Archbishop Desmond Tutu first coined the phrase rainbow nation to describe post-Apartheid South Africa, filled with multi-racial unity. It didn’t take long for the phrase to catch on, as former President Nelson Mandela used it in his 1994 Inauguration Speech, describing the country as “a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.” South Africa embodied diversity: being home to a group of citizens of various races, cultures and backgrounds. The country was almost utopian, with great tourist attractions and weather and friendly people.
“You are the Rainbow People of God,” said Desmond Tutu.
Unfortunately, the rainbow nation was short-lived. The downfall of this phrase began after the 2010 FIFA World Cup — mostly due to Jacob Zuma, the current South African president. With 783 criminal allegation charges to his name, he has more often than not been the center of controversy, including allegations of rape, corruption and fraud. Along with this came nationwide division and racism towards him, his political party and his race.
The infamous Penny Sparrow became one of the several examples of this when she made a Facebook post referring to black people at local beaches as “monkeys.” Other examples include a white woman — who was a victim of a smash-and-grab — saying she would not accept help from any black police officers and two white farmers, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, who forced a black man into a coffin for “trespassing,” beating him, tying him up with cable tie and threatening to burn him alive.
It goes without saying that South Africa has drifted into racial divide rather than harmony. The rainbow nation we once took pride in being is no longer. The question is: who is to blame? President Jacob Zuma, South African citizens or the high expectations that were set for the country in 1994?