Tag Archive: oppression


the immigrant at home …

the immigrant at home

image

fatigued
pained

cast adrift
shunned aside

living
existing
on
islands of despair

deprivation
death

human beings
you and i

who just yesterday
or perhaps many lives ago

were
hounded
persecuted
jailed

cursed
spat on

rendered
alien at home

and
then

lost at sea

mere cattle
to be hauled

onto desolate cages

mere cargo
in the
economics of flesh

and
who
now

are
everywhere

cursed
spat on

and
told

to go home

image

silence swells
drowning out the ceaseless chitter-chatter of days

innumerable
lost somewhere along these pathways

and having walked upon a few

and
crawled many more

i too
feel

that feeling

of feeling
bereft of hope

ah but

sprinkle some dreams coated with lies

glazed over
empty hollowed eyes

avert your sight
when they
stare at you

all cold
and
washed-up
and
dead

their
cold gaze

questioning
perhaps?

… questioning
us who feign death

on many a similar sun-drenched beach

while still squeezing in

4 hours a week
of community outreach?

image

lost in this ocean
of complicit howls

wails
hollow words
crocodile tears

it has no meaning
this life

these breaths we consume

nothingness
it is

just
half-muttered realpolitik …

one dead kid on a beach

… so that’s what it takes

more effigies
paraded on 24/7 TV

go look up the word ‘blowback’

and perhaps

unlike aylan
who was fed to the sea

you atleast

may
finally be
able to see

what really is
and not simply what you want it to be …

when tides of innocence wash up

dead
cold

empty on terra firma

why don’t i shudder
why don’t i care

‘cept for churning out some paltry scribbles

as the charade continues

as the world

salivates
& dribbles …

image

maropeng & the cradle of humankind* …

shared hopes
on
bloodied earth
of
common dreams

winding along myriad streams
whose
source is here
beneath our multi-hued feet

flowing
into a shared humanity
this shawl that should encompass us all
by
binding us together
a species with blood that is red
always red

for
we are all

the children of Africa

branched off
spread wide

but
of this soil
and
of this earth

foreign to none
hewn as one

so tell me again
what was it that
you were saying about “the bloody foreigners”

        ___________

*

Maropeng is a Setswana word meaning ‘returning to the place of our origins’

https://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.southafrica.net/articles/entry/article-the-cradle-of-humankind-gauteng1&ved=0CLMBEBYwH2oVChMI9rmAuazexwIVR4kaCh2uWQuy&usg=AFQjCNHs2O4mPw5TG94YGxFA4EBjPJlnPA

bloody foreigners …

bloody foreigners …

these bloody foreigners

zimbabweans
somalis
angolans mozambicans syrians
pakistanis
turks
congolese
rwandans
indians

etc etc etc et al.

these bloody foreigners
flooding our clean streets

taking jobs away
from me and from you

ps: aylan kurdi was a bloody foreigner too

the migrant …

image

i couldn’t bid my beloved farewell

i didn’t hug my mother

i had argued with my father that morning

then

i left
fled
crouched
starved

and
died

in a lorry in austria

a boat off the coast of libya

washed ashore
cold and dead

i am that migrant

image

an immigrants lament …

image

gazing at the sky
i often wonder why,

birds soaring,
high in the open sky,

are free to fly?

is it that they have wings,

for i too have wings, friend,

so,
i often wonder why,

huddled against desolate sleet,

and,
i often wonder why,

buried under flimsy newspapersheet,

that i too have wings, friend,

i too have wings!

and my wings,

are my feet …

image

The Immigrant …

Seeking solace.
Seeking a home.

The immigrant finds,

rotten prejudice.
Fungal anger.

The immigrant,

alone, hoping for,

A solitary chance.

To belong.

The immigrant,
alone, always,

an outside entity.
Eternal outcast.

A viral threat.
A reeking odour.

The immigrant,

ever alone,
and alone knowing,
that no place exists,
but that lost home.

immigrant song

are we broken by spoken barbs spewing out of sewers cloaked beneath acceptable garbs while the blades of splintered humanity are sharpened into lethal shards of ‘my country right or wrong’ under the comfortable charade of clinging onto feigned piety dragged along weaving new lies obfuscating what’s right and what’s wrong waving flags like swords wielding swords to behead and to subjugate the many who’ve forever been on the wrong side of the gate shut out of the dream pummelled by untruths of working hard and doing more and shutting up because we need the money the greenback the notes the coins the oil the designer innerwear that barely shrouds the stench of putrid opulence of festering greed of capital and influence and power ripping out each seed by the by wishing a better life for all a hasty goodbye because when love and life and hopes and dreams and aspirations and desires and aches and yearning for something better just a bit better not much not much at all except for some grain for the famished and respite for the numberless banished cast away into the currents of the seas swept along islands of stillness breaking ashore with the waves of happenstance.

so yes
yes

“that’s how i got to be here”, the immigrant says …

the immigrant at home

the immigrant at home

fatigued
pained

cast adrift
shunned aside

living
existing
on
islands of despair

deprivation
death

human beings
you and i

who just yesterday
or perhaps many lives ago

were
hounded
persecuted
jailed

cursed
spat on

rendered
alien at home

and
then

lost at sea

mere cattle
to be hauled

onto desolate cages

mere cargo
in the
economics of flesh

and
who
now

are
everywhere

cursed
spat on

and
told

to go home

the tears of olives

the tears of olives  …

trickling down shrapnelled flesh

tears fall

like
blood
on
bloodied
cheek

while in the sun

lifeless bodies
lie cold as stone

still
the tears of olives
flow

salty sentinels
of memory:

pain
suffering
occupation
hunger

the tears of olives
perennially streak

etching pathways of dust

between alleyways of desolation

hopelessly bleak

yet still
the slaughter continues

as more dead bodies

rot
reek

history …

misty tears fall on splintered parchment

history simmers

the shackles of centuries cast off

the chains of oppression shattered

embracing new horizons

dawning
&
trusting once again
in that unfinished dream

of less famished tomorrows

dawn breaking …

dawn breaking.

1.

willowy brushstrokes
conjured sketches

painted
etched
embossed

hewn between forgotten morns

waking
splintering
straining

against another

ceaseless
relentless
endless

empty
vacuumed
abyss
of
night.

2.

and
still

still
hope blazes

bright
radiant
smiling

though
measured
disciplined

while
embracing
enveloping

and always
always
surrendering to the eternal promise

raging
hungering
aching

that promise of a new dawn breaking …

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

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…

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…

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

again…

when i feared that you were slipping away

i feared more for myself, in truth I say, than for you

again…

you came back to us

again…

your light shone, ablaze

reaching inside of me with the warmth of your dignity

with your infinite gentleness

with your effortless peace

with all that makes you, you

again…

soothing me as you soothed a nation

and a people, and people everywhere

of every hue

and of every creed

and of the human spirit itself

again…

you gave of yourself

92 and frail and weak and alive

oh yes alive!

again…

you breathed my fears away

you embraced me as you have always done

again…

you made me cry

weeping tears of joy for you

for your light to shine on through

again…

you shined so brightly

as I basked in your warmth of you being you

again…

you cradled my shaken being in your hands, lined with age and with wisdom and with a pureness so bright

that just knowing that you are back home, smiling that fatherly smile of yours

was enough for me, to slip into the waiting arms of this warm and joyous night

and again…

though i know that you cannot be with me forever more

you came back to me on this night

and just knowing that you are still here with me now

is enough now, for within me, you will reside forever more

just knowing that you are resting and recovering at home

filled, and fills me with peace and with joy

with the peace and the joy that has been your gift to me, and to us, one and all

shaking me to my very core

as you have selflessly done

throughout my life, and on countless occasions before

He is home

you are home

and

i am home with you

as your light of life continues to shine

now and forever

warm and dignified and forever true

Viva Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela Viva!

So, if you want to really know,
what a mother’s agonised scream sounds like,

take a walk in Gaza today,

she will bear her broken heart,
as she bore the coffin that held her 11 month old child’s body,
as it lay lifelessly broken and torn apart.

The mother screams in anger and in pain,
her howls and shrieks echo on the bloodied plain,

so take a walk in Gaza today,

and feel the rage that a mother nurses,
and bear the brunt of a mother’s curses.

You see, she laid her little baby in the cold, blood-soaked ground,

while you diplomats and peacemakers and politicians were buzzing around,

so stop buzzing,

and take a walk in Gaza today,

and for once,

for once,
listen to what a mother has to say,

“they’ve rained down death on us for years,
they’ve torched our olive groves while you have shut your collective ears,

they’ve killed our children over and over and over again,
and we’ve cried oceans of tears that have disappeared down the drain,

so tell me as I cradle my dead baby in my hand,

who gives a damn?”.

This is what you will hear when you walk in Gaza today.

It is what you have heard for years and years now,

and all I can think as I write these words is ‘how?’,

how could you fail,
you peacemakers and diplomats and politicians,

how could you fail the mothers of Gaza,
over and over and over again,

is it because Gaza’s mothers’ tears are forgotten,

because they simply disappear down the drain.

And how can you not stem that ocean of tears,

cried by countless mothers,
and fathers,
and children whose eyes are blinded by inexpressible pain,
and whose days are haunted, not by phantoms,
but by living fears.

So can you take a walk in Gaza today?

and what possibly could you have to say?

to the numberless mothers who have cried oceans of tears,

again and again and again,

or are Gaza’s mothers’ tears forgotten,

because they simply disappear down the drain.


(for the people of Gaza and the Occupied Territories)