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Sat Sep 20 07:58:26 SAST 2014

Amid all the noise, let us honour our heroes

Justice Malala | 13 February, 2012 00:52
Justice Malala
Image by: The Times

Sometimes you forget. Life waylays you. There is always something going on: one has to rush to the president's State of the Nation address. Or stop to condemn those who are corrupt.

And so you forget. Because the noise of South African politics is always with us and is constantly rising: Julius Malema is being kicked out of the ANC and our cameras and our commentaries rush to opine and shine some light on this young man's travails and on the ANC.

The mining indaba comes to town and we obsess about nationalisation. The noise continues. We become like addicts.

We want more of the noise, more of the day-to-day eruptions. If it is not the car-jamming scam it is robberies at Postbank.

Everywhere you look, almost without exception, we are a nation on the bicycle. We pedal faster, and ever faster, to get to grips with all these day-to-day eruptions.

We rush from one crisis to another. We cannot get off the bicycle. We just have to keep going.

It is not all frivolous. At the National Prosecuting Authority it seems a good woman is being lynched - all because she stood for what is right.

So the many who every day expend energy fighting corruption rush to understand what is happening with her case.

And so, because life is with us here and now, we forget. We forget dates. We forget anniversaries.

We forget that day in 1990, so far away now, when Nelson Mandela walked out of jail. It is a day worth remembering.

I was jolted back to it when President Jacob Zuma announced on Saturday that banknotes will bear the image of Mandela. I was moved by that gesture.

I was moved because it is good to be reminded, every so often, who we are and why the South Africa we have today is so precious and deserves our collective efforts at improving it.

It is good because we are human; we forget.

Over the past month the ANC has been singing the praises of its past presidents. Many of them were men of such ethical and moral integrity, of such high ideals, that they put our current crop of leaders - across the board - to shame. It has been wonderful to join the ANC in remembering such great leaders as Pixley kaIsaka Seme, Albert Luthuli, Sol Plaatje and Walter Sisulu.

Because sometimes we forget why we do the things we do. Because sometimes the minutiae of ordinary South Africa and the eruptions of our political landscape can push aside the things that make up the DNA of this nation.

When the many good men and women in South Africa who fight corruption and the exploitation of the poor stand up to fight for what is right, I hope they remember that what they stand for is what Mandela stood for.

In our national discourse today it is easy to denigrate those who criticise politicians or act for the poor.

Thus those, like the Treatment Action Campaign, who fought for the roll-out of Aids drugs to all in our country were deemed to be traitors who were working for pharmaceutical companies.

The truth is that they were working for ideals that Mandela would applaud: access to healthcare for the poor.

In people like Mandela and Sisulu South Africa had towering giants to learn from. Zuma concluded his state of the nation speech by quoting from the moving words of Charlotte Maxeke, founding president of the ANC Women's League.

She said: "This work is not for yourselves - kill that spirit of self, and do not live above your people, but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you."

In the hurly burly of life, we forget that this is the motto that we all should live by, that the greatest rewards come from service.

These are the things we need to remind ourselves of.

To forget these dates and these extraordinary people will place us in a position where those who hurl racist abuse, those who call women demeaning names, those who steal from the coffers of the government, dictate what we are all about.

Every day you hear these types. They swat away criticism by calling journalists names. They hide from scrutiny by installing themselves as "commanders in chief" of this or that campaign to help the poor while at the same time creaming off millions of taxpayers' rands through dodgy tenders.

It is good to remember and honour Mandela, Sisulu, the Maxekes and the many others who came before us, because they remind us of our true self and the standards to which we need to hold our leaders and ourselves in this day and age.

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Sat Sep 20 07:58:26 SAST 2014 ::