After twenty years of democracy South Arica is only that – a democracy. The one common ground between the different races is that we all share the same citizenship and are ruled by a democratically elected government. Rainbow, as a descriptive metaphor for South Africans, is more than accurate. We are colours divided, and exist separately, but sharing the same space alongside one other. There are no signs that the rainbow is about to amalgamate its divisions into one universal representative colour.
The colour and racial divide amongst South Africans is common, widespread and occurs in different levels of society. The most dominant is the segregation between black and white. In this instance the term “black” includes all groups that are non-white. This is how South Africans have identified and referred to each other for centuries. Even young pre-school children refer to people by their race or colour, which is evident that their parents are still using race as a means of identifying people. It seems that racial identity is very much a part of the fabric of our society. The issue is complicated by the fact that the ruling party protect and promote the interests of their own racial and ethnic group as a first priority.
It is only the common citizens of South Africa that can transform our racial, tribal and colour based identity into a national identity. We have to look at each other differently, and our government must, instead of playing the race card, be actively involved in nation building. Economic inequality, poverty and unemployment are major obstacles to this process. It is much easier to build a unified nation under prosperous conditions than on the ruins of poverty. Poverty excludes people from the main stream of society.
The potential to unite a larger section of the South African population into a nation is possible if we can find a broader base of common non-political purpose.
In the past we’ve seen the country united on at least three different occasions.
The 1995 Springbok’s Rugby World Cup campaign orchestrated by the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the 2010 Soccer Wold Cup Tournament that was hosted in South Africa. The people of Gauteng, from all races, are united in their protest against the government’s implementation of the E-Toll system in December 2013. A common goal in this instance overshadows racial and political interests.
Politics and poverty are the two great threats to South Africa’s natural nation building process. South Africa will never be united under the banner of one political party and the poor will always be in a state of protest and demand.
A nation evolves through time and has a factor that binds them together and gives them a sense of belonging and pride. We are yet to discover a basis on which to build a nation.