Umkhonto weSizwe! Spear of the nation!
I am willing to bet that when the above organisation, with such a powerful and purposeful name first made its way into the daily news of the minority, sent shivers down a lot of spines. The spear of a nation; Strong, unyielding, firm and strikes with purpose. It is this spear or the fear of what it symbolised which hastened the imprisonment of the ANC’s top brass of the time. As a result, there was no longer any distinction between the ANC and Umkhonto weSizwe. They were one.
Of course the enemy of all things powerful – TIME – has seen even the Roman Empire implode. It is silent, deliberate and incredibly patient. Only those that see fit to rejuvenate themselves with knowledge get the better of time. What then of the spear of the nation? Is the ANC getting the better of time or is the latter getting the better of the former? Well, I think the past week’s events were enough to at least make an assumption or come to some sort of conclusion about a number of things about the ANC.
1. The Leadership’s disconnect from the people
Never have I been so envious of some of my friends who managed to go to the memorial service yesterday. The expectation of what the service would be left my mouth salivating to the kind of send off South Africans would give their beloved hero. This would be the day South Africa showcases to the world that we are bonded, through good and bad times, by song. We envisioned some of the greatest and most touching songs written about our hero being sung through the rain as if that were a deliberate pyrotechnic feat. What we got though was an event planned for foreign dignitaries with South Africans as spectators and not the other way round. For those of you that do not understand the importance of song within our community, especially during hard times, the best way to describe it would be to compare it to avoiding talking about the impact the passing of a loved one had on you throughout your life. To carry that burden in your heart alone and to never offload it. The event left us confused. We listened to the dignitaries’ rendition of a man we know better than anyone. This couldn’t have been a South African service. Could it? People at the event, black and white, encapsulated what the service was about before it started only to be shocked at a later stage. This was worse than watching the royal wedding at Westminster Abbey. I even thought for a moment there I was watching the Westminster Abbey memorial service. Where was the president who rose to presidency with “Mshin’ wami?” He chose to speak a song to us this time. Where was the man who started the unions as part of the people? Where were the likes of Chicco Twala, Stimela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka? Where did Kirk Franklin come from? Where was the ANC? Lost in the cracks of the disconnection. To be one with the people would have been too undignified for their guests.
2. The Leadership Void
We can all concur that the passing of Madiba couldn’t have come at a worst a time than now for the ANC. Not only because of the elections, but because his passing prompted overdue questions. Questions a lot of people tried to avoid. Has the ANC fought against time by rejuvenating its ranks with knowledgeable intellectuals? Has the torch that burnt from the days of Moroka, passed on to Madiba, being given to worthy and better individuals? Having heard story after story of Mandela’s principles, courage and charisma, what qualities does the current leadership bring to the table? For those that answer the above questions negatively, other questions do come up too. If not the ANC who else? Do we continue with the devil we know or give the vote to the best of the worst, assuming other parties are not suitable? Do we need another hero? Or perhaps this is the beginning of an interesting chapter for South Africa which leads me to my third point.
3. A recipe for a revolution
I have yet to read of a revolution in a time of opulence and progress. The recipe is always the same – A shared struggle. What happened in the past couple of days for me has been quite telling. Gauteng residents together with the rest of the country were hit with a triple whammy. First the implementation of the tolls, hike in the petrol price and of course the passing of Madiba. Three things which have angered the country but for once, the anger has not directed to a single race. Not even the ruling party can racially polarise putting their hands in our pockets and dinner plates, nor could they privatise Madiba. A people without a vision and leadership will always tear each other apart. But a people with a common enemy/problem plant the seed of a shared revolution. That seed slowly nurtured by the hardships of the problem, blossoms into a tree firm in its intent to rise up to the light. Perhaps one day the history of South Africa’s achievements will go beyond teaching the world about reconciliation. Perhaps the next chapter in our very short book is on Social co-operation. And wouldn’t it be fitting that the start of social co-operation would be through the breaking of a spear which in its rise gave us reconciliation. I am more than ready for that day. Are you?
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