I look around and all about me is dust, it has swallowed up the giants of our infanthood. On it, are peers who were once hairless mini-people, opening their armpits to the wind, begging it to lift them, as it does pinions of birds to the boundlessness of the sky. Their faces are heavy with beards now, haggard and sluggish, the weight of manhood we so sought in our youth bearing down on them. Those once sinewy arms are now flabby and jingly, those feet no longer dance but shuffle home, bearing the gifts of the arms, diapers and groceries. Love letters have turned bills, we are the men now, this is the future and history is behind us. Some have more time behind than ahead, and one day this land shall look upon some for guidance and leadership, this time will be history and what shall we write about it?
What will we say about these times? Many will not remember them for the mind hid its scars behind false smiles and liquor. Some will not remember it, too drugged up to face reality, chasing illusions to escape the bitterness of the times.
You ask of the buffalo from those ahead my people say. A phrase of wisdom derived from our fables, washing away, burning with the marijuana smoke inhaled to keep the senses in hem and the rope far off. What matter were those ahead us? Our fathers, the guerrillas who liberated nations, the veterans of Umkhonto Wesizwe, Mau-Mau, ZIPRA and ZANLA, fought great wars to deliver this continent to us, to give us a gift of time which we call the present, but this gift, wrapped in poetry and myth, was it truly a gift or Pandora’s box? Let’s open it and find out.
Perception is reality, some look at Julius Malema and see a saviour, I see a hypocrite brandishing a wristwatch worth about four years of tuition and residence at some of the continent’s finest universities. What does he know of sharing the wealth? It all spills into a rude déjà vu of a nation, once proud and fed, the bread-basket of Southern Africa castrated into a begging bowl. Littered with USAID tins that will not rust or decompose, a constant reminder of what our fathers brought us. They brought us words and left us hungry, and the same words now stir in the continent’s nether region, the tears trickle again. The book is sadder when you have read it before, and know your favourite character is about to die.
Mandela was a puppet we are told, but the truth we should seek out for ourselves and come to our own definitions of, or the angels, the Gabriels we seek to follow will unveil their horns beneath head wraps on our deathbeds. Who was Mugabe, who was Mandela? Chamcha and Gibreel to borrow from Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. One, a born anglophile, knelt as he was knighted by the queen of England the other, firm and resolute to his root, a Xhosa price who wore a loin skin to defend himself in a courtroom, refused to wear a tie in her presence, at dinner in the Buckingham Palace. One negotiated for a country behind prison bars and went his way when he had served his role, though those after him might be seen to be blundering, how many wars must one sword fight? The other, held on too long and watched his shadow grow horns, and his name sullied by scribes and infants and cursed by the toothless jaws ready for death’s paw which has stalked too long to pounce. How will history remember these names? Or will their stories be told differently and the blindness, the darkness continue to enfold our continent? How will we remember them?
Is it in our hands, to change these things? Are fate and destiny predetermined or can we shape our lives and consequently the times with the sinew of will? What will we, the scribes, say of these times? What shall we say about the fires of Libya, Tunisia and great Egypt, a great civilisation which gave the world its moral code, unless you disagree with the stark likelihood that the Decalogue was plagiarised from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In which case the poet laments again, because we have been taught to belittle ourselves, when our knowledge is stolen and returned to us distorted, we accept the tattered version and speak fire upon the original.
Did we not call our mothers witches when they morphed into the night, swallowed by the forest in search of herbs whose curing properties were passed down from generation to generation from those who knew the properties of the aloe before penicillin, which is a mere derivate? And what has our evolution made us? Consumers of regurgitated knowledge, they say they do not have a cure for Ebola, as they once said about AIDS, but recently when two Americans contracted the former, they were flown home and cured while the virus raged on in Africa. We do not expect pity from foreigners, but at least let’s stop hurting ourselves, scapegoats will not lie the graves for us, our withered corpses will.
So what will we say of these times? What will our narratives remember? Where was the wisdom of our fathers in these times? May we be wiser fathers, do our part and let the young take on, guide them with truth and goodwill, that one day, the land dreamt by those who fought for emancipation may be reality. It might not be in our lifetime, but at least, let our spirits hover over the lush greenery and say, ‘those trees of the proud forest, were once seeds in my palm’.