Green and gold mean nothing to most people in the world. But to a certain group of people, they are colours that unite a nation.
I never liked sport growing up. Rugby didn’t interest me in the least. It was only worth my while if it meant an outing to see friends, scoring a “dop” (a drink or in our case, a glass of coke) and having access to a variety of chips and biltong.
But, when 2007 saw us in the final, there was something electric about the atmosphere. Throughout the Rugby World Cup, I began to understand how the game worked and I slowly got into it. Names of players became familiar and when things got tense, I joined in the yells that had once made me feel really uncomfortable and began to yell, “Yes, Lambie!!” or “GO, Habana!!”
Each Rugby World Cup, we fear the same teams. Black and white always instil a fear that keeps us on the edge of our seats and the anticipation of facing them suddenly makes us lose confidence in the team that we’ve held in high esteem.
This year when the All Blacks played, we were on a ladies retreat. I casually looked up the score, fully expecting to see them thrashing their opponents. I took a double look at the score. Then I reloaded the page. Then I spoke to another lady. She phoned her husband. Because we just didn’t believe that a much “weaker” team was thumping them! It was true! That match knocked them out of the World Cup. And it meant we didn’t have to face them.
The following day, we were playing. I never thought that I’d see the day when I wished the rugby would be shown on big screen at a ladies retreat. But there I was, checking the score straight after a session. I was so excited that I announced out loud that we’d won!
…Only to find out minutes later that the game was still on and we were now neck-and-neck. With only live scores to go on (let’s rather say refreshing the page), it was a nail-biting half an hour as we waited anxiously to see if the South African team were going to join New Zealand at the airport and return home. Much to our elation – we waved goodbye to the other team and scored a few extra days in Japan.
As the day of the final approached, there was a unified festivity pumping all around. Tellers wore supporter shirts. Woolworths joined up with the Ndlovu Youth Choir in a moving rendition of “Shosholoza” that took the internet by storm and brought tears of pride to my eyes. And the excitement, anticipation and anxiety of the upcoming match was palpable wherever I went. It was all everyone talked about. Even when our vicinity experienced an unusual earth tremor, one of the memes that went viral was,
Everyone, calm down! It’s not an earthquake; it’s the Springboks warming up in Japan!
When the day arrived, there were only two shades that everyone proudly wore. The country was awash with green and gold. Flags flapped from car windows. People hooted in joyful response. And the nation gathered around TV screens to support the bokke. Those with me stood to sing the anthem in our small hall in our small town. When the first try was scored, everyone, including the Irish among us, were on their feet, clapping, cheering, dancing, fist-pumping and jumping in sheer delight. Things heated up when the English bumped up their score. But in the last minutes of the game, our win became so sure that the engraver started etching 2019 South Africa in the gold of the Webb-Ellis cup before the final whistle had been blown.
The pride that burst from our hearts for “our boys” shone in every eye and smile. Facebook, Instagram and even local road Whatsapp groups went mad. And old Faf will never live down shaking Prince Harry’s hand while sporting South African flag jocks!
But what I’ve realised is that it’s all about so much more than a game! Superficially, we’re all about supporting the team, watching their tactics, criticising the “ref” and cheering when our team put points on the board. South Africans are all about a good kuier, biltong, braaivleis and beer.
But I’ve come to realise that sport, and in this case, most often, rugby unites the nation. Until Invictus was released, I had no idea that it was a white man’s game pre-1995 I had no idea it was hated because it was the oppressor’s sport. And, when I came to realise that, I discovered the joy of watching South Africans of every colour enjoy the game. It was like seeing the young Xhosa boy hug the solemn Afrikaans cop at the end of the movie.
It brought reconciliation and unity – unity in supporting the same team; unity in standing as citizens equally part of the same country; reconciliation between two groups of people who hated each other just because of a genetic difference of skin pigmentation.
Because of a game, a divided country united. Because of the green and gold, black and white celebrated together. Because of rugby, all South Africans had something in common – something to talk about.
And this is a big part of why I love this game! When I drive past a car full of people hanging out the windows, our colourful flag billowing behind them, I can hoot in acknowledgement and appreciation. When I meet my gardener on a Monday, I can ask him more than how he is. When I walk into the shop to buy my braaivleis, I can do more than smile at the teller wearing her green and gold. When I walk down the road, I chat longer with the passer-by in a Springbok jersey. Conversation is easier because commonality is more common.
But the beauty of South Africa is that, before all the rugby hype, we didn’t walk past one another without so much as acknowledging those we passed. We are a social nation. We greet one another even if we’ve never met. I can’t count the times my daughter will ask me,
“Mommy, who’s that?” and I can’t answer her because I don’t know them but we still greeted each other and had a conversation. We didn’t need the rugby to do that. (Although it helps.)
And the beauty in how far we’ve come as a country since the both dreaded and longed-for year of 1994, is that many don’t just greet the fellow white man on the road while we walk. But we also greet those who work in homes in the neighbourhood; those out cutting the grass; the group of kids walking home from school. The healing balm of kindness and love and commonality is slowly cleansing an old, deep wound.
This land has so much going for it and, sadly, there are still those who seek to remain fast in their pit of negativity, refusing to see the beauty of the land filled with people.
Breathing mankind who like us, have eyes to behold the beauty of the African skies, ears to hear the calls of the birds, hands to shake those of another race, noses to breathe in the smell of an African thunderstorm; lungs to breathe in the same air we do and hearts capable of the same God-given love.
And, we, like those we criticise, are also capable of heinous crimes like hate and greed. We, like them, are also capable of racism, hate-speech and gender violence.
Because, guess what?
WE ARE ALL HUMAN. WE ALL LOVE AND WE ALL HATE. WE ARE ALL PART OF MANKIND, CAPABLE OF KINDNESS YET INTRINSICALLY SELFISH.
We are all sinners. No one sin is better than another. Dirt is dirt. Sin is sin. If you have mud on your finger, mud in your eyes and mud over your heart, you’ll make the house dirty. No dirt is clean.
Which is why no matter where you go, you will not escape humankind and the dirt of the heart.
You may be able to choose the kind of dirt, sure. But sometimes I fear that some have chosen the dirtier dirt even though it masquerades as cleaner dirt.
I do not believe that every person who has left this country has left for the wrong reasons.
That said, there are some (not all) who seem to prefer to leave the country with a heart full of their own hate and prejudice than live in a place where the world around them is poisoned.
At the end of the day, one is your responsibility; the other is not.
For which will you answer to God?
Some (not all) exchange the fear of the crime in the country and the safety of their children for the godlessness and suppression of Christianity in another country.
Some (not all) take their perception of the control of their safety into their own hands rather than trusting the Almighty for the protection only He can give no matter their efforts. If it’s your time, it’s your time.
I am not saying that God does not want South Africans overseas. But, be careful not to impose your ideas on Him. If He wants you there, then it’s His will, so be confident and happy and hold your head high in your choice to leave! But, be careful not to cover your agenda with your will of God’s agenda. You know your deep heart-reason. You will know if your reason to leave is rooted in fear, bitterness and resentment or trust, love and faith.
I was horrified when I did watch the news the other night and saw an exhibition that’s just opened called “Welcome to the RSA – Republic of Sexual Abuse”. Among the many images on exhibit are photos of South Africans holding a sign stating,
“I’m not proud to be a citizen of the RSA.”
It’s not that I don’t get what message they are trying to get across. But I actually couldn’t believe the blatant and jarring negativity that is so starkly communicated in this exhibition. This seems a sure way to spread the poison of the hate-speech towards this country. Imagine a tourist stumbling across this display! I believe that there are more constructive ways to stand against gender violence. Spreading pessimism and despair won’t take us any further. It seemed to be the type of exhibition that would be put on by a sour collection of expats post ‘94 instead of current South Africans millenials. (Disclaimer: I know no more about this campaign than what I saw on the news, so I may be assuming a lot of things.)
Trevor Noah put it aptly when he said that most black men don’t kill. If they did, we’d all be dead because are enough of “them” around. If you’ve left this country with bitterness and hate, you’ve left for the wrong reason.
Am I in denial about the issues in this country? No (well, maybe, considering I don’t watch the news for that reason!). I know this country has problems. We may have come a long way but we do still have a long way to go. Crime is an issue. Corruption is an issue. That said, I am much happier with our current president that some of the leaders of some first world countries out there. (I am glad we have the president we do. And honestly, after Mandela, I think this he’s second best!) I know we are far “behind” other countries in many aspects from service delivery to leadership.
But, wherever we go, we will find sinners and more sinners. No one could ever meet our standards. No country will ever be run in the way we see fit. No place is perfect. And, although South Africa has some serious problems, it’s also got a lot going for it! What opportunities to learn about other cultures! What opportunities to help those in need! What opportunities to minister to those around us.
We need to open our eyes to the beauty of diversity. We need to develop a “Trevor Noah humour”. We need to appreciate the opportunities we are offered even though they may not come in a form we recognise. We need to stop hating and start loving. We need to be the change! We need to pray and trust for the things we cannot change.
Sitting back or getting out won’t make a difference in this country.
Fellow South African, you have a responsibility. You have a choice regardless of whether you stay or leave. You can choose negativity or optimism. You can choose resentment and bitterness or kindness and hope. You can choose fear or trust. You can choose hate or you can choose love. Because one day, you will not account for whether you wore green and gold nor whether you were a South African.
No, you will account for the choices you made.
So what will you choose?
Photo Credit: @siya_kolisi_the_bearTags: #imstaying, bokke, citizens, emigrant, expat, faf, flag, gold, green, hope, human, love, mankind, ndlovu youth choir, negativity, pessimism, proudly south african, rugby, rugby world cup, south africa, south african, springboks, trust, webb-ellis cup, woolies, world cup