The Common Good

South Africa's Complex Challenges

Being at home in the land of my birth, South Africa, over the last five weeks has been awesome. It is wonderful being amongst family and friends, and having our daughter Mahalia Khanya be with our "peeps."

However, as much as the wonder and joy of being home is "something to write home about," there is also much shock and disgust brewing for me personally, as well as for the broader South African society.

People are feeling the pinch of living in a South Africa where democracy has seemingly celebrated a capitalistic culture that does very little for a large population of impoverished people in this developing country. Within an environment where democracy is in need of a social consciousness, reform is needed for the large majority of people who have been denied their rights to basic needs of education, housing, water, etc.

There are several more complexities that South Africa is dealing with, related to a failing democracy and a government that is losing sight of the vision for which it was elected. The complexities of corruption, fraud, arms deals, the Zimbabwe crisis, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, violence and crime, children living on the streets, extreme poverty, etc., are those foremost in my mind and in discussions I have been having with people working in development, child and youth care, corporations, churches, and mosques.

People are facing outrageous hikes in costs on their home loans, where monthly repayments have doubled in just two months. Prices of meat and vegetables, oil, rice, and maize meal have escalated so that a low-income family cannot afford to even purchase toilet paper and bathing soap.

However, among all the chaos of my current-day South Africa, there remains a mystical faith that propels people in the most adverse circumstances to look forward to a brighter day. I have found it most difficult at times to understand how people in such dire straits could still have the audacity to hope and have faith that things will work out right. That mystical faith, with which I have come into contact in the land of my dreams, encourages me, challenges me, and changes me. It further centers, conscientizes, and mobilizes me to continue believing, striving, pursuing, and demanding transformation that will ensure a South Africa that is caring for all its people: citizen, immigrant, and refugee.

Seth Naicker is an activist for justice and reconciliation from South Africa. He is currently studying and working at Bethel University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the program and projects director for the Office of Reconciliation Studies. He can be reached at seth-naicker@bethel.edu or smnaick@hotmail.com

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