– Death for the African demands its own revered space and place of respect –
The Marikana Lonmin massacre is a dark moment in our post democratic era, no commission of enquiry, investigation on or any amount of money can bring back the lives of those Africans lost in a week now marked the solstice of our collective proverbial winter.
Listening to the parliamentary debates, conversations with fellow clergy, ordinary community expressions and the agony of faces contorted in questioning on why breadwinners had to die like this, depicts a clear point in time sombre for its taste, cold for its experience and callous for its irreversibility.
We as a collective nation are in mourning for we had not known this since the often less remembered Apartheid era. Yet as we pause we must prove cognisant of the reality that our national and provincial roads remain dangerous killing fields where at any time we may lose up to 15 lives in one tragedy of accident claim. We lose Africans all the time to the unknown cloud of death often unnecessary and worthy of condemnation, yet the Marikana moment stands in the shadow of itself for this was a labour dispute that had gone horribly wrong, when labour legislation allows for bargaining.
Yet notwithstanding who is to blame for what when and where in this tragedy, the truth this sombre moment is cannot be used to prove disrespectful to those who died their loved ones and the broader communities from where they equally hail. To use this grief-stricken moment as a signpost to prove politically expedient in disrespect of our collective mourning warrants condemnation regardless the perpetrator. Julius Sello Malema the expelled ANCYL former leader and his backers appear to have silently prayed for a moment to attempt a poverbial ‘ Charge at the Bastille’, underwritten by the pain of those who reel from the agony of an untimely death’s visit, to make a comeback from political wilderness.
Malema like any normal citizen has a right to express his views of what happened. He equally has a right to speak if invited, he equally has constitutional rights that guarantees him all rights we claim for ourselves. I therefore do not buy the advanced notion that he should not have been allowed to speak. Hence my argument has nothing to do with denying him a right to address those who are in mourning for that would be an infringement on his rights and equally denying him a right to lead those who want him to lead them.
My challenge has directly to do with what Malema says and how he behaves amidst this moment of pain. My attention is an honest appeal at asking was this necessary? In African accepted culture no one is ever invited to a funeral, for funerals ignited by death brings family, friends, neighbours, enemies and even foes together in recognition of the reality of the visiting presence of death and its numbness of picking. It is therefore common at the time of death for people who have been fighting to become convinced to rethink the wrong of stalemates defined enmity. Death therefore by itself brings people together, it is that one solemn moment in which we all are left to realise how short, how vain, how defenceless and how futile our planning can be if we have less control of when it visits on us. As a pastor I have often presided over these peace initiatives between siblings, friends etc at the time of death. For death has a power to unite, less by consultation.
Death demands therefore a respect second to none, it is this respect I sincerely believe Malema fails to appreciate for in blindness of proving vengeful he obliterated the meaning of death and reinterpret it in an evanescent meaning of divisive moment, as a means to get even with those whom he consider rightly or wrongly his political enemies.
If the government ministers present walked out when Malema ascended the pulpit, they deserved being berated even called to order to have forgotten they are servants to us as citizenry. Yet they sat through Malema’s introduction and his tearing into them, until their humanity and respect militated affording another such superlative right to insult at whim only because you have a brief moment in the limelight notwithstanding its brevity and our equal collective pain.
Malema’s comments about who paid for the event, proved childish, whimpish and laced with arrogance and less sensitive of what happens for the African at a time of death. It is in the African mind a time when all share from what they have regardless of size or economic status. What was given and shared is never mentioned nor used as a means to bully ones way to act in manner of – since we gave – we can determine the scope of the unfolding programme and content. Malema therefore fails to discern this moment of death the same that communicates our collective pain.
Malema chooses to single out people and advanced views on them clearly informed by his non-gratifying need to prove attacking and less sensitive. I am not sure to what extend his behaviour constitutes if at all a possible litigation case of defamation claim for he clearly has personal rights and for his information so do all regardless of status in society.
Malema’s behaviour saw mourners leave the venue, an act again I shall claim un-African for the words at the time of death are usually essentially informed by the need to unite. Malema’s claims perhaps nice on the ear for those vindictive and wrought in factionalism of definition, proves defiant in articulation yet remains glaring in substantial claim support.
I am afraid Malema the boy from Seshego with potential to lead if groomed, has been sliding into an agaping abyss of self-destruction no different to one who is heavily inebriated, barely able to walk and wants to drive his car. Malema, the one who made us conscious of an absence of economic redress debate in this unfolding epoch, has become a failed project in leadership development. A failed project is my claim because it is not that he lacked potential to become, but he is overtaken by a persona that has now consistently shown him as one whom the description – when potential goes awry wrong- defines. One pauses and asks, how does one get to this, how does one arrive at this self-seeking, attention hogging, insulting, character- assassinating, angry, self-righteous, vengeful, entitled being when you had such potential to serve?
How does the son of an African mother and father steeped in African culture as raised by his grandmother end up this disrespectful to death’s silent but piercing moment? From where this grave insensitivity? How come this misconception not to appreciate the moment of death at least as observed by fellow Africans.
I implore Malema that greatness is not shown in rudeness, leadership is not understood in simplistic vengeance, the cause is always bigger than the individual. Malema, you had a golden chance to show you have matured, that your experiences has shaped you into a responsible leader, yet these low class utterances, and equal acts to disrespect the dead and their loved ones as well as all of us in South African definition has not endeared you to many of us. More so those who know you can prove more sensitive as an African. Let it be known those who died are less of AMCU, NUM or SAPS definition but Africans whose blood was spilled in senselessness of arrogance from all those who remain equally responsible for this dark moment in our post-apartheid history.
When we appeal to you to prove sensitive it is not to deny you a view, space and recognition but to remind you that as an African your behaviour shame us who claim a joint-Africaness.
My unsolicited advice please allow us to mourn, let us have our vigils of soul-cleansing, let us bury the dead and you will be afforded the ample time and space to argue your case, less of emotion but informed by facts. When we turn from the freshly dug holes and heaps of decorated sorrow of the buried you will have your chance to lead whoever wants you to lead them, you will as always be free to start your party and establish your legal presence in political embrace.
Yet it remains not your right to prove less discerning of our common pain, the reality of our collective plight, the challenge of our agony of this moment defined in death’s embrace. You dare not prove to disrespect us, for your actions prove un-African in a time when Africans never prove divided, the moment of death.
Perhaps it is time for Fiona Forde to write the sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth’ maybe with the distinct difference of expression ‘Malema the African who failed to be African when it mattered most’, if this moment of Marikana is the maximum symbol of interpretation.
You could have endeared yourself to a greater constituency, if you chose to deal with respect of the dead and their families, for the cause remains always bigger than the individual and at the time of death we are less vengeful…
August 25, 2012
Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine
Courtesy of Malema’s ANCYL- the by deFAULT face of economic redress :
Due November 2012