Who We Really Are
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
There is much we still don’t know.
About the looters, the enablers and the masterminds.
About the full extent of the damage and the true cost of rebuilding.
And about the global fallout and long-term economic repercussions of what we now understand to have been, at its core, a failed coup attempt.
But this much we do know.
The harrowing events of the past week tested us, but it did not defeat us. And it will not define us. It will only galvanise us.
Like so often in our turbulent history, South Africa and her people were driven to the precipice of panic and despair by sinister forces of greed and corruption, who attempted to unleash anarchy and lawlessness.
They did not succeed.
Instead, they left us with an unintended but extraordinary gift. The gift of unity, of renewed hope, and of a new, common sense of urgency and purpose.
The architects of this week’s chaos wanted to see our country on her knees, and our people at each other’s throats. Instead, what they saw were extraordinary acts of courage and unity.
Taxi drivers rising up to protect shopping malls.
Retail workers linking arms to form human chains against looting.
Farmers and factory workers donating food.
Truck drivers hauling bread across the country.
Pensioners carting rubble and the disabled sweeping away debris.
They saw us. Who we really are. Who we become when we are attacked, and threatened, and put to the test.
We are not looters. We are not thieves. We are not arsonists. We are not anarchists. We are not the least among us, willing to sacrifice the greater good for personal gain.
We are human chains. We are a nation of builders and unifiers, with an astonishing capacity to heal, to rebuild, to forgive. And to love.
Despite the dark elements at our fringes, we are, still, the nation of 27 April 1993. And 24 June 1995. And 15 April 1996. And every other milestone in the history of our young democracy, when we proved to the world, and to ourselves, that we do not succumb. We overcome. And we rise.
We always have. And we always will.
Today, as we celebrate the 103rd anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, we face, again, a stern test of our collective commitment to courage, to resilience, and to fortitude.
The masterminds who unleashed the many horrendous acts of violence and destruction that crippled our country this past week have been muted and muzzled, for now. Hopefully, they will soon be rounded up, as President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged on Friday, to face the full might of the law.
They will not go quietly into the night. There is too much at stake. Personal liberty and massive personal fortunes are on the line. We must expect and prepare for a vicious death rattle.
But as Nelson Mandela reminded us more than 20 years ago, and reminds us to this day:
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the conquest of that fear. It is the overcoming, and the transformation, and the transcendence.
Today, as at every other point in our history, there is much more that unites us than what divides us. There are vastly more people who want to build, rather than break down. And many more who believe in our future, rather than dwell in our past.
How we met the destruction of the past week showed us who we really are.
How we meet the challenges of the weeks ahead, will show us who we are becoming.
Let’s choose to rise.
Yours in unity,