Tag Archive: democracy


the hydra …

​the hydra slinks, soaking up the hate filled air, its callous bombast thrashes against the ramparts of democracy, shearing off truth, leaving only putrid jingoism.


the hydra multiplies, slashing off its wretched head, only to spawn more rancid fascism, permeating through the breeze, infecting susceptible minds, weaving and bobbing as it makes its way through the corridors of power.


this is now. 


the hydra today.

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 … … …

reactive indifference … …

grab my super-sized meal, tossing some coins in a jar for the lesser ones,

the lesser ones who are either too lazy or lacking drive and entrepreneurial gumption,

smaller government?

a government that has abrogated its social compact with its citizenry:

social security for the jobless,
homes for the homeless,
dignified and professional medical care for the ill and elderly,

is that too much to ask for, after the billions spent on TV ads and mock debates,

but be warned:

trump may be around this fall.

and oh yes, i most definitely agree –

God help us all!

May the 10th, 1994

image

President Nelson Mandela's Inauguration 1994

Madiba lives …

Madiba

image

Madiba stamp

Remember Us

Remember Us

image

“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…

image

memories of Madiba …

no more photographs, please!

image

( Sweden 1990 )

A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

image

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

image

with apologies to WH Auden

With apologies to W.H. Auden

(for W.H. Auden)

tomorrow for the grueling work to begin, the rebuilding of trust, the sweat and the toil

tomorrow for reflection, the search for a new beginning, the hard tasks that lie in wait

tomorrow for the farmers to till the land, for the teachers to share free knowledge to all

tomorrow for the effort, to strive to build a new nation, to shake off the weight and the burdens of the past

tomorrow for all of that…

but today

today, the gleeful, joyous, teary-eyed celebration of freedom…

Who Killed the Marikana Miners?*

who killed the miners at Marikana?

definitely not the executive

nor the executives
far removed from the grime
and the slime

Who killed the miners at Marikana?

not the Prez
and not even the Press for a change

strange

so who killed the miners at Marikana?

the unions perhaps
or the errant miner
led astray

in that obscene demand for better pay

who killed the miners at Marikana?

not armed cops,
firing bullets of lead into the back of the head

execution-style it’s been said

who killed the miners at Marikana?

it seems no one can be found

as bodies decompose deep under gold dust ground

while families grieve

there
ain’t no one around to take the fall

so
who killed the Marikana Miners?

no one

no one at all

* inspired by the protest song “Who Killed Davey Moore”, a topical song written in 1963 by American folk singer/songwriter Bob Dylan.

June 16th 2015 South Africa

June 16th 2015
South Africa

1.

the blood of the valiant flowed,

absorbed by our famished soil,

our battered pained earth,

moistened by beads of collective sweat,

the endless toil,

where the valiant rest.

2.

or do they?

do the valiant rest
beneath our African skies?

do the valiant rest?

no.

they do not rest.

they recoil.

this is not what they fought for.

we’ve betrayed them.

we’ve betrayed the core …

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

I Want to Walk with You …

I Want to Walk with You …

I want to walk with you with our heads held high,

Never cowering,
never with heads bowed,

With our feet on this blessed soil,

and our dreams reaching for the sky.

Dreams of simple joys and of peace and of mirth,

For all our fellow travelers on this delightful earth.

Dreams not of wealth or of positions of high standing or of mighty power,

Simple dreams of a walk in the aftermath of a Johannesburg evening rain-shower.

Dreams of bread and water and dignity and shelter and clothes for all,

Dreams where all fellow travelers may together walk this earth proud and tall.

I want to walk with you, my fellow traveler,

with our heads held high,

Never pandering to power, never silent in the face of its abuse,

Always firm in our convictions,

that we can all make peace if we only try.

If we try to stop and think and sometimes not to look the other way,

If we practice what our different creeds really teach,

we will surely see that day,

When we all,
fellow travelers,

may walk with our heads held high,

Never cowering,

never with our heads bowed,

With our feet on this blessed soil,

and our collective dreams reaching for the sky.

Call me silly, call me naive, call me hopeless, and if you must, call me weak,

But is this not the common good,

that our different creeds and cultures all seek?

uBuntu …

uBuntu …

We are here today,

and today we pause to remember those who passed before us.

We walk along many paths,

crisscrossing myriad strands that bind us as one,

strands of conscience,

painfully forged by the ancestors.

We imbibe the spirit of uBuntu,

giving thanks to those who shed blood and sweat and tears,

selflessly guiding us ever onwards,

onwards, yes,

yet ever conscious,

that we are all,

all of us,

hewn from the winds,

forged in the depths,

our jagged edges far, far more radiant,

than dead flawless diamonds.

We are here today,

and we stand as one,

together braving the thunder rolling across the plains,

soaking in the rejuvenating blessings,

bathing us in the rains,

the heartbeat of Africa,

throbbing within us all,

whispering,

guiding,

comforting us,

that,

whenever we fall,

we need only stretch out our hands,

to be lifted up again,

helped back on our feet,

to stand once again,

together,

always, always together,

tall.

The spirit of uBuntu,

flows through our collective veins,

urging us to see,

to hear,

to share the light of peace and of unity,

for we are all,

all of us,

sculpted from one whole,

one mould,

far, far more priceless,

than dead nuggets of gold.

“I am because we are”.

Ngiyabonga, Nkosiyama …

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

The Battle for Kobane…

The Battle for Kobane…

The black flag of ISIS limply flutters on the eastern outskirts,

of Kobane.

The blood flows,
through narrow streets,

a ghost – town,

it’s people fleeing from the butchers’ knives,

refugees now,

in limbo,

while the parched desert sun sets on the battlefield.

If Kobane falls,

we shall all be on our knees,

naked and exposed,

to the void that is ISIS.

May the brave resistance soldier on,

under – equipped,

under – fed,

under constant siege,

yet they fight on,

against the backdrop of toothless air strikes,

as innocent blood flows,

and flows.

LONG LIVE THE RESISTANCE!

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

The Traveller and the Baobab Tree …

1.

A summer breeze,
drifts down lonesome pathways and byways and alleyways,

touching worlds,

torn apart.

The breeze engulfs,
a pristine sky of blue,

while,
scattering the murmuring clouds,

that blanket the blazing African heavens,

in swirls and immaculate shrouds.

2.

A passing shower,
of gentle misty rain,

settles,

on freshly scented-earth.

It soothes,

it caresses,

the exhausted thoughts,

of,

a weary traveller,

who sits,

alone, all alone,

under a Baobab tree.

3.

The traveller walks alone,

at peace with the fragrant soil,

collecting memories of smiles embraced along the way.

4.

Finally, the wandering soul,

seeks rest,

finding peace at last,

yet …

yet …

knowing its price,

is to let go …

… of,

each memory,

and every smile,

that once burned true,

but now,
awaits release,

from the ache of the lingering past

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

https://mobile.twitter.com/hashtag/notinmyname

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 Comrade Chris Hani (1942 – 1993)

Mowed down
by hot lead,

your blood flowed
into our African soil.

Murdered you, yes, they did.

Silence you, they never will,

for your voice,

your spirit,

speaks to us still!

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…

NOSTALGIA: My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons – Part 2 by Afzal Moola, Johannesburg, South Africa.

NOSTALGIA: My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons – Part 1 by Afzal Moola, Johannesburg, South Africa.

For Tony Benn (1925 – 2014)

For Tony Benn
( 1925 – 2014 )

You have not passed silently into the coming night,

your conscience towers above the brittle edifice of capital and of greed,

for as long as there remain hungry mouths to feed,

your soul is enmeshed within our collective whole.

You have not passed silently into the coming night.

Your battle is done,

the war!

the war is far from won!

So we pick up your scarlet standard,

and we continue to rattle the foundations at No. 10,

though today,

today,

we pause,

today we say,

‘Hamba Kahle’*,

to you,

our comrade,

our leader,

our towering ‘Big Benn’.

for Anthony Neil Wedgwood “Tony” Benn.

(3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014)

* – ‘Hamba Kahle’ means ‘go well’ in isiXhosa/isiZulu

Madiba (1918 – 2013)

Madiba.

( 1918 – 2013 )

Madiba, you are resting now.

Madiba, you have joined the ancestors.

Madiba, you are with your comrades.

Madiba, you are with us.

Madiba, you are within us.

Madiba, you live!

Madiba lives!

He lives!

He lives!

He lives…

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…

The Women

The Women

(for the countless women, names unknown, who bore the brunt of Apartheid, and who fought the racist system at great cost to themselves and their families, and for my mother, Zubeida Moolla)

Pregnant, your husband on the run,
your daughter, a child, a few years old,

they hauled you in, these brutish men,
into the bowels of Apartheid’s racist hell.

They wanted information, you gave them nothing,
these savage men, who skin happened to be lighter,

and white was right in South Africa back then,

but, you did not cower, you stood resolute,

you, my mother, faced them down, their power,
their ‘racial superiority’, their taunts, their threats.

You, my mother, would not, could not break,

You stood firm, you stood tall.

You, like the countless mothers did not break, did not fall.

You told me many things, of the pains, the struggles,

the scraping for scraps, the desolation of separation
from your beloved Tasneem and your beloved Azad,

my elder sister and brother, whom I could not grow
up with, your beloved children separated by time, by place,

by monstrous Apartheid, by brutish men,
whose skin just happened to be lighter.

You told me many things, as I grew older,
of the years in exile, of the winters that grew ever colder.

You were a fighter, for a just cause,
like countless other South African women,

you sacrificed much, you suffered the pangs,
of memories that cut into your bone, your marrow,

you resisted a system, an ideology, brutal and callous and narrow.

Yes, you lived to see freedom arrive, yet you suffered still,
a family torn apart, and struggling to rebuild a life,

all the while, nursing a void, that nothing could ever fill.

I salute you, mother, as I salute the nameless mothers,

the countless sisters, daughters, women of this land,
who fought, sacrificing it all for taking a moral stand.

I salute you, my mother, and though you have passed,
your body interred in your beloved South African soil,

you shall remain, within me, an ever-present reminder,

of the cost of freedom, the struggles, the hunger, the toil.

I salute you!

(for the brave women of South Africa, of all colours,
who fought against racial discrimination and Apartheid)

The Beach of Promises

The Beach of Promises

1.

Fingers entwined, barely touching,
turquoise waters teasing your dancing toes,

strolling along that serene deserted beach,
our promised dreams within aching reach.

2.

Hands clasped, holding on,
sea-breezes tickling the nape of your neck

walking together, alone, vowing to never breach,
the dreams dreamed on that faraway velvet beach.

3.

Hands in my pockets, alone,
traces of you linger, teasing,

lost in my scribbles, your memory fading out of reach,

my thoughts ablaze, now and then,
catching a whiff of your fragrance,

wafting through alleyways of nostalgia,
your hand in mine on our pristine beach.

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.

My Madness, Me

Madness

Confined by this straight-jacket,
strapped in, numb and dumbed,
a washed-out, has-been, also-ran,

body, eyes, the equilibrium of mind,
rattling like stones in an old tin-can.

Still, I am,

I am,

and I am unchained,

my dreams taking flight, soaring,
above these claustrophobic walls,
of synapses, and dungeons of stone,

swooping through green valleys,
taking a detour to savour the joys,

soaked in torrential, evergreen memories,
of a younger man, with passion in his bone.

I am.

My wings unclipped, unshackled, free,

I am, and though I am unable to see,

I am.

At long last,

me.

The Sound of Distant Ankle Bells

Memories of those delicate tinkling bells,
casually fastened around calloused feet,

take hold of my waking moments,

and fling my thoughts back to a distant time,
where folk-songs were heartily sung,
joyful, yet hopelessly out of rhyme.

I barely saw her, a construction labourer perhaps,
hauling bricks, cement, anything, on a scorching Delhi day,
while in the semi-shade of a Gulmohar tree, her infant silently lay.

A cacophony of thoughts such as these swirl around,
yanking me away from the now, to my cow-dung littered childhood playground.

Now, a lifetime of displacement has hushed the jangling chorus of the past,
to a faint trickle of sounds, as distant as an ocean heard inside tiny sea-shells,

and,

I know, that the orchestral nostalgic crescendo, rises, dips, and swells,
as tantalisingly near, yet a world of time away, as were the tinkling of her ankle-bells.

She

She

She smiled, gently,
her warmth infusing me,
with a serene stillness of time.

She settled, slowly,
in my waking thoughts,
a soothing balm of simple joy.

She remains, scribbled,
on the walls of my fractured heart,
memories of happiness that once breathed…

…and is no more

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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…

 

I remember the tears she shed,

as she longed for her distant abode,

she wept often then, as she pined for her children, Tasneem & Azad,

 

and felt the future looked bleak, on that dim, lonely road.

 

I remember the tears she shed,

when that telegram came one afternoon,

‘regret to inform you stop father passed away stop’,

 

She wept often after that, for their last goodbye had been said too soon.

 

I remember the tears she shed,

on that glorious day in a February not that long ago,

when the prisoner finally walked out, breathing the free air,

 

she wept less after that, for then she knew where they were to go.

 

I remember the tears she shed,

soaring high above the clouds heading back to her land,

those tears came out in soft sobs, but her eyes were smiling,

 

defiant and full of new hope, as she held tightly on to his wrinkled hand.

 

I remember the tears she shed,

some years later, on that peaceful late April morning,

when she stood and proudly bore the ink on her aging thumb,

 

she wept a lot that April evening, knowing that a new day was dawning.

 

I also remember that on a Thursday not long ago,

as she was slipping away slowly, she seemed not to weep,

after all the miles and places, and after all the tears that she had cried,

 

I remember that she wept little then, as she drifted off into an eternal sleep.

 

(for my mother, Zubeida Moolla 1934 – 2008)

 

 

Remember us…

(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…

And When the People Rise!

and when the people rise

exhausted

of being bludgeoned

by the jackboot of suppression

 

the demand is simple

 

change

 

for the better

 

not the hollow, empty rhetoric of ‘freedom’

heard in the corridors of power

 

the demand is simple

 

change

 

for the better

 

a better life

devoid of the tyranny of rampant power

without the imposition of mores and norms

free of the shackles of the party-line

the religious diktat

the militaristic hammer

 

and when the people rise

inflamed

by the ceaseless abuse of power

as the old-guard refuses to see the writing scrawled across the wall

 

‘change’

 

a simple demand

 

for the better

 

a better life

for the living and for the ones still to be born

 

the writing scrawled across the wall, and walls across the world

 

is simple

 

‘change’

 

for the better

a new way to forge the future

with fresh ideas and the opening up of the boulevards

of opportunity for those who have remained outside for too long

 

and when the people rise

hopeful

of the promise of a new dawn

the future is a blank-slate lying amidst the debris

 

for if the rising of the people

prevails

a beginning may be written anew

out of the seed of change which into a tree of promise grew

 

a new beginning may be written afresh

with the values of simple humanity and gentle tolerance

so that what has passed and what has been endured may never

be visited again on those to come, and on those who bear the wounds on their flesh

 

for when the rising of the people

prevails

the road ahead may be fraught with thorns and more pain

for change is pock-marked with the scars of the past, and the memories do indeed remain

 

so when the rising of the people

prevails

the hope is for the common good, for the tolerance of the one and of all

 

the hope is for a better, more just today, and a tomorrow where the ideals of justice and of truth are firmly rooted, never to be shaken

 

the hope is that in the name of peace and humanity, may the new oath be taken

 

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

‘Freedom’.
‘Justice’.
‘Democracy’.

Three words,
lost to us.

Plundered by the few,
stripped naked and ravaged,
pummeled into submission.

Three words,
taken from us.

Usurped so casually,
stolen and cleaved,
left meaningless.

Three words,
strangled and violated.

No more.

Not today.

Today, we reclaim the ideals,
the billion voices,
all straining to be heard.

Today, we take back our truth,
our collective aspiration,
still yearning for the harvest.

Today, we sing the hymns of freedom,
as we gather at the gates of justice,
while mourning the paralysis of democracy.

‘Freedom’.
‘Justice’.
‘Democracy’.

Three words,
that we shall wrest back.

Three words,
that have nurtured our dreams.

‘Freedom’.
‘Justice’.
‘Democracy’.

Three words,
for which we all have bled.

Three words,
word-jacked and abused,
that are ours once more.

‘Freedom’.
‘Justice’.
‘Democracy’.

Three words,
that shall remain tightly wrapped,
around our collective core

When Tyrants Tremble

when tyrants tremble
at the fury of those who tremble no more

their veneer of stability seems rotten to the core

when the trembling ones shake off their long-hushed fear

the trembling ones
tremble now with a rage that injustice everywhere can hear

when tyrants tremble
as the dispossessed shake their foundations of tyrannical conceit

tyrants tremble
when the common ones expose the phantoms of tyranny’s deceit

when the trembling ones
refuse to be cowed and bowed and beaten down again

the trembling ones
scream their vehemence as they have little to lose and freedom and dignity to gain

when tyrants tremble
their trembling resounds and echoes around the world

tyrants tremble
then in each far-flung tyranny at the peoples’ flag being unfurled

and finally when the trembling ones
take back the citadels, the streets, the squares, and the parks

the trembling ones
send a message to power that revolutions may be triggered by the merest of livid sparks

and that tyranny may reign for a decade or a generation or even two

but tyranny must eventually succumb to the rage of the common ones that appears suddenly out of the bright clear blue

this isn’t a warning or a threat or a declaration of ill intent

this is a sober lesson in history for the peoples’ history with oppressive stasis can never be content

when tyrants tremble
they should know that there will someday come a trembling surprise

for the garbage heap of history patiently awaits each tyrant’s wretched demise