I walked in the shadow of a blind man last week. Rich with humility, he taught me how to be a native again.
Yes, I said native, not simply citizen. You see, the story of this land is easily a tale of natives and settlers.
It’s a narrative of those to whom the soil is mother, and those to whom the land is a mere material resource used for survival.
Why do you think the ancients literally planted the umbilical cords of their newly born babies?
It’s a flesh-and-blood libation connecting their progeny to the land.
So “son of the soil” is more than a genial greeting of the politicised. That being said, we must also remember that Bram Fischer was a more refined native than Joe Mamasela.
But I want to tell you about the blind man who’s responsible for my second wind as a native.
We met just days before the municipal elections. I wanted to tell him how generally apathetic I had grown.
After all, I was convinced our body politic was foul beyond saving.
I’d witnessed the contempt that both the ruling party and its opposition had shown us as citizens.
I wanted to point to the whole toilets disgrace, for instance.
I mean, it’s conceivable that politicians in both the DA and ANC would build open toilets and tell people to build their own walls.
It’s beyond insulting.
I wanted to ask the man to imagine a grandmother who’s forced to go outside to relieve herself at midnight, perhaps herself blind and exposed to the indignities of a poverty-stricken neighbourhood.
But the blind man wouldn’t hear me. He was too busy making sure that, come election day, his vote will be authentic.
You see, in the 17th year of our democracy, the blind man is still fighting to ensure that his vote is his secret.
It’s only now that the electoral commission is finally devising a Braille ballot paper and the man is taking ownership of the process.
We were walking through the corridors of his workplace when he reiterated an earlier catch phrase: “Listen man, nothing about us without us.”
He was passionate and determined. And I’m young, sighted and think it’s “cool” to be apathetic?
I think playwright and poet Kgafela oa Magogodi spoke aptly in this regard when he said: “Freedom is failing because we raise ugly people too.”
But beauty is possible, even among the most wretched.
Hence we should count a native with every dashiki made and sharpen better citizenships with dialogues.