African Times: Johannesburg

Look at reasons to be cheerful, doomsters told
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Today is national no-whinge day in South Africa. Deeply tired of angst, upbeat South Africans have declared 2 November B+ (Be Positive) day and are urging compatriots who endlessly gripe about life in the new democracy to look again and shut up.

"We're becoming a mass vomitorium," says Stephanie Vermeulen, the organiser. "Whiners must go be sick elsewhere." While black South Africans complain of too little post-apartheid change , many whites hanker for the old days of "braaivleis [barbeques], rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolets" – a line from a song that came to epitomise the lives of the privileged.

People can be heard moaning about crime, corruption, declining standards, the economy and how much better life was when they were in charge even as they sip superb wine on a sunny seaside cottage deck, watching dolphins surf the crashing Indian Ocean waves.

Those who think differently have mounted a campaign aimed at cheering up doomsters and breaking their damaging habit of talking the country – and currency – down. B+ cites South Africa's many blessings and successes, and warns that pessimism can be self-fulfilling.

Companies have taken up the theme, as have radio and television shows and the press. There will be a group ride of Harley-Davidson club followers today, while members of the Big Brother household (the hit reality TV exercise is now showing in South Africa) are among other celebrities being asked for 80 reasons why they should B+. Ms Vermeulen, an emotional intelligence trainer and author, says: "South Africans don't appreciate what they've been through. Visitors can't believe the speed and achievements of our transformation. Negativity won't lead to success. We've declared a ceasefire on whining."

A gloomy national psyche, Ms Vermeulen believes, stems from decades of isolation in a pariah state, continuous rapid change and the emotional chaos that follows in its wake, and admittedly big problems. "Also, the formerly privileged feel they have lost a lot, while the newly empowered are disappointed at what they see as the slow pace of social upliftment."

The journalist and broadcaster Tim Modise believes moaning is mostly a white disease. "There is a scarcity mentality at work. People think there is only so much pie, and that black people want their piece. But in a successful South Africa the pie will grow.

"If people erect fences, they will never sleep peacefully. Maybe we should be celebrating our many triumphs, and that a diverse nation has reached consensus on so many issues that stand for a civilised way of life, however we define civilisation," Mr Modise says.

"Today we are free to think and speak our minds, to go where we want and practice any religion, to vote and to pursue our rights as citizens.

"The key challenge is to make South Africans realise that now they have the opportunity to unleash their full potential – and that they and the country have the ability to succeed," he adds.