Tag Archive: anc


farewell to Nelson Mandela

Today, as our thoughts and tears and love flow to our beloved President Nelson Mandela,

We, human-beings the world over,

say thank you, Madiba!

Thank you for your life, a life of principle,
a life of struggle,
of torture, of pain, of loss,

of a selflessness that you have embodied so completely.

In this often cold and callous world,

where we have been jaded by war, by intolerance, by racism, prejudice, and so so much economic and social injustice,

your living spirit shall live on!

your body, that has endured so so much,

your heart, your mind, your very self, which injustice and tyranny tried so hard to break,

shines on!

Your spirit shines and shall be the torch that we, your children the world over,
shall carry forward…

you may be struggling for life today,

but you have breathed life,

into the hearts of countless downtrodden people this world over.

I don’t know what to say,

my heart breaks today,

I want to cry, and I am crying now,

with a sense of loss and of sadness that I have felt when my mother passed away,

I cry for my loss, selfishly,

but I know you have walked the long walk to freedom,

the long and arduous walk from struggle and sacrifice to healer and peacemaker and statesman and father, yes,

father to us all…

I will miss you, My father,

I will miss your comforting presence,

I shall miss your smile,

and mostly I shall miss the gentle solace that you imbibed in us all,

your children the world over…

Live on, you shall, Madiba!

in the shacks of the Sowetos of the world, you shall live on in that eternal quest for economic freedom,

in the eyes of the pained and tortured,

you shall live on!

in the whispered prayers,

the silent thoughts,

of the dispossessed of this world who still continue to be left behind in this cruel world,

you shall live on!

Thank you, Nelson Mandela, as you make your way to join the ancestors,

Hamba Kahle Comrade President Nelson Rolihlahla “Madiba” Mandela!

Travel well, and go peacefully … … …

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Old Sof’town*

1.

In old Sof’town,
the jazz struck chords,

the jazz lived, it exploded,
out of the cramped homes,
rolling along the streets,
of old Kofifi,

in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.

In old Sof’town,
Bra’ Hugh breathed music, Sis’ Dolly too,
and Bra’ Wally penned poems that still ring true.

In old Sof’town,
Father Trevor preached
equality and justice,
for all, black and white and brown,

and all shades, every hue,
even as oppression battered the people,
black & blue.

In old Sof’town,
the fires of resistance raged,

‘we will not move’ was the refrain,

even as the fascists tore down Sof’town,
with volleys of leaden rain.

In old Sof’town,
the people were herded,
like cattle,
sent to Meadowlands,
far away and cold and bleak,
as the seeds of resistance,
sprouted and flourished,
for the coming battle.

In old Sof’town,
the bulldozers razed homes,
splitting the flesh of a community apart,
only to raise a monument of shame,
and ‘Triomf’ was its ghastly name.

2.

In Jozi today,
we remember those days,
and those nights of pain,
that stung our souls.
like bleak winter rain.

Yes, we remember old Sof’town,
as we struggle onward,
to reclaim our deepest heritage,
and build anew,
a country of all hues and shades,
of black and of white and of brown.

And yes, we will always remember,

and yes, we will never forget,

the price that was paid,
by the valiant sons and daughters,
of old Sof’town,

those vibrant African shades and hues,

of black,
of white,
of brown.

* Sophiatown was also called ‘Sof’town’ and ‘Kofifi’

         __________

http://www.sahistory.org.za/place/sophiatown

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophiatown

my maternal grandfather

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my maternal grandfather

the struggle continues, respected Bajee ✌👍✊

Madiba

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Madiba stamp

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at Luthuli House, Johannesburg (some years back)

the stuggles continue … …

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African National Congress of South Africa

Part One: Winter

There is a legend in Delhi that when a male-child is born, the parents are visited by a group of ‘Hijras’, a derogatory term used to describe the Transgender community. The troupe gather en-masse outside the home of the parents of the infant boy and sing and dance, and offer blessings to the new arrival, while in return a small sum of money is offered to the visiting party and all returns to the relative ‘normalcy’ that prevails in a home that has just experienced the birth of a child.

These were the early 1970′s, and this story was told to me in great detail by my parents, who themselves were recently arrived political exiles in India, having to leave South Africa, where my father was arrested along with Nelson Mandela and 156 others in the infamous ‘Treason Trial’ of 1956.

The ‘main’ “Treason Trial” lasted four years till 1960, though the entire trial lasted till 1961, when the 30 remaining accused (of which my father was one) were acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The outcome of the trial was that all 156 were acquitted of the charge of ‘High Treason’.

During the 5 years of the trial my father and his co-accused had to travel daily to court in Pretoria from Johannesburg, some 60 kilometres away.

The accused were all charged with ‘High Treason’ and faced the death penalty if found guilty. My father was the youngest accused at 22 years of age.

A Flash Forward –

Later, in 1963, when my father was arrested again and held at Marshall Square Police Station in central Johannesburg, my father and three fellow political detainees managed to convince a young Afrikaner warder, Johan Greeff, into helping the four escape from the downtown Johannesburg prison. He was promised financial remuneration for his cooperation.

The news of ‘The Great Escape’ embarrassed the Apartheid state at a time when it felt that it had crushed the African National Congress (ANC), with most of its leaders either in jail, or having gone underground. The ‘Sharpeville’ massacre of 1960 resulted in the Apartheid state declaring a State of Emergency and banning the African National Congress (ANC) and other political organisations.

My father, Moosa ‘Mosie’ Moolla and his three fellow escapees (Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat, Harold Wolpe, and Arthur Goldreich) parted ways and moved from one safe-house to another, until my father, heavily disguised, managed to slip through the border into neighbouring ‘Bechuanaland’, now the country Botswana.

Goldreich and Wolpe managed to disguise themselves as clerics and made their way to Swaziland, a British High Commission Territory, from where they flew over to Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

The South African authorities offered a reward of 5000 Pounds Sterling for the capture of any of the escapees.

Following the escape my father and His fellow escapees were separately sheltered by members of the ANC underground for a few days.

They then parted ways for safety reasons and Abdulhay Jassat made his way to Bechuanaland where he sought political asylum.

By the time my father made his way about a month after the escape to Bechuanaland, the two white colleagues ( my father and Jassat are of Indian-origin) Wolpe and Goldreich had flown over to Tanganyka (now Tanzania) where the ANC’s external headquarters were located in Dar-es-Salaam.

It should be noted that a chartered plane to ferry ANC students and Wolpe and Goldreich was blown-up on the tarmac by South African agents in the early hours of the morning.

Wolpe and Goldreich then flew over on another flight. Jassat followed suit.

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An Interesting Fact –

My father and Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat were both born on June 12th, 1934, and the two were arrested and escaped from prison together, and subsequently lived 30 years of their lives in exile, and both men returned to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners, and the unbanning of the ANC and all liberation movements, and the return of political exiles.

As I type these words, my father and ‘Charlie’ live a few kilometres apart in Johannesburg and meet fairly regularly – mostly at functions or events held to commemorate the years of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.

But more about my father in a bit.

A Flash Back –

My mother, Zubeida or ‘Zubie’, a nurse at the time, and expecting my brother Azad (which means ‘to be free’ in Urdu) was subsequently arrested and detained while having to endure interrogation about her husband’s whereabouts. Azad was born in late 1963, a few months after my father’s escape.

Thus my father did not see his first-born son till 5 years later in 1968 when my mother and young brother and sister reunited with my father on the Tanzanian border. My father had by then joined the Armed-Wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto-we-Sizwe, or MK, ‘The Spear of the Nation’, which was formed in 1960 following the ANC’s decision to abandon non-violent opposition against Apartheid and to take up arms.

My sister Tasneem Nobandla, ‘Nobandla’ or ‘she who is of the people’ in isiXhosa was given her Xhosa middle name by my father’s comrade-in-arms and his Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who couldn’t make it to my parent’s wedding because he was in detention at the time, a few years earlier!

My sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla was born on October the 14th 1962

‘Nobandla’ was named when Mosie asked his comrade and Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who could not make it to his wedding to name his new-born daughter. The two men had spent time in jail together in adjoining cells a year earlier in 1962.

Times were tough in those early years of exile, with my father off on military training with the newly formed ANC’s ‘Spear of the Nation’, and my mother having to shoulder the extreme difficulties of life in exile, in a strange country, having left her family behind, and having to essentially fend for herself and her two young children.

This led to a decision that continues to haunt my family to this day.

According to my parents, the situation in exile in those early years of the Anti-Apartheid struggle abroad was so dire, and my father being away training in guerrilla tactics and the like, while my mother worked as a nurse trying to raise two young kids, suffering from bouts of Malaria and being short on money as well, a decision was made to send my young brother and sister back to South Africa to remain in the care of my maternal grandparents, in the hope that when things in exile ‘improved’ or at least settled a bit, the kids would leave the care of their grandparents and join their parents abroad.

This did not happen, and this is one of the most difficult parts of our family’s history to write and talk openly about. Due to circumstances beyond their control, and due to a myriad other reasons, my young brother and sister remained separated from our parents, and grew up in Apartheid South Africa with my maternal grandparents in Johannesburg.

My mother, who passed away in 2008 after a lengthy battle with Motor-Neurone Disease, carried the pain and the guilt of that decision till she died. My father still lives with the guilt and the trauma of being separated from his children, and his family for over 30 years.

My brother Azad and my sister Tasneem, had to endure the unimaginable trauma of knowing that their parents were alive and on distant shores somewhere, yet being utterly helpless in joining them and living as a family, albeit a family in political exile.

The wounds are deep, and the trauma is still raw, all these years later, and my mother died broken-hearted, having to endure the separation of a mother from her children, as well as having to deal with a husband who was engaged full-time in the ANC and the anti-Apartheid struggle in exile.

It is only now that I can understand my mother’s strength of character and fortitude in remaining sane under circumstances that no parent should ever have to go through.

My siblings, on the hand, had to grow up with grandparents, and this has led to our family having to continuously grapple with the scars of a family torn-apart by Apartheid.

My brother Azad, a lawyer, is married with two beautiful young girls, and my sister, a teacher, is married with four beautiful daughters as well.

We all live in Johannesburg, and though some progress has been made in reconciling our family, it is very painful to say that there are many unresolved emotional wounds, which are completely understandable given the circumstances.

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Comrade Nelson Mandela and Mosie Moolla (1950's Johannesburg)

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Two: Spring

The narrative here is neither chronological, nor is it meant to be a complete history of my family thus far – that would be highly presumptuous of me to attempt – so what you, dear reader, are reading (praise be to your perseverance!) are the disjointed thoughts and memories and anecdotal and other stories that every family shares.

I must state that the facts about my father’s internment and escape are all verifiable using a web-search engine, as are the facts about my parent’s involvement in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, and my father’s subsequent appointment by then President Nelson Mandela as South African Ambassador to Iran (1995 – 1999) and later by President Thabo Mbeki as South African High Commissioner to Pakistan (2000 – 2004) in the newly democratic country that countless South Africans sacrificed their lives to achieve.

My parents often spoke of the privilege that they felt to be alive and return to the country of their birth after spending virtually their entire lives as foot-soldiers in the African National Congress, the liberation movement that included in its ranks giants of South African history – Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Dr. Moses Kotane, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Chris Hani, only to name a few, and with no disrespect meant to the many, many more that I have not named.

The ‘privilege’ my parents spoke about was that they were the ‘fortunate’ ones, the ones who lived to see the non-racial, non-sexist, democratic constitution being drafted, and a South Africa without the crime against humanity that was Apartheid.

So many comrades and friends and fellow compatriots did not live to cast their vote on that glorious April day in 1994, and to see Nelson Mandela being inaugurated as South Africa’s first freely elected black President, a President who represented the whole of South African society.

A Flash Back –

And so it was that I was born in 1972 in an India that had just been engaged in a war with Pakistan, which in turn led to the establishment of a new country – Bangladesh.

India at the time was the in midst of austere Nehruvian Socialism, and my parents who had spent the mid and late-1960′s in Tanzania, Zambia and Britain, were deployed by the African National Congress to India, where my father was the Chief-Representative of the ANC.

My early childhood years were spent in India, and I recall the sweltering Delhi summers and the torrential monsoons that offered respite, albeit briefly, from the furnace of the Indian summer.

When I was 6 years old, my father was deployed by the ANC to be its Chief-Representative in Cairo, Egypt, and to be the ANC Representative at the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO).

This was 1978, and as a 6 year old, I am afraid I have very few fond memories of Cairo – we lived on a meagre stipend and though we lived in an apparently ‘better’ suburb of Cairo called Zamalek, an island on the Nile, the flat we occupied was on the ground-floor of a high-rise apartment block and it was damp, dark, and had the unfortunate distinction of being right next to the apartment block’s garbage-disposal area!

This meant a steady stream of litter, literally being flung from the windows of our neighbours in the flats above us, and often landing with a crash of shattered glass right outside our tiny kitchen.

Cairo was also where I had to unlearn the Hindi I had learnt in Delhi and pick up Arabic, which I did as most 6 year olds do when required by circumstance to learn a new language.

I faintly remember the Presidents’ Sadat-Carter meetings around the time of the Camp David Peace Accord signed between Israel and Egypt and my days were spent riding my bicycle through the dusty lanes of Zamalek.

One memory that is particularly poignant is that of my mother, with her head in her hands, sobbing as she pined for her two children at the opposite end of the African continent. I remember many days walking back from school and before stepping into our apartment block, seeing my mother through the window of what was my room, head in hands, crying.

It is a memory that I carry with me still.

Another indelible memory is when we visited the WWII museum of the battle of al-Alamein, in al-Alamein. Walking past the graves of the fallen in the war against Nazism, we came across many South African names, and I remember vividly how my father explained to me what Fascism and Nazism meant, and how important it was at the time for the world to fight it.

As we walked through the tombstones of the WWII soldiers from all parts of the world, my father explained to me how Apartheid in South Africa was a scourge (though not in those words!) like Fascism and Nazism, and how just as the world had joined forces to fight Hitler and Mussolini, we too had to fight against Apartheid in South Africa, and that is why I was not at ‘home’ with my brother and sister.

‘Home’. That was something for a 9 or 10 year old to hear, because I had grown up always being told about ‘home’ being South Africa, which was as distant to me as the stars above the Pyramids. I was aware from as young as I can remember my parents’ sometimes angry insistence that home was not where we happened to be, at a particular time, whether in Delhi or in Cairo, but in distant South Africa.

I however, could not understand why ‘home’ was not where I was. In Delhi I spoke Hindi like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our little flat on the 1st floor of a block of flats in Greater Kailash. But then came the move to Cairo, and in no time at all I completely forgot my Hindi, and learnt Arabic like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our dinghy flat in Zamalek.

And then in 1982, my father was re-deployed from Cairo back to Delhi, and suddenly there I was, 10 years old, meeting my old friends and not knowing a word of Hindi!

So the idea of ‘belonging’, of ‘home’, of being rooted in a place and time was alien to me from a very young age. I remember dreading when the next ‘move’ would be, given that my parents were political exiles and often having to pack up our few belongings and travelling at very short notice. I do not want it to sound like it was particularly unpleasant in any way, because there also was the thrill a child has of the packing and the plane rides, and the new places that were so, so new to me. Cairo and Delhi probably had only the following things in common: the heat, the population, and the fact that both Egypt under Gamal Abdul Nasser and India under Jawaharlal Nehru were two of the four countries (the others being Sukarno’s Indonesia and Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia) that founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) during the Cold War.

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Cde Chris Hani, Aziz Pahad, Ahmed Kathrada, ANC Secretary-General Alfred Nzo (Uppsala Sweden 1990)

A Flash Forward –

The year is 1990, and my parents and I found ourselves in Helsinki, Finland, where in November 1989 the ANC deployed my father as ANC Secretary to the World Peace Council (WPC) which had its headquarters in Helsinki.

For the 17 year old that I was to suddenly, in a matter of weeks, pack up and leave high-school, friends and a girl-friend at the time, was particularly harsh for me.

I remember spending the winter of 1989 holed up in our two-bedroomed flat in Helsinki, not knowing what had just taken place. I pined for the girl I was (kind of!) dating back in school in Delhi, and I was thoroughly shocked by the below-zero temperatures of winter in Scandinavia, and thoroughly disheartened by the short days and long, long nights. I did love the snow however!

Then it happened. We heard the news that Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners in South Africa were to be released, unconditionally, and that the liberation movements and the ANC were to be unbanned!

This changed everything.

It was a chaotic and heady time, with high hopes and renewed life as the once impossible dream of returning ‘home’ was to be realised.

A very memorable trip was made by my parents and I, by ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, Sweden. An overnight ferry-ride, the trip was magical, for we were to meet Nelson Mandela, free after 27 years on Robben Island and in Sweden to meet the President of the ANC, comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, Mandela’s old friend, law-partner and life-long comrade in the ANC. President Oliver Tambo, who had been in exile for almost 30 years was a dynamic and charismatic and intellectual giant who had built the ANC in exile from being just another liberation movement in exile into the voice of the South African freedom struggle, launching successful campaigns to isolate Apartheid South Africa from the world community.

Unfortunately President Oliver Tambo had suffered a stroke and was convalescing as a guest of the Swedish government; themselves staunch allies in the fight against Apartheid. Nelson Mandela met his old comrade in Stockholm and we met the godfather of my sister, and the would-be best-man of my father in a hall in Stockholm. I have photographs of the tears and joy as Mandela hugged my father and mother, and as old comrades including Ahmed Kathrada who also spent 27 years in jail with Mandela and the other Rivonia Trial accused, met after nearly 30 years! I was overwhelmed, as were countless others to finally meet the man who had become the face of the worldwide struggle against Apartheid.

That my parents knew the Mandelas as young friends and comrades only made the reunion on a Scandinavian day all the more special.

There was a sense of vindication, of oppression though still not defeated, but definitely in its final moments, as we acknowledged that we all stood on the cusp of something so many had not only dreamed about, but dedicated their entire lives to achieve.

We spent a few days in Stockholm and Uppsala, and then hopped on the ferry back to Helsinki, to finally begin preparations for the return home.

The trip we made was on freezing November night, when we boarded a train from Helsinki to Moscow, and then flew to Maputo in Mozambique where we spent a night, before boarding a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.

I will never forget the stifled sobs of my mother as the pilot announced we were flying over South African soil.

My parents and I returned to South Africa on a November day in 1990, as part of a batch of returning political exiles.

I was 18 years old and met most of my family members for the first time.

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President Julius 'Mwalimu' Nyerere (President of Tanzania) and Mosie Moolla

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Three: A Summer Digression

And now, dear reader (may your patience be praised!), I am going to steer this ship of memories as we embark on a journey of emotions – a subjective voyage through the feelings that I have felt, the emotions that I have experienced during the course of my 40 year old life.

You, dear reader, may stop reading right now if you find outpourings of emotion and wearing one’s feelings on one’s sleeve not your cup of Earl-Grey! If however, and I sincerely hope you do decide to read through this ‘summer’ of life’s memories, I assure you that what you will read will be savage honesty, however painful and hard it is to bare one’s soul for all to see the flawed human-beings that we all are.

And so it was that just past my 18th birthday in September of 1990, I found myself ‘home’ in South Africa, after 18. Years of dreaming what ‘home’ would be like and how my brother and sister and cousins and aunts and uncles would take me into their homes and lives.

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and kindness showered on me, the ‘returning’ boy who was not really returning, but was dipping his toes into the early 1990′s, a period of South African history, just preceding the first free and democratic election in 1994 that was one of the country’s most trying of times.

The Apartheid regime, having unbanned all political organisations and liberation movements and releasing political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and others, was still not willing to relinquish power, and had embarked on a cynical and dirty campaign of fomenting violence in the sprawling black townships in Johannesburg, Durban and other cities around the country.

There were killings and hit-squads that roamed and terrorised communities while negotiations between the Apartheid government and the African National Congress (ANC) offered hope and then broke down, and then were restarted until finally, on April the 27th, 1994, black South African, for the first time in their lives, cast their ballots which resulted in sweeping Nelson Mandela’s ANC into power, with Nelson Mandela or ‘Madiba’ as he is known becoming South Africa’s first black President.

I attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first truly democratically elected President in Pretoria on a crisp May 10th morning along with friends and comrades, and we openly wept as the South African Air-Force flew overhead, the flag of our new ‘rainbow’ nation fluttering below.

A Flash Back –

My early days in South Africa were ones of family dinners and visits to relatives and old family friends and comrades in the struggle. My father started work almost immediately at the ANC’s headquarters in central Johannesburg, and I attended my final year of high-school, also in central Johannesburg.

Looking back now, I see myself then as a caricature of the immigrant who just wants to fit in, always being on one’s best behaviour, and under no circumstances allowing the turmoil within to bubble to the surface.

I was born to parents who were non-religious; my father definitely more so than my mother, who ‘believed’ in God, though was never one to make a show of it.

I grew up not really knowing what religion I was born into, as my parents never, and though never is a strong word, it is applicable here; my parents never mentioned religion at home.

My mom would cook up a storm on Eid-ul-Fitr every year, the feast that is the culmination of the fasting month of Ramadaan, but then we never fasted or paid attention to religious ritual or practice. I can say that religion was absent from our home, whether we were in India, Cairo or Helsinki.

I am forever indebted to my parents for having raised me with and this may sound pompous of me to say, humane values, rather than strictly religious ones, not that the two are mutually exclusive!

I attended a school in Delhi in the 1980′s, Springdales, an institution founded by two great humanitarians, Mrs. Rajni Kumar and her husband Mr. Yudhishter Kumar, both human-beings who possessed the highest qualities of compassion, humanity, and a burning sense of the need to tackle injustice, wherever and in whatever shape or form it was to be encountered.

My years at Springdales in Delhi, though I was hardly a promising academic student (having failed standard 8!), I now look back and am forever indebted to the culture of tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of station in life, religion, caste, gender or race, that my still-beloved Springdales inculcated in me.

The culture of Springdales School and the manner in which my parents raised me, has led to a life-long aversion to intolerance in any shape, colour or form, and a strong belief in the power of rational and critical thinking.

I thank my parents again, and my Springdales, for bestowing on me this invaluable gift.

A Flash Forward –

And so I find myself, now in the teen years of the new millennium, still always feeling that I am on the outside, looking in – and I find this vantage point to be, strangely, comfortable now, I must admit.

I do not have much time for religion or for cultural affiliations. Again, this is not meant to be offensive to anyone, these are the feelings I am comfortable with. I cannot stress this enough, just how my upbringing and my years at Springdales have hewn into my consciousness, and the absolute need for the respect for all.

I am growing weary of talking about myself, as I am sure you, dear reader, are as well, and so I shall stop this monologue with the words of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara who when responding to a woman who also bore the ‘Guevara’ name and who had written to Che asking him where in Spain his ancestors came from. This was Che’s response …

“I don’t think you and I are very closely related but if you are capable of trembling with indignation each time that an injustice is committed in the world, we are comrades, and that is more important.”

Thank you, dear reader, for your patience, and for your taking the time to read these ramblings of mine.

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Four: Thoughts about Exile, Home, Identity, Belonging

A Flash Back –

I look back to that November evening in Helsinki, Finland in 1989, where the temperature was around -20 degrees Celsius, and we stood on the railway platform with our little luggage (mostly books, photographs etc) with tickets to Moscow via Leningrad (yes, it was still called Leningrad back then).

I recall my mother and father, by then already in their late 50′s, and preparing to return to their home, South Africa, after almost three decades living in exile all across the globe, from Zambia to Tanzania to England to India to Egypt to India again and then to Finland, and now following the Apartheid regime’s unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) and other political parties and the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners, my parents were to return to a country they had called ‘home’ for as long as I can remember. South Africa was always; always home, no matter where we happened to be.

Whether it was in our ground-floor, bleakly dark flat in Zamalek, Cairo where we had to keep the fluorescent lights on during the day, or in our 1st floor flat in Safdarjang Development Area in Delhi, or in our cramped 2-bedroom flat in Helsinki, Finland, I was always told about ‘home’, about family and about the country that I grew up loathing (Apartheid South Africa) as well as the country that I grew up idealising, for South Africa was after all ‘home’, that mythical place where family stuck together and where my brother Azad and my sister Tasneem grew up, separated from their parents, and where finally, at long last, Nelson Mandela walked free after 27 years in Apartheid’s jails.

I often look back on my years growing up as a child of political exiles, and I am thankful, as I grew up without the hardships that so many fellow exiles had to endure.

I am also thankful, for the depth of humanity that I saw in strangers and friends and people who took us in, and loved us, and extended hands of solidarity and assistance and warmth when we were most alone.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people, ordinary folk, workers, labourers, academics, doctors and engineers, school-teachers and students, who chose to identify with the plight of the oppressed people of South Africa, just as they chose to support the cause of justice, of freedom and of self-determination in Namibia, Western-Sahara, and Palestine.

I can vividly remember the pain and anguish that my mother endured, being separated from her family and her children, and I remember her tears, her quiet sobbing when I used to return home from school, knowing that my father was away travelling, often for months at a time.

It is not easy to put everything down on paper, and indeed it is impossible to capture all of one’s experiences, yet I feel it is very important that I share these thoughts with you, dear and patient reader, not because of what I wish to say about myself, or even about my parents, but to honour and to remember and to cherish the strong bonds that were forged during those sometimes hard times, and to convey to all, that no matter what one hears about our differences as people, be it differences of creed, of colour, of nationality, there is a ‘human’ connection that I have seen that simply extinguishes the claims by the religiously fanatical, or by the jingoistic nationalists who seek to impose upon us a barrier, a wall, a divide that cannot be breached. I have mentioned what I am about to write earlier, and I only repeat it because I believe it needs to be repeated, so forgive me, dear reader, if I seem to be revisiting old ground.

The old ground that I feel I need to revisit now is that of a story that my mother used to tell me, repeatedly, and always with tears in her eyes, and always with her crying openly as she retold this story over and over again to me.

Let me place the story in its historical context. The year was 1971, and India had just been at war with Pakistan, and my parents had arrived in what was then called Bombay and had rented a small apartment in one of Bombay’s high-rise blocks of flats.

It is important to remember that India had gained independence only 24 years earlier, so the wounds and the trauma of the division of India (into Pakistan and East-Pakistan) were still very fresh.

My father was sent by African National Congress (ANC) to India, in order to work to further strengthen the support that the liberation movement had received from India.

My mother, who was a nurse by profession, had started working at Bombay’s Breach Candy Hospital, and my father was busy establishing links within the sizeable South African student community that Bombay was home to.

One day my father decided to jump over a railing, in order to catch a bus, and slipped and fell.

I shall now let my mother tell her story …

… Now we had just arrived in India, and though Mosie and I spoke Gujarati, we still didn’t know Hindi or Marathi (the language spoken in Maharashtra, the state in which Bombay/Mumbai is located), and here comes Mosie, limping and in pain. I am a nurse and so I took a look at his foot and it looked bad, but what were we to do? We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have a telephone, and we didn’t speak the language. So I went and knocked on our neighbour’s door. An elderly lady opened the door and I explained in English that we were new in the apartment-block and that my husband had suffered a possible fracture. The old lady then asked me to sit. I sat. The elderly lady then asked me my name and I said ‘Zubeida, but you can call me Zubie’. I then told the lady all about South Africa, about how I had been separated from my two children, about Apartheid, about Nelson Mandela, and about how we were freedom fighters and were in exile. The old lady broke down and sobbed, and I cried too, feeling her warmth towards me, even though I was a total stranger. Then the elderly lady told me that they were Punjabis and during the partition of India, they had to flee their home in what later became Pakistan because they were Hindus. The old lady sobbed when she told me about the rioting, the massacres, the pain of leaving everything behind and fleeing with only the clothes on their backs, and then she grabbed my hand tightly and said that she understood everything, and she shared my pain, because she too had been a refugee once … (at this point my mother would be crying openly while telling me the story) … and that from then on, she was my elder sister. This from a woman who had experienced the horrors of partition, and who realising I had a Muslim name, chose to share her life story with me, and who could understand what we were going through. Anyway, we called a doctor who turned out to be a Parsi ‘Bone-Setter’ … (laughing between tears now) … and later when we moved to Delhi and her daughter Lata got married to Ravi Sethi and also moved to Delhi, she told Lata that ‘Zubeida hamaari behen hai’ (Zubeida is my sister) and that Lata should keep in touch with us. That’s how Papa and I know aunty Lata and uncle Ravi …

Hearing my mother tell me this story over and over again, emphasising that aunty Lata’s mother had gone through hell at the hands of Muslims, and still she chose to see my mother not as a Muslim, but as a fellow human-being, who shared a similar life in the fact that my parents were also refugees, having fled their country, and that aunty Lata’s mother ‘took’ my parents in, and shared a bond that cannot be described sufficiently in words, as words would only dilute the depth of feeling that the two women shared for each other, only makes my belief in the power of the humanity that binds us all together that much stronger.

Yes, there will be those who will say that those were different times, and that nowadays things have changed.

Yes, there will be many who may call it idealism, romanticism, or simply burying one’s head in the sand, but I still hold on firmly to the belief that aunty Lata’s mother and my mother shared, one person to another, regardless of religion, colour, caste, wealth, status or any of the many other ‘yard-sticks’ that people are measured by, and by emphasising our shared humanity, rather than by highlighting our differences, that we can, and that we shall, indeed, overcome, someday.

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Five: Thoughts about Exile, Home, Identity, Belonging

‎‎This scribble is going to be a rambling, not too coherent piece all about my thoughts on identity, belonging, exile, and about ‘home’.

So, my dear friends, I invite you to accompany me, with sufficient forewarning I hope, on this scribbled ramble…

‘Home’

Looking back now, I can say that I grew up with two very separate yet entwined ideas of ‘home’ – ‘home’ being both the idealised country of my parents, who spoke of ‘home’, which meant South Africa, as being the place where ‘family’ was an umbrella of safety and a source of comfort, and the other reality of what ‘home’ meant was the reason I was born in exile in the first place, the country that had become a pariah of the world, with its brutal, oppressive system of Apartheid racial-segregation.

Now this may seem odd from today’s historical vantage point, but back when I was growing up in India and Egypt, there was a definite sense that we would never see ‘home’ again.

The hopes and aspirations with which my parents lived by, and probably had to live by, was that freedom would come in our lifetime. But a lifetime can be a long time, so there was also the possibility that we may never see the end of Apartheid, and this fear, which I think is shared by exiles, refugees, and all displaced human beings, was always just below the surface.

This ever-present and often repressed fear was fuelled by the deaths of fellow exiles who passed on before South Africa’s transition from Apartheid state to democratic nation took place in 1994.

I recall an old ANC comrade, an elderly man in his 60′s, who lived with us in Cairo in the early 1980′s, and to whom I became quite close, who later took ill and passed away in a Cairo hospital.

I was 8 years old at the time, and even though my parents did not tell me that ‘uncle’ had passed away, I knew it. I sensed it from his deteriorating health earlier, and from the grave expressions my parents wore for months after ‘uncle’ ‘left’.

My parents carried their own feelings of guilt and pain, of leaving behind a young son and daughter (my siblings Azad and Tasneem whom I did not grow up with) in South Africa, who grew up with my maternal grand-parents in Johannesburg. My parent’s guilt and pain never left them, and I remember my mother as she lay bedridden with Motor-Neurone Disease almost 14 years after freedom still carrying the anguish of the separation of parent from child.

My father still carries the pain with him, and I think even more so today because of the difficulties and emotional minefields that he has to navigate through knowing that he did not share his two eldest children’s childhood, and only now, after all these decades, are the relationships being strengthened, and that too is still a work in progress.

I can only imagine the pain, emotional trauma, anguish and heartbreak that my sister Tasneem, and my brother Azad felt growing up knowing that their parents were out in the world, yet remaining separated from them.

It is a legacy of pain, of homes and of families split up and separated that remains with us today, of Apartheid’s continuing brutalisation of South Africans.

These complex and conflicting issues that we as family, and we as a nation have to deal with may still yield some measure of peace, if that is at all possible, given the weight of the past.

I have so much more to say, dear reader, but it can wait for later.

I can say that my experiences growing up here, there and everywhere have been a convoluted scattering of disjointed places, of half-remembered faces and of many a restless night spent contemplating the questions of identity, home, belonging and of what ‘anchors’ a person.

Perhaps there are reasons for the times when that vagabond exile blood gets restless and that itch, that impatience, that urge to move, to flee, to rejoin the nomadic community surfaces.

And perhaps, there are reasons too, for my ability to suppress the sometimes fiery urge to trade quiet suburban stasis for the unknown path of the unnamed exile.

I leave you, respected reader, with a poem I scribbled some time ago

Searching

Searching,
in the debris of the past,
scraps of casually discarded emotion.

Searching,
in hastily trashed yesterdays,
an inkling of moments flung away.

Searching,
in heaps of rubbished words,
that tiresome sigh of defeated thought.

Searching,
in the layers of moulted skin
the wilting self that once was true.

Searching,
in the reflections between the ripples,
for the whispered pangs of roaring desire.

Searching,
in the blank eyes streaming endlessly,
an echo of the faintest sigh of new life.

Searching

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Comrade Winnie Mandela, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, South African Communist Party leader Cde. Joe Slovo

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ANC President Cde. Oliver Reginald Tambo & Indian PM Shri Rajiv Gandhi (Delhi 1980's)

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Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Mosie Moolla (New Delhi 1980's)

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1.

when rancid racism strikes,
in cocooned fungal minds, narrow, superficially deep,

an insidious venom begins to seep,

into the consciousness of the chattering ones as they sleep.

2.

beliefs held so true, so deep,
stripped of feeling,

empty, hollow, feigned, designed, branded compassion,

feeds conceit in chests swollen with righteous passion.

3.

the racism once firmly entrenched,

enveloping all, a comforting shawl,

needs little to fester, to mutate,

into doctrines of superiority, bigotry, hate.

4.

are we guilty of succumbing to this virulent plague?

sipping martinis, shovelling more, always more onto heaving plates,

falling, slipping into inebriated moments, without care,

as the stench of hate, prejudice, racism,

floats in the evening air.

                _______

Amandla!

The Struggles Continue … … …

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Comrade Chris Hani

The Valiant Ones

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Published in A&U Magazine, May 2013

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They left so abruptly,
the valiant ones.

Countless,
many known,
many more nameless.

The truest sons and singers,
husbands and poets,
lovers and wives,
daughters and farmers,
workers and sisters,
brothers and friends.

They left so abruptly,
with quiet pride,
a steely courage,

and a gentle dignity.

They left so abruptly,
leaving us our tomorrows,

brighter!
Hopeful!

filled with promise.

They left so abruptly,
so that we may breathe,

the breath of liberty!

The air of freedom!

The warmth of justice!

They left so abruptly,
leaving with us their parting gift …

freedom!
inkululeko!
swatantrata!
liberte!
azadi!
vhudilangi!
libertad!
esteghlal!

They left so abruptly,
yet we remember them all today,

and in the days to come,
their legacy will light our way!

They left so abruptly,
yet they remain!

Hewn into our memory and conscience,
engraved in our heart!

They left so abruptly,
and yet they endure,

with us,
within us,

now and forever more!

Remember Us

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“Remember Us” at the historic Lileasleaf Farm Museum in Rivonia, Johannesburg. Please visit:
http://www.liliesleaf.co.za/

(Dedicated to the countless South Africans who gave their lives for freedom and democracy)

Remember us when you pass this way,

We who fell,

Who bled,

Remember us when you pass this way,

We who fell so that countless others may stand,

We who bore the brunt of the oppressor’s hand.

Remember us when you pass this way,

Leave a flower or two as you pass along,

Sing! Sing for us a joyous & spirited song.

Remember us when you pass this way,

We who fell,

Who bled,

Remember us when you pass this way.

Remember us in your tomorrows,

As you remember us today

Amandla! The Struggle Continues…

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remembering my heroes …

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Oliver Reginald Tambo
(ANC President)

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Solomon Mahlangu
( MK Cadre executed by Apartheid Regime)

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Chris Hani
(Leader of South African Communist Party & ANC Leader, assassinated in 1993)

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Steve Biko
(Leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, brutally murdered by Apartheid Security Forces)

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Patrice Lumumba

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Amilcar Cabral

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Jawaharlal Nehru

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Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela & Joe Slovo

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The Logo for the ANC’s Armed Wing – The Spear of the Nation, Umkhonto-we-Sizwe or MK

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Thabo Mbeki, Govan Mbeki,  Walter Sisulu & Nelson Mandela

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Langston Hughes

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Fidel Castro & Samora Machel

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WE REMEMBER YOU

WE HONOUR YOU

WE SALUTE YOU

double-helixed uBuntu.

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these interwoven veins,
dna,
double-helixed,

microscopic,
binding us, all of us,
together, as one,

species, one race,
human,

me & you

us,
all,

through
this common
shared
truth:

‘I am because you are’*

all of us
together
as one

me & you = uBuntu*

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* – uBuntu is an isiXhosa/isiZulu concept that espouses the “belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”

memories of Madiba …

no more photographs, please!

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( Sweden 1990 )

A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

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Pandit-Ji*

1.

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

       _________________

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

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A Finnish Karelian and a South African Refugee (1990)

this is not a scribble.

this is living memory.

in 1990, we were in exile in Finland, where my father represented the African National Congress (ANC) at the World Peace Council (WPC) in Helsinki.

it was a tumultuous time.

the Wall had come down.

Nelson Mandela was a free man and arrangements were being made for us, along with so many political exiles, to return to South Africa.

it was around that time that we were invited to a Finnish comrades home for a meal.

during the course of the evening I saw my mother hugging an elderly lady, who appeared to be sobbing, on my mom’s shoulder.

it was on the metro ride back to our apartment on an island just east of Helsinki that mom told us the following:

that old lady was a Karelian Finn, who after the 1940 Winter War (Talvisota in Finnish) found herself among so many who had to flee Karelia and became refugees in their own country.

the old lady broke down and recalled her days as a refugee in the merciless Finnish winter of 1940.

you see, my mom and that old lady who’s name i dont even know shared a bond that transcended race colour religion political social and ideological boundaries.

my mom and the fellow refugee shared a human connection of shared pain, displacement, and loss and hurt.
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long may the humanity of ordinary people live on, often the poorest and most deprived and ostracised and banished who constantly cling onto the threads and fragile strands that make us human.

they remind us
they shame us

they jab us to open our eyes
they prod us to do more

and they tell us
what we know
but what we often forget …

that we, the people, shall always, always be many many more

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____________

with many thanks to the Kallio family of Helsinki, Finland.

for Anja, Jussi, Antti, Matti, Miikko & Liisa Kallio

thank you for your warmth and generosity of spirit and for your friendship

____________

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_of_Finnish_Karelia

walking through the crowd …

walking through the crowd …

alone
not lonely

traversing oceans
skipping mountains

tugged by beckoning smiles

absorbed along
endless miles

seeking strands of hope
loosely strung

untying the noose
where desolation once hung

while
scribbling verses unfathomably obtuse

discarding meter and rhyme

frantically
chasing ever-fleeing time

knowing
my moulting skin
is all that i have to lose

while still
walking through the crowd

alone
not lonely

an outsider

always
seeking peace
within

ever hopeful
of gentler days

when
healing may begin

soothing the soul

casting off leaden  weight

of so much that has in tne past,

past

The African Rains …

The African Rains …

Soaking,
the rains settle,
meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.

Drenching,
the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

Absorbing,
the rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

And,
if you listen,

if you strain to hear,
while shedding the raucous noise of your inner turmoil.

If you listen,

the whispers of the ancestors,

speak to us all,
lending us warmth,
urging us to stand,

even though we may
stumble,

even though we may fall.

a shared mosaic

a shared mosaic.

threads
intertwined
bind

him
her
you

&

i

together.

earthy
shades
colours

hues
fuse

him
her
you

&

i

together.

one mosaic

one world
one race

human …

him
her
you

&

i

together …

wrote this a while ago.

Sadly true today.

It ain’t Xenophobia? Really?

it’s not xenophobia,
the refrain is the same,

it’s the criminals to blame,

we still won’t be calling the attacks by their stinking name,

‘xenophobia’

yes,

that’s what it is,

but,

let us not be simplistic,

we have to face the ugliness of our collective shame,

because when mostly ‘foreigners’ get put to the flame,

how can we ignorance feign?

it’s xenophobia,
simple & plain,

with poverty & unemployment barrelling on a runaway train,

and it won’t just ‘go away’,

for as long as ignorant complicity continues to reign …

       _____________________

‘Xenophobia’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

” noun:

intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries  “

The synonyms for xenophobia are:

chauvinism, racial intolerance, racism, dislike of foreigners, nationalism, prejudice.

     _____________

As a citizen of South Africa, I am acutely aware of the many challenges that our young country faces.

The iniquities of our tortured past, the legacy of Apartheid, socio-economic issues etc. are just a few of the many problems that South Africa is grappling with.

What is extremely disturbing for me is something that I have personally encountered, in conversations with friends, family, and fellow citizens from all walks of life.

That something is how rife ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment is within our various, and still divided communities.

I have heard the most atrocious, insensitive, hate-filled utterances regarding the ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’, and most chillingly ‘we will kill these foreigners’.

I am also aware that many intellectuals, think-tanks, NGO’s, and sociologists etc. have written and spoken volumes about how the failure of proper service delivery by the government and local municipalities, and the myriad other shortcomings that plague our country have played a part in the emergence of this abhorrent xenophobic sentiments that are being spouted almost as if one was talking about culling animals in the Kruger National Park.

We have already witnessed the scourge of xenophobia, and not long ago, when organised bands of people marked, attacked and killed ‘foreigners’ in a frenzy of blood-letting and looting.

This was in 2008.

And today, as the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela lies ill in a hospital bed in Pretoria, I hear similar disturbing and blood-curdling hate-speech directed against ‘the foreigners’.

What is going on?

Where and how have we, as a country, failed, or more worryingly, chose to ignore the signs of this cancer that has to be dealt with, and dealt with as a matter of national priority.

The synonyms for xenophobia include racism, racial intolerance, and prejudice.

The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere are xenophobes.

No one disputes that.

The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere talk in almost exactly the same terms when they spout their rhetoric, when they go on ‘Paki-bashing’ sprees in England, when they deface Synagogues and Mosques and Temples, or when they beat up and kill ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’.

What is particularly disturbing about the rise of xenophobia, especially in the South African context is the complicity of silence, and by extension, a shocking acceptance of these racist and murderously dangerous views, by ‘normal’ citizens.

We are Africans.

And above all, we are all human.

This may seem like an obvious and unnecessary fact to point out, but when certain friends, family members, and people one interacts with daily, spew such xenophobic drivel, it needs to be taken seriously.

Pogroms, xenophobic attacks, racism, intolerance, prejudice, casteism, religious bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, do not simply arise out of nothing.

There are societal, religious, traditional, cultural and other factors that do indeed create fertile ground for some of these noxious sentiments to germinate.

It is incumbent on us all, people, just people, to engage with people, however close they may be to us, and challenge and make our voices heard that we will not stand mutely by, as such hate-filled venom is flung around nonchalantly.

We cannot be conspicuous by our silence and inaction when a large segment of our society, those who have chosen our country to be their home, often fleeing economic hardship, political and social violence, and numberless other factors that force, and this is important, people are forced into leaving their countries, often making hazardous and painful journeys in order to find safe-haven amongst fellow human-beings.

As South Africans, we know just how friendly countries welcomed us during the darkest days of Apartheid repression and tyranny.

Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and the other ‘front-line’ states paid dearly for offering South Africans fleeing Apartheid a place of refuge as well as a base of operations against the oppressive Apartheid system.

Apartheid agents and security forces attacked, fomented insurrections against the governments in the front-line states, and still South Africans of all races, creeds etc. found a welcome home in these comradely countries.

We should never forget this.

Ever.

Our government needs to be more vocal about its stance on xenophobia, and by doing so it will send a message that it will not stand by idly while people from other parts of the continent are constantly under the threat of being attacked.

That said, we as citizens have a voice, and it is morally incumbent on all of us to do our bit so that the scourge of xenophobia is excised from this land.

There is a simmering undercurrent of the possibility of attacks on foreigners as I type these words.

If this is not taken seriously and dealt with, sadly we may see scenes similar to those we witnessed in 2008.

Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

The Struggles Continue!

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My poem “Remember us when you pass this way” at the historic Lileasleaf Farm Museum in Rivonia, Johannesburg.

Please visit:
http://www.liliesleaf.co.za/

More about Lileasleaf Farm:

A PLACE OF LIBERATION
Tucked away in the leafy suburb of Rivonia, Johannesburg is Liliesleaf. Once the nerve centre of the liberation movement and a place of refuge for its leaders, today Liliesleaf is one of South Africa’s foremost, award-winning heritage sites, where the journey to democracy in South Africa is honoured.

Liliesleaf has always been a place of dialogue. In the early 1960s, when the property was the headquarters for covert, underground activities and a safe house for many leading figures of the liberation movement, debates on political and military policy and strategy were commonplace. People from diverse backgrounds but with a common vision met here to discuss South Africa’s emancipation from an oppressive apartheid regime. Today Liliesleaf is a repository for those conversations, and a place where the fruits of a free and equal South Africa are recounted and celebrated.

On 11 July 1963, a dramatic police raid took place at Liliesleaf. Concealed inside a laundry van, a number of security branch policemen made their way down a long, dusty driveway. Members of the MK high command were meeting to discuss a contested strategy to overthrow the government. The raid took them completely by surprise. In the search that followed, the police combed every square centimetre of the property, and collected masses of liberation struggle documents. The security police proclaimed that they had ‘hit the jackpot’.

For the apartheid government, the event was a coup. For the liberation movement, it was a crippling blow. Comrades Bernstein, Goldberg, Goldreich, Hepple, Kathrada, Mbeki, Mhlaba and Sisulu were detained. The farm labourers, who were oblivious of the true purpose of Liliesleaf, were also rounded up and taken into police custody. At this stage no one knew what would happen to them. Following the raid, they were joined by Nelson Mandela, who at the time of the raid was serving a five year prison sentence, as well as Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi, fellow comrades who had been arrested prior to the raid.

A dramatic series of events played out in the months after the raid: a gripping jailbreak, the arrest of an unsuspecting and innocent bystander, and much speculation about the identity of the source who had exposed Liliesleaf. Was it an ANC informer, a neighbour, or a foreign intelligence agency?

Denis Goldberg, social campaigner and former Rivonia Trialist. Goldberg was arrested at Liliesleaf in 1963. “This is the significance of Rivonia, that this is the place where the transition from petitioning, the early history of the ANC and the liberation movement, to mass action and the defiance of unjust laws campaign… we were talking about a transition to a new form of struggle… Rivonia, Liliesleaf Farm, is an icon of that struggle for freedom.”

Following the raid, the core leadership of the ANC and MK were charged with sabotage. The subsequent trial, known as the Rivonia Trial, would change the course of South African history. The apartheid state aimed to use the nine-month long trial as a platform to discredit the liberation movement and their resistance strategies, and to position the trialists as malicious terrorists intent on overthrowing the apartheid government by violent means. The prosecution duly asked for the death penalty. However, the trialists and their dedicated defence counsel, led by Bram Fischer, in effect used the opportunity to put the apartheid government on trial.

On 12 June 1964 Justice Quartus de Wet announced the verdict to a packed courtroom. The local press, international reporters and correspondents eagerly waited for the sentence to be handed down. When the penalty of life imprisonment was declared for the majority of the accused, South Africa’s struggle for democracy was catapulted onto the international stage.

Arthur Chaskalson, former President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1994-2001) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Africa (2001-2005). “We need to record our history,… to heed the lessons of the past, [least] we slip back into practices that contradict the ideals that underpinned the struggle for freedom and justice in our country.”

We invite you to visit Liliesleaf for a journey of enlightenment and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of the South African liberation struggle.

http://www.liliesleaf.co.za

Selma: March On!

you marched your dream

in Selma Birmingham
Soweto Khayelitsha

and they shot you down.

you marched your dream

for dignity respect freedom equality

and they shot you down.

today
now
still

you march on!

from Mamelodi Harlem
KwaMashu Atteridgeville

Jozi London Washington Cape Town

for

though they killed you

you live

&

you breathe

&

you march on

for

your dream breathes
thrives
lives

as our common dream

&

that

that

that
is a truth they can never shoot down.

Amandla!
The Struggles Continue …

peace | love | uBuntu

for Pete, Huddie, & for Woody

talkin’ self-loathing blues …

I’ve been walking,
and a-talkin’

ramblin’ & rollin’

through deserted streets flowing with tears

down cobwebbed alleyways reeking of fears

just a-yakkin’ and a-scribblin’ these paltry rhymes

no absolution on sale at this carousel of blood-soaked crimes

just a-screamin’ that my tongue is fractured, broken

penitence perhaps for splintered words spoken

yes just ramblin’ along,

at ease at last

free of the shackles that bind my heart

crawlin’ on stage,
fatigued by this, my well-rehearsed part

dismissing clouds of promise

shredding whispered iloveyous

burning yesteryears struggles

denying my past as nonsensical farce

caught in a rat-trap
the walls closin’ in

tossin’ what’s left of me into fates’ dustbin

talkin’ too much as ever,

scribbling meagre rhymes to quell the mania

flowin’ in my veins like noxious poison

ramblin’ & a-rollin’ along

a doleful dirge for the paths I have chosen

shattering to pieces emotions frigid and a-frozen

just a-trippin’ through this circus parade,

seeking nothing much

‘cept the shelter of the shade

yet the paths wind
casting me adrift

on an ocean of tears
alone and at sea

squinting through blinded eyes that no longer can see

the pain etched on my own face

a wretched immigrant never knowing its place

so I keep ramblin’ and a-rollin’ along

bleeding out from a million cuts

always on the outside lookin’ in

while they dance and drink and cackle and fuck

leaving me to wallow

mired in the muck

so I ramble and roll and stagger through

discarding sentiments that once burned so true

suckling on apathy under skies of plastic blue

squinting through a foggy blur

life sprints past jabbing and a-pokin’

its parting words a venomous slur

whispered in a  sickly sweet cacophonous murmur

I stand alone

a vacuum now fickle
and
hollow

yet

I ramble and roll

searching for a sliver of a moment without desolation

without sorrow

and

as I stagger along as I ramble and follow

the one constant

hope

hope

H O P E

hope for a less savage tomorrow …

(for Pete, Huddie, Woody)

peace | love | uBuntu

Gandhi-Ji …

1.

It was your beloved Jawaharlal* who uttered these words when you were gunned down by the agents of hate,

‘The light has gone out’, mourned Pandit – Ji*,

and indeed your life was snuffed out on that 30th day of a cold New Delhi January in 1948,

yet you live,

you live on,

a perennial thorn in the side of tyranny,

and the voice of the voiceless multitudes,

still scraping in garbage bins for a bite to eat.

2.

‘The world is big enough for everyone’s need, but it isn’t big enough for everyone’s greed’, you once said,

and Bapu*, your prophetic words ring true today,

in Soweto,

Diepsloot,

Chatsworth,

Gugulethu,

Alexandra,

and everywhere,

all the time.

3.

‘India gave us Mohandas, and we returned him to you as the Mahatma*’, said President Nelson Mandela,

Madiba was your son,
Martin Luther King Jr. as well,

and today your sons and daughters across this world,

look to you again,

in a world torn apart by sectarian strife,
bigotry, racism, religious intolerance, greed,

and Capitalism gone insane,

for as long as there are mouths that hunger to be fed,

for as long as there are naked bodies that need to be clothed,

for as long as your sons and daughters struggle for the very basics,

the 99%,

trodden-upon,
dignity stripped,
dreams tossed out into the sewers …

… we need your sanity,
we need your eternal flame to light our paths ahead,

we need you,

as the parched desert needs a shower of rain,

we need you!

and we need to,

remember that we are all human,

if we are to build a new world,

less cruel,

and more humane …

       _______________

* – Mahatma or ‘Great Soul’

* – October 2nd is the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi

* – The first Prime Minister of independent India was Jawaharlal Nehru,  also called Pandit-Ji,  and endearingly Chacha Nehru

* – Bapu means father and Gandhi-Ji was often referred to as Bapu or Bapu-Ji

afzaljhb@gmail.com

A Child of War …

a child of war…

 

as she lies bleeding

the girl who skipped and hopped to school

all of nine and a half years old

with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was

her father’s pride

 

as she lies bleeding

the warm bullet lodged in her torn stomach

she stares at her skipping rope

as her blood soaks it the colour of the cherries her mummy buys

 

as she lies bleeding

she sees the people through the thick black smoke

blurred visions of scattering feet and shoes left behind

hearing nothing but the pinging in her blown-out eardrums

 

as she lies bleeding

she slips away quickly and then she is dead

a mangled heap of a nine and a half year old girl

whose laugh was her father’s pride

 

 

as she lies bleeding

for even in death she bleeds some more

the warm bullet wedged in her torn stomach

steals the light from her bright little eyes

as she lies bleeding

in jallianwala bagh in ‘19

leningrad in ‘42

freetown in ‘98

soweto in ‘76

jenin in ‘02

hanoi in ‘68

beirut in ‘85

raqqa now

basra still

gaza too

 

as she lies bleeding

this little nine and a half year old girl

whose laugh was her father’s pride

we know she’ll bleed and bleed some more

tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn

with that warm bullet in her stomach

ripped open and torn

 

as she lies bleeding..

afzaljhb@gmail.com

Heritage Day ( 2014)

Heritage Day (2014)

1.

Reclaiming loose shards of hope,

gathering up slivers of a splintered rainbow,

today we reflect,

today we pause,

today we wrestle our collective plundered consciousness,

today is ours!

2.

Tomorrow,

the struggles continue …

Amandla!

afzaljhb@gmail.com

Hope & Renewal …

Hope & Renewal …

1.

Hidden beneath life’s undergrowth,

a flower blooms,

amidst  thorns,

a whiff of beauty wafts over desolate spaces,

deep in the thicket of my heart,

where wounds are raw,

and the world is merely a blur of worn-down faces.

2.

The solitary flower strains towards the light,

in the dim bleakness of unnamed woes,

it’s fragility,

innocence distilled,

pristine,

simple,

natural,
healing,
renewing,

reaching between the open wounds,

of this splintered heart,

caressing my soul,

with a faint murmur of promise.

3.

Hidden beneath life’s undergrowth,

life stirs,

whistling melodies,
healing my shattered heart,

offering comfort,
solace,

peace,

a wounded peace,
while gathering the pieces,

an elusive, wily peace,

yet tangible,

alive!

breathing!

Breathing life back,

as pain flees,

and as,

numbness ceases…

afzaljhb@gmail.com

The African Rains …

The African Rains …

Soaking,
the rains settle,
meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.

Drenching,
the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

Absorbing,
the rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

And,
if you listen,

if you strain to hear,
while shedding the raucous noise of your inner turmoil.

If you listen,

the whispers of the ancestors,

speak to us all,
lending us warmth,
urging us to stand,
even though we may
stumble,

even though we may fall.

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

Rains over Jo’Burg…

The parched African earth soaks up the liquid offering from the heavens,

birds sing,

ululating,

a chorus of relieved catharsis flows through my barren heart,

the steady rain continues,

elevating just another day,

transforming a dry insipid moment,

into a cacophony of jubilant life,

life!

life flowing,

streaming down the desolate avenues,

dripping like perennial teardrops,

down the cheeks of this crazy,

maddening city of gold,

moments of undistilled supreme mirth,

heralds the arrival of a new season,

a triumphant rebirth,

jubilant,
relieved,
ecstatic,

as the Gods of Africa,

and the spirits of the Ancestors,

smile down,

on us,

we of flesh,

and of blood,

and of muscle,

and of bone,

soaking hardened hearts,
dead as cold stone,

infusing new life,

amidst the fragrant scent of rain on dry soil,

while the bronze sun retreats,

seeking respite behind the dark, hopeful clouds of charcoal grey,

while the rains shower their blessings,

banishing the winter chills,

and graciously beckoning spring to stay.

The rains over Jo’Burg caress the leaves on the trees,

cleansing the accumulated baggage that only yesterday so listlessly hung,

over the dryness in my soul,

scorched by a merciless  winters’ sun,

Ah! But today,

today,

there are songs to be sung!

today,

I feel complete,

I am with the heavens,

no longer splintered,
into a thousand and three fragmented pieces,

at last I am whole,

at last,

I am one…

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

For Comrade and President Oliver Reginald Tambo (1917 – 1993)

Escaping the omnipresent shadows,

eluding the sweaty palms of the torturer,

running to shed this sorry skin of shame,

in hiding, here and there, with no one,

yet everyone to silently blame.

Leaving the lips once kissed behind,

to a refuge impossible to find,

not a word of sad welcome,

severing all ties that bind.

And then finally off to a new dwelling in a faraway alien land,

reeking and drenched in a foreignness so blatantly bland,

never fitting in, though always dreading being shut out,

singing paeans to hope scribbled in the sand.

You left your country, your home, your very own place of being,

you fled, into exile, far away from blinded eyes so unseeing,

and you held to a principle within, and you stood resolute,

till the shadows felt themselves in shame fleeing,

We salute you! And all like you, and the so many countless more,

into whose flesh the tyrant’s sword so cruelly tore,

We salute you! You who fought at home and you who left to fight,

from afar, on often a bleak and distant shore

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

For Pete Seeger, Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter and Woody Guthrie…

It was a long time ago
when you put your words into song.

‘This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender’ you scribbled on your old guitar.

You wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,

fiddling out a hail of truth.

Of solidarity.

Of immediate calls for peace.

You said of Leadbelly, that ‘Huddie Ledbetter was a helluva man’.

You sang and spoke through dust clouds and relief lines.

You taught us all, to seek out hope wherever we can.

And when they tried to call all of you ‘goddamned reds’,

you sang on ever louder and louder, rattlin’ their prejudices as they slept in their plush beds.

You rode and you rambled and thumbed your way around,

this land that is my land and your land too.

For you believed all this earth was shared common ground.

And when you sang of overcoming one day,

the injustice and the pain that you witnessed along the way,

they branded you a commie,
a pinko,
a nigger and a Jew-lover.

An enemy of the state.

While your banjo and your guitars wrestled their blind hate.

‘This machine kills fascists’ you etched on that guitar as well
but they were all deaf,

for they could not hear the tolling of the bell,

‘the bell of freedom,
the hammer of justice,
the song of love between your brothers and your sisters’.

And they knew not that they were the ones who would sizzle in their own bigoted hell.

And then came the marches.

You were there too.

Marching and singing with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma.

And you faced their ugly spit,

their venomous rage,

their clubs and sticks and knives,
but you always knew,

that your cause was just and that the truth would one day prevail.

However long it may take, you would never give up.

You sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves,

victoriously into their jail.

Then they shot him down,

they shot Dr. King dead,

as they burnt and lynched many, many more.

Yet you stood firm,

you never wavered,

your blood was red after all,

and they could not tarnish the truth’s core.

And so it came to pass,

that Woody went on his way.

To his pastures of plenty up in the sky.

And Huddie too,

said his last goodbye.

And you were then one,

and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed by the battles and with all that was wrong.

But you saw that the people were with you.

As they had been, all along.

So you fiddled that old banjo,

dragging it through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam.

Through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,

across this earth,
turning,
slowly,

putting smiles of amity on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns.

Today as I pen these poorly scribbled words for all of you,

for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,

I do so in gratitude,

for after all the travails that you’ve been through,

I know that you know that this world still has its fair share of hate,

and of loss and of injustice and of gloom,

but I also know that you know that though all the old flowers may have gone,

there always will be,

as there always must be,

fresh flowers,

that will be ablaze somewhere,

driving away the apathy and reminding us all,

that this world has for all of us,

plenty of room.

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

For Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984)

when,

the hushed rage of prejudice rejoices in triumphant pomp and hateful ceremony,

and,

the silent dagger of complicit racism plunges deep into the soul of a world bereft of hope,

and,

the long knife of embraced apathy twists and turns,

then,

perhaps we’ll open our opaque eyes,

and perhaps then we’ll open our sewed-up mouths,

and perhaps only then will we whimper in mock shock and startled surprise,

for,

the festering hate that spirals around us,

in the fertile minds of quasi-religious bigotry,

is unafraid,

and speaks in the loudest baritone.

2.

Yet,

we accept,

we acquiesce,

we wish it all away,

but,

there will come that time when the lines are drawn,

when the purest hearts of silently smiling bigotry will hold the world in their sway,

with their cherubic, agreeable arguments sprinkled with pieces of fact that will kill, rape, pillage, and slay…

what then,

I ask,

will we do that day?

          _____________

” … First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me … ” – Pastor Martin Niemoller

Walking in Gaza

Walking in Gaza …

Walking amidst the rubble,

a mother wails.

The bloodied rags that once clothed her six year old daughter reeks of caked blood,
stale urine,

death.

Walking amidst the rubble,

a father weeps.

The shelling reducing the home to bits of this and bits of that,
burnt flesh,
charred memories,

death.

Walking in Gaza,

amidst the smouldering school,

the bombed – out hospital,

the blood running into the sewers,

now clogged with emptiness.

Walking in Gaza,

amidst the savage fallout,

in – between the mangled homes,

the shuttered bazaars,

Hope lives.

Hope breathes.

Hope soars.

Walking in Gaza,

the resistance to tyranny holds firm,

as it has,

as it always will,

as it always must!

Amandla Intifada!

The struggles continue…

I Will Vote for the ANC … But for heavens sake, Why?

In 1993, almost three years after our return from exile, I finally ceased being a ‘stateless’ person and became a citizen of South Africa.

I was born and grew up in exile, my parents having had to leave their home, their country, and their families as the ANC propelled the struggle for freedom against Apartheid into the international spotlight. 

Following the un-banning of the liberation movements and the release of political prisoners, we returned to South Africa as 1990 grew to a close. 

South Africa at the time was riven by hideous state-sponsored violence, with the Apartheid regime actively arming and running hit-squads in the townships and supporting various right-wing elements in an attempt to throttle the birth of a free, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa. 

The country stood at a precipice. 

Ahead lay the spectre of a country at war with itself. 

We stepped back, away from the abyss.
 

A rainbow nation was born. 

Today, twenty years on, we vote in our fifth general election.

I shall vote. 

I shall not spoil my ballot. 

I shall be voting for the African National Congress.

Why? 

Many will ask the question, and it is a very important question.

My reasons are simple. 

I will not attempt to make a single excuse for the corruption, the misuse of state funds, the horrendous crime, the poor standards of service-delivery, and many, many other issues that affect the lives of everyday South Africans. 

There can be no excuses. ‎

And yet, I will be voting for the party that liberated South Africa, and that party is the ANC. 

Not because I am a rabid flag-waving ANC supporter. 

And most definitely  not because I do not see the failures of the ANC, and furthermore not because I am unable to understand the frustrations of so many of our fellow compatriots. 

I will be voting for the ANC because the ANC is the most mature political party across our political spectrum, where all South Africans, regardless of race, creed, gender, and sexual-orientation  can still find a home in the party that liberated South Africa from the yoke of racial tyranny and oppression. 

I will be voting for the ANC because I believe that the ANC is not just the party of Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, Slovo, Dadoo, Hani, Fischer and Mbeki, but that the foundations that those fearless leaders laid, and the ideals which the Mandelas, Tambos, Sisulus, Slovos, Dadoos, Fischers, Hanis, and Mbekis, amongst countless others,  nurtured and gave their lives for still need to be realised.

The struggle is far from over. 

As we approach our elections, across the ocean, the world’s largest democracy, India, is on the cusp of electing a  right-wing, ultra-nationalist demagogue, Narendra Modi, as it’s next Prime Minister. 

The Indian National Congress, the party of Mahatma Gandhi and of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru may suffer a humiliating defeat at the polls. 

The Indian National Congress has no one but itself to blame for its woes. 

It’s failings has nudged India towards the precipice of being consumed by the politics of hate, mistrust and suspicion of other communities. 

The African National Congress of South Africa too, has no one to blame but itself for the position it finds itself in today. 

We too have seen, with horror, the scourge of xenophobic poison flowing through our land. 

That is why I shall vote for the African National Congress of South Africa, because the ANC is the only organisation that has consistently, and long before 1994, been true to the internationalist ideals that our very own concept of uBuntu exemplifies. 

Someone once said that the aberrations of individuals must never detract from the cause as a whole.

The cause that the ANC fought for was a just cause, and delivered unto us a country infused with the ideals of justice, equality, and freedom. 

As a South African of Indian origin, I believe it is imperative for the formerly oppressed minority communities in our country to further strengthen and forge anew the solidarity with the majority of our fellow compatriots that was so evident in our united stand during the struggle against Apartheid divisiveness and tyranny. 

I am an African, and my fate and the fates of those dear to me are inextricably fused with the fate of our beautiful country. ‎

I will be voting.

And I will be voting for the ANC, once again because the African National Congress is the only political party that has consistently fought for, and struggled, under the harshest divisive machinations of the  Apartheid regime, to always maintain, as the Freedom Charter proclaims, that South Africa belongs to all those who live in it, regardless of race, caste, tribe, gender, sexual-orientation, and creed.

The future does not seem bleak to me, though I am not blind to the appalling inequality that scars our society, because I too believe that the aberrations of ANC members, MP’s, Cabinet Ministers, and even the President, shall not consume the ANC and it’s cause, which still is to ensure a better life for all South Africans. 

Is my reasoning flawed? Perhaps. 

Do I sound like a ‘my party right or wrong’ blind supporter? I probably do. 

But I shall be voting with my conscience, and my conscience will not allow me to vote for the myriad other parties that offer South Africa little else but platitudes, whilst stoking the embers of divisive toxicity. 

I will vote for the ANC, the only political party in South Africa that, I do believe, has the interests of all South Africans, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual-orientation, at its very core. 

There is still much work yet to be done before we can ever truly honour the ideals that Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, Slovo, Dadoo, Hani, and Mbeki personified.‎

It is only together, all South Africans striving in our own ways to realise the ideals that once meant so much, and that now, more than ever, must compel us to endeavour towards. 

Amandla!

The Struggle Continues!

And the struggles continue…

Mandela in Kerala

Madiba in Kerala.

A comrade from the southern Indian state of Kerala shared the following anecdote with my father sometime in the mid-1980’s in New Delhi …

… On a trip to his home state of Kerala, the comrade said,

“…I was on a small fishing boat with some other comrades, we were going to an anti-Apartheid meeting that had been organised in a small town.

During the course of the boat ride, I kept hearing the boat-man’s voice, as he was singing, and quite loudly too, a song in Malayalam,

And I kept hearing what sounded like the name ‘Mandela’, over and over again,

So I asked the boat-man who or what this ‘Mandela’ was?

“You come from the city, and YOU don’t know who MANDELA is?

South Africa: Freedom Day April 27 2013

1.

On the 27th day of April in Nineteen Ninety-Four,

Freedom was won, at long last.

The battles were many, the foe brutal,

Apartheid tore our southern tip of the continent of Africa apart,

it’s notions of racial-superiority,

its religious fundamentalism,

its fascist tendencies,

its beastly nature,

ripped the flesh off the skin of our collective selves,

but resistance to tyranny has always been a basic human aspiration,

and so resistance flourished.

2.

Ordinary folk,

school-teachers and machinists,

nurses and poets,

labourers and engineers,

lawyers and students,

resisted!

We remember you today,

as a copper African sun shines bright this Saturday morning in April of Two-Thousand and Thirteen,

we honour you, who fought,

Comrades all –

Walter Sisulu,

Nelson Mandela,

Joe Slovo,

Ahmed Kathrada,

Bram Fischer,

Steve Biko,

Solomon Mahlangu,

Vuyisile Mini,

Denis Goldberg,

and many many more,

those we know and love,

and those whose bones have now settled in our rich African soil,

those who died,

those who were executed,

those who were shot,

those who were tortured,

those who were killed,

and the countless who are still tortured today by the swords of memory,

the emotional and psychological torture,

that still rains down on the valiant ones and their families.

Families!

Families fractured, broken and scattered throughout the world,

fragments of a sister’s laugh, a daughter’s smile,
bite as harshly into the soul as did Apartheid’s cruel lashes of violence.

So many died, too many died,

and I remember them,

Dulcie September – Assassinated in Paris

Steve Biko – Tortured and Murdered in South Africa

Solomon Mahlangu – Hanged by the Apartheid State

Ahmed Timol – Tortured and Murdered

Bram Fischer – Died in Prison

Hector Petersen – Shot in Soweto ’76

David Webster – Killed

and many many more,

their blood flowing into the soil of our ancestors,

our country, our South Africa,

for all South Africans,

Black and white and brown and all the shades of humanity’s mosaic.

3.

Now we reflect,

now we must dissect,

the fruits of freedom,

thus far,
much has been achieved,

yet,

the struggles continue,

for employment,

health-care for all,

shelter and housing for all,

and my compatriots have earned it,

they have stewed in the mines,

deep beneath the soil,

for shiny metals and glittering glass.

The revolution is a work-in-progress,

true liberation shall be economic liberation,

where each and every South African,

can walk the land of our ancestors,

truly free.

We SHALL overcome!

Amandla!

Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

The Struggles Continue, Comrades…

Solomon Mahlangu: My Blood will Nourish the Tree that will Bear the Fruits of Freedom:

Solomon Mahlangu was trained as an MK soldier with a view to later rejoining the struggle in the country.

He left South Africa after the Soweto Uprising of 1976 when he was 19 years old, and was later chosen to be part of an elite force to return to South Africa to carry out a mission commemorating the June 16th 1976 Soweto student uprising.

After entering South Africa through Swaziland and meeting his fellow comrades in Duduza, on the East Rand (east of Johannesburg), they were accosted by the police in Goch Street in Johannesburg.

In the ensuing gun battle two civilians were killed and two were injured, and Mahlangu and Motloung were captured while acting as decoys so that the other comrade could go and report to the MK leadership.

Motloung was brutally assaulted by the police to a point that he suffered brain damage and was unfit to stand trial, resulting in Mahlangu facing trial alone.

He was charged with two counts of murder and several charges under the Terrorism Act, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Though the judge accepted that Motloung was responsible for the killings, common purpose was argued and Mahlangu was found guilty on two counts of murder and other charges under the Terrorism Act.

On 15 June 1978 Solomon Mahlangu was refused leave to appeal his sentence by the Rand Supreme Court, and on 24 July 1978 he was refused again in the Bloemfontein Appeal Court.

Although various governments, the United Nations, International Organizations, groups and prominent individuals attempted to intercede on his behalf, Mahlangu awaited his execution in Pretoria Central Prison, and was hanged on 6 April 1979.

His hanging provoked international protest and condemnation of South Africa and Apartheid.

In fear of crowd reaction at the funeral the police decided to bury Mahlangu in Atteridgeville in Pretoria.

On 6 April 1993 he was re-interred at the Mamelodi Cemetery, where a plaque states his last words:

‘My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom.

Tell my people that I love them.

They must continue the fight.’

Mahlangu died for a cause!

Salute!

The Struggle Continues…

(special thanks to a friend who shared this tribute to Solomon Mahlangu)

The Nameless

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|

Slipping through the sieve of history,

the nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are roads renamed, nor monuments built.

Not for the nameless are songs sung, nor ink spilled.

The nameless rest.

Their silent sacrifice,
quiet ordeal,
muted trauma,

remain interred,
amongst their remains.

The nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are doctorates conferred, nor eulogies recited.

Not for the nameless are honours bestowed, nor homages directed.

The nameless rest.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

in every step that we tread.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

for their spirit is not dead.

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“Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal”

– inscription at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier WWII in Moscow

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Special thanks to my dearest elder sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla, whose conversations with me about life as a non-white person growing up in pre and post-Apartheid South Africa prompted me to write this dedication to the countless, nameless South Africans of every colour, whose sacrifices and dedication in the struggle against Apartheid tyranny must never be forgotten.

My sister’s middle name ‘Nobandla’ which is an isiXhosa name and means “she who is of the people” was given by her godfather, Nelson Mandela, my father’s ‘best-man who could not be, as Nelson Mandela was unable to-make it to my parent’s wedding as he was in jail at the time in the old Johannesburg Fort. This was the 31st December 1961.

The Petty Posh-Wahzee – Liberation & Ostentation

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The Not-So Distant Past:

The fallen fighters for freedom, are unable to turn in their graves,
their battered, fragmented bones, mixed with a handful of torn rags,
are all that remain, a mute reminder of their selfless valiant sacrifice.

They endured brutal Apartheid harassment, detentions without trial,
torture in the cells, and mental anguish when loved ones disappeared,
they left their homeland, to continue the struggle against racial bigotry,
while countless others fought the scourge of white-minority rule at home.

Nelson Mandela and many, many others, spent their lives imprisoned,
on islands of stone, and on islands of the cruellest torture, yet they stood,
never bowing, never scraping, they stood, firm for ideals for which they were prepared to die,

and many, many comrades did die, at the hands of the callous oppressor,
and many, many comrades perished in distant lands, torn from their homes,
while the struggle continued, for decades, soaked in blood, in tears, in pain.

The Present:

19 years have passed, since freedom was secured at the highest of prices,
delivering unto us, this present, a gift of emancipation from servitude,

a freedom to walk this land, head held high, no longer second-class citizens,
in the land of our ancestors, whose voices we hear and need to heed today.

I do not care much for fashion, Lewis-Fit-On and Sleeves unSt.-Moron,
yet the ostentation that I witness baffles even my unsophisticated palate,

our ancestors’ plaintive whispers are being dismissed, left unheeded, as
we browse the aisles for more and more, always for more and yet more.

Asphyxiated by the excess of the Petty Posh-Wahzee, we find ourselves,
perched precariously on the edge, of a dissolution of all that is humane,

babies go hungry, wives are battered, our elders left in hospitals for hours,
I cringe as I scribble these words, perhaps too sanctimonious and preachy,

yet I know, deep in the marrow of my brittle bones, I know, I know, I know,
this tree of freedom planted by the nameless daughters and sons of Africa,

needs to be shielded, nurtured, protected from our very own baser impulses,
so that the precious tree of freedom, may bear the fruit that may feed us all,

for if not, then we are doomed, to tip over, and into the yawning abyss, we shall fall.

My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons.

Part Three: A Summer Digression.

And now, dear reader (may your patience be praised!), I am going to steer this ship of memories as we embark on a journey of emotions – a subjective voyage through the feelings that I have felt, the emotions that I have experienced during the course of my 40 year old life.

You, dear reader, may stop reading right now if you find outpourings of emotion and wearing one’s feelings on one’s sleeve not your cup of Earl-Grey! If however, and I sincerely hope you do decide to read through this ‘summer’ of life’s memories, I assure you that what you will read will be savage honesty, however painful and hard it is to bare one’s soul for all to see the flawed human-beings that we all are.

And so it was that just past my 18th birthday in September of 1990, I found myself ‘home’ in South Africa, after 18. years of dreaming what ‘home’ would be like and how my brother and sister and cousins and aunts and uncles would take me into their homes and lives.

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and kindness showered on me, the ‘returning’ boy who was not really returning, but was dipping his toes into the early 1990’s, a period of South African history, just preceding the first free and democratic election in 1994, that was one of the country’s most trying of times.

The Apartheid regime, having unbanned all political organisations and liberation movements and releasing political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and others, was still not willing to relinquish power, and had embarked on a cynical and dirty campaign of fomenting violence in the sprawling black townships in Johannesburg, Durban and other cities around the country.

There were killings and hit-squads that roamed and terrorised communities while negotiations between the Apartheid government and the African National Congress (ANC) offered hope and then broke down, and then were restarted until finally, on April the 27th, 1994, black South African, for the first time in their lives, cast their ballots which resulted in sweeping Nelson Mandela’s ANC into power, with Nelson Mandela or ‘Madiba’ as he is known becoming South Africa’s first black President.

I attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first truly democratically elected President in Pretoria on a crisp May 10th morning along with friends and comrades, and we openly wept as the South African Air-Force flew overhead, the flag of our new ‘rainbow’ nation fluttering below.

A Flash Back –

My early days in South Africa were ones of family dinners and visits to relatives and old family friends and comrades in the struggle. My father started work almost immediately at the ANC’s headquarters in central Johannesburg, and I attended my final year of high-school, also in central Johannesburg.

Looking back now, I see myself then as a caricature of the immigrant who just wants to fit in, always being on one’s best behaviour, and under no circumstances allowing the turmoil within to bubble to the surface.

I was born to parents who were non-religious, my father definitely more so than my mother, who ‘believed’ in God, though was never one to make a show of it.

I grew up not really knowing what religion I was born into, as my parents never, and though never is a strong word, it is applicable here, my parents never mentioned religion at home.

My mom would cook up a storm on Eid-ul-Fitr every year, the feast that is the culmination of the fasting month of Ramadaan, but then we never fasted or paid attention to religious ritual or practice. I can say that religion was absent from our home, whether we were in India, Cairo or Helsinki.

I am forever indebted to my parents for having raised me with, and this may sound pompous of me to say, humane values, rather than strictly religious ones, not that the two are mutually exclusive!

I attended a school in Delhi in the 1980’s, Springdales, an institution founded by two great humanitarians, Mrs. Rajni Kumar and her husband Mr. Yudhishter Kumar, both human-beings who possessed the highest qualities of compassion, humanity, and a burning sense of the need to tackle injustice, wherever and in whatever shape or form it was to be encountered.

My years at Springdales in Delhi, though I was hardly a promising academic student (having failed standard 8!), I now look back and am forever indebted to the culture of tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of station in life, religion, caste, gender or race, that my still-beloved Springdales inculcated in me.

The culture of Springdales School and the manner in which my parents raised me, has led to a life-long aversion to intolerance in any shape, colour or form, and a strong belief in the power of rational and critical thinking.

I thank my parents again, and my Springdales, for bestowing on me this invaluable gift.

A Flash Forward –

And so I find myself, now in the teen years of the new millennium, still always feeling that I am on the outside, looking in – and I find this vantage point to be, strangely, comfortable now, I must admit.

I do not have much time for religion or for cultural affiliations. Again, this is not meant to be offensive to anyone, these are the feelings I am comfortable with. I cannot stress this enough, just how my upbringing and my years at Springdales have hewn into my consciousness, the absolute need for the respect for all.

I am growing weary of talking about myself, as I am sure you, dear reader, are as well, and so I shall stop this monologue with the words of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara who when responding to a woman who also bore the ‘Guevara’ name and who had written to Che asking him where in Spain his ancestors came from. This was Che’s response …

“I don’t think you and I are very closely related but if you are capable of trembling with indignation each time that an injustice is committed in the world, we are comrades, and that is more important.”

Thank you, dear reader, for your patience, and for your taking the time to read these ramblings of mine.

TO BE CONTINUED…

My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons.

Part One: Winter –

There is a legend in Delhi that when a male-child is born, the parents are visited by a group of ‘Hijras’, a derogatory term used to describe the Transgender community. The troupe gather en-masse outside the home of the parents of the infant boy and sing and dance, and offer blessings to the new arrival, while in return a small sum of money is offered to the visiting party and all returns to the relative ‘normalcy’ that prevails in a home that has just experienced the birth of a child.

These were the early 1970’s, and this story was told to me in great detail by my parents, who themselves were recently arrived political exiles in India, having to leave South Africa, where my father was arrested along with Nelson Mandela and 156 others in the infamous ‘Treason Trial’ of 1956.

The ‘main’ “Treason Trial” lasted four years till 1960, though the entire trial lasted till 1961, when the 30 remaining accused (of which my father was one) were acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The outcome of the trial was that all 156 were acquitted of the charge of ‘High Treason’.

During the 5 years of the trial my father and his co-accused had to travel daily to court in Pretoria from Johannesburg, some 60 kilometres away.

The accused were all charged with ‘High Treason’ and faced the death penalty if found guilty. My father was the youngest accused at 22 years of age.

A Flash Forward –

Later, in 1963, when my father was arrested again and held at Marshall Square Police Station in central Johannesburg, my father and three fellow political detainees managed to convince a young Afrikaner warder, Johan Greeff, into helping the four escape from the downtown Johannesburg prison. He was promised financial remuneration for his cooperation.

The news of ‘The Great Escape’ embarrassed the Apartheid state at a time when it felt that it had crushed the African National Congress (ANC), with most of its leaders either in jail, or having gone underground. The ‘Sharpeville’ massacre of 1960 resulted in the Apartheid state declaring a State of Emergency and banning the African National Congress (ANC) and other political organisations.

My father, Moosa ‘Mosie’ Moolla and his three fellow escapees (Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat, Harold Wolpe, and Arthur Goldreich) parted ways and moved from one safe-house to another, until my father, heavily disguised, managed to slip through the border into neighbouring ‘Bechuanaland’, now the country Botswana.

Goldreich and Wolpe managed to disguise themselves as clerics and made their way to Swaziland, a British High Commission Territory, from where they flew over to Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

The South African authorities offered a reward of 5000 Pounds Sterling for the capture of any of the escapees.

Following the escape my father and His fellow escapees were separately sheltered by members of the ANC underground for a few days.

They then parted ways for safety reasons and Abdulhay Jassat made his way to Bechuanaland where he sought political asylum.

By the time my father made his way about a month after the escape to Bechuanaland, the two white colleagues ( my father and Jassat are of Indian-origin) Wolpe and Goldreich had flown over to Tanganyka (now Tanzania) where the ANC’s external headquarters were located in Dar-es-Salaam.

It should be noted that a chartered plane to ferry ANC students and Wolpe and Goldreich was blown-up on the tarmac by South African agents in the early hours of the morning.

Wolpe and Goldreich then flew over on another flight. Jassat followed suit.

An Interesting Fact –

My father and Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat were both born on June 12th, 1934, and the two were arrested and escaped from prison together, and subsequently lived 30 years of their lives in exile, and both men returned to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners, and the unbanning of the ANC and all liberation movements, and the return of political exiles.

As I type these words, my father and ‘Charlie’ live a few kilometres apart in Johannesburg and meet fairly regularly – mostly at functions or events held to commemorate the years of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.

But more about my father in a bit.

A Flash Back –

My mother, Zubeida or ‘Zubie’, a nurse at the time, and expecting my brother Azad (which means ‘to be free’ in Urdu) was subsequently arrested and detained while having to endure interrogation about her husband’s whereabouts. Azad was born in late 1963, a few months after my father’s escape.

Thus my father did not see his first-born son till 5 years later in 1968 when my mother and young brother and sister reunited with my father on the Tanzanian border. My father had by then joined the Armed-Wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto-we-Sizwe, or MK, ‘The Spear of the Nation’, which was formed in 1960 following the ANC’s decision to abandon non-violent opposition against Apartheid and to take up arms.

My sister Tasneem Nobandla, ‘Nobandla’ or ‘she who is of the people’ in isiXhosa was given her Xhosa middle name by my father’s comrade-in-arms and his Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who couldn’t make it to my parent’s wedding because he was in detention at the time, a few years earlier!

My sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla was born on October the 14th 1962

‘Nobandla’ was named when Mosie asked his comrade and Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who could not make it to his wedding to name his new-born daughter. The two men had spent time in jail together in adjoining cells a year earlier in 1962.

Times were tough in those early years of exile, with my father off on military training with the newly formed ANC’s ‘Spear of the Nation’, and my mother having to shoulder the extreme difficulties of life in exile, in a strange country, having left her family behind, and having to essentially fend for herself and her two young children.

This led to a decision that continues to haunt my family to this day.

According to my parents, the situation in exile in those early years of the Anti-Apartheid struggle abroad was so dire, and my father being away training in guerrilla tactics and the like, while my mother worked as a nurse trying to raise two young kids, suffering from bouts of Malaria and being short on money as well, a decision was made to send my young brother and sister back to South Africa to remain in the care of my maternal grandparents, in the hope that when things in exile ‘improved’ or at least settled a bit, the kids would leave the care of their grandparents and join their parents abroad.

This did not happen, and this is one of the most difficult parts of our family’s history to write and talk openly about. Due to circumstances beyond their control, and due to a myriad other reasons, my young brother and sister remained separated from our parents, and grew up in Apartheid South Africa with my maternal grandparents in Johannesburg.

My mother, who passed away in 2008 after a lengthy battle with Motor-Neurone Disease, carried the pain and the guilt of that decision till she died. My father still lives with the guilt and the trauma of being separated from his children, and his family for over 30 years.

My brother Azad and my sister Tasneem, had to endure the unimaginable trauma of knowing that their parents were alive and on distant shores somewhere, yet being utterly helpless in joining them and living as a family, albeit a family in political exile.

The wounds are deep, and the trauma is still raw, all these years later, and my mother died broken-hearted, having to endure the separation of a mother from her children, as well as having to deal with a husband who was engaged full-time in the ANC and the anti-Apartheid struggle in exile.

It is only now that I can understand my mother’s strength of character and fortitude in remaining sane under circumstances that no parent should ever have to go through.

My siblings, on the hand, had to grow up with grandparents, and this has led to our family having to continuously grapple with the scars of a family torn-apart by Apartheid.

My brother Azad, a lawyer, is married with two beautiful young girls, and my sister, a teacher, is married with four beautiful daughters as well.

We all live in Johannesburg, and though some progress has been made in reconciling our family, it is very painful to say that there are many unresolved emotional wounds, which are completely understandable given the circumstances.

TO BE CONTINUED…

My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons.

Part Two: Spring

The narrative here is neither chronological, nor is it meant to be a complete history of my family thus far – that would be highly presumptuous of me to attempt – so what you, dear reader, are reading (praise be to your perseverance!) are the disjointed thoughts and memories and anecdotal and other stories that every family shares.

I must state that the facts about my father’s internment and escape are all verifiable using a web-search engine, as are the facts about my parent’s involvement in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, and my father’s subsequent appointment by then President Nelson Mandela as South African Ambassador to Iran (1995 – 1999) and later by President Thabo Mbeki as South African High Commissioner to Pakistan (2000 – 2004) in the newly democratic country that countless South Africans sacrificed their lives to achieve.

My parents often spoke of the privilege that they felt to be alive and return to the country of their birth after spending virtually their entire lives as foot-soldiers in the African National Congress, the liberation movement that included in its ranks giants of South African history – Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Dr. Moses Kotane, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Chris Hani, only to name a few, and with no disrespect meant to the many, many more that I have not named.

The ‘privilege’ my parents spoke about was that they were the ‘fortunate’ ones, the ones who lived to see the non-racial, non-sexist, democratic constitution being drafted, and a South Africa without the crime against humanity that was Apartheid.

So many comrades and friends and fellow compatriots did not live to cast their vote on that glorious April day in 1994, and to see Nelson Mandela being inaugurated as South Africa’s first freely elected black President, a President who represented the whole of South African society.

A Flash Back –

And so it was that I was born in 1972 in an India that had just been engaged in a war with Pakistan, which in turn led to the establishment of a new country – Bangladesh.

India at the time was the in midst of austere Nehruvian Socialism, and my parents who had spent the mid and late-1960’s in Tanzania, Zambia and Britain, were deployed by the African National Congress to India, where my father was the Chief-Representative of the ANC.

My early childhood years were spent in India, and I recall the sweltering Delhi summers and the torrential monsoons that offered respite, albeit briefly, from the furnace of the Indian summer.

When I was 6 years old, my father was deployed by the ANC to be its Chief-Representative in Cairo, Egypt, and to be the ANC Representative at the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO).

This was 1978, and as a 6 year old, I am afraid I have very few fond memories of Cairo – we lived on a meagre stipend and though we lived in an apparently ‘better’ suburb of Cairo called Zamalek, an island on the Nile, the flat we occupied was on the ground-floor of a high-rise apartment block and it was damp, dark, and had the unfortunate distinction of being right next to the apartment block’s garbage-disposal area!

This meant a steady stream of litter, literally being flung from the windows of our neighbours in the flats above us, and often landing with a crash of shattered glass right outside our tiny kitchen.

Cairo was also where I had to unlearn the Hindi I had learnt in Delhi and pick up Arabic, which I did as most 6 year olds do when required by circumstance to learn a new language.

I faintly remember the Presidents’ Sadat-Carter meetings around the time of the Camp David Peace Accord signed between Israel and Egypt and my days were spent riding my bicycle through the dusty lanes of Zamalek.

One memory that is particularly poignant, is that of my mother, with her head in her hands, sobbing as she pined for her two children at the opposite end of the African continent. I remember many days walking back from school and before stepping into our apartment block, seeing my mother through the window of what was my room, head in hands, crying.

It is a memory that I carry with me still.

Another indelible memory is when we visited the WWII museum of the battle of al-Alamein, in al-Alamein. Walking past the graves of the fallen in the war against Nazism, we came across many South African names, and I remember vividly how my father explained to me what Fascism and Nazism meant, and how important it was at the time for the world to fight it.

As we walked through the tombstones of the WWII soldiers from all parts of the world, my father explained to me how Apartheid in South Africa was a scourge (though not in those words!) like Fascism and Nazism, and how just as the world had joined forces to fight Hitler and Mussolini, we too had to fight against Apartheid in South Africa, and that is why I was not at ‘home’ with my brother and sister.

‘Home’. That was something for a 9 or 10 year old to hear, because I had grown up always being told about ‘home’ being South Africa, which was as distant to me as the stars above the Pyramids. I was aware from as young as I can remember my parents’ sometimes angry insistence that home was not where we happened to be, at a particular time, whether in Delhi or in Cairo, but in distant South Africa.

I however, could not understand why ‘home’ was not where I was. In Delhi I spoke Hindi like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our little flat on the 1st floor of a block of flats in Greater Kailash. But then came the move to Cairo, and in no time at all I completely forgot my Hindi, and learnt Arabic like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our dinghy flat in Zamalek.

And then in 1982, my father was re-deployed from Cairo back to Delhi, and suddenly there I was, 10 years old, meeting my old friends and not knowing a word of Hindi!

So the idea of ‘belonging’, of ‘home’, of being rooted in a place and time was alien to me from a very young age. I remember dreading when the next ‘move’ would be, given that my parents were political exiles and often having to pack up our few belongings and travelling at very short notice. I do not want it to sound like it was particularly unpleasant in any way, because there also was the thrill a child has of the packing and the plane rides, and the new places that were so, so new to me. Cairo and Delhi probably had only the following things in common: the heat, the population, and the fact that both Egypt under Gamal Abdul Nasser and India under Jawaharlal Nehru were two of the four countries (the others being Sukarno’s Indonesia and Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia) that founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) during the Cold War.

A Flash Forward –

The year is 1990, and my parents and I found ourselves in Helsinki, Finland, where in November 1989 the ANC deployed my father as ANC Secretary to the World Peace Council (WPC) which had its headquarters in Helsinki.

For the 17 year old that I was to suddenly, in a matter of weeks, pack up and leave high-school, friends and a girl-friend at the time, was particularly harsh for me.

I remember spending the winter of 1989 holed up in our two-bedroomed flat in Helsinki, not knowing what had just taken place. I pined for the girl I was (kind of!) dating back in school in Delhi, and I was thoroughly shocked by the below-zero temperatures of winter in Scandinavia, and thoroughly disheartened by the short days and long, long nights. I did love the snow however!

Then it happened. We heard the news that Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners in South Africa were to be released, unconditionally, and that the liberation movements, and the ANC were to be unbanned!

This changed everything.

It was a chaotic and heady time, with high hopes and renewed life as the once impossible dream of returning ‘home’ was to be realised.

A very memorable trip was made by my parents and I, by ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, Sweden. An overnight ferry-ride, the trip was magical, for we were to meet Nelson Mandela, free after 27 years on Robben Island and in Sweden to meet the President of the ANC, comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, Mandela’s old friend, law-partner and life-long comrade in the ANC. President Oliver Tambo, who had been in exile for almost 30 years was a dynamic and charismatic and intellectual giant who had built the ANC in exile from being just another liberation movement in exile into the voice of the South African freedom struggle, launching successful campaigns to isolate Apartheid South Africa from the world community.

Unfortunately President Oliver Tambo had suffered a stroke and was convalescing as a guest of the Swedish government, themselves staunch allies in the fight against Apartheid. Nelson Mandela met his old comrade in Stockholm amd we met the godfather of my sister, and the would-be best-man of my father in a hall in Stockholm. I have photographs of the tears and and joy as Mandela hugged my father and mother, and as old comrades including Ahmed Kathrada who also spent 27 years in jail with Mandela and the other Rivonia Trial accused, met after nearly 30 years! I was overwhelmed, as were countless others to finally meet the man who had become the face of the worldwide struggle against Apartheid.

That my parents knew the Mandelas as young friends and comrades only made the reunion on a Scandinavian day all the more special.

There was a sense of vindication, of oppression though still not defeated, but definitely in its final moments, as we acknowledged that we all stood on the cusp of something so many had not only dreamed about, but dedicated their entire lives to achieve.

We spent a few days in Stockholm and Uppsala, and then hopped on the ferry back to Helsinki, to finally begin preparations for the return home.

The trip we made was on freezing November night, when we boarded a train from Helsinki to Moscow, and then flew to Maputo in Mozambique where we spent a night, before boarding a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.

I will never forget the stifled sobs of my mother as the pilot announced we were flying over South African soil.

My parents and I returned to South Africa on a November day in 1990, as part of a batch of returning political exiles.

I was 18 years old and met most of my family members for the first time.

To be Continued…

(for Lata Sethi’s late-mother, who was my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi)

…a wife left South Africa in the 1960’s to join her husband

who was in exile at the time…

 
in 1970 the husband was sent by the African National Congress to India to be its representative there…

 
the husband and wife spent two years in Bombay…

 
one afternoon the husband fell and broke his leg…

the wife knocked on their neighbour’s door, in an apartment complex in Bombay

the neighbour was an old Punjabi lady…

the wife asked the neighbour for a doctor to see to the injured husband…

a Parsi (Zoroastrian) ‘Bone-Setter’ was promptly summoned…

the husband still recalls his anxiety of seeing ‘Bone-Setter’ written on the Parsi gentleman’s bag…

by the way, the ‘Bone-Setter’ worked his ancient craft and surprisingly for the husband, his broken leg healed quite soon…

but still on that day, while the ‘Bone-Setter’ was seeing to the husband…

the wife and the old Punjabi lady from next door got to talking about this and that and where these new Indian-looking wife and husband were from as their accents were clearly not local…

the wife told the elderly Punjabi lady that the husband worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had left to serve the ANC from exile…

and that they had left their two children behind in South Africa and that they were now essentially political refugees…

the Punjabi lady broke down and wept uncontrollably…

she told the foreign woman that she too had had to leave her home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on her back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and Pakistan was formed and at a time when Hindus from Pakistan fled to India and vice versa…

the Punjabi lady then asked the foreign woman her name… 

‘Zubeida’, but you can call me ‘Zubie’…

the Punjabi woman hugged Zubie some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, wept, sharing a shared pain…

the Punjabi woman told Zubie that she was her ‘sister’ from that day on, and that she felt that pain of exile and forced migration and what being a refugee felt like…

Zubie and her husband Mosie became the closest of friends with the Punjabi neighbours who had become refugees themselves, as ‘Muslim’ Pakistan was created…

then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress office was based…

the elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes…

a year or two later, the elderly Punjabi lady’s daughter Lata married Ravi Sethi and the couple moved to Delhi…

the elderly Punjabi lady called Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a ‘sister’ in Delhi…

Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi…

This was in the mid-1970’s…

Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, and stays true till today, though Zubie is no more, and the elderly Punjabi lady is no more…

the son and the husband still have a bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi…

a bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two continents across the barriers of creed and shared anguish…

a bond strong and resilient, forged by the pain and trauma of a shared experience…

and that is why, and I shall never stop believing this, that hope shines still, for with all the talk of this and of that, and of that and of this, there will always be a simple woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the ‘other’ in as a sister, a fellow human…

and that is why there will always be hope…

hope in the midst of this and of that and of that and of this…

hope…

(for Lata Sethi’s late-mother, who was my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi)

Our Fallen

Our fallen
never forgotten
they remain interred
in the conscience of each of us
in our moments of grateful reflection
we honour the memory of them all
for their sacrifice still nourishes
the spirit of us who remained
and so they breathe and live
and laugh and cry within us
never to be forgotten
our fallen

you are our eternal inspiration

our hopes
our dreams
our conscience

you gave everything of yourself
so that we may live and love and laugh and dream and breathe the air of freedom, dignity and liberty

you lead us through the darkest days with your unshakeable principles and your belief in us

you brought peace and freedom to us

and when at times we felt all was lost

you stayed with us as a father would

you lent us your wisdom
and you chastised us too

and we are here today because of you
you stayed with us, Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela, through all the crests and valleys of our turbulent times

you stayed with us, father
today, we hope and pray and wish
that you, our father Madiba
stay with us still
stay with us, Madiba
stay with us…