Highs and lows of 2016

I have Christmas snow falling across my computer screen (a feature of WordPress) and I’m feeling slightly queasy. It has been an eventful year.

I almost died, published my debut collection of short stories, Eye of a Needle, made the longlist of the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award, and had three poems accepted for the Atlanta Review, among others.

This is also the year in which we entered a new phase in our political landscape. Clashes between black protesters and white rugby supporters in the Orange Free State. Angry public responses to racist tweets or Facebook entries. ‘Fees must fall’ protests at universities. The spat about the rules for black hair at a school in Pretoria. The ruling party, the African National Congress, losing significant support in the local elections.

Sometimes I fear for my country. I worry that we’re losing the goodwill between the races built since 1994: friendships across colour lines, interracial marriages – a normalization of a fractured society.

At the same time I understand that the reconciliation drive after the advent of our democracy left largely intact the economic ownership in white hands, the judiciary, unequal land distribution, ownership of the media, and the unprecedented growth in private armies in the security sector.

Their role in reconstruction not being specified, whites didn’t really know what to do with the gift of reconciliation. Their contribution was therefore confined to exhortations to forgive, forget and move on. This has angered black people. The poet, Maakomele Manaka, puts it succinctly, before moving on there should be an ‘interrogation of the chains our limbs have  familiarized themselves with.’

This polarization is visible. When you read the comments section on any online forum such as newspapers, there is a war of words between black and white, marked by a promise of a day of reckoning coming from the radical and the ultra-conservative.

Yet, being an optimist, I still hope that we can negotiate this difficult terrain and emerge victorious on the other side. We’ve done it once, so why not again?


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