I think I may have glimpsed the future of South Africa last week. If I sound uncertain, it’s because I am. As Leo Di Caprio told us in his pretty-accurate best-Rhodesian, “T.I.A.” This is Africa, pal. Nothing is ever certain, from one day to the next.
Nevertheless, a glimpse is as good as a wink to a blind bat, and I got mine at a youth camp near Spion Kop. In the shadow of one of the most famous battle sites of the Boer War, forty or so young South Africans un-self-consciously (and unwittingly) created the next phase of South African democracy, and it rocked. It also bobbed, weaved and heel-tapped, because they were doing the Diski, the famous Made-For-FIFA soccer-inspired dance created by Sowetan choreographer Wendy Ramokgadi. The 43-year-old dancer created more than he bargained for: it’s become a sublime nation-building ritual, and I saw it with my own eyes.
I spoke and played a few of my songs for the kids, and we had a good time, but afterwards the pantsula came out and the bussed-in locals showed the private-school fortunates more than a thing or two about grooving. And suddenly, unobtrusively, there it was: a roomful of black, white, Indian, and coloured kids, all doing the difficult moves the Diski requires, oblivious to each others’ skin colour, teaching and helping each other, laughing with each other, all grooving.
I instinctively knew that a corner had been turned, and maybe only in my own understanding of things, but a corner nevertheless. When I was 16, things in South Africa were way different, and you would never have seen suburban white kids dancing with so much abandon with kids of other races. I’ll unfortunately always see race as the elephant in the room, because that’s how my all-knowing, all-wise National Party leaders trained me, but post-1994 kids (heck, post-2009 kids) are dancing to a different drummer.
And it’s definitely not Sepp Blatter.