‘Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?’ – Amos 3:3.
There’s a central theme running through You’re Awesome. It’s the simple slogan of Ubuntu: Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu; a person is a person through other people.
If you ask the typical black South African what the greatest evil in society is, he will reply that it is ‘Umona’. That can be translated as ‘envy and jealousy’ but really points to the mindset that sees success as a zero-sum game. It’s the belief that anything good that happens to you must be offset by something bad happening to me. It thus follows that in order to survive, I have to ensure that good things don’t happen to other people. An individual who is advanced in the practice of umona is said to have a PhD – the ‘pull-him-down’ tendency to sabotage and resist the good fortunes of others.
Consider a young political firebrand who fell from grace for persistently preaching that it is impossible for young black South Africans to find their feet unless other South Africans lose theirs. Look also at the idea, existing among black locals, that foreigners are the cause of general unemployment and poverty.
The resultant xenophobia is so radical that the word ‘foreigner’ is no longer an objective description of what a non-South African actually is; it’s now an insult. We can’t simply bandage over the gaping wound of hostility with the flimsy dressing of political correctness. We must face our darkness for what it is. We believe that ‘they’ supposedly soak up jobs, and ‘they’ must be eradicated. There’s a double tragedy, there: not only are fellow humans dehumanized, but once ‘they’ are gone, we will still have the problems and we will still find a new scapegoat, a new ‘them’ to hurt. Holocausts and other evils repeat themselves precisely this way.
A society that views success as a zero-sum game will create a self-fulfilling prophecy and success will become a zero-sum game. Happiness will only be achievable at the expense of someone else’s dignity. Progress for me will only be possible if I pull you down. But even that’s absurd because sooner or later karma will give us a rude awakening: if one country builds its fortune by destroying another, the next generation of the destroyed country will retaliate. The next generation of the neighbouring clan will avenge the vendetta. Our children will inherit the consequences of our choices. Do we want that?
Moreover, what we give to other people is a reflection of what’s inside of us – we only give what we have. If we give people grief, we will discover that grief is all we had within all along. If we give people a fair chance, we will discover that we are resourceful and that life is generous. If we help ‘the other’, we will find grace crashing in unexpectedly.
A wise teacher commanded, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you –.’ A prophet advised his exiled people to ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city’ that had exiled them for the pragmatic reason that ‘if it prospers, you too will prosper’. For better or for worse, the fate of ‘the other’ is inextricably bound up with our own; all are in one small boat – earth – and if we don’t hold on to each other or if we try to push one another off, the whole thing will capsize.
Guest Blog Post by Karen Lotter
I wonder what it was like there at Sharpeville on 21 March 1960. I’ve seen pictures and shuddered with horror, but I also think of the build-up to that day that changed South African history forever.
Tomorrow we celebrate Human Rights Day in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre and also of the heroes of our past who fought for human rights – who lived and gave their lives so that we could live in a non-sexist, non-racial and democratic South Africa.
Our democracy is still very young and we all struggle at times to live up to the spirit of our Freedom Charter and Constitution but I think we can agree on one fundamental truth, that if we don’t keep fighting for our human rights and those of others – our brothers and sisters in Africa and also wherever we see exploitation and oppression, we will be diminished as people.
When I think about Sharpeville I think about how long black people in South Africa had already been chafing under the yoke of oppression, dispossession and discrimination and how on that day when at least 180 black Africans were injured (there are claims of as many as 300) and 69 killed it all changed.
ANC and PAC were Trying to Outdo each other with Anti-Pass Action
Let me set the scene a bit – within the liberation movement’s tension was mounting and both the ANC and the PAC were trying to outdo each other.
At the annual conference of the ANC held in Durban on 16 December 1959, the President General of the ANC, Chief Albert Luthuli, announced that 1960 was going to be the ‘Year of the Pass’. Through a series of mass actions, the ANC planned to launch a nationwide anti-pass campaign on 31 March the anniversary of the 1919 anti-pass campaign.
At a press conference held on Saturday 19th March 1960, charismatic PAC President Robert Sobukwe announced that they were going to embark on an anti-pass campaign on Monday the 21st of March.
According to PAC leader Robert Sobukwe’s ‘Testimony about the Launch of the Campaign’:
“…the campaign was made known on the 18th of March. Circulars were printed and distributed to the members of the organisation and on the 21st of March, on Monday, in obedience to a resolution they had taken, the members of the Pan Africanist Congress surrendered themselves at various police stations around the Country”.
At the press conference Sobukwe emphasized that the campaign should be conducted in a spirit of absolute non-violence and that the PAC saw it as the first step in Black people’s bid for total independence and freedom by 1963 (Cape Times, 1960).
According to all accounts, on the morning of 21 March PAC members walked around Sharpeville waking people up, urging them to take part in the demonstration. Other PAC members tried to stop bus drivers from going on duty; the result was that there was no transport taking Sharpeville residents to work in Vereeniging. People joined the protest and gathered in a field not far from the Sharpeville police station, when a sizable crowd of people had joined them they proceeded to the police station – chanting freedom songs and calling out the campaign slogans “Izwe lethu” (Our land); “Awaphele amapasti” (Down with passes); “Sobukwe Sikhokhele” (Lead us Sobukwe); “Forward to Independence, Tomorrow the United States of Africa”. These were just ordinary people. Not armed soldiers. These were just people who wanted to live a decent life. They were sick and tired of the passes and of being treated like second class citizens in the land of their birth.
300 Armed Policemen
By mid-day approximately 300 armed policemen faced a crowd of approximately 5000 people. At 13h15 a small scuffle began near the entrance of the police station, a policeman was accidently pushed over and the crowd began to move forward to see what was happening.
Now as a mlungu who grew up with the spectre of the “swart gevaar” hanging over me, (The apartheid government had a propaganda machine to rival Joseph Goebels!) I can only imagine that those white cops were totally terrified.
Cops in those days were also not the most educated and I am sure they did not have much intelligence about what was going on at PAC meetings, so “peaceful protest” was probably furthest from their mind when they looked out over their Saracens and saw thousands of singing and chanting Africans coming towards them.
Police Opened Fire
OK, what happened then, is sadly still happening now when protesters clash with the police – the cops overreact. And the police opened fire on unarmed people who were protesting against the pass laws. The firing lasted for approximately two minutes, leaving 69 people dead and, according to the official inquest, 180 people seriously wounded -many of them shot in the back.
And then the police tried to cover it up, so they lied …
According to an account from Humphrey Tyler, the assistant editor at Drum magazine, “The police have claimed they were in desperate danger because the crowd was stoning them. Yet only three policemen were reported to have been hit by stones – and more than 200 Africans were shot down. The police also have said that the crowd was armed with ‘ferocious weapons’, which littered the compound after they fled.
I saw no weapons, although I looked very carefully, and afterwards studied the photographs of the death scene. While I was there I saw only shoes, hats and a few bicycles left among the bodies. The crowd gave me no reason to feel scared, though I moved among them without any distinguishing mark to protect me, quite obvious with my white skin. I think the police were scared though, and I think the crowd knew it.”
Sharpeville – A Crisis for the Apartheid Government
This massacre on the 21st day of March at Sharpeville in Vereeniging, created a crisis for the apartheid government, both inside the country and internationally. In many ways this was the beginning of the end of Apartheid.
The government immediately declared a State of Emergency and banned political meetings. Within less than a month, it banned both the Pan Africanist Congress, which had organized the action in Sharpeville, and the African National Congress. After lengthy internal discussions, the ANC and PAC turned to armed struggle and went underground. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So, on 21 March 2012 we salute the humble people of that dusty little township of Sharpeville who marched to the police station in great spirits, singing freedom songs, wanting to hand in their dompasses and who were gunned down by police. They gave their lives so that we can be free!
By Di Smith and Calvern Kuziyamisa
Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself. John Dewey.
It is a sad irony that the Hammersdale/Cato Ridge area is not just an area of high unemployment but also an area facing a severe shortage of good workers who have basic education. The Matric pass rate in this area is one of the lowest in KwaZulu-Natal. It is for this reason that we as Awesome SA have got involved with a project called PPR Education.
PPR Education, a brand new NGO, is bringing about a new perspective in education. PPR stands for Podcast, Partnership and Recognition or play, pause and re-wind . PPR helps each teacher to create their own podcast and make it available on DVD to students at the start of the month for the chapters of the Syllabus being covered that month. Students can get to watch the DVD on projector during class or at home on their TV before or after class or at a resource centre being established in the Inchanga-Hammersdale area. On Saturday we had the first gathering of people who are volunteering and involved with PPR Education attending an inspirational morning which included students from Siphesihle High School.
Gcina Mhlophe Motivated Children
Gcina Mhlophe, South Africa’s best known story teller came long to motivate the children to believe in themselves, along with people who are successful and inspirational in the way they live their own lives.
Just recently a friend of mine organised employment for two young people. This is the gist of the e-mail that I received from her – I took a young lad up to Gowrie for an interview yesterday. He came from Matatiela. I thought he was coming by taxi. He only reached Howick at 1.30pm. I took him for his interview. He brought nothing with him. Afterwards I brought him home because it was too late to get a taxi. This morning, I asked my husband to drop him at the taxi rank. The lad told my husband that he had hitched all the way the previous day, and that was how he was getting home. No money.
Today, I took a young lass for an interview. She came from Eshowe and she told me that she was hoping to start work right away because of the cost of travelling back to Eshowe.
These stories are a clear testimony of how determined and willing our young people are to make a difference in their lives and to better themselves. The money they earn supports not only these young people but they also send money home to support their families.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Seeing the determination and commitment of our younger people to become the best they can be, even in the most trying of circumstances, how can we sit back and not reach out to better the education in the poorest performing schools in KwaZulu-Natal?
Please Help us Secure Funding
As a co-founder of Awesome SA, I am appealing to you to help us secure funding for the IT equipment needed to launch the PPR pilot project in the Inchanga/Hammersdale areas. The minimum IT equipment needed at this stage is 8 laptops, 8 headsets, and the installation of Windows 10 and Camtasia to be installed on these laptops.
Please contact me if you can help via our website: www.awesomesa.co.za or e-mail me on email@example.com or my cell number (+27) 83 390 4930
In order to see how these podcasts work, please have a look at Salman Khan – he explains it so well:
By Guest Blogger - Calvern Kuziyamisa
Many a time we look beyond our borders for extraordinary people, inspiring stories & phenomenal individuals making a difference and positively influencing the lives of those around them and thus enriching their own lives. Governments and Corporates alike are willing to spend millions travelling across the globe searching for models that they can copy and use to better their performances. More often than not, such amazing people are close to us. We live with them. It’s just that we do not bother to turn an inquisitive lens towards these exceptional South Africans.
On Tuesday, Di Smith asked me to accompany her to a meeting at a farm in the Mooi River area. We met Judy Stuart from Future Farmers and the Director of Milk SA, Godfrey Rathwogwa. We traveled together to Vrystaat Farm to meet with Cliffie Egberink. Cliffie has bettered the lives of the farming community in the area and has developed a successful business model where business, labourers and the government are working together.
Successful Model of Farming
When we arrived at Vrystaat Farm, Cliffie warmly received us and over a cup of tea Godfrey was able to ask Cliffie about his successful model of farming. Godrey is looking to implement Cliffie’s business model into the dairy industry.
Cliffie said he had been touched by the plight of the local people, who worked hard and yet earned meagre wages and end up battling to put food on their tables. He knew that he had to get government support. Echoing the words of Clem Sunter that, ‘one doesn’t need to own a farm to become a successful farmer” Cliffie told us that he had sold his farm to the government and establish a business called Agrivest.
The farm workers hold 70% of the shares and Cliffie holds 30% of Agrivest. Cliffe’s approach encompasses being open hearted, having integrity, being honest, non-racial and his love of farming. Cliffie has the vision of creating a better future for all South Africans.
Cliffe was convinced that if had to achieve anything significant in farming he had to hold hands with the labourers with whom he works. As Judy Stuart from Future Farmers so rightly said “He had to gain their trust through dissolving racial barriers and working together with one another.
The hatred and mistrust between white South African farmers and their employees runs deep. It’s based on generations of ill feelings and a complete lack of communication and empathy with each other.”
Developed a Perfect Model Called Agrivest
Cliffie was finding problems in bringing the government on board. With the assistance of Di Smith from Awesome SA he was able to get a hearing at the highest level of Government in KwaZulu-Natal and thus developed the perfect model called Agrivest, where community, business and government are working together.
Cliffie with his business called Agrivest, Judy as a civilian who founded Future Farmers and Godfrey, a government representative from Milk SA are a great example of business, civil society and government working together for a better future for South Africa.
“Our differences are our strength as a species and as a world community.” – Nelson Mandela upon receiving the Franklin D.Roosevelt four freedoms award, 8 June 2002.