The saintly comrades

2017-06-14 06:05

HOWEVER much we owe the ruling party in perpetual gratitude, we should convert into currency and repay the devastating debt for good.

Otherwise we’ll never hear the end of how some people endured dangerous and painful conditions for our freedom’s sake. And here we are like spoilt brats, basking in the glory of their struggle but displaying no appreciation.

“You know ... in those days you didn’t know who was your friend or enemy. The special branches were everywhere. There was a time I spent weeks in my flat ... afraid to go out,” the struggle veteran says patronisingly.

Another, who never had the luxury of exile in First World countries and was subjected to years of solitary confinement at Robben Island, proceeds to detail the pains of constant torture, hard labour, edited letters and the tremendous longing for “a normal life”.

Then there’s the guerrilla, who guilt-trips you with a photo of himself and several cadres all clad in army fatigues and boots, possibly clutching AK47s. This was perhaps in Angola, during a rare moment of peace. The veteran proceeds to relate how two of the men in the picture were killed during a raid.

What all this basically means is, these venerable people were knee-deep in a ruthless liberation struggle for the country and you were not. That is what all those photographs, commemorations, documentaries and never-ending references in speeches mean.

They fought the struggle. You didn’t fight the struggle, so they have authority over you.

While the rest of us were living a blissful life under the apartheid sunshine, the comrades were involved in a relentless bloody revolution. In their minds, no one sacrificed like them, their immediate families and their loved ones.

The rest of us might have come away with minor bruises, but the comrade suffered broken bones and punctured organs. We were treated on the scene, but the comrade was airlifted to hospital. Was someone so naïve as to think the comrade would perish?

No. Because the comrade survived and is back to claim a slice in proportion with his unequalled suffering.

Never mind those who were not part of the liberation struggle but were still massacred or suffered cruel removals and relocations since 1652. Never mind those who were not on the front line but still suffered abuse at the hands of racist companies or informal employers.

Never mind those who are not called activists but still challenged the norms in their regular lives, who didn’t even live to see freedom. These we call the unsung heroes of our struggle.

As you can gather, it follows (their) logic that the hierarchy of our new nation must be structured according to one’s contribution to the legendary liberation struggle. Certain individuals carry tons of weight in struggle credentials and they easily crush the scale into distorted pieces. They must therefore occupy the highest possible positions in all of society, if not in our consciences too.

It matters not whether a struggle hero can perform a particular task or has a qualification in the field in question. A rich struggle catalogue is all the curriculum vitae you need to run (to the ground even) municipalities and parastatals.

And so streets, bridges, stadia and other public facilities are named in their honour. Depending on how intensely engraved their contributions are in the psyche of the masses, even informal settlements will be named after them.

This honour of having led the liberation struggle from the front also comes with perks, like exercising superhuman power over the democracy one fought for. Having turned these struggle icons into demigods who rank alongside ancient saints, the people fail to judge them based on their actions, or inactions in most cases.

No one is above the Constitution. No one is above the law. Except for the comrade, who fought earnestly to establish the rule of law itself.

Only the struggle icon can break the law and not face the consequences. Why would we, for human errors like corruption and murder, fault an important deity who sacrificed so much to standardise human rights?

In the same way a sage founds a philosophy and becomes its face for eternity, our struggle heroes own the legacy of our freedom forever.

No one can turn away from the congress of saintly comrades and not feel like Judas or Brutus.

Despite results that are telling and need no elaboration, the stalwarts will insist they’re both on course and time. Despite rampant corruption, adverse class disparities and violent protests, the comrades will insist they have a good story to tell.

Those who suggest otherwise will be labelled anti-revolutionaries, peace-time heroes, agents and anarchists, and face all types of defamation.

It has become crystal clear that these mortal gods are not in power because they can deliver. They are here because of what they supposedly did in the past, for which we owe them our souls, our resources, and our miserable existence.

But considering the enormous challenges the black majority still faces, it becomes ridiculously obvious that the struggle is far from over. This unfortunately means the struggle is equally far from crowning heroes.

— Voices24.


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