We have failed you, Madiba!


We all loved Sarafina. Loved, admired and adored her for the active role she played in the movie depicting the struggle for independence in the apartheid period. Love for what she represented- a young South African doing what she could against the oppression meted upon the natives by the Afrikaans. And didn’t we all love the way she sang and danced? My sister in law especially loves the part where she is talking to Madiba through the mirror as if she was seeing him!

The songs in the movie are fabulous; entertaining and moving at the same time. The first time i watched it i was around twelve years. Mum had this kick ass job as a nurse at Gertrude’s hospital that accorded her the financial liberty of taking us out to watch the movie at 20th Century Cinema, our second time to be in a cinema!

The first was at the less posh Cameo cinema where a chap called Mwas took us to watch American Ninja. While we lived in the better and expensive houses of the hospital staff quarter, Mwas and a bunch of others lived in the servant quarters and it is here where we used to spend most of our time; all our playmates used to live there. That’s where all the games and fights and infatuations happened. Nothing much happened in our section, just country music and spoilt girls playing with Barbie dolls indoors.

Mwas was a barber and i remember that day when he took us to Cameo Cinema, he shaved us in the swaggest of styles back then, a style which every kid in the block wanted to rock with- box! Box was something, the hair would be shaped like a box at the top of the head and the sides would be shaven clean. Back then in the early 90s it was cool, people who shaved box were cool especially if they kept it smart and well combed.

So he takes us to Cameo and my head was paining coz he had twisted it so much trying to curve out the box that i could still feel the machine buzzing in my head; that and blade cuts at the back of my head! The movie was good though, i remember stepping on a lot of toes on our way in and the following day we all wanted to be ninjas!

20th Century on the other hand was superb. People who went there had class and flair so evident of educated, well to do chaps. Couples walked hand in hand, and i tell you romance was awesome those days coz social media was non-existent! We even bought some pop corn as we waited for Sarafina to start. Back then (haven’t been in a cinema in a loooong time) they used to sing the National anthem before the movie started. Patriotism my friend.

First of all the movie haunted me for weeks on end. I kept seeing Crocodile in my dream and the way the bullet cut through his flesh. How he kept writhing in pain. I saw that cop whom akina Sarafina set on fire. I could hear him calling me in my sleep, telling me to save save him. I regretted watching the movie and only dreams of that short chic with a heart moving voice, the one who sang at the mass funeral of their comrades, brought me a semblance of comfort.

I however, didn’t we all, got very sentimental about Madiba’s struggles. The man was a hero. The things he did were selfless and exemplary. He was a living legend and the true embodiment of the African struggle. Even at the tender age i wished i could travel to South Africa and hug the man and tell him just how much i respect him.

Fast forward to 2015, just a couple of days back and things change. Back then, Africa in its entirety was behind South Africa. Africa mourned every single life lost during the apartheid struggle and rejoiced when eventually freedom came for them. The ‘freedom is coming tomorow’ that Sarafina had sung about finally came and we all celebrated with them. Then, like sand in an hour glass, the South Africa we all loved and sympathised with in their struggle turns against their fellow Africans killing and maiming them at will. Reason? That the foreigners were taking their jobs!

Now i get why the West calls us a dark continent. We totally deserve to be called so, not because of our pigmentation but our irrational hostility and manner of doing things. Am trying hard to see both sides of this xenophobic coin but much as i try, i still cannot find any excusable, plausible or justifiable reason as to why someone would turn on his neighbour and stone him to death on the accusation that he took his job.

Maybe, just maybe the South Africans have been jobless and homeless and whatnot for several years; it’s not like the rest of Africa is faring any better economically- the commonality of our poverty and struggles should at least be what motivates us to foster unity, but no. It fosters hate and instead of empowering each other we kill and the guilt forever hangs around us like a shadow, a stark reminder of hasty decisions made in a state of anger!

Besides, jobs are not like tomatoes you pick in the market and someone fights you for them once you get to the gate, claiming that they are rightfully his because of whatever reason! They are given on merit.

And what could be so wrong with seeing your fellow African making a good life out of his effort and sweat?

Now, i am being haunted again by images of xenophobic attacks. It is Sarafina and Crocodile all over again, only this time the killing is done by fellow Africans. I saw a disturbing clip posted on FaceBook with a ‘foreigner’ being stoned on the road. People just watch, comfortable with the heinous crime being committed. The man just lay there as a gentleman dropped a massive rock on his ribs……..

Too disturbing.

Too inhuman.

Yet i wonder- haven’t the South Africans learnt anything from the resilience and patience Madiba showed even after twenty seven long years in prison? If at all there was anyone in this earth who deserved to exact revenge and chase away ‘foreigners’ from his country it would have been him on the Afrikaans, yet he didn’t. He forgave and forgot and asked people to live together in harmony!

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