by Simphiwe Dana, The Sunday Independent
And they mowed them down with automatic guns. Just like in the movies… except, there were no sound effects. No slow motion for emphasis. Just dust. It sounded like fireworks going off. A thunder of explosions that could excite or terrify. Fast and gritty. A memory snatched by time amid the recollection of a dream. It was a dream, so quickly was it over. I blinked and it had never happened.
Except for their colourfully draped bodies sprawled in the lingering dust. Silver and red shacks and a mournful sky witness not only to their death, but to their living. Blood dripping and nourishing the parched earth.
Pangas laid down in reverence to the occasion, glistening with the blood of betrayed forgiveness, hopes and dreams. The police brotha turned with an apologetic smile to the camera. “Look what they made me do,” the smile said. There was a boyish fear in those eyes groomed to shrug off discomfort. A fear looking for approval.
This is the scene you will meet when you find my heart. I grieve for the miner and the police brotha who continues to do the master’s bidding. I grieve for his soul. I grieve more if he takes pleasure from it. I grieve for the woman who must raise a family on her own on a meagre salary, if any. I grieve for the dream that gets dimmer with every welfare grant. I grieve for those who have become desensitised to our struggle.
The gloves are off. It has been a long time coming. Those who have tried to quell the tide have failed because they are one-dimensional, and black is the only dimension they can manipulate.
Fana Mokoena said something interesting on Twitter the other day. We now have a people called The Poor, and their struggle is not ours. Yes, they are black, but the other black. We have othered ourselves. Distanced ourselves from ourselves.
We have crossed the line. And found that we are, after all, not out of the woods of apartheid. Those in the know have known all along.
The debates on social networks are heated. For and against the workers, police, unions and Lonmin.
Are we asking the right questions? On July 18 someone going by the name of Youngster penned a letter to Madiba. It was brutal and touched a lot of people. Youngster was accusing Madiba of selling out black people. Blasphemy! Youngster asked a lot of uncomfortable questions backed by facts. Youngster was angry and calling for an apology. Out of all the noise that followed, the only answer that made sense was that Madiba and his generation had done what they could. That each generation has its struggle.
What boggles my mind is why the patronage. If it is our struggle, allow us the fight. Our generation is babysat by freedom fighters who only know how to fight in trenches, not in boardrooms. Our generation’s struggle is economic apartheid. There’s no guidebook for that in the trenches. In the trenches we know we must fight and destabilise the system. We are led by people who only know to destroy. Not to build. The era for that is over and we are grateful for their contribution. They earned us a milestone. This next part of the struggle needs a different consciousness.
We need planners to chart an economy that works for all. We need Bikos from all sectors of industry to chart the way to a better life for all. It is becoming glaringly obvious that the ordinary black person has been shortchanged. Yes, black. The struggle has been black for centuries and the past 18 years have just been a Band Aid on a festering wound. That approximately 16 million people are on welfare should set off alarm bells. That is almost a third of our society.
Down with cadre deployment. The ANC, as the ruling party, needs to head-hunt thought leaders from different sectors of industry to lead us. We cannot go on like this.
“Sikhathele,” the miner said, we are tired. James Baldwin said a man with nothing to lose is a dangerous man. We have done this to our own people. There is something about the comfort of money that gives one amnesia. All black people used to march to the same beat as The Poor. They fought, died, for their freedom. A pity that this freedom was for some, not for all.
I can imagine The Poor feel a great sense of betrayal. If I could relive 1992 I would be that person who got shot for charging at Madiba screaming “stick to your guns” over and over again.
I was alarmed a few weeks back when we sent the army to the Cape Flats because the police could not control the violence. I was alarmed that the violence had escalated that badly to warrant a call for the army. Imagine a country at war with its people/itself. I was alarmed to hear that during the Khayelitsha protests people had thrown petrol bombs at police and police had responded with live ammunition.
“Sikhathele,” these words must sink in. Let them marinate in the bowels of your fear.
People do not want welfare. They want education and jobs so they can be just like you. Have a house in Sandton if they so choose. They will take the welfare rather than starve still. And people are tired of being mules for the rich.
Now that the rainbow nation bubble has burst, perhaps we can get back to the real work of freeing blacks.
The same business our people are killing each other for is the same business that traded in our pain during apartheid. It is unacceptable.
“It is not AMCU or NUM that said we shouldn’t go to work – it’s us, the workers”.
It seems we have found the man with nothing to lose. The miner risks his life every day in his job. He has gone beyond fearing death and he is gatvol of economic apartheid.
It seems the only language SA understands is violence, because the people have begged and pleaded to no avail.
This was an uprising of the poor. A declaration of war.
We in our comfortable homes and offices can speculate and debate till we are grey. It will not change the fact that The Poor have lost faith in leadership and are taking matters into their own hands. The Poor are willing to die so their children can have a better future.
We need a renegotiation of the terms of our freedom because seemingly it is not working for blacks. We need leaders who will be pro-people, not pro-business and investors. The people are the engine that runs business. The people are not happy. They say it is enough. They have written this declaration with their blood.
Let us not raise our security walls and call in the police in response. Introspection is needed here. Let us open our hearts to the plight of The Poor. Imagine ourselves in their shoes and then do the right thing.