Watching the Springboks fumble their way to a clumsy loss against the Wallabies this past Saturday I realise now that I didn’t really pay attention to the South African anthem. An anthem is meant to symbolise in song the emotion and rhetoric of what it means to be a citizen of a country.
The rugby-watching South African public expects – or used to expect – that the Springboks would give every opposing team a memory. I can recall times past, epic games with indelible moments and I’m sure the opposition does too, even after a few years of water under the bridge.
After every loss or uninspired victory in these familiar lean times, the public has been asking the question as to what the Springboks have lost and how to get it back.
There are many theories.
I have my own and it derives from a small scene from 1995’s ‘Braveheart’ where Robert the Bruce is speaking with William Wallace and explains as follows:
“…from top to bottom this country has no sense of itself. Its nobles share allegiance with England. Its clans war with each other…”
In the words of a screenwriter who penned a movie about Scotland hundreds of years ago, I believe we have as good an answer as we’re ever going to get.
As South Africans we are not united. We have split allegiances, the government has continued to separate us into racial clans, and the top (the elites) are separate from the bottom (the poor). By their own design, and for their own comfort and self-interest.
All of this has the effect of taking the energy, belief, direction and synergy out of all of our endeavours. Especially team sports.
When the anthem is sung, I will admit that the words and melody of Enoch Sontonga’s Nkosi Sikieleli Afrika do not stir me at all, because it is a song about Africa, a more general concern that Mzansi – South Africa. In the same way many others will not be stirred at all by the portion of the anthem taken from C.J. Langenhoven’s Die Stem.
A clue to the state of our country lies with the One to whom the appeal is made in Nkosi Sikieleli Afrika: God.
When the first free and fair elections took place 27 April 1994, many people feared violence and retribution and it didn’t happen. The general feeling was that this was in part an act of providence, an act of mercy. Since that time, my impression is that in the minds of those in power, God has been asked to step further and further aside.
Why should God bless Africa? He may yet, since there are many people who are living lives of faith. Angus Buchan certainly thinks it’s possible.
Amidst the fierce debate presently about land expropriation where no-one is listening and digging into their ideological trenches, a snapshot emerges of life in the hinterland: a black farmer relates on Twitter how a fire started on his farm and his neighbours all pitched up in their bakkies to help. His white neighbours.
I admit that there seems such hopelessness with every political impasse and word spoken in anger by children in parliament, that it seems difficult to have the heart to pray…
…May I just pray: May God bless South Africa, her people, her leaders and her future. May we the church repent of apathy and seek Him afresh and trust Him.