In the early hours of the icy morning of 11 June 2010 – 4 years ago today – the sound of vuvuzelas in the street below made a grand announcement and before I could open my eyes, I said to myself ”It’s here!” After years of eager anticipation, the 2010 FIFA World Cup had arrived – for the first time on the African continent – and it is one of those moments that I will never forget.
South Africa had come alive with an indescribable excitement that seemed to be bursting out of every corner of the country, as people from all over the world poured in to see the greatest show on earth – it felt like one big, colourful carnival.
I have incredibly happy memories of those four weeks. Almost every day we made an attempt to go out and savour the atmosphere and one of my favourite moments was going to a match with my sister on one of the coldest nights of the year. I remember nothing about the game itself. I don’t even remember who won. Just being in that stadium and having the experience of being at a World Cup match with my sister was magical.
I know that there is a lot of controversy around the World Cup, about the legacy that it did or did not leave. I know that it did not benefit those that really needed benefiting in the ways that it should have and that saddens me. I can’t help thinking though, that in some way, it showcased the better, brighter side of South Africa and our beautiful people and we had the opportunity to prove that we could pull it off – despite the pessimistic predictions.
For me, it was full of magical memories that will live in my heart forever and I am watching the build up in Brazil with warm nostalgia and some envy.
Today, Wednesday 7 May 2014, South Africa went to the polls for the 5th time in its 20 year old democracy, so when the alarm went off at 5am, I did not hit the snooze button as I might have if it were a normal working day. I wasn’t event tempted to. The minute I opened my eyes, I remembered that today was my opportunity to exercise my democratic right to vote for the party of my choice. I remembered that it is my moral obligation to ensure that the balance of power in my country does not topple – to the right or the left, and out of respect for those that gave their lives for that freedom and privilege, I got out of bed to go and make my mark.
South Africa has a lot of problems. We have frightfully high levels of unemployment and poverty; we have serious issues of corruption; we have crime – terrible, violent, senseless crime. There is much to be done to fix the state that we are in and I don’t really know how we’re going to do that or how long it is going to take.
What I do know is that we have a powerful Constitution.
As a woman I have equal rights, I am independent and free to vote. I can drive a car, go out without a male escort, further my education – unlike some countries where women are horribly oppressed.
As a Christian, I am free to worship my God – unlike some countries where people are persecuted for their beliefs.
My gay and lesbian friends can be open about their sexuality – unlike some countries where they would be criminalised.
I am free to associate with whom I please.
I am proudly South African.
When I got home, I realised that because the voting page was full, the IEC official had put the stamp on the firearms licence page of my ID book – I guess a vote is sort of like a weapon :)