To be South African is to reside the sum whole of all our…


Alan Paton coined the phrase ‘pretty past any singing of it’ within the opening strains to the enduring Cry, the Beloved Nation. Helen Moffett additional clarified SA’s imaginative and prescient in her 2006 e book, Pretty Past Any Singing: Landscapes in South African writing.

However – and there may be all the time a “however” in South Africa – additionally it is a horrible magnificence. Driving alongside the N2 freeway out of the Cape City CBD and additional alongside the R43, the total contradictions of our nation are on show. The drive is, sadly, not distinctive in its contradictions. Amid the infinite pure magnificence and richness of the panorama, there lies a malaise and lack of care inevitable in a rustic deeply divided and one wherein the value of corrupt governance is being paid largely by the poor and most weak.

The deep injustice is in every single place.

Alongside the N2, youngsters, black and poor, consigned to the claustrophobia of shacklands, play precariously close to the freeway amid the mud. It’s a casual cricket match, with makeshift stumps and bails. The deep injustice dictates that the poor are consigned to the dusty wastelands on the fringes of our cities and that youngsters are denied the fundamental proper to play safely.

And so in Heritage Month 2020, we might ask ourselves the complicated query: What does it imply to be South African? The reply calls for complexity past the ever-present braai. As a weary President Cyril Ramaphosa instructed an equally weary nation to placed on its dancing sneakers and do the Jerusalema, a dance which made artist Grasp KG an in a single day world sensation, in typical South African vogue, we duly did. Dwelling within the second can be a South African attribute, in spite of everything. It helps us swing between the highs and lows of a rustic usually at battle with itself. 

If we danced, we’d neglect the kleptocratic state of the Jacob Zuma years, which continues in a unique kind at present, we’d neglect the outrageous testimony simply delivered by former minister of mineral assets Mosebenzi Zwane to an more and more annoyed Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. If we danced, we’d maybe neglect about our financial and social crises, and the lack of the governing ANC to take care of them constructively or truthfully. 

If we danced, maybe we’d neglect in regards to the degrading poverty and the deep inequality, that are pervasive. Maybe we’d neglect in regards to the shameful acts of gender-based violence that girls in our nation face day by day. Maybe if we danced, we’d neglect in regards to the violent language we frequently go to upon one another on this “rainbow nation”. 

The dance itself is pleasure, the dance itself is the very essence of our contradictory lives in a rustic crammed with what is sweet and dangerous in nearly equal measure. 

To be South African is to reside the sum whole of all of those contradictions, discomforts, injustices and joys totally and fiercely.

With the latest loss of life of George Bizos, we glance again on the lifetime of this refugee who grew to become one in every of our nation’s best sons. Bizos is our heritage too; one of many higher angels of our collective nature. 

We glance to Bizos’s life and know that there’s unfinished enterprise relating to the making of our democracy. 

Bizos, as Ramaphosa stated, “…was certainly the son of the soil, not born of it, however part of it”. For it was in the course of the darkest days of apartheid that Bizos himself, a person with refugee roots, got here of age, representing Nelson Mandela within the Rivonia Trial in 1963. That was a close to hopeless time, however as Martin Luther King Jr reminded us, “The arc of the ethical universe is lengthy, but it surely bends in the direction of justice.”

And so it was that Bizos, alongside along with his consumer Mandela and different trialists noticed that arc bend in the direction of justice in 1994. The legal guidelines that had been enacted throughout apartheid uncovered its huge tentacles that permeated into each side of South African life. 

But, Bizos in his battle for justice for the mineworkers at Marikana, his opposition to the Safety of State Data Invoice (or, the Secrecy Invoice because it grew to become recognized) and in his assist of the battle for human rights in Zimbabwe, knew that every one rights are gained by means of battle alone. 

In his principled life, Bizos confirmed us all that the work of constructing a democracy is steady and complicated. 

The poet Cavafy is probably apposite:

Thermopylae (translated by David Ferry)

Honor is because of those that are retaining watch,
Sentinels guarding their very own Thermopylae;
By no means distracted from what is correct to do,
And proper to be; in all issues virtuous,
However by no means so hardened by advantage as to not be
Compassionate, obtainable to pity;
Beneficiant in the event that they’re wealthy, however beneficiant too,
Doing no matter they’ll, if they’re poor;
All the time true to the reality, it doesn’t matter what,
However by no means scornful of those that should lie.
Much more honor is due when, retaining watch,
They see that the time will come when Ephialtes
Will inform the key to the Medes they usually
Will understand how to get in by means of the goat-path.

We’re grateful to George Bizos for retaining watch. In his life we perceive what it means to be totally human and certainly totally South African. 

British journalist Gavin Bell, in his e book Someplace Over the Rainbow, lined South Africa in the course of the transition to democracy and retells the tales of his return right here in 2001. He wished to search out out, “What makes this nation beloved and why do individuals cry over it?” What he discovered then was “a hauntingly stunning nation unusually confused by its a number of identities, struggling to come back to phrases with itself and swinging between hope and despair.”

This stays true in 2020. 

On Heritage Day, Ramaphosa declared that, “Monuments glorifying our divisive previous ought to be repositioned and relocated. This has generated controversy, with some saying we try to erase our historical past. Constructing a very non-racial society means being delicate to the lived experiences of all this nation’s individuals. We make no apologies for this as a result of our goal is to construct a united nation.”

And so one other uncomfortable reckoning awaits us and we’ll ask afresh what it means to be South African on this place of many tales. 

The Surinamese poet Michael Slory was proper when he stated,

Makandra nomo
un sa brasa dan damgra
di tergi wi kra 

or, as translated by Vernon February (1984) 

Solely collectively
can we come to phrases
with what nibbles at our souls 

A lot nibbles at our souls on this stunning place, dwelling of the Huge 5, extensive open areas, and sunrises and sunsets that phrases can’t totally describe. 

At Michael Lutzeyer’s Grootbos nature reserve, information Jo de Villiers condenses all of it when she says merely, “South Africa is the start and finish of my rainbow. Every little thing else in between in simply life.”

Simply life – messy, with pleasure and ache in equal measure – and simply dwellingikhaya lami. DM

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