Today was National Heritage Day in South Africa. Also known as ‘National Braai Day’, Heritage Day is one where the people of South Africa are encouraged to get together to celebrate their unique culture and diversity (by barbecuing a cornucopia of flesh).
What Rainbow Nation can not deny is that there is one thing all the colours share: a love for food!
Another alarming wave of violent crime has, however, dampened spirits on this day. In the past few weeks stories of fathers, husbands, daughters, and sisters being shot to death during robberies in front of their families has touched a major nerve. These senseless murders have been an abrupt wakeup call, the very rotten cherry on top of the very stinky pile called Merikana- the rioting mining sector debacle – that came to a ‘peaceful resolution’ this past week (after over 40 miners were shot to death by police after demanding wage increases).
The people of South Africa do not feel safe- and the fear factor has set in again. You can feel it welling up into your chest as you pull into your driveway after sunset, looking right and then left to make sure no one is lurking in the bushes. You can smell it in the air as you pass a volatile looking character on the street and you slowly pull your shirt sleeve down to hide your watch. And it is there hovering above your head as you say a little prayer to the angels to protect you and yours on this quiet night.
On many levels South Africa is unravelling at the seams: high levels of unemployment, atrocious corruption at the level of government, a general disregard for human life at the top-down and from the bottom-up. On the radio listeners have been urging for the reintroduction of the apartheid-time death sentence, for stricter control at the borders (as migrants from other African countries are notorious for being the perpetrators of voilent crime) and pushing for more citizen involvement when it comes to combating crime (as the police are the most corrupt of the lot).
As the Jewish community prepares for Yom Kippur by going into self-contemplation mode, I pause to wonder if National Braai Day had a similar reflective quality for South Africans. The day of atonement or at-one-ment is an opportunity for us to take an accounting of all that has passed in the year, reflect upon it and grow from the lessons learnt.
My prayer for South Africa is that she choose the path of reflection at the end of this day of celebration. I pray that one day soon, regardless of level of desperation, a human life will be perceived to be more valuable than gold. I pray that integrity will be something everyone takes on and lives by. I pray that South Africans turn inward and choose soul expansion over growing the machine. I pray that the jobless will find employment and will be able to feed their families.
I pray that one day guns will be exhibited in the museums of South Africa as relics of a unenlightened bygone era.
The entire continent is waiting for South Africa’s true rise from the ashes as the Phoenix. South Africa, you are very much like the eye of the dragon, I pray that the flames do not consume you.
May we have a meaningful Yom Kippur, may our collective reflections have healing powers to reach the darkest corners of this planet and transform them into light.