We are told by EFF politicians who pretend to know better that black South Africans should not celebrate Siya Kolisi and his team, the writer says. Picture: WIKUS DE WET / AFP
We are told by EFF politicians who pretend to know better that black South Africans should not celebrate Siya Kolisi and his team, the writer says. Picture: WIKUS DE WET / AFP

There is an SA out there — our SA. In our SA we celebrate our people’s successes, large and small. In our SA we are generous and largehearted, not mean and ugly in spirit. In our SA we love laughter and we lean towards it with our entire beings while rejecting the crippling negativity under which many want us to live.

It is a beautiful if flawed country, our SA. At its best, it is the country of our dreams: aware of its brutal past, alive to its deeply unequal present, and hopeful for an equitable and just future. It is a country for and of those who know that our past can be vanquished by the choices we make in the present.

The past two weeks have illustrated abundantly which country most South Africans want. It is not the country that some of our politicians want. It is not a country in which divisions are magnified and exploited for these politicians’ selfish gain. It is not a country where everything that is of the postapartheid SA is seen as being the work of sell-outs and compromisers.

Many South Africans want to lift up their eyes and their hearts and build a country where their children can achieve the highest honours. They want their children to soar like Siya Kolisi. They want their children to conquer the world like Trevor Noah. They want to see their culture magnified and embraced the way Sho Madjozi does.

These South Africans are not fools; they were not born yesterday. Many have visceral memories of apartheid. They lived it. They do not suffer from illusions of some false unity in our country. Yet they do not live every day with their heads turned back to the horror of their past. They cherish today; they build for tomorrow.

There are too many politicians among us who profit from hate and division. Without the divisions, they cannot exist or thrive. They need the oxygen of hate. Even when the rest of our country strains towards celebration of the good (and yes, there is very little of that in our past and in much of our present), they bend over backwards to throw poison into the wounds we know we have. What would they do without division? Our success is their enemy.

Rugby is hardwired into the Eastern Cape, our country’s poorest province. It has been played in many of the province’s schools since the early 1800s

Over the past week leaders of the EFF have done their best to portray the celebrations of the Springbok win at the Rugby World Cup as stupidity on the part of black South Africans. They try to steal a very rich heritage of rugby in parts of SA, particularly the Eastern Cape, from all of us. They don’t know that black South Africans have excelled at this game for centuries.

Rugby is hard-wired into the Eastern Cape, our country’s poorest province. It has been played in many of the province’s schools since the early 1800s.

South Africans have enthralled the world at rugby for more than a century. Read this excerpt about Richard W Msimang, one of the ANC’s founders and one of the first black attorneys in SA, when he was at school in Somerset, England, in 1904. In his book History of Queen’s College, Taunton, HJ Channon writes: “[Msimang] took up rugby, and became the most popular player Taunton has ever had. The crowd loved to see him emerge with a smile from the bottom of a heap of forwards. He was a brilliant scrumhalf, tough and with a swerve that made it difficult to bring him down. So popular was he, that sometimes he had to leave the ground by a back exit to avoid the crowd.”

Yet we are told by those politicians who know better that black South Africans should not celebrate Siya Kolisi and his team when these Springboks have just added an important brick to the effort to return black people to the heart of a sport that they have played for two centuries. What is this? It is the work of people who have nothing to gain from a people’s joy. They seek division. They thrive on it.

Much has happened to us as a country these past few days.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team held an important investment conference at which R363bn in investment commitments were made. Trevor Noah filled up Madison Square Garden in New York City. They are talking about the singing sensation Sho Madjozi all over the world. The Springboks have made us proud again.

There have been so many others. South Africans have rallied behind these achievements. Will these achievements miraculously resolve our problems? Of course not. They are not meant to. We are, however, allowed to celebrate and be proud. That is how we regenerate ourselves and get up the next day to build. That is our SA.

• This article was first published by Times Select.