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Dreaming of Brighter Days for Africa and Her People

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Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

By Wallace Mgoqi

This was the title of one of the books written by the late Father Ernest Urban Trevor Huddleston, born on 15 June, 1913 and died on 20 April, 1998, as an Anglican Bishop.

Before even going into what this book was about, one wonders what he would think of South Africa, a place that was so close to his heart, to which he dedicated his to life work in the church and in society, touching the lives of the likes of the late Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, all his life’s work moved President Nelson Mandela to pay him the highest tribute: “No white person has done more for South Africa than Trevor Huddleston.”

We are not all epoch-making, history-making , nation-making men, but we are what we are. Huddleston was one those prominent men and women. Huddleston spoke well, like high priest Aaron we read about, who helped his brother, Moses. He had a great mind, was a good man who left the legacy of the details of African life in the urban areas of South Africa, as he chronicled it in Naught For Your Comfort.

He died just four years into our new democracy in 1998, at a time when there were such high hopes of what this meant to us as a people, who were coming out of Apartheid South Africa, an opressive system that was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in 1966.

All the things he wrote about in his book he was sure were gone forever, and would not never again return, not in any shape or form.

How wrong would such an assumption have been, because those demons have returned, in more or less the same form, in different guises, but they are demons, nonetheless, that have come, multiplied, to haunt us daily, with no clear end in sight. We are victims again, in the hands of different masters.

At the time, we had hoped that the apartheid system would come to an end, and indeed, we witnessed it coming crumbling down, in front of our eyes.

In disbelief, we sang, we danced, and ululated. Our poets composed poems, our song writers composed celebratory songs, marking the end of an obnoxious era, and the beginning of a benign era, rejoicing for seeing the walls of separation falling down.

“We were like men who dreamed … our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy …”

Little did we know at the time, that our victory was only temporal, the worst was still to come, the breakdown in the rule of law, (a threat to the judiciary) the failure of the guards to watch over the new dispensation, in the form of oversight parliamentary committees, (the legislature ) rampant corruption and state capture, facilitated by those entrusted with state resources for the benefit of the people, (the executive ) but decided to use them to advance their selfish interests, wreaking havoc in their wake.

We believed at the dawn of our democracy that all was going to be well with us, as our leaders were now in control of the levers of power, they were going to use them to lift up the downtrodden in our midst, in their large numbers. Alas! How wrong we were, too, in that assumption, “it was naught for our comfort”.

Instead, they were looking for an opportunity to exploit their vulnerable position and use their votes, election after election, in order to bolster their position in the seats of government, without honouring the covenant, the social contract, they entered into and vowed each time to uphold, but never lifted a finger to uphold.

The likes of Trevor Huddleston and others like him never dreamed that they would be told of what is happening in this country now, they probably would think that one were talking about a different country, not South Africa. Yet we know that we are not hallucinating, we are speaking of what we know, that has now even laid bare by the Zondo Commission Report just published. We always knew from snippets of media reports that something was going wrong, but would not be able to put our finger on it.

The Zondo Commission, in its investigations, had time to dig it all out for all to see – “it is not naught for our comfort”.

The critical question to ask: what lies at the bottom of this evil – be it in the apartheid system, which oppressed and exploited the majority by a minority, on a racial, social, economic and political basis and the system of corruption and state capture that takes away resources meant for the growth of the economy, and for the alleviation and elimination of poverty, reduce inequality and help with high levels of unemployment on the part of the majority of the population of poor people, in itself a ticking time-bomb?

Both systems are oppressive and exploitative, both are perpetrated by hard-hearted, mean-minded, and lowly-spirited men and women, representing the minority, with scant regard for the dignity and worth of others, than themselves.

Until we are able to make an accurate diagnosis, we are not going to be in a position to make the right prognosis and prescribe the right solution to the problem.

I venture to suggest that it is not so much about things we can see, which are temporal, but more about things which we are not able to see, which are eternal. It would seem that it has more to do with foundational values that guide on which societies are founded and guide or fail to guide human beings.

Human beings are body, soul and spirit, and what they see, they think and pass on to the heart and they then act it out “they thinketh, so they are“. It is easier for humans to think of the value of what they see and have evidence of, than to value that which is invisible and they have no evidence of.

This dichotomy lay in what one young man, who was hungry at one point in time, when he saw his brother preparing a nice meal with venison, his favourite food, decided to sell his birthright for a meal. The birthright was lost and never to be regained. Just as trust or reputation once lost can never be regained.

Here we sit years since Father Trevor Huddleston left us we are sitting with betrayed trust in our leaders, it cannot be regained, the die is cast. Is all lost ? Never! We still we can and must craft a future for this nation in the short-term, medium- to long-term. This is a responsibility history has imposed upon us as the present generation.

Having regard to limited space, we can only lay the foundation blocks for the kind of leadership that is going to be required to take the country forward, these are:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Wisdom and sobriety
  • Generosity of spirit and regard for others
  • Service or love in action for fellow men
  • Initiative and respect for the role
  • Competence and efficiency in everything done
  • Healthy attitude towards money.

When these values and more like them, in combination, are found in the new leadership, we can say ‘the country has a chance to extricate itself from the quagmire it finds itself in now’ and that it will restore the confidence and trust that has been invested in it, both by the living and the dead, like Trevor Huddleston and many others who have departed.

Then South Africa and the rest of Africa would have fulfilled the prophetic words of that gallant liberation fighter for his people, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, when he said : “Africa will write her own story and it will be a glorious one, a dignified history.“

We owe it to ourselves first, to future generations and to those who died, like Father Trevor Huddleston, Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe, Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Saartjie Baartman, and countless others, dreaming of brighter days for Africa and her people. Africa arise! Africa arise!

Mgoqi is the chairperson of Ayo Technology Solutions Ltd. He writes in his personal capacity.

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.