Sunel’s Blog | Observations from the mountain top

Sunél Veldtman, | 23 July 2021

Last week, our family headed to the mountains for a few days. I intended to disconnect from the outside world. It’s what I believe time out should be – time away from screens and distractions so my brain can have time to rewire, and my body time to rest.

It didn’t last long – I was pulled from my oblivion by my colleagues, who informed me that the country was burning and that my attention was required. So, I caught up on the devastation in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal and held my breath with everyone else to see whether the violence would spread. And although many lost their lives and hundreds of properties were destroyed, the violence didn’t spread and what happened next was truly extraordinary. Ordinary South Africans looked each other in the eye and said, ENOUGH. Enough of crooked politicians and state failure. Enough of dividing us in the interest of politics and politicians. Enough. You all know the rest of the story. The intervention of civilians became the story.

But here we are now, realising that South Africa has survived the closest thing to a coup we’ve experienced. And what do we do about it? I have three observations.

Firstly, had I not surfaced from my media blockage, I would have spent a few days in the mountains, driven home along the stupendously beautiful R62 flanked by snow-covered peaks, and ended a glorious holiday in our extraordinary country. It is the reality of our lives if we care to experience it for what it is and not let politics filter into every conversation and sour every experience. Letting the bad news impact your everyday life, is a bad idea for your well-being.

Secondly, my experience is not the experience of the majority of South Africans – they live in poverty.  They are still considered second-class citizens by most people and their government who have abandoned and abused them. They live in appalling conditions, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Political risk has not increased this last week, it has just spilt into our streets and malls, instead of being couped up in shacks. It has always existed there; it has just become more visible to the privileged. Of course, you can protect your wealth by shipping it out of South Africa, and you should have assets outside of this country. But to live here, with your humanity intact, I believe we must become part of the solution. We must first do introspection as to why we have believed that it is ok for people to live like this for all this time. And then we must urgently do more than we’ve done so far to play our part in lifting people from poverty.

Finally, I started this week at the CTICC, the partnership between the Western Province government and Discovery, for my first vaccine. The experience was world class – from the ushers who made sure we were never uncertain where to go next, to the excellent technology and the kind reassurance of the nurse.  And of course, the South African humour and warmth added into the mix. We were in and out in 30 minutes, including the 15-minute wait to ensure that we didn’t keel over. It was an example of the potential that public/private partnerships hold for our country. It is how it could be if we gave South Africa a chance; if we didn’t allow politicians to destroy our future.   If we fought for it.

I was overcome with emotion as I left. Gratitude to have received a vaccine, pride for how it was delivered to me and hope that we can see the end of this pandemic and that South Africa will use this crossroads to choose a better future.

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