If you had to ask me what I think of my South Africa, I would say that it is “perfect”.
A lot of people might say, that not much has changed over the past few years, but in my humble opinion, I believe that we have.
Let’s start with our recent milestone. Reaching 20 years of democracy is no small feat. When I look back and hear the stories of the struggle, it sounded hopeless. As if the idea of change was unbelievable. And yet change came. When South Africa became a democratic country, everyone was given the opportunity to vote and since then a lot has changed in South Africa. Yet, few believe that we have made progress and still, we complain. What then, I ask you, is progress if it is not what we have witnessed over the past few years?
Rewind back 20 years ago and my classroom would’ve been full of white girls. Now, I am able to communicate with all races without the fear of being convicted. Is that not progress?
Back in the day, my parents didn’t really have the freedom to dream bigger than a comfortable job and the hope that they would be happy. Now I am able to dream of greater things; goals that my parents wished they could try to reach and that now I am able to reach. Is that not progress?
You see, the face of this country is not the ANC or the man in charge, Jacob Zuma. It is you and I. We are the offspring of many years of toil and blood. It is the beautiful sunset that cascades down Table Mountain and rises the next day to remind us that we have another day. And it is the buzz of the city and the people that move through it.
Lately all I hear is that this country is not up to standard and more popularly said, “Our government is hopeless.” Well, what if I told you that the government is just a sounding board of its nation and that we have a responsibility towards it too.
What then is progress, if ever since democracy started, many more people have access to sanitation, homes with electricity and more children have access to education.
“Yes,” you tell me, “But not all of South Africa does…” Now this is the part that I don’t understand. We say we want change, but we don’t acknowledge it when it is here. How will this country ever be enlightened when we choose to darken the light that has already shone?
I ask you what then is progress?
Progress is the white man, the black man and the coloured man working together in the same office.
Progress is the schools that were built in the less advantaged areas and that now have skilled teachers.
Progress is drop in the crime statistics even though crime is still prevalent.
Progress is the gangster who is now a pastor and helping others to change their ways.
Progress is the increase in the country’s matric pass rate.
Progress is the fact that South Africa is now one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations.
Progress is the reason that I am able to be at the school that I am at today.
So today, I tell you that I am proudly South African and that I love my home country. And if you had to ask me now, what I think of my South Africa?
I would say that yes, we are not perfect but what is perfection is if it doesn’t have its unique flaws to set it apart from others?
Written by Rebecca Plaatjies, 17yrs, Grade 11. Cape Town