Khaya Dlanga

Human Rights Day: To those who sacrificed

2011-03-22 11:53

Freedom is stubborn. It never comes easily. It is not cheap. It demands sacrifices on those who pursue it.

These are its labour pains. It is so valuable, and so worth it that those who seek it will sacrifice whatever it demands. It is as if it wants to know if you want it bad enough. Do you want it bad enough that you would be willing to die? So badly that it would be “an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” as Mandela said on the doc? This is the commitment that freedom asks of those who fight for it. Sometimes it may appear as if we, the beneficiaries do not understand this. We do.

Many people want apologies for apartheid. I am not interested in apologies. Nor am I interested in tears of the past. They won’t change anything. What I want to do though is to say ‘thank you’. Not to say thank you for apartheid, but thank you for the courage that you showed in the fight against it.

We, the beneficiaries of the fight against the evil system have never thanked our parents and the generations before that faced countless humiliations so that we wouldn’t. So consider this my thank you.

Sacrifices for freedoms they didn’t enjoy

Yesterday [Monday] we celebrated Human Rights Day. Perhaps the word celebrate is inappropriate considering the events that lead to that day. The deaths of 69 protestors, most of whom were shot from the back by the apartheid police.

This is my way of saying thank you to those who went through the unimaginable so that future generations could live in a world they imagined for us. We appreciate those who had to sacrifice for a freedom that they would never experience for themselves.

If you are of that generation, obviously you didn’t die. You witnessed the humiliations of having to carry passes. You had to come back home from work pretending that you didn’t face many of the injustices you faced, you came back from work with brave faces, you came back home not allowing your faces to show the monstrous injustices you encountered everywhere just to be able to feed your families. You tried to look normal under abnormal circumstances.  Thank you.

We have never known what it is like to be like you. To have lived the life you had to. We don’t know what it’s like not to be allowed inside someone’s house – yet those very people would allow a dog to enter. Many of us never went to mass funerals. We didn’t experience teargas. We were too young to know what was happening if we experienced anything.

The right to do what I like

We don’t know what it’s like to be detained by the police in the middle of the night without a warrant. My own grandfather was arrested for political activities. He was tortured in jail, only to freed after he suffered a stroke.

He died soon after his release. He died long before his son got married. He died long before his first grandson was born (that would be me). I want to say thank you to my grandfather who sacrificed for my freedom. He sacrificed so that I can have the right to, in the words of Steve Biko, “Write what I like.” Eat where I like. Walk where I like. Sit where I like. Live where I like. Date who I like. Work where I like. Get an education where I like. Not just to be free where I like, but to be free everywhere.

We want to say thank you to all those who fought in many different ways. Those who fought with silent dignity. Those who picked up arms. Those who were imprisoned. Those who left white privilege to fight against injustice. Thank you. Today would not be the same without you.

Why we question

Sometimes, as the new generation, you look at us and think that we take the freedom that you fought for, for granted. If that is how we come across, we promise we don’t mean to. We will never begin to fully comprehend what it was like to be you. You fought a good fight.

When we question the things you do now that we have freedom, it is not because we don’t appreciate what you did. We question because it seems like you forget what you went through to get us where we are. We question because we want to preserve the freedoms you set out for us. We just don’t want to have to go through what you went through. Excuse us if we come across as disrespectful, we just want you to be as proud of us we are of you.

I dedicate this to those who were imprisoned, tortured and died. Those who were recognised for their role in the struggle. Especially to my grandfather, the unsung hero, Thambile Paulos Dlanga, who was imprisoned, tortured and poisoned by the security police and only released to die at home. He is not recognized as a struggle hero. No one knows of him. But we know. And I have what he fought for.

Freedom.

Again, thank you for going through the unimaginable.


- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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