Home Opinion and Features You’re 28 tomorrow, South Africa. It’s time you grew up!

You’re 28 tomorrow, South Africa. It’s time you grew up!

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Most people have their lives together by the age of 28. We have cut you enough slack, South Africa, over almost three decades. You owe it to all of us to grow up, stop blowing your cash and start living up to the promise you showed as a baby, writes Gasant Abarder.

People hold South African flags as they attend 20-year Democracy Anniversary celebrations at the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 27, 2014. South Africa’s democracy turns 28 tomorrow. Picture: AP Photo

WHEN I was 28, I was married. It wasn’t the most adult thing I did in my life because I was still a mommy’s boy. The adult part was having to grow up quickly or, despite my best intentions, my marriage may not have endured.

Well, on the eve of your 28th birthday I’m advising you to grow up, South Africa, if you know what’s good for you.

When you were born, you showed so much potential. You were the envy of the world and world leaders were holding this newborn up as an example to the rest of the world. If South Africa could be the miracle, rainbow nation baby that pooed Ubuntu into its nappies, why couldn’t Israel and Palestine get it together?

I mean, we had Tata Madiba and The Arch. We were unstoppable. As a one-year-old we won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and Oom Fanus and Bra Themba were now singing Shozoloza in harmony and with aplomb. We had Francois, Hansie (then still untainted) and Dr Khumalo.

Perhaps it was in that moment that the plot unravelled. We were so desperate to get along that we forgot to talk about our pain as a nation. Your teething years, as a two-year-old, should have been defining as our deepest, darkest secrets in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) were laid bare. Your teeth grew out horribly skew – perhaps as a result of too much reconciliation and too little truth.

As you desperately cried out for braces, your problems were again forgotten as Bafana Bafana caught another wave on the nation-building surfboard to win Afcon on home soil. A mere four years later, Bafana – led by the legendary Benni McCarthy – played in its first World Cup in France. Shibobo!

We were barely five years old when we had to leave Tata’s house and live with our uncle Thabo. He was quite an aloof head of the household. Sure, some will argue he took care of business but perhaps his biggest legacy was Aids denialism that saw thousands upon thousands of deaths that could have been prevented.

Deep into your teens, Mzansi, saw the Msholozi years. The Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma saw the years of free love and reckless abandon. You stupidly thought a shower after sex would protect you from a sexually transmitted disease – even though you started rolling out drugs to stem the tide of Aids-related deaths.

You blew your pocket money, Afrika Borwa! An estimated R1.5 trillion of it during the Zuma years. You hung out with the wrong friends while your parents had warned you about those Gupta brothers from Saxonwold.

It all started so promisingly when you let the world come and play soccer in our backyard even though we probably couldn’t afford to throw such a lavish 16th birthday. Ronaldo and Messi came. And even Maradona. For a month, our trains were working the way they should. For heaven’s sake, we could take the train at night safely. Waka Waka!

The rest of our teenage years were typically the lost years. It was a blur of scandals, commissions and corruption. JZ was our father. He was everyone’s father!

We were 24 when Uncle Cyril took over from JZ. It’s been a rough time trying to fix the troubles from your teenage years. You started off well by taking long walks on the Sea Point Prom – long before those muppets from the City of Cape Town tried to ban cycling. You made all the right noises about growing up too. But then Covid-19 arrived and you slipped back into your ways. This time taking money meant to protect health workers with PPE and squandering it.

As you emerge from Covid, on the eve of your 28th birthday, you are not exactly in a celebratory mood. You struggle to pay the bills and often have to keep the lights off (which has been going on for 15 years too long), fuel prices are rocking your citizens – even though that’s only partly your fault – and the people you put in charge are still letting us down.

Imagine we finally live up to our full potential as a powerhouse at the tip of Africa? Take some advice from a chap who got married at 28 and who will be celebrating his 15th anniversary in June. Stop the deference to power drunk politicians and start doing it for yourself. It’s time to grow up, South Africa.

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