That Old Cliché

In Everyone has one, Opinion by Marelise Prinsloo Jacob

Everybody knows the old cliché that says – the more things change, the more they stay the same. When I was young I always thought how it didn’t make any sense, but as I grew older I realised just exactly what it meant.

Especially in my country. Things changed drastically in South Africa over the past 15 years, yet these days the same old problems seem to pop up here and there, with an ironic twist.

In the old days, it was the white, conservative NP party in charge. There were rumours of corruption, an elite group who reaped the benefits while the majority of the country rebelled.

Television was only introduced here in 1976, and even then it was censored. The media news reports were somewhat one sided with many journalists threatened or even jailed. People were living in fear, isolated from the world, hopeful for a different, better future but never knowing if it will ever come.

Then things changed, in a relatively short space of time the country turned on its head, Nelson Mandela was set free from prison, Apartheid was over. President Mandela, Madiba, managed to keep the country from falling into chaos, the ANC came into power, the NP was defeated.

For almost five years the country lived in euphoria, it couldn’t believe the change came so suddenly, so peacefully.

But now, seven years since then, the country is not as euphoric as it used to be.

Fear has crept back, as well as corruption, the elite groups and attempted control over the media. This time it is not Apartheid to blame, but violence. Fear because of it, and anger at the complete apathy of the government towards it.

A few years ago the protest was a mere whisper, these days it is an outcry of millions of people fed up with crime.

To regard yourself lucky when raped, and not murdered, attacked and beaten but not murdered is a sad reminder of how far gone this country has become. Perhaps it is not just the crime itself which people have begun to fear, but the level of cruelty that accompanies it.

It seems criminals are not satisfied with merely killing their victims. Take for example a recent killing of security guards. Burnt alive in their armoured vehicle, their murder reminded the country once again that we have a different breed of criminal here, one utterly devoid of emotion or mercy.

All the years of murder, hi-jacking, child rapes and apparent lawlessness has had its affect on the minds and hearts of the country, and now they call for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

Once seen as the cruel punishment of the Apartheid-regime, it now seems the only way to save this country. It is sad that a country with so much potential must suffer so needlessly. Now, as then, the country’s problems are not insurmountable, yet it seems unlikely to find a solution in the near future.

Things have changed, and things have stayed the same. The only difference now is, the people have tasted true democracy, and will fight to keep it.
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