Go tell it on the mountain

2013-05-28 08:59

It was never about the traditional practice of initiation. Sadly, the corpses of the 30 young men dispersed all over the Wemmershoek Mountains tell a different story. The voices of contempt came a bit too late, the voices of authority never quite pitched.

The same can be said about the 34 miners who fell at Marikana. Remember Wonderkop? The koppie ironically named to signify a wonder, a miracle. But that doesn’t matter because the Koppie became an ill- fated site of refuge for hundreds of miners. The Koppie was left drenched in blood. No wonder, no miracle was left. The mountain spreads far enough to the Central African Republic, too. Here 36 South African soldiers were slain for a cause unbeknown to them.

In just 8 months, over  100 young lives were snuffed out.

Eternal Return

Of course if we’re mindful enough and less hurried with thin retorts we would know that Marikana, CAR and Mpumalanga are separated by time and space only. These tragedies have their own powder and paint, but all three tragedies are bound by the same thread.

So how does it all happen? Why is it that we keep returning to a place where the meaning of human life is pinned at it’s lowest?

The answer isn't clear to me either. But the idea of eternal return that comes to mind, the idea that things recur as we know them with little or no change in circumstances. That which is adverse persists only because of our own carelessness – because of ‘our doing’ if you like.

But what is it that we continually do that warrants the uninvited jinx of the eternal return?

Maybe we do little else but deliberate.

Ours is a state that deliberates momentarily on the lives of those who are vulnerable. And while we deliberate – we, the state, you and me - the brass tacks that hold the ugly machine are left intact. For Marikana we have a commission, for Mpumalanga we have an inquiry and for CAR we have redeployment. But it fools no one to know that these interventions are a barricade for real reflection – stalemates for genuine change.

Maybe, just maybe we could get over the logjam and things could be different.  For instance, is it be fair to say that Mpumalanga health MEC, Candith Mashego-Dlamini could’ve learnt a thing or two from National Police Commissioner, Riah Phyiega’s bloopers?

When the death toll was at 23, Mashego-Dlamini opted to tow a line that gave you the impression that she was shirking responsibility. ‘This is a cultural matter, I am not a man. Women are not allowed to interfere in this process.’  Of course there’s truth to this statement. But after 23 initiates had died out in the bush, I could not bring myself to Mashedo-Dlamini’s defence. A week and a half later, 30 initiates died at different initiation schools in Belfast, Kwaggafontein, Siyabuswa, Verena, Evander, Middelburg and KwaMhlanga.

Ours is a sad reality. Even with the successive counts of eternal return we never find it in ourselves to learn from these chilling tragedies. I shudder. I think of the berating primary school teacher who yells, ‘you never learn.’

Milan Kundera was right. In the world of eternal return, the weight of responsibility lies heavily on every move we make. Sadly, we have made too few moves to place the weight of responsibility on ourselves.

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