PEAKS OF HOPE
From the heat of the fires scorching SA comes great strength, writes
Arena Holdings PTY
Anew generation is peering into the splendid future that is awaiting us. The landscape is changing, literally and politically. The leaves are falling, the grass is drying. Winter is here; Gauteng and the whole Highveld will soon be choking from the annual winter fires, as if mass inhalation of smoke was written into the contract of our existence. Growing up on the edge of a small town, I often wandered in the wilderness, in search of a reprieve from chores and to recultivate the love and concern of parents who began to worry about my whereabouts and sent a troop of older boys to find me. Absence does make the heart grow fonder and the concern greater. We were small, disappeared easily in the tall grass that we often pulled up and sucked. The part at the bottom is sweet. It was not a calendar that announced the change of season, but our cracked heels or umkenke, and the grass that lost its taste as it got drier. Utshani buvuswa ngomlilo, goes the adage: “Grass is resurrected with fire.” Fynbos plants such as proteas need fire to multiply. It may well be that the fire burning the soul of South Africa — crime, joblessness, lack of leadership and the general breakdown of law and order — are necessary to give new life to our democracy and its institutions. with future scoundrels. “Most of the time we suffer from excessive gloom,” wrote Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in their book Art as Therapy, in which they suggest that optimism is an important ingredient of success. Results are often determined by how much of it we bring to a task. In other words, the success of South Africa is dependent on the hopefulness that we bring to everything we do. Optimism does not mean denying the unconcealable tsunami of our troubles but should be a realistic embrace of our imperfect world. It comes from our innate desire to leave our temporary abode better than we found it. WHEN LEADERS ARE WEAK Every generation has its own tale to tell. Disasters, even of the political kind, are not a taste of the end, but a fire to forge the iron bones of a nation, and burn out all its frailties so that the next generations can deal with the harder challenges that will confront them. Two thousand years from today, when our corpses have mummified and the ashes of cremation have given life to crops and weeds many times over, the eternal struggle between impoverishing vice and nourishing virtue will still rage. Undoubtedly, the nation will be better equipped, in both morality and law, to deal All countries go through difficult seasons, and the cold is particularly bitter when the leaders are weak. It is natural to see your plight in isolation. Of the many flaws we humans have, forgetting must be one of the worst, which is why so many of us repeat the same mistakes and miss many opportunities when they come back to give us a second bite. “If we look back on our past life,” wrote Winston Churchill in his book Thoughts and Adventures, “we shall see that one of its most usual experiences is that we have been helped by our mistakes and injured by our most sagacious decisions.” I bet that our current hardships, which are without question caused by extraordinarily weak and corrupt leadership, are the mistakes that will eventually catapult us into the highest echelons of global leadership. History, nevertheless, will excoriate South Africa’s current leadership and cast their soiled names into oblivion; and when the phoney crowds and sycophantic staff have retired to their own misery, their consciences will knock on their hearts like vengeful ghosts. Humans have a conscience. Remember FW de Klerk’s final video, his voice quivering pathetically as he regretted the fact that when he was younger he defended apartheid? Do you think that the people who gobbled up Covid money to spend on luxuries are immune from the afflictions of conscience? Do you think the leaders under whose watch this cruelty happened will go “quietly into the night?” They must pay for their crimes. “Pardoning the bad is injuring the good,” Benjamin Franklin warned us. We are in this pool of privation because of the impunity of the powerful, who continue to devise mendacious schemes to enrich themselves. Their wickedness knows no bounds and they will gleefully allow all hell’s fires to scorch God’s gentle creation if they can steal an extra rand. We must ask the question: why is President Cyril Ramaphosa silent as political violence ravages the soul of the country, particularly in KwaZuluNatal? Is he not the final defender of our democracy? Ramaphosa’s name has been mentioned before in relation to spilt blood. In his book Ramaphosa: Path to Power, the former editor of the Sunday Times, Ray Hartley, quotes the late Anglo American executive Michael Spicer, who was the president’s adversary at the negotiating table during the 1987 National Union of Mineworkers strike. An overwhelming majority of the workers had voted for the strike. More than 300,000 workers downed tools. Some of the few who didn’t want to join the strike were killed. “Did Ramaphosa share some of the blame for these killings, by failing to rein in the union’s more aggressive members, or was the strike now out of the NUM’s control?” Hartley asked Spicer. “He’s been consistent in the sense that he’s absolutely ruthless. The ends justify the means and sometimes the ends can be ruthless,” Spicer replied. Next year’s elections will be an inflection point. For the first time the ANC is projected to be at risk of losing its majority in parliament; will the aftermath be peaceful? Change is inevitable in the political landscape by plan or by providence. There is no human affair which stands so constantly and so generally in close connection with chance as politics, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist and general. The suffering has increased proportionally to the arrogance of those who’ve imbibed the wine of power for too long. Breaking with the past either gives birth to new life or leads to death. When an egg breaks from the inside it gives new life, but when it is broken from outside, someone is having breakfast. There is no need to worry. South Africans will choose life because our future is guaranteed. But like all guarantees, terms and conditions apply. The first condition is to find new heroes who have the wisdom and the will to build bridges to the future; bridges that are big, strong and wide enough to carry all 60-million of us, to our best selves. As for the pessimists, with their pitiable short-sightedness, they say our fate is sealed. We are an African country after all. Our problems are too many and too heavy. They will sink us. They point to our children who are leaving the country, or are falling into depression, drugs and even suicide to escape the despair that has gripped our country. A SOUL OF GOLD Yes! We are an African country. Proud of our place under the sun, and grateful to the everloving God for all that He has given us. We are proud of who we are and immensely grateful for our children, who we love unconditionally. We share in the joy of their achievements and feel every pain that pierces their hearts. What the pessimists have missed is that South Africa has a soul of gold, one that makes us do well in all fields of human endeavour, from the arts, comedy and music to sport, business and politics. The second condition to fulfil for our guarantee is to refuse to entertain the voices of doubt, and free ourselves from the chains that make us slaves of our worst fears. The third condition is to listen to our highest hopes and muster the courage to pursue our deepest desires. South Africa, your future is splendid.