It took me many years to realise the meaning behind some people’s assertion that things have gotten worse in our country, that the past was better - yes our current leaders have totally lost the plot, yes the inequalities will always bring a measure of uncertainty, but worse than a brutal oppressive regime? I doubt.
Now of course I understand what they mean, they mean that it was better for THEM - which is true by all accounts. We must not be gloomy, let’s take comfort from the fact that there were bold exceptions on our long journey, there were people who lifted our cross and gave us brief rests, lightened our load, without whom our history could have been even worse.
Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naudé “Oom Bey” had the world at his feet, he had formed the ‘Broederbond’ which ensured victory for the National Party and at that youthful age could have lived out his days in luxury, ministering to his flock now and then as the mood grabbed him (for he was also a priest by profession - preaching a religious justification for apartheid, the type of sermon that was much loved by his loyal congregants, his sermons always packed to the rafters) - and then the Sharpeville massacre happened and changed his life forever.
It finally dawned on him that the oppressed people were human beings just like him and from that day on he helped many freedom fighters financially and in any other way he could, more difficult than it sounds since he was often under house arrest, not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time, he was also under daily police surveillance for in his own words "My small contribution to a struggle I knew was right.
Wiki says Yossel Mashel Slovo was in the same class as Nelson Mandela while studying at Wits, (his wife Ruth First, was assassinated in 1982 by order of Craig Williamson, a major in the Apartheid security police). He became active in the South African Congress of Democrats (an ally of the ANC as part of the Congress Alliance) and was a delegate to the June 1955 Congress of the People organised by the ANC and Indian, Coloured and White organisations at Kliptown near Johannesburg, that drew up the Freedom Charter. He was arrested and detained for two months during the Treason Trial of 1956. In 1961, Slovo and Abongz Mbede emerged as two of the leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and led a life of struggle for a better life for all South Africans.
Those great men and women of the past whose words we often quote, have you ever asked yourself what is it exactly that separates them from the rest of us, from you and me? What made them so darn distinguished..? Unlike you and me, they saw the bigger picture - their fight was never about their own fears, wants, trivial (or grave) sorrows and shortcomings. Their desire was to make the world a better place for All mankind; free from oppression, victimization, inequality, poverty (and free from all the hardship that comes from that) - their dreams were bigger than ours, but hey! their dreams sure were beautiful in this spiteful world.
So with every Quote of theirs you repeat, you are in fact saluting them, you are honouring them, you are saying “We long for a leader like You” - but where can we find such leaders? I tell you without a shred of doubt in my mind, those leaders are inside many of you, perhaps you are too shy, or too immature, or too afraid to step up and be counted amongst the greats, and I’ll tell you something else too, some of you Will eventually come out from the shadows and guide us towards the right path. Maybe now you are just not ready, maybe life is still grooming you for your time, maybe there’s still much for you to learn, things you still need to figure out, the path you know you must take being the road less traveled and the more challenging one - yet you know damn well what that little voice in your head is saying and you will have to respond to it one day - it’s never too late to take the first tentative steps, do something.
Those great men said to themselves: “I see the problem and I cannot stand by and allow people to live lives without dignity, I must try by all means to change things whatever sacrifice it takes” and they did, we could all be on that road to Damascus.
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