Circa 1994, the South African rainbow nation is rapturous after a relatively smooth transition from cancerous apartheid to a democracy with a favourable prognosis. Fast-forward to 2018, and South Africa is bedridden by a relapse as a result of an ironic source of malignancy. Its erstwhile freedom fighters have now rendered the country desperately pleading for extensive chemotherapy, as a hope for survival.
Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu fulfilled his clerical role astutely by christening our reborn phoenix country the "Rainbow Nation". Our government of national unity was then tasked with the guardianship role that would nurture this newborn into growth and development.
The seven colours of this rainbow nation represented our multicultural society, which would embark, in parallel union, across sometimes sunny and oftentimes stormy skies. Freedom Day as celebrated annually on April 27 promised democracy with socioeconomic benefits for all.
The joyride of the ascending rainbow nation was applauded, envied and encouraged the world over, as it promulgated a world-class Constitution, launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, implemented macroeconomic and socioeconomic policies such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) and a host of other pieces of legislation and policies aimed at eradicating systematic, institutionalised inequality.
The pinnacle of this rainbow nation was arguably the award of the FIFA World Cup in 2010. This was where the average South African was hypnotised by the prospect of a multibillion-rand injection into the economy, which would supposedly result in sustainable thousands-per-capita income in their pockets.
It appears that our once robust rainbow nation is on a downturn. It is about to hit the same ground from which it once rose into promised liberation.
The gravity of physics finally kicked in and this rainbow nation was soon headed for a decline. As it steadily navigated its descent into reality, the former ululation during its rise was soon juxtaposed with equal grumbles of discontent.
Increasing rates of unemployment, obstinate evasion of transformation, plagues of crime, corruption and institutionalised racism, gender inequality, hijacking of the economy by multinationals and local swindlers, and overall societal fragmentation set in.
I embarked on this protracted metaphorical description of South Africa's journey over the past 24 years of democracy to bring us to our current state of affairs — a state that many would agree is dire. Expanding on my metaphor, it appears that our once robust rainbow nation is on a downturn. It is about to hit the same ground from which it once rose into promised liberation.
The only thing that would redeem and somewhat justify this disheartening decline, is finding a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Boy, would that be ultimate restitution! Let's consider each gold nugget in the pot as a representation of an aspect of a flourishing society.
We would have our pick of jobs, equal opportunity, effective law enforcement and justice, no sexism or racism, a functional education system, accountable leadership, constructive civil society, and pretty much the Bill of Rights successfully applied.
After briefly fantasising about the prospect of this pot of gold, I am rudely shaken back to reality. Meteorologists will tell you the startling fact that a rainbow is actually not a half-arc at all. It is, in fact, a full circle and the appearance of it being a semi-circle is just an optical illusion. Therefore, there is effectively no such thing as the end of a rainbow.
When you combine this rainbow with no end and leprechauns with no integrity, what do you get? False hopes bound to be shattered.
Mythologists will then tell you that leprechauns — the Irish mythical custodians of the rainbow — are considered conniving tricksters that have the ability to disappear at will. So you can't quite rely on them to lead you to this proverbial pot of gold. Doesn't that sound about right when reflecting upon our political leaders?
Thus, when you combine this rainbow with no end and leprechauns with no integrity, what do you get? False hopes bound to be shattered. Even more rudimentary, perhaps this conclusion serves to show that both a "rainbow nation" and the "pot of gold" are mere figments. They are created to harness the fidelity and cooperation of the masses — while the leadership fumbles its way through governance.
Public sentiment post the 2017 African National Congress national conference is steeped in the belief that a messiah is going to rescue South Africa from the pit of regression. Cyril Ramaphosa has been handed the mantle of saviour based on his impeccable credentials as a politician, trade unionist, businessman and altogether Mr Nice Guy.
I like him too. But I am wary of being indoctrinated into his sect. Why? Because my metaphor reveals to me that even if he has won the fight that now sees him as the top leprechaun, he is still susceptible to going rogue during the overwhelming task of navigating a nation in crisis. He would have to be a literal messiah if he did not!
Where does that leave us, colourful people? I reckon on a downward slippery slope that will only be reconciled by an upward climb at the opposite end of the rainbow. In other words, the process will take its natural course and probably get worse before it gets better. Each leader at every stage of a rainbow's ascent or descent is placed there by destiny as the chosen steward of either phase.
Now that Ramaphosa is the ruling leprechaun, he should solemnly promise us a ride that will weather much turbulence, rather than guaranteeing a fantastical pot of gold at a fictitious end of the rainbow.
The mark of the great leaders is the ability to steer the national ship with minimum casualties through the decline and maximum gains during the incline. Ideally, the descending arc should transpire at top speed to mitigate loss; and the incline and summit of the arc should take as much time as is required to stockpile resources.
The president has a mammoth task on his hands. He has already fought formidable opposition to attain ANC leadership and the country's presidency. Now that Ramaphosa is the ruling leprechaun, he should solemnly promise us a ride that will weather much turbulence, rather than guaranteeing a fantastical pot of gold at a fictitious end of the rainbow.