Kathy Malherbe – freelance journalist
I saw humility in the face of deep, deep grief. A wave of palpable forgiveness. People of all colours uniting in a spiritual war against violence. Collectively calling for peace and unity.
#BlackMonday was a stand against violent crime which has become pandemic in South Africa and the recent murder of Joubert Conradie was a catalyst to say:
‘Genoeg is Genoeg’.
I was invited to attend the #BlackMonday gathering by the co-founders of the newly launched Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice, Advocate Alan Nelson, Oscar Siwali and Paul Dalmeyer. They told me farm murders should not be approached in isolation and quoted the following statistics: For the year span 2016-2017 there have been more than 19 000 murders in our country. That equates to 52 per day, it includes 639 gang related murders on the Cape Flats. Furthermore there have been 341 farm attacks that lead to 70 farmers loosing their lives in SA in one year. The Western Province has the highest murder rate in SA.
I saw the bereaved family calling for South Africans to be ‘warriors of peace and love’ - to look inwards and get rid of all evil and darkness within themselves. To let the darkness in everyone’s life turn to light. I heard a friend of Joubert Conradie speak as ‘a father, a farmer, a cattle man, just a nobody. But’ he said, ‘I ask you to be still. Observe a minute’s silence and then walk away from this field and leave any anger behind.’ I heard Joubert's’ widow, Marlene speak of peace and forgiveness and a very young boy play the Last Post bravely through an antelopes’ horn.
All this despite the fact that the latest murder statistics released by the South African police does not make public the fact that between 2016-2017 farm murders increased by 27.5% and attacks by 22.9%.
Still I saw no blame. I saw people who have a far greater capacity for forgiveness than I have. I heard a call for everyone in South Africa to be warriors of peace and love. An appeal for Jacob Zuma to expunge the darkness in himself but no overt criticism of him. After all the appeal was for everyone present and those watching to do so as well.
I heard the organisers of the #BlackMonday memorial say that any offensive flags and apartheid memorabilia would not be tolerated.
One of the co-founder of the Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice, Oscar Siwali said, ‘I want to emphasise that the Minister of Police’s Crime Stats report are not just statistics. The numbers are people’s lives. They are uncles, fathers, mothers, sister and brothers. Whether, they are black, brown, green, or yellow - they are people – they are South Africans.’
I heard him call on all present to desist from using militaristic words in responding to this scourge, but to rather ask – what is the problem – what is the cause of this? And whilst I will not do justice in elaborating and mapping out our problem in South Africa, let me at least make a start. And I want to make a call on all South Africans, to do something about the violence.’
‘We have some major challenges in SA, most of which are a residue of our past. And we must remember that – if we are to move forward - we must look back.’
I heard one of the farmworkers leading the prayer for peace.
Advocate Nelson says the foundation believes that the emotional outcry of Chris Loubser, and the initiation of #BlackMonday, is not just for the murder in Klapmuts but it is a collective shout out against what is happening in this country as it is underlined by the horrific stats. ‘Our Foundation gives its unreserved support and encourages South Africans to believe that it is the responsibility of every individual to help do something about these heinous crimes that are destroying our country. Violence that has invaded every level of our society is committed by a minute fraction of people.’
I heard ‘enough is enough’ without malice, blame or quest for retribution.
‘Ás an organisation,’ says Nelson, ‘we wish to emphasise that violent crime is not limited to farms but is prevalent in all of our communities. The recent tragic events must be seen in this light and not be used to polarise our people. There are millions and millions of good and peace loving South Africans of all races, religions and political persuasions - all equally affected and appalled by the new wave of violent crime that threatens us all.’
I saw tears, I saw hope. I saw hands and hearts reaching out to every South African to work together for a better future.
Nelson led the convoy procession in a carriage (pulled?/horse drawn carriage?) led by his four black Friesan horses and was followed by a number of people on horseback and hundreds and hundreds of cars, bakkies, trucks and tractors moved very slowly forward. A silent memorial convoy of hope, love, forgiveness, reconciliation.
I heard Siwali say, ‘Let’s recognise each other as people in South Africa. When someone treats the other like an enemy – they kill them. But if we all treat each other as neighbors – we can build relations. We must resist responding to violence with violence – an eye for an eye creates a blind nation.’
To remember those who have lost their lives why not help communities with economic ideas and economic livelihood. Why not help destitute people – make a difference in their lives so their families can see a better tomorrow. Why not generate Economic Development ideas for South Africans throughout the country, using media. Let the ideas be available for any entrepreneur who wants to use them free of charge – and they can start their business idea by mentioning the source – in memory of those who have died violently.
I heard Siwali say, ‘I want to suggest a greeting – from isiZulu: the word ‘Sawbona’ which means ‘I see you’. Let’s start the day – let’s start the hour – by acknowledging each other’s presence in the space. Go out – acknowledge the vendor selling fruit – the gogo selling sweets – the man selling vegetables and support them. Let’s make this a National Greeting ‘Sawbona’ – I see you.
And hear you.