The 1994 elections passed me by like a dream, yet I have a fond nostalgia for the event, as if I had stood in the snaking queues with all those hopeful souls who had come out to cast their vote for the first time. The fact of the matter, though, is that I hardly noticed when the momentous day came. I was too young; a little boy barely capable of crossing the street without my mother’s help, let alone being able to grasp the historical gravity of that moment. Yet, whenever I look back on that day, I cannot help but feel as though I too stood in a queue, patiently waiting to play some small part in the first truly democratic elections of our nation’s heartbreaking story. I am not too sure why I keep returning to this date, but like a moth to fire I am constantly drawn back. Perhaps this has something to do with some function of our collective memory that keeps harkening us back to April 27 so that future generations will not forget its importance, some protective mechanism that assures us that we will overcome the many evils we face as long as there are good men and women who will boldly fight for justice in this land. April 27 is a profound symbol of hope, and hope is the very substance that keeps the human spirit alive. What followed the elections, however, continues to leave me amazed at the largess of our nation’s heart: we began to forgive each other. Two of the most difficult things to do as a community are: (a) to forgive the people that tortured and killed our fathers and mothers and children; and (b) to face the victims of our violence or their loved ones, acknowledge the crimes that we committed and offer humble apologies for those violations. It takes great courage to willingly participate in this process, yet we did it. Scores of South Africans turned up at the TRC’s hearings and chose the healing path of forgiveness instead of vengeance. What a tremendous thing they did. It is difficult to put into words the significance of their actions. Only history will reveal the true impact that the commission had on our country. Close on seventeen years later, there still remains a lot of work to do before we become the nation that we carry in our dreams. As we approach the hard work that lies before us, let us not forget the strength that is in our hearts. It will in all likelihood be hell confronting the post-Apartheid cancers that are ravaging our society, but we can do it. Adversity is unfortunately the status quo of the human condition, so let’s roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and pick up where we left off building this nation into the land of justice that so many longed to see and died for.
- Remnants of the Past: Building or Destroying the Nation?
- We The People