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I sat and looked around. I was in what used to be a white only area, where the presence of a black person was punishable by law, a criminal act. There was I, with fellow South Africans at one of the most beautiful beaches in Africa, oblivious to each other's colour. But deep in my heart I knew that we were not totally integrated, six years after the end of apartheid.

Just 10 years ago, I would have been in a meeting somewhere in Mafeking, my home town, discussing how to destroy the enemy and going out to implement the resolutions even if it meant killing people--something that no black person in South Africa can be proud of, no matter how legitimate our cause may have been.

But today we are fighting a different kind of enemy: crime, a direct result of poverty. This is fuelled by the kind of energy and history that we have. As youth, we were involved in the struggle and we suspended our education. So we have few skills. Being part of the global village has brought a lot of competition and we cannot compete. Added to this is the high unemployment rate; we are left to roam the streets, committing crime using the `street smarts' we acquired during the struggle. Whether it's the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, or a street corner in a township, crime has taken over.

The dark days of apartheid may be finished but this new creature is tormenting us. The international community likes to label us the nation of miracles. But I say we are the nation of hard-workers with Ubuntu/Botho (an African philosophy of living together humanely) in everything we do. It was not a miracle that we went through the transition process with relative peace. And we are definitely going to beat crime.

Former President Nelson Mandela advocated a spirit of reconciliation, which is spreading through the nation. However, this spirit still needs to be fostered amongst white South Africans. A hand of peace, friendship and forgiveness has been extended by the majority of black South Africans. Yet our fellow whites are not reaching out, as if Blacks are to blame for the terrible past we have in apartheid.

The rate of emigration to countries such as New Zealand and Australia clearly shows the anger and fear of white people. Most emigrants are professionals who have skills not only to develop this country technologically, but skills in human development. Ubuntu/Botho, which is cultivated as part of black culture, needs to be developed with whites. Then we can create a uniquely South African culture--a culture to defeat the scourge of crime and, ultimately, to unite the nation.

Integration can be seen amongst the young people, in primary and secondary schools. They are teaching older generations, practically, that we can live side by side--firstly as human beings, and secondly as South Africans. This gives real hope that our country can change for the better.

South Africa remains a beacon of hope for the next millennium. Together with the rest of the continent, we must strive for an African renaissance--to make Africa what it should be. Apartheid defeat is the most significant process in human relations. As President Thabo Mbeki said during his inauguration speech in June 1999, `As the sun continues to rise, to banish the darkness of long years of colonialism and the apartheid, what the light over our land must show is a nation delinquently at work to create a better life for all'.

Mothusi wa Shipunyane, South Africa

Last update: 2000-02-12 20:06:08 (EEST).
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