About five years ago I expressed the intention to write a series of short books in which I would reflect on what I considered to be the defining public issues of the first 15 years of democracy in South Africa. That period would include President Nelson Mandela’s five-year term and President Mbeki’s two-term presidency. It turned out to be to ambitious, but not irrelevant, project. The first of these projects, boxing in the Eastern Cape, is nearing completion. Others remain as pressing as ever
- The taxi industry and the challenge of transport and communication in South Africa;
- Social movements in South Africa with Abahlali baseMjondolo as a case study; and
- Resilient, resurgent cultural practices that went underground upon being declared uncivilised by the colonial order as it developed and consolidated its dominance over those it had conquered. In their simple form these practices may involve the return of traditional dress; while in their most complex forms they may involve a continuum between marriage and burial rituals to systems of tribal governance. How do all these interact with global modernity and its particular manifestations in South Africa?
Today as I write, the #RhodesMustFall Movement has exposed strong intergenerational gaps that speak to socialisation processes in a multicultural democracy. The issue or racism is but one example of that. The issue of “free” public education is another. Both have to do with the longterm education of future generations of South African citizens in the shaping of national capability in the widest possible way.
While working on the boxing project, I have not been silent on other aspects of our society. In particular, I have commented publicly on various issues of serious concern in South Africa: the decline of public institutions; corruption in both the public and private sectors; increasing public disenchantment with the governing African National Congress to live to its declared solemn commitments, and increasingly in its ability to govern a fast changing society, despite its many achievements. I will continue to apply my mind to these and other issues.
I am a participant in the Effects of Race Project of Stellenbosch Institution for Advanced Study. I expect a great deal of insights to emerge from there that will be relevant to the current resurgence of race and racism as burning issues in our society.
In sum, there remains a great deal to provoke deep on-going reflection.