Is the Illusion of a ‘Rainbow Nation’ Finally Approaching Its End?

The ‘Rainbow Nation’ recently had its rainbow cracked and seen to be what it is, an illusion of how 18 years can undo over 350 years of oppression and hatred. We are eager to ignore that Apartheid was not mere hatred which just magically vanished when Mandela was democratically elected as the country’s president in 1994; it was an entire system- a system which affected and was deeply entrenched into every facet of everyday life in South Africa- something that will take a long time to undo.

South Africans though have a taste for being ‘politically correct’, which has seen to it that race and racism become ‘taboo’ or ‘difficult’ topics to discuss- when in fact our history as a nation cannot be separated from these- nor can we move beyond it without the necessary discourse- which holds the key for paving a way forward . Former FHM model Jessica Leandra did the nation a favour by calling someone a ‘kaffir’ and an ‘African Monkey’ on Twitter recently, which saw the battle lines drawn and drew real responses from people, rather than the ‘politically correct’ bull-shit we are used to hearing.

Despite the great condemnation which came from both black and white, it was most fascinating to see- as Gillian Schutte eloquently describes in ‘The Whiteness Smorgasbord’- how “whiteness is often presented as victim to the ‘savagery’ of blackness in the form of endless whinging about crime, corruption, inefficiency and BEE. From intellectual discourse, to mainstream chatter, to barely-educated braai banter, whiteness is always sure of one thing – superiority over other races – particularly the African race. Whether it is disguised in liberal equanimity or downright racism, this whiteness discourse espouses the same learnt notion that white is right – even in a so-called Rainbow Nation”. There was more outrage about the word k****r being used publicly, than outrage about the clearly still alive and lurking racism in our country.

Whether or not the word the word is used openly, there is no doubt that at dinner tables it is used; it is used on farms, campuses, and schools and even clearly passed on to those of the so-called ‘Born Free’ generation- judging by Jessica Leandra’s date of birth. It can be argued that to presume this based on one person’s tweet is very questionable, however it goes beyond that tweet. That black people are still referred to as k****rs is evidenced in many tweets such as this one from @toann13 saying, “Kaffirs het vir die tweede keer in 2 weke my laptop uit my kar gesteel. Well done ANC! Ons land is great!” [K****rs have stolen my laptop from my car for the second time in 2 weeks… …Our land is great!], amongst many others. It can be seen on News24 comments; the 3rd Degree Facebook page; the way some white folk say to a black person “your government”, when they too are South Africans living in the country- therefore being ruled by the same government.

Leandra apologised, saying that the word was said in anger, but reality is, words you normally do not use do not just magically find themselves in your vocabulary when angry. It is clear that referring to black people as ‘African Monkeys’ and ‘k****rs’ is something that she is used to and with humans being the social beings that they are, she has obviously used those words in the presence of others- who clearly condone this or she would have never thought it an appropriate thing to say in public. Some people were sympathetic towards Jessica Leandra and many comments were made about how black people should “get over it”; about how it is “just a word”. There were even discussions about where the word originated from and what it means, all of which I strongly believe to be misguided as within the South African context, it was used to degrade, oppress and dehumanise an entire race of human beings- something which should surely transcend its origins.

Those who sympathise with her and feel that people came down too heavy on her seem to overlook that the poverty and the deep-rooted inequality we have in South Africa are a direct consequence of apartheid, which saw to the deliberate underdevelopment of black communities; the dispossession of people from their land and in turn housing, as well as discrimination in the quality of all basic rights and services including healthcare, education and social security. Despite all that has been achieved in the last 18 years, reality is we still have two education systems and two healthcare systems, amongst many more. It is often argued that black people have full access to all the privileges that were once exclusively for white people, this is in fact misleading as the majority of black people cannot afford these services which renders them still inaccessible. It is clear that what was in fact done was to remove the visible ‘Whites Only’ signs, but the barriers are still there- evidenced by how the majority of black people are still limited to the below standard services that came with apartheid. For those benefitting from the privilege that came with this system, it is very easy to condone such words and even comment about how it is acceptable because “They sing Dubula Ibhunu” and for those who have ended up privileged today despite the past, it is also easier to overlook all this by virtue of being blinded to the suffering of our people- as a direct result of apartheid- that continues today despite the ‘freedom’ we claim to have.

We preach ‘rainbow nation’ but reality is, it’s going to take a whole lot more than the removal of ‘whites only’ signs to undo the damage and hurt caused by apartheid. This is a truth we are expected to sweep under the rug, because many don’t want to both hear and accept it- but until this truth is openly spoken about- a way forward will not be paved and people will continue to be ‘shocked’ and ‘appalled’ by manifestations of the racism that lurks below the surface of our precious ‘Rainbow Nation’.

6 thoughts on “Is the Illusion of a ‘Rainbow Nation’ Finally Approaching Its End?

  1. A well written article – I commend the concise manner of laying the facts and your point of view across to the reader. well done!

    I agree to the fact that the deep scars borne by those who are in one way or another victims of apartheid are often not immediately seen on the surface. These scars are often kept hidden and only rear their heads when provoked and express so much hatred, anger and frustration that you wonder how the individual managed to survive for so long.

    Which brings one to the main point – if I get the direction or thrust of your lovely essay then it points to the need to bring these issues to the front lines. I believe that when they are confronted and the required responsibilities are accepted by all stake holders; then progress and real national integration can begin.

    However there is a fundamental point I must make; one’s fate can be influenced by environment and circumstances but that is NOT a basis to remain stuck on that plane.

    For those of us who have a greater vision for a unified or more integrated south Africa; there is a need to create a vision and vehicle to assist those who cannot make this leap in mindset.

    The key to transformation is to understand that there is a mindset of acceptance of the current situation that needs to be changed. There should be a pooling of resources – to reorient this defeatist mindset.

    The transition from a here to there is basically time and the well applied resources directed at changing this pervasive thought patterns that cloud our ability to break free.

    If we will keep stealing, maiming, raping, looting then those will only perpetuate a constant state of fear and slurs that best describe the fears of others who are not subject to the same realities – those unaccustomed to the pains of living well below the poverty line.

    Our minds must be made stronger and must rise above our current situation and station – we must be our brother’s keepers and tow the flag of forced change in mentality for ALL.

    What was done to the black race was wrong and remains one of the worst crimes ever visited on humanity – regardless of its description (slavery or apartheid) – its leaves a brand mark in places not visible to the human eyes and this is often transferred like a birth mark to subsequent generations – regardless of their status of “Born-Free”. They might have been born free in the flesh but their minds are still subject to the effects of defeat and the burden of being “victims”.

    Our minds must make a leap from the divide of enslavement to that of freedom – a freedom of MIND to pursue our dreams, goals and aspirations collectively helping each other out. That was the true tradition of African and that remains the REAL tradition of Africa.

    Did you wonder why it was common in the very old days to largely walk around naked or in a very minimal state of undress without harm but today even with all some covering that is considered decent; people are still raped and sometimes killed?
    Why the family system played such a huge role in the days before our fore-fathers – for purposes of hunting, farming etc.

    But not any more. Our minds are becoming more beastly; our thoughts more evil – our hatred is being targeted at the defencelessness – people who have often done us no wrong.
    Our very own brothers, sisters, kids, uncles, fathers, mothers, aunts.

    Don’t blame the tag or the person who uses the words; if we acted consistently above them – they would be no need for such words except to put us down and yet – our spirits would soar above theirs like eagles.

    The battle to be won must begin and end with our minds (MINDS) – win the battle within and all other things will definitely follow.

    I once again salute you for such a touching and heartfelt essay that addresses the largely unspoken – my words are spoken in mere solidarity and support.


    1. Thanks for the appreciation, highly valued.

      I agree fully with the view that confronting these issues is fundamental, because until we do, our reconciliation will remain what it is- a shallow front and nothing really meaningful. About the need to “create a vision and vehicle to assist those who cannot make this leap in mindset”, I agree, but find it necessary to point-out that it is not their fault. Being chronically ‘disempowered’ can lead to a sense of self-helplessness amongst many other consequences. Also, I feel the need to point out that we were so focused on the removal of the ‘Whites Only’ signs that we forgot the minds- there are many who are yet to be mentally liberated; to know that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about being black and to understand that being black in now way makes one inferior- all still remnants of the monster that was apartheid…

      The defeatist mindset does indeed need to be overcome and without a doubt as my views above this express, I agree about the freedom of mind being essential. With regards to the collapse of collective efforts, this is yet another thing that was destroyed by apartheid and will take time to gain back. In their fear of collective action, they fragmented black people dividing them by ethnic groups and sowing deep divisions which continue to exist today- something we often do not address and which by not addressing, we only perpetuate.

      About consistently “acting above them”, it is a complex matter. You see, many of the social ills we face are a direct consequence of the inequality in South Africa and an inequality that was caused by apartheid. By no means do I suggest that such actions are condoned and hidden under the cloak of apartheid. I am merely suggesting that we do not let societal problems be bourne by an individual.

      I agree with most of your views besides about how we act perpetuating their fear and leading to slurs that express those fears. We shouldn’t have to act a certain way so as to avoid perpetuating others fears; that is their problem- not ours and goes back to the problem of expecting black people to behave a certain way to accommodate the issue of others rather than having the others deal with their own issues and fears. White people too do steal, maim, rape and loot- it is not something unique to us black folk and is no reason to hate an entire race…


    1. Well, that is a rather ridiculous comment to make, considering how many of those we consider ‘developed’ state- developed themselves by plundering Africa. Nevertheless, about black people not being smart, remember this 7 of the 10 world’s fastest growing economies are on the African continent…


  2. Race Will Always Be An Issue in our country if we keep ‘sweeping it under the rug’. What this girl has done was uncalled for. The governerment should set an example for the younger generation, the whole ‘kill the farmer kill the boer’ was also a racist remark and yet they kept julius in government even after this. Why didn’t they strip him of all his duties then already. Our government is letting us down. Why is it only racist when white people say things, but its okay for us to make racist remark? We need to set an example after all we are the ones who know what it feels like to be the ‘underdogs’ and we know the pain associated with racism.


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About Koketso Moeti

Mother. Campaigner. Political orphan. Blogger. Activator. Part time professional black. Liker of things. Lover of people. No sense of humour.