South Africa’s splendid future is guaranteed, but like in all guarantees, terms and conditions apply. The first and main condition is for this country to find new heroes who are eager to build bridges to the future.
No matter how painful the thorns of history, we must never forget that we are the custodians of the Cradle of Humankind, and the role of raising humanity to a successful future lies with us.
We must take advantage of the fact that the powers that colonised us are on the decline. ‘The empire on which the sun never sets’ no longer exists. The former British Empire has become a narrow-minded island that finds comfort in isolationist Brexit. Its economy has shrunk to the fifth position in the world, and its former colony, India, is about to overtake it. People laugh when they hear that the Portuguese Empire was once the largest in the world, lasting over six centuries. Spain too. As we belong to BRICS, they belong to the PIGS, which is an acronym for Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, economies that are deep in debt.
The good news is that despite our debilitating difficulties and the unsympathetic facts, everything is at the first chapter. Someday, the story of South Africa will be told on digital fireplaces. It will follow the five steps of the dramatic structure as developed by the 19th century German playwright, Gustav Freytag. The story starts with the exposition, set in the advent of our democracy in 1994, at a time of great euphoria and seemingly endless resources. Black economic empowerment becomes the inciting incident which sparks a chain reaction of events characterised by both growth and gluttony. The story rises and becomes more complex as the leader is vilified and ousted, but the subsequent leaders turn out to be “Ideal challengers but disastrous champions,” to borrow from Garry Kasparov’s book, Deep Thinking.
“The crisis is the story’s obligatory scene,” writes the screenwriting guru from Hollywood, Robert McKee. So the current disastrous leadership is necessary to fulfil the story. The climax comes thirty years later, when South Africans have to choose between the devil they know and the road less travelled. Deus ex machina or ‘God out of the machine,’ is a plot device that writers have been using for centuries to abruptly resolve a seemingly unsolvable problem. Thirty years of democracy is the year in which the ‘ancestor in the machine,’ Albert Luthuli, abandons his party in despair, because as he wrote in his incomparable book, Let My People Go, “Thirty years or so I have striven with tremendous zeal and patience to work for the progress and welfare of my people and for their harmonious relations with other sections of our multiracial society.”
So the spirit of Luthuli has a dilemma, does it abandon the governing party or does it bring about a renewal? “The key to all story endings,” wrote the novelist, William Goldman, “is to give the audience what it wants but not the way it expects it.”
Most people would wish for a renewal of the organisation, but as they say in isiZulu, Idlozi liyambasha meaning “the ancestor becomes ashen, and loses its powers.” So uLuthuliuyambasha, and then it’s all over.
The resolution of the story or denouement as the writing fraternity calls it, is unsurprising. It has been done before. South Africa eliminates poverty within a decade and even beats Japan, as its unemployment rate drops to only 1 per cent. The worlds looks back at us once again, and asks, “How did you do it, South Africa?”