Colleges of Law student Danny Hodorowski reflects on South Africa’s Constitution, the impact of apartheid and how modern-day South Africans navigate their history and future following his recent study abroad experience.
Last Fall, a cohort of students, faculty, and leadership from Colleges of Law and different colleges across TCS Education System participated in the Education Beyond Borders: Identity In Context course, which culminated in a 10-day excursion in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.
The first stop in-country, South Africa’s Constitutional Court, served as a guidepost for the rest of the trip, which focused on studying South African identity formation. Cultivated in the ashes of apartheid, the 1996 South African Constitution is often heralded as one of the best in the international community. There is a purposeful tension built into it, one which simultaneously provides a relational space to adjudicate disputes as well as a framework to contend with apartheid’s legacy and competing visions for the rights of all citizens in a young, unified republic.
Beyond the rubble and construction within the art gallery hangs a partially illuminated red neon sign. It reads, “A luta continua”, which is Portuguese for “The struggle continues.” It is a reminder for South Africans about how far they’ve come, the sacrifices made to get where they are, and what the future may hold. It also intimates that it is incumbent upon everyone to be stewards of this legal and cultural transition and for their Justices to uphold the Constitution’s negative and positive rights in the interest of the people.
The interplay of the African National Congress’ (ANC) political might, a history of inadequate public servants, socialist and social-justice undercurrents, and the multiplicity of nations within the South African state provides a unique opportunity for private citizens to assume responsibility—to shape their own identities as well as South Africa’s. It likewise presents a legal chicken-or-the-egg dilemma regarding the relationship between cultural formations and law.
Like many constitutional republics, including our own, disagreement is the ordinary state of affairs rather than the exception. Many entitlements are distributed to recipients differently for one reason or another and the inequities between groups and the individuals which compose them will drive debates about historical injustice, accessibility, fairness, equality, and liberty.
How South Africans navigate their collective memory, socio-economic differences, intergenerational conflicts, and race relations is not unlike our own. When reality does not reflect the words written on the South African Constitution, how do South Africans mitigate and reconcile historical tensions and uncertainty? How private South African citizens embody the past and advocate for the rights provided to them by their ambitious Constitution and improving political infrastructure is best demonstrated by way of example.
Two men, Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo, presented to our group, outlining how they forged a friendship through the traditional art of animal tracking on the Londolozi Game Reserve. A microcosm of the ideals built into the Constitution, their connection to nature, South Africa’s indigenous heritage, and to one another exemplified how worthwhile exploring individual and cultural differences can be not only for themselves but potentially for the entire country.
They speak to groups like this around the world because their insights are so acute. Highlighting the dignities and comedy in cross-cultural exploration, humility, and vulnerability as an outsider, hospitality and forthrightness amongst strangers and friends, and the very human need to find solidarity and purpose in an uncertain and changing world, their uniquely South African approach is soothing tensions whilst accelerating South Africa’s legal and cultural long walk to freedom.
About the Author
Danny is currently a Global Enrollment Specialist at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and a Master’s candidate at Colleges of Law. In 2014 he earned a double B.A. in International Relations and Russian at Beloit College, focusing on the intersection of literature, violence, and political philosophy. He’s keen on international travel and is an AmeriCorps alum and former kindergarten teacher. When he is not working or studying he’s waking up at 6 a.m. on weekends to watch soccer, playing drums, or walking his three, four-legged children.