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Good Story, Bad Story

21 March 2014

The ANC have kicked off their election campaign by saying that they have a good story to tell. And in many ways they do. When I compare South Africa today with South Africa 30 years ago, I would far rather live in the South Africa of today than be back under the rule of P.W. Botha’s securocrats. That is a good story, and it is a story worth telling.

But when we come to voting for the people who will represent us in parliament and provincial councils, we are not thinking about what happened 30 years ago, but rather what will be happening in the next five years.

Sharpeville 1960

Sharpeville 1960

Yes, much that was broken has been fixed, but there is also much that was broken that is still broken, and on this Human Rights Day, when we recall the Sharpeville Massacre, and recall the Marikana Massacre of a couple of years ago, we can see that there is also a bad story, a story of broken promises, of failures in transformation.

There are things that still nneed to be fixed, as this article makes clear: Fish rot from the head | openDemocracy:

Torture is routine practice in South Africa’s police stations and prisons. A lineage of impunity, traced from apartheid, has meant de facto immunity for perpetrators. With South Africa celebrating its ‘Human Rights Day’ this weekend, the shocking reality behind its prison walls must be a central focus.

Much the “good story” took place in the first few years after the advent of our democracy in 1994, but there hasn’t been much since 2004. Most of the people who made the good story happen are retired or dead.

Marikana 2012

Marikana 2012

Twenty-five years ago I was working at the University of South Africa (Unisa), and the university was a microcosm of South Africa. The things that were most wrong with the country were also the things that were most wrong with the university. The three departments in the country that were worst were policing, health and education. And the worst courses in the university were Police Science, Nursing Science and those produced by the Education Faculty. But even after 1994, there was little effort to transform them.

At that point what was needed was a massive effort to train new teachers in new ways, and to retrain old ones. New policemen needed to be trained with different models of policing, to fit the vision of a new South Africa. But this did not happen. The old culture was perpetuated, with the results that we see today.

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