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A Piece Day

17 December 2012, 07:51

The News Article

THU 02 September 1993 JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- No killings were reported in Johannesburg's troubled black townships on National Peace Day. It was the quietest night in two months of political violence that has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

"No bodies were found overnight," police spokesman Wikus Weber told Reuters. "Let's hope it is as a result of the peace initiative, but I am not so sure about that. People may finally be getting tired of the violence."

South Africans wore blue ribbons and paused for a minute's silence at noon, followed by five minutes of reflection on the violence.

More than half of the victims over the past eight weeks have been killed in townships around the South African commercial capital, focus of the unrest since multiparty negotiators set April 27 as the date for the first all-race elections. The independent Human Rights Commission said political violence had killed 10,450 people since July 1990.

The African National Congress Women's League said it wanted Peace Day not to be another "ineffective and fruitless exercise”. "Our people are tired of the senseless loss of life," it said today. "Let us make those that continue to kill and maim men, women and children know that from here on we will do everything in our power to uproot and expose the sinister and faceless murderers."

ANC leader Nelson Mandela said the overwhelming majority of South Africans shared the same desire to bring an immediate end to the killings.

Mandela's main black political rival, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi backed the initiative, saying in a televised message: "I believe the time has come to bury the hatchet. The violence in South Africa has become mindless."

President F.W. de Klerk said in a televised address: "It is my fervent hope that this day will bring the peace . . . that all South Africans need."

But Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) spokesman Nico Prinsloo said the neo-Nazi movement led by white supremacist Eugene Terre Blanche would spurn Peace Day. “If people want to take hands and keep silent, you can be sure the AWB will make a hell of a lot of noise throughout the country," he said. The pro-apartheid Conservative Party, saying it didn't want anything to do with an initiative linked to Communists, called Peace Day a sham.

Peace Day -Noon

A bridge just off the M1. Cars stopping, headlights on. Highway traffic at a standstill. A black man climbs out of his car and walks up to a white man who is peering over the railings. Although strangers, they, wish each other well. They embrace. Is this not what they fought for and dreamed about? They call each other brother. The joy and emotion is too much. They furtively wipe tears away. Their looks say they think they are being silly. Black men can jump, white men can’t, both don’t cry. They believe in the future of South Africa. They shake that shake. “Brotherhood of Man” is more than a pop group.

Fast Forward

27 April 1994 –Pretoria, South Africa. Today millions of South Africans are standing in line to vote in the 1st democratic election. In the queue a white man is leaning on a knobkierie. It is clear to security personnel that he needs it for support. It is later determined that he has been severely injured in a motor vehicle accident, 6 months earlier.

When invited to go to the head of the queue, he declines as he “has people he needs to look after, with him in the queue”. He turns away and talks to his wife and two black women behind them. They are subsequently identified as their live-in ‘maid’, Anna and her sister. His hopes for the beautiful country are depicted by the long lines of un-segregated black and white. The pain caused by years of derision from colleagues, friends and family fades. Faith in the new South Africa is high, bright and shiny. He has been vindicated.

When he is transferred to another city 6 months after this, their parting with Anna Mahlangu is like a death sentence. During the previous 3 years she has become a part of the family. Now, they have to move, and she wants to stay. She is not a Sotho, she will not leave her sister, and will not make friends in a new city. 18 years later he still feels her small body, wracked by sobs when they embraced. He walks away when his wife says goodbye to her. He cries this time.

18 Years later

The man browses the South Africa, News24 page. Politics and violence dominate the content. The modern day prodigies of a Germanicus have ascended and the spoils divided by the senate. Practical solutions for turning around the poor education system, gender discrimination, low economical growth, unemployment, fraud, corruption and the other endemic ailments of South Africa are not forthcoming. Racism is rife; South Africa is more divided than ever and the future looks bleak.

The man reads this; and he cannot cry. He has lost faith.

And wish to, just once more, experience a South African early spring day in ’93.....

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