Let us not allow evil forces to ruin our

2010-04-08 00:00

I’M writing this article as a mother whose life bears the scars of apartheid. But these scars are now painless and are just a sad reminder of the damage a society not at peace with itself can do.

For me, what’s worth remembering is that people such as Peter Kerchhoff, the family of Bheki Phungula in KwaMpumuza, Ilan lax, Dr Aron Mazel and his family, Yunus Currim, Nalini Naidoo, and many other fighters against apartheid around the Pietermaritzburg area, all played a role in ensuring that I’m alive today.

I’m indeed lucky that South Africans of all races had something to do with healing my apartheid wounds.

Healing is a process that requires a lot of commitment and patience — from both assailant and wounded. Both should cease to be protagonists.

Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk showed the way for the new South Africa. The oppressor and the oppressed became equal South African citizens ready to build a new foundation for future generations.

As a young girl in her early teens involved in the struggle against apartheid [see box] and having witnessed a civil war in Pietermaritzburg which was later seen by all those involved as senseless, I cannot now be a silent spectator to the slow poisoning and retrogression of my nation to the worst times of yesteryear.

I can distinguish between a new and old South Africa, backing it with empirical evidence from the political landscape.

Certainly, so much good has happened, for black South Africans in particular, as they are inevitably the major beneficiaries of change. Admittedly, those with a better education had a better chance of success in the new South Africa, while the majority, specifically the uneducated and unskilled black South African, remains trapped in poverty. And of course, no process of this magnitude is without fault and no change is free of pain.

Not all agents of change are saints. Access to resources can corrupt those too weak to resist the temptation.

But we are now experiencing the worst case of pollution of the political climate since 1994. The foundation on which the new South Africa was built is being shaken so violently that even those who wish to pretend deafness can no longer ignore the ominous sounds coming from our South African soil.

TV images and newspaper articles are bringing alive the scenes of yesteryear, of barbed wire, the separation of blacks and whites and the us-versus-them attitude.

Why did this have to happen before the eyes of Tata Madiba, a man so forgiving, so patriotic, so compromising and so rooted in the virgin truth of nation- building and compassion?

I weep in my secret, sacred space for such betrayal of a man who gave all for his country.

As for Eugene Terre’Blanche, he did not deserve to die in this manner.

The context in which this murder happened, coincidentally and under clearly unrelated circumstances of the song Kill the Boer and of Julius Malema’s visit to Zimbabwe and meetings with Zanu-PF, have contributed to the pollution of our political climate in South Africa, inflaming emotions and causing a commotion. All responsible leaders have called for calm.

The dangers of these uncontrollable emotions and commotions could reverse all our gains that took centuries of struggle and hard work. It could cause the untold suffering that comes with any war. It could tear us apart along racial lines for many years to come. We could become yet another failed state in Africa. Not since 1994 has the call for a truly nonracial and integrated society become so central to our daily discourse. Never before has a need to address the question of national security and cohesion become so alive.

Every South African must take a stand against any tendencies to sow racial divisions and undermine national security and national cohesion, irrespective of their origin. We need a deliberate plan of action to unite South Africans and create an atmosphere that makes every­one who lives in South Africa feel that they belong and are duty bound to contribute to building this country into the prosperous society we all want to live in.

We will soon be hosting the Fifa Soccer World Cup, the biggest party in this country. I’m sure all sane South Africans will agree with me if I say that the least we could give Tata Madiba as a token of our appreciation is our solidarity against those who seek to divide us, especially at this critical hour.

 

MAKHOSI Khoza was forced to flee her home at the age of 14 when political violence engulfed the Edendale Valley in 1984.

“At the time, a lot of young people were killed and I lost many friends,” she recalls. “Peter Kerchhoff [founder of Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness or Pacsa] received me as a refugee and found families that I could stay with. I met people like (Witness political editor) Nalini Naidoo and her husband Dennis Dickson, who were also sheltering refugees.

“Ilan Lax [local human rights lawyer and TRC commissioner] helped me when I was arrested and imprisoned in the Transkei in 1986.” The Transkeian authorities were denying that Khoza was in their custody.

Lax fought for her release. Khoza moved in with Natal Museum archaeologist Aron Mazel and his wife Annie, and ended up staying with them on and off for five years. “The Mazels helped me go to Khanya College, a college for disadvantaged youth, and Aron and Ilan actually saved my family when their house was burning down.” Khoza said her whole family moved in with the Mazels for a while. She said the people who helped her “had nothing to gain, they did it out of the goodness of their own hearts”.

Khoza is now a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial Parliament, chair of the Portfolio Committee for Economic Development and Tourism, and a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). She is also the author of a recently published book, T ough Women Bleed in Success: Lessons from South Africa’s own Women Political Landscapes. In this book, Khoza pays tribute to women across the political spectrum who have contributed to the country’s democracy.

Khoza said she wrote this article because her 13-year-old son, Mnando, has been concerned by the images he’s seen on TV this week of barbed wire and angry confrontations between blacks and whites.

“He’s been putting me under the microscope and asking a lot of questions about the current political climate. He’s asked if we’re going back to apartheid.” In response, she wrote this article on her son’s computer.

DESPITE the tensions in Ventersdorp, there are many South Africans doing what they can to build bridges between different race groups. If you know of a local example of racial harmony and nation-building we’d like to hear about it in not more than 200 words. It may be about happy neighbours, a cross-racial adoption, a mixed partnership of any description or just a heartwarming story. A photograph with a few words about the contents is also welcome. Send your contributions to features@witness.co.za by 5 pm today.

THE DANGERS OF THESE UNCONTROLLABLE EMOTIONS AND COMMOTIONS COULD REVERSE ALL OUR GAINS THAT TOOK CENTURIES OF STRUGGLE AND HARD WORK. IT COULD CAUSE THE UNTOLD SUFFERING THAT COMES WITH ANY WAR. IT COULD TEAR US APART ALONG RACIAL LINES FOR MANY YEARS TO COME. WE COULD BECOME YET ANOTHER FAILED STATE IN AFRICA. NOT SINCE 1994 HAS THE CALL FOR A TRULY NONRACIAL AND INTEGRATED SOCIETY BECOME SO CENTRAL TO OUR DAILY DISCOURSE.

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