener – it will be safe and easy and calm. But it will be boring.
And that is one thing you are guaranteed of here at home in South Africa. It is never boring.