I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than I was 27 years ago.
Planes at OR Tambo international airport in Kempton Park, 20 August 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney
Today, 27 years ago, I was watching Francois Pienaar lifting the then Super 10 trophy on a little borrowed black and white TV-set in the maternity ward of the old Kempton Park hospital with my two-day-old son. I was 27 years old.
On Wednesday, that boy celebrated his 27th birthday. His life is considerably different from mine at that age. I had by then already been forced to spend two years of my life in an unjust war that left the lives of thousands of young men, women and parents in tatters. I was married, cellphones didn’t exist and I was a father.
On 16 October, 1993, South Africa’s first democratic elections were still months away. FW de Klerk was president, we still had the old flag. South Africa was on a knife’s edge after Chris Hani was gunned down in front of his home in Dawn Park, but I was positive.
We’ll turn this country into a showcase for democracy, freedom and opportunity by the time you’re my age, I promised the baby. We failed. Of course there were great achievements. The next year we experienced the miracle of 1994. International celebrities fell over each other to be photographed with the great Nelson Mandela and investors couldn’t pump enough money into the country.
Even the SAA still had planes. Since then, we have experienced beetroot and garlic as the cure for Aids, the Guptas, Eskom, the deterioration of the education system, Hansie Cronje, the collapse of healthcare, farm murders, Oscar Pistorius, an R18 dollar, recessions, Zuma…
The country is still immersed in racial hate, violence and poverty. We’ve lost a lot in 27 years. But one thing I still have is my belief in the fairy tale that is South Africa. My son moved to Cape Town three years ago. Everyone should leave Joburg before this place makes them hard. But everyone should leave Cape Town before it makes them soft.
I have another child – the four-year-old Egg. At 54, I’m much too cynical to promise her a perfect world. But at 27, my son is young enough to do it. May we see the South Africa we all deserve before she’s 27.
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