i wrote this on friday night, after attending the fees must fall student marches in stellenbosch and drinking the better half of a bottle of wine to myself. i found it on my desktop this morning and after reading it again, decided to publish.
i am a thirty year old South African female. this is my truth.
i grew up thanking my lucky stars i wasn’t born black.
i remember following my nanny around her tiny house on the farm and even at the tender age of four or five, I remember being so thankful that i lived in a better, cleaner home than hers. i didn’t even think about the fact that she was so busy cleaning our house, she didn’t have much time left to clean her own. i cringe to say this now, but during the 1994 elections i was just excited to get a week off from school; i did not fully understand the implications involved behind the fact that i now had black kids in my class. i grew up believing that i was different. a better different, i’m sorry to say. that’s how racism works. i know this now.
i went to UKZN and then to Rhodes. i was a part of a march at Rhodes organised by my friend Felicity – a march against ZANU PF and Mugabe. At that stage our country was still okay; Mugabe was the evil one. Our comrades were our neighbours, not our fellow citizens.
Almost ten years later, I joined a march today in my own country – in a university town i now call home. I joined a march asking for the university fees to not increase; for the fees to fall. but it was so much more than that.
this is what i saw.
i saw young people, both black and white, marching against the rules. marching against authority, marching against tyranny. marching against the elite. marching against the should be.
i felt proud.
i was scared.
i was alone.
i expected violence. i had the important phone numbers written on my wrist in pen. i had sunscreen and water. i had my ID book. i hung around on the sidelines. i took photos and videos. i did not know the words to the struggle songs. i did not feel threatened. for once, i felt a part of something amazing. there was no violence. high discipline, high morale.
my heart swelled with pride.
we marched past the nay-sayers; past laughing and insulting students (both black and white) who would not join in. some of them were drinking wine already (it was friday afternoon, after all) and some of them put down whatever it was that they were doing and joined in on the walk. my heart swelled even more.
i partook in the disruption of the engineering department. i watched fellow marchers running up flights of stairs, interrupting classes. i didn’t feel bad for those disrupted students. i felt sad that they were not joining in. i felt sad for those who felt that this whole thing was a bad idea. i felt sad that they were not seeing the bigger picture
i felt wistful. i might even have felt envious. they are so brave, these youths of ours.
for someone who has been questioning living a life in this country and raising children in this country, i finally felt secure. i felt like maybe we had this. i felt so very, very proud.
i have been a part of many a braai and many a dinner party and many a whatsapp group where the future of our country has been questioned. i have been a part of many of these conversations. “this country is going to shit.” i have said that. i have thought that. i have wanted to escape to somewhere safer, somewhere cleaner, somewhere where no one draws out of the lines.
today i saw that we could make that place here.
i saw strength. i saw love. i saw peace. i saw unity. i saw black and white, hugging, kissing, talking, raising fists in solidarity. i heard singing and sighs and under-breath arguments. but most of all i saw hope. in every young face and laugh and fist pump and giggle, i saw people working hard for the greater good of this country.
perhaps we need a new president. perhaps we need a a new ruling party. perhaps we need a complete overhaul. all i know is that today i saw people willing to sacrifice their education, their lives, their dreams… for something bigger than themselves.
i saw energy, i saw passion. i saw love. i saw discipline, i saw hard work. i saw dreams, i saw anger. i saw disappointment.
the point is… i saw feeling.
and feeling is so much more than just existing.
we haven’t been feeling anything real and true in this country for a long time.
no longer will we be quiet. no longer will be accepting. no longer will be meek.
the kids have got this.
born free or not, there is a greater awareness, a greater consciousness, a greater understanding in the way this nation needs to go forward.
will we listen to our youth? will we put aside our fears of anarchy and change? will we put aside our comfortable lives right NOW for the chance for our children to live in a true rainbow nation where white and black is no longer an issue, but where the rights of the haves and the have-nots are pushed to the fore for the greater good of us all?
i want the children of today and tomorrow to be born into a nation where escape isn’t the first option. I want them to know that they are safe; that they are wanted; that they are valued. That they are here to make a life for themselves, in this country, supported, in the best way they can. i want these kids to be able to march for big issues, not for the right for education. education should be a given. i want their marches to be about fracking and environmentalism. i want them to join the first world conversation; the conversation about saving our planet, not just our country. i want them to join the ranks of world leaders and do-ers. i don’t want them to grow up thinking, ‘thank god i was born white.” or “i wish i was born rich”. I want them to grow up thinking, “thank god i was born with two working legs, seeing eyes, a clever brain and a strong voice.”
Will this happen?
i hope so.
I’m not a politician. i have no fancy rhetoric.
i am just me. this is what i felt.