King Charles told to return Cullinan diamonds, but what would SA do with them?

Returning the royal gems is not likely to see a Medupi 2.0 being built to ease our load shedding woes.

Woohoo! It’s coronation time and down in South Africa there’s less excitement about a new colonial overlord and more discussion about bringing the Cullinan diamonds back home.

Let’s ignore the more complicated history about their purchase and gifting to the royal family and property rights and compelled dominion and historical capacity for prospecting and … let’s just, as a matter of exercise, ask, what are we going to do if they are returned?

Are we going to sell them to Harry and Meghan and use the proceeds to build Medupi 2.0? Perhaps we should put them in a museum, maybe in East London, to replace the stolen Chinese vases or the bronze sculptures. Maybe when Ace Magashule becomes president, he can use it to pay his bodyguard.

Yes, I know, what we do with the diamonds when we get them back is not the point but surely, in the context of current South Africa, it should be! While we’re at it, we should also dismiss this notion that we can fix the country’s problems and still call for the diamonds to be returned because we’ve been stuck with the same problems for a few years now. There seems to have been no real attempt to find a solution either… except raising the interest rates and cutting the electrical supply.

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In other words, we actually have real problems to deal with and while it would be nice to see some stones back in South Africa, it would be better if Eskom didn’t publicise a schedule for when our alarm systems will be unpowered.

I get it. It’s nostalgic. It’s a romantic notion to have the things that came out of the ground in South Africa back in South Africa. It’s not like gold or platinum which we love to export. Diamonds have identity – some may say even personality. But beyond it being nice to have the diamonds, why are we placing so much energy into this notion? Is it distracting us from the dignity being stolen from us today. Is it fall-guy-ing the dispensation of yester-yester-yesteryear? And for what?

Get the diamonds back or don’t… it’s not like it will change anything. One may get a hollow sense of victory that the narrative of things transferred in colonial times are regarded as “stolen” and then…? Turning a town’s name to Winnie Mandela doesn’t seem to have helped the residents of said town nor has changing the names of streets. Granted, they may be nice things. It’s just that the longer I live, the more I learn that man cannot survive on nice things alone.

At some point we need more than diamonds to make this country function to the benefit of its people and that point was at least a decade ago… which brings me back to the question; why bother with the royal gems?

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It’s lovely to see the quasi-patriotism but it would be lovely to see that energy be put to use in policy development, civic lobbying and possibly even governmental compliance with national laws. What’s not lovely is seeing the country beating a 120-year-old horse corpse as a way to make it forget it has more pressing issues to contend with.

Keep up the fight for the gems if you must and if you ever get them back, enjoy them for the short while we have them because it wouldn’t be surprising to find them on their way to some Brics country as part of some deal; a deal sold to us to fix a problem that should never have been there in the first place.

Whatever you do in this fight, don’t forget that it’s far from the biggest worry of our country at the moment. While we should be able to focus dealing with many things at once, it’s become pretty evident that we can’t even focus on one so if we were to start at just one, why make it the crown jewels?

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