OPINION

Reflections on April 27th, 28 years on

Jeremy Gordin |

28 April 2022

Jeremy Gordin writes on the disappointed hopes of that period

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” etc., as Charles Dickens wrote at the start of A Tale of Two Cities.

And for thousands, even millions, of Seffricans, 28 years ago on the 27th of April 1994 – the day on which the first post-apartheid elections were held – it was indeed the best of times. Or at least that day carried the promise that henceforth our times would be a whole lot better than they had been before that date.

For me personally, it was certainly among the best of times. Among other things, my son, then minus-three-months old, was clearly burgeoning; and the gleam in my eye remained undimmed for a while – my daughter would be born four years later. And both are, baruch ha-Shem, still going strong and, one way or another, keeping their parents on the straight and narrow, as offspring ought to do.

But what was it that the Ukrainian-born Marxist revolutionary Lev Davidovich Bronstein is alleged to have once written? “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Well, it seems that he didn’t write that. Turns out that it was one Michael Walzer who wrote in 2000: War is most often a form of tyranny. It is best described by paraphrasing Trotsky’s aphorism about the dialectic: ‘You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you’.”

No matter; the subject of what seems to be turning out not to be what is, is what’s on my mind today. So we too may paraphrase: “You may not be interested in politics or the society around you, but they are interested in you”.

All of which is to say that, notwithstanding the presence of my family and other good things and happinesses in my life, the last 28 years have turned into the worst of times – or almost the worst of times (we’re not yet being shelled by Zimbabwe yet) – when it comes to the society in which we live.

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Ah yes, remember those lines of people wanting to exercise their right to vote and to put into government their representatives who would take care of them? Those lines that snaked around blocks and blocks in the cities and seemed endless?

Now they’ve been replaced by long queues of people waiting outside home affairs offices or by elderly people, many ailing and wearing blankets against the cold, standing in line for their social grants.

Remember the trains that many of those people travelled on – if not on that day, then on other days as they made their way to work? Precious little of those, if any, left. Remember the stations? I’ll say no more.

Twenty-eight years ago – panoramic photographs of hope; unity and incipient strength; idealism and ethics, especially given the ostensible qualities of the then ANC leaders [i]; and faith in the future.