Congratulations to South Africa for outplaying England in the rugby World Cup this weekend.
The Springboks made history on Saturday for two reasons; they were the first team to have lost a match during the pool stage to then go on to win the final. Secondly, they joined only New Zealand in the club of teams to have won it three times.
It’s actually better than that; two of New Zealand’s victories had the home advantage and the first one (1987) was at a time when the rest of the world didn’t pay their players whilst New Zealand only pretended not to.
England were the favourites in most pundits’ minds, so this was a brilliant upset by the Saffas.
If you can bear to look, there is a concerted effort to frame this victory as “1995 redux”.
For those not interested in rugby, the 1995 World Cup victory by Francois Pienaar’s team against the All Blacks was lauded as a unifying moment for the newly-democratised country, not least because Nelson Mandela publicly supported the team by wearing the jersey with the captain’s number.
It was a really great moment in sport but does it really translate to the wider situation in South Africa? Is it going to make a difference?
Anyone who has visited South Africa in the last, say, fifteen years knows that this “moment for change” narrative is built on sand.
In fact, anyone who’s met a South African recently will also know it’s total bullshit.
Why? Every South African you meet has a tragic home invasion story about either themselves, a close relative or personal friend. This is not something a safe, civilised country with a positive economic and social future experiences.
Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has simply switched the race of the 1% of the ruling class. Perhaps the Apartheid era rulers were also massively corrupt, but they managed to maintain some level of protection of personal safety and property rights (albeit for a minority of the population all of the time and the rest of the population some of the time) and could at least keep the lights on and drinking water flowing.
Through incompetence, corruption and an undisguised animus for people with the wrong colour skin (there’s a word for that which escapes me), the new ruling class have managed to reduce the size of the minority for whom living conditions are tolerable to an even smaller number than before universal suffrage.
Anyone who thinks 80 minutes of kicking and catching an oddly-shaped football will reverse the inexorable slide towards Zimbabwe V2.0 has not been paying attention or is suffering from cognitive dissonance.
There is a joke the non-ruling class blacks tell each other in South Africa; we wanted freedom but we got democracy instead.
“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”