The painful death of a giant

MR CIKO THOMAS came of age in Port Elizabeth in the 80s, under the heat of the struggle for South Africa’s liberation. The leaders of the African National Congress and other organisations he knew and supported then, were of a rare breed. As we wake up to protests against the current leader of a once glorious organisation, he laments a giant’s demise.  

I grew up on a tradition of struggle songs. These were an oppressed people’s riposte towards injustice and oppression, and glorified the struggles and selfless efforts of leaders both in the African and Nationalist corps. We didn’t care – we sang against an oppressive regime. “Senzeni na”; “Uzuwagcine loo mavolontiya”; “Bahleli bonke kwaNongqongqo” were childhood favourites.

To wake up to protests against the actions of a leader of the once-glorious ANC – arguably the vanguard organisation of the greatest liberation movement in the history of humanity – truly breaks my heart. I repeat – there has not been a greater liberation movement in recorded history anywhere on planet earth. The French liberation was glorious and is made even more wonderful by the pens and thoughts of the likes of Mr Maximilien Robespierre and Mr Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the sacrifices of all those who lost their lives.

The Japanese effort in World War II is a study in bravery – almost to the man. That it took the evil that was visited on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to douse it is testament to its might. The efforts of the Viet Cong and the heroics of the incredible Ho Chi Minh in the jungles of Vietnam – a wonder that still makes for incredible Hollywood cinematic livery to this day. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua toppling the evil Somoza regime was admirable and bloody.

To wake up to protests against the actions of a leader of the once-glorious ANC – arguably the vanguard organisation of the greatest liberation movement in the history of humanity – truly breaks my heart.

But the struggle and sacrifice of Tambo, Slovo, Sisulu, Biko, Kgare, Tiro, Abrahams, Dadoo, Ngoyi, Gwala, Fischer, Meer, Hani, Godolozi, Goldberg, Naude, Calata, Selope Thema, Pietersen, Moroka – and all of those mighty titans of the South African liberation struggle – with the enormous Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela at its apex. Now that’s an epic.

To wake up in a free country where the mood is so decidedly anti-ANC is a searing low point and an utter disappointment. Yet sadly, as disappointing as it is, it’s not surprising. To draw from Mr SEK Mqhayi from 100 years ago, I feel moved to quote:

“Ewe lento kakade yinto yaloo nto
Thina nto zaziyo asothukanga nto
Sibona kamhlophe sithi bekumelwe
Sitheth’engqondweni sithi bekufanelwe
Xa bekungenjalo, bekungayi kulunga”

May we as a country avoid the fate of the SS Mendi. May we as a country always be anchored by the spirit and love for country and justice that the heroes mentioned above lived for – and were prepared to die for. On this Black Friday, may God bless South Africa.

Image: Al Jazeera

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