Longing for the day when black and white truly unite

THE past few days have seen us - South Africans of all hues - floating on a dizzying cloud nine of racial harmony.

THE past few days have seen us - South Africans of all hues - floating on a dizzying cloud nine of racial harmony.

We applauded together when it looked like Bafana were going to go a decent distance in the World Cup and wept almost in unison when they crashed out.

For a change, there was hardly any reference to race - it was almost irrelevant that not a single white player took the field for Bafana. For the first time in a long while, South Africans spoke of the team as "we ... our boys ..."

Bafana jerseys are worn even by tannies who look like Free State farmers' wives, who all along probably thought soccer was an inferior, unsophisticated sport played by uncivilised blacks riddled with disease.

Suddenly, though, we have metamorphosed into one people backing one team - and all boozing up in shebeens after a Blue Bulls game in Soweto.

On July 11, the fairy tale ends and we will be left to deal with our demons. One can only pray that we do not go back to our tiny dark corners and readopt our lingua franca à la "they ... julle mense ... these people ..." and so forth.

We have deluded ourselves that the country is "normal". But is it?

This country will be "normal" if a number of visibly superficial things happen. The day I stop at a smiley (sheep's head) outlet and find that the last one was bought by a white fellow, I will take heart.

I will also realise our oneness when I meet white women walking down the street on a Sunday morning, dressed in the "society" uniforms.

Or when more and more white women don the blue ZCC tunic while their male counterparts march in the church's mkhukhu brigade.

We would be approaching normalcy if one went into a bar and overheard white executives nattering away in Setswana.

I wonder if I will, in my lifetime, hear a white colleague explain his absence from work: "I had to help my mother with my late father's job."

As things stand, we are moving extremely slowly. Some of our children go to school together and twang away cheerfully, oblivious of colour. But the vast majority are still miles apart.

Last week I visited one of the finest musicians in the Vaal, in hospital with a broken leg. The depression of seeing the forever chirpy Gibson lying in a smelly, dingy ward, was lightened up only by the number of white people around - patients and their relatives alike. Lest I be slaughtered for deriving joy out of the illness of white people, what upped my spirits was seeing that not long ago the attitude (from many of our white compatriots) was that black and white would share wards "over our dead bodies". But there they were - sick and normal like everybody, and seemingly not even realising it.

But surely we should have more in common than being sick - and begging on street corners - together.