In theory, I could live almost anywhere in the world. I have a US education, an EU passport, a work-from-anywhere career and have already called four countries home. I have chosen to settle in South Africa, not because it is my country of birth (it isn’t) and certainly not because of a lack of choices.
Rather, when I was in my early 20s, and had to choose where I wanted to settle, I chose to return to South Africa because I believed in the promise of this country. I was proud of our exemplary political transformation, and was looking forward to playing an active role in the continuous growth and development of South Africa.
As it turned out, it wasn’t such a bad choice. Life here is good. Yes, sometimes unsafe, often contentious and never predictable. The people are great. Most are filled with the same African spirit that reminds me why I am still here when most of my friends are not. I revel in the tight-knit online community, and often I feel as if the soul of this country flows through my veins. I am the heated voice of defence when others start debating the virtues of Australia over Canada. I wear my SA Rocks T-shirt with pride.
Admittedly, my optimism is based on short historic precedence. If we could make a 180 degree turn in our political philosophy, slowly learn to embrace all our different cultures, grow our economy and raise our profile to the height that allows us to host a World Cup, then things are not going too badly.
Sure, sometime shit happens. The crime level is not a joke. The economy is suffering, and the inequality seems to be growing, instead of lessening. Prices are rising, jobs are falling away and the light does not always go on when you need it to do so. The xenophobic attacks were a particularly low point.
But through it all, there was a thread, admittedly sometimes a weak thread, of a common goal. My fellow citizens, my country, my government and I were on a common mission. We wanted a better country. We wanted to grow our reputation as the nation that overcome seemingly insurmountable odds at reversing its human rights record. We wanted to continue to be the glimmer of hope for a brighter future that Africa so desperately needed.
So you will understand why I feel betrayed by my president. His dismissive attitude of the same democratic process that allowed his political party to take the helm of this country hurts in the place where it hurts a patriot most. It is one thing for Mugabe to try and pull his transparent tricks on the world. It is completely another one for my president to condone them, and act stupid. It is, I am hoping, an act.
Mbeki represents my country, and the assumption is therefore that he also represents me. But he does not. And this is not some sort of two-sides-to-every-story political episode that we are talking about. It is a clear violation of the basic democratic rights of the people of Africa. Once again, by extension, of me.
How proud I would continue to be to call myself South African, if the voice of reason against the atrocities came from my leader — if it was him that paved the path to a resolution that set the precedence on how to deal with corrupt leaders.
But no. What Mbeki is managing to achieve amounts to nothing less than the total erasure of our post-apartheid legacy. And who gave him that right? He was elected by a democratic process, and the least he can do is to not condone its abuse.
But, as things stand, I have to question my commitment to this country. Are we really on the same page, my government and I? Are we indeed working towards the greater good? And most important, is the spirit of those citizens who still believe in the future of this country strong enough to see us reach it?
Or is it time to start spinning the globe to find a new destination?
God, I hope not.