Route 94 Highway Freedom – by Lindani Mchunu
“I still believe that freedom is the bonus you receive for telling the truth” Martin Luther King Jr, Address “
The Other America” March 12, 1968
The recent triumph of the Springboks reminded us of the promise of 94’ the year Mandela became the first democratically elected leader of the new South Africa. That year brought a new dispensation, a new promise and overnight we became the Rainbow Nation. To see Siya Kolisi lift the Webb Ellis Cup, was a dream realised in some part for Madiba, the Springboks were a reflection of our diverse nation, and for eighty minutes in Japan, we all were united under one banner in South Africa. We all rallied as one for the boys to bring it home, home to South Africa our Land. Our Land.The boys arrived back home with the trophy indeed and the parades have been testament, to the collective euphoria of the nation.
What happens now? The springboks have shown us what we can achieve when we are united on an equal footing. Equal footing. Opportunity, which for me is equal footing. Rassie gave equal opportunity to black, white and coloured alike to play at the World Cup. One always has to look back to determine how to move forward.
In the 60’s America was already grappling with some of the issues we would later face in South Africa and at the forefront, spearheading the resolution of those issues, was Dr King. One of the speeches he would give before his untimely death spoke to the heart of some of the problems we face in our country today. Time is truly a Bow and Arrow the archer will determine the outcome. I will touch on a few of those points from his speech and highlight the similarities embedded in modern day South Africa. Of Siya Kolisi. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation, until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it”. Martn said there are two Americas, every city in our country has this kind of dualism, this schizophrenia, split at so many points. One America has beautiful situations, this America, millions of people have the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality, flowing before them. This America has food and the material necessities for their bodies, culture and
education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. Yet there is another America, and this other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the ebullience of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America thousands and thousands of people, men in particular walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist, this America forces people to live in vermin-filled depressing housing conditions where they do not have the privilege of having wall to wall carpet but all too often they end up with wall to wall rats and roaches.
I am not sure how many of you have spent a week in a South African Township. I have had the privilege of spending sometime there, I say privilege because I was not forced to, I was visiting and it gave me unique
perspective. One of the first things I realised was how many people are in the Township during the day, during the week. The township is full of people who do not get up in the morning and go to work. Kids who do not go to school. Alexander Township a stone’s throw away from Sandton, has a rat infestation problem. When you are there during the day, rats the size of cats crawl about everywhere, on the road, they live side by side with the people and everyone has gotten used to them, I am always amazed at what people can get used to overtime if they are continuously exposed to the same conditions every day.
“The first thing I would like to mention is that there must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a divided country, a racist country. However unpleasant that sounds it is the truth
and we will never solve the problem of racism and division until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is. It is a myth of an
inferior people, it is the notion that one group has all the knowledge, all the insights, all the purity, all the worth, all the dignity. And another group is worthless, on a lower level of humanity, inferior”. Racism is not based on some empirical generalisation which after some studies would come to the conclusion that these people are behind because of environmental conditions. Racism is based on ontological affirmation. It is a notion that the very being of a people is inferior, the problem is the ultimate logic of racism is genocide, as we saw in Nazi Germany. We have to get rid of two or three myths in America. The most prominent of these myths is the myth of time. I am sure you have heard this notion, it is the notion that only time will solve the problem of racial injustice, I have heard it from many sincere people, they say to the negro and his allies in the white community, you should slow up you’re pushing things too fast, only time can solve the problem and if you’ll just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred years or two the problem will work itself out. There is an answer to that myth, it is that time is neutral.
It can be used either constructively or destructively. I am sad to report that the forces of ill will in our nation, the forces on the wrong side in our nation, the extreme righteous of our nation have used time more effectively than the forces of goodwill. Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals, without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally to the primitive forces of social stagnation. Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but rather moulds consensus. On some positions, cowardice asks the question is it safe. Expediency asks the question is it politic. Vanity asks the question is it popular. The conscience asks the question is it right. Our destinies are tied together. The black man needs the white man to save him from his fear and the white man needs the black man to free him from his guilt.
I find it so uncanny that Martin Luther King’s words still ring true to this day. In our lovely land there are certain discrepancies of course, one of them being that South Africa gained political freedom and with that we
believed economic dispensation would swiftly follow, only to find that the buffet is reserved for the politically connected. There is still a lot to do in this country, programs like our academy are but a drop in the well of hope, yet we must continue our work anyway, because sometimes diversity can unite a country.