… IN ONE CITY.
24 August 2013. There was something in the air in the city of Johannesburg this weekend. A foul smell whose fumes became stronger and stronger as I walked through Marshall Town’s Main Street to my favourite coffee and internet spot – Cramers’ café. The source of the odour was indiscernible amidst the picture perfect city scenery of blooming flowers and neatly paved clean walkways.
What it was, though, was unmistakable, sewage, an invisible sign that something is wrong. “I thought it was me” said one city slicker to another commenting on the overwhelmingly subtle stench.
No sooner had I turned the corner and there they were masses of people dressed in the unmistakable red beret and accompanying t-shirts. Some wore their colours in military fatigue and ANC Military Uniforms. The Economic Freedom Fighters perhaps? Closer inspection revealed that they were fighters, for sure, but of a different kind. The National Union of Mines (NUM) workers were marching from central Johannesburg to the center of economic activity in Johannesburg inner city. The Chamber of Mines and BHP Billions’ Head Quarters nestled pristinely between Marshall, Simmonds and Main streets of Johannesburg.
The writing on those buildings is on the wall.
It was a scene much like all other similar protest the marches. With one noticeable exception; A scene I have not seen before. A group dressed in long red and black gowns, similar to those worn by choirs, priests, judges and graduates. They called them – Abafundisi (a Zulu word meaning Ministers/preachers) of Justice, Led the March. “We are serious” they said on top of a rudimentary truck podium. I looked for my clan for “safety”.
The media – amongst the bright reds of the workers and navy blues of the Police. But only the South African Broadcasting Corporation(SABC), France Radio International (RFI) and the BBC Radio News services were the ones I could identify.
“Phansi ngo Mamphele Ramphele Phansi” she recently revealed her 5 0million rand net worth.
“Phansi ngo Dali Mpofu Phansi!” he recently asked for compensation to represent mine workers slain in the 2012 , Marikana massacre.
“Phansi nge AMCU phansi!’ The mining union formed during and after the massacre on August 16th 2012
“Phansi nge Lonmin” The mining company whose striking were later shot down.
They Saluted. Amandla! Power!
Re-affirming support for South African Communist Party (youth league?) leader (SACP), Buti Manamele , including the Deputy General Secretary of Cosatu on a rudimentary truck podium. They were seriously angry and not backing down.
The crowd was a mix-masala of women and men dressed in Military fatigues, with NUMSA and ANC t-shirts taking prominence. “We want to go back to work… We know that you will not do the work yourselves,” they shouted. “So just put a 1 in front of the 5, so that we can get a 15 percent wage increase and we will go back to work! “ Shouts of AMANDLA! POWER! Reverberated within the small enclave, translated the money workers want to be paid is 5, 500 to 7 000 ZAR , entry-level salaries a month.
But soon it was time for me to go…..
To the Johannesburg Stadium where I was met with the unmistakable sound of Sipho Hotstix Mabuza’s Saxophone… playing a classic bubblegum tune which took me back to my childhood days when we used to sing along to his famous track “Burn-out” replacing his English verse with vernacular, singing “ Nkulunkulu Ng’celi ibiya, Nkulunkulu Ng’celi ibiya” Meaning “ God I’m asking for beer please” as the song was often played amongst drinking adults in Sheebens, Stockvels and parties s across the townships where beers such as Catstle, Lion were the order of the day, my township then was Zone 2 Meadowlands Soweto, circa 1986.
This was a call to all South African men to pledge to build safe and healthier communities. To Pledge:
“No Homophibia in My name”
“No Woman will be raped in My Name”
“No Woman will be infected with HIV/AIDS in my Name”
“No child will be abused in My Name”
The pledges printed boldly with Red, Black and White ink on cardboard banners strewn across the stadium and worn across female, male and children’s’ chests who were gathered there.
The music was good. Even I had a little space to ‘shake my booty”.
The rally, organized by a group called “Brother’s for life” was a call to all men in South African men to pledge to a positive transformation in the country. There were paramedics, a Metro FM outside broadcasting van, water and everything else. It seemed the event may have been well attended, but I was late.
Hotsticks’s Sax bellowed against empty blue chairs….. as some men and women tried to remember their dance moves from back in the day.
Clinical Psychologist and Traditional Healer Charles Ndaba Hlatshwayo, echoed my feelings.
“yes , it’s a war, it’s a war against good and evil, the battle of Armageddon” He said.
“I think this has been a successful event” He continued “Now it’s time for us to take it to our communities”.
“I think what’s wrong with men to-day is FEAR, fear of the unknown “He said. “We need to let men know that there are options, they can test, and learn to manage the outcomes”
“If we had talked about this kind of transformation at schools, early on, we wouldn’t be facing this problem”
The source of the problem?
“A breakdown in the family structure is the main problem. Torture and Suffering, another. Men don’t choose the way they are, they are because of social circumstances. You find men with problems, such as Surnames, the ancestors are fighting over – “Who’s name is it anyway “and there are traditional rituals one needs to perform to correct this. The children are “paying” for their elder’s mistakes, secretes. Do you know the meaning of the word Umfazi ?”(female) He asked me” The one who dies knowing” He told me. “Without thinking of the children who come after “He said. “Because they want to protect the Secretes’
I told him that he must tell the elders (ancestor’s) to solve the problems amongst themselves, because as a child born of conflicted identities, I cannot, in all honestly solve problems that existed before I was even born. I am born of love and here to love.
All man to themselves and God for us all.
Peace & Love!