Alex Tabisher writes that we need to examine the narrative from different angles and see what it was that culminated in action that seemed mindless. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Alex Tabisher writes that we need to examine the narrative from different angles and see what it was that culminated in action that seemed mindless. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Listen, then make a judgement: 'If the lion tells the tale, the hunter would die'

By Alex Tabisher Time of article published Jul 15, 2021

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I confess that when I sat to write this week’s column, I didn’t have a clear theme. But the serendipity strategy of fishing around randomly and hoping to reveal a lodestone or receive a flash of clarity, often gives strange, interesting and worthwhile results. And so, this column for this week was born.

I have read for two Masters’ degrees, one Eurocentric and the other Afrocentric, in order to get me into line with post-apartheid events and realities.

I do not take sides or make pronouncements. I believe that improved literacy in any language is an important element, as well as a necessary agency, towards improving one’s quality of life. The mantra then becomes: read, read and then read some more.

I had enough material in terms of Zondo, Zuma, sports, lockdown and all the other crashingly boring mundanities that assail our senses daily. But suddenly, from nowhere, two WhatsApp clips landed in my lap.

One set showed Monday’s abhorrent stripping of shops in support of a demand for Zuma’s release from prison. The other clip showed the untouched and undamaged picture of Exclusive Book shops, right there smack-damn in the middle of the carnage. Not one member of that mindless mob considered purloining a book, or magazine, or dictionary or, God forbid, an anthology of poetry.

I considered commenting on this, but the good Lord prevented me from becoming smug or mealie-mouthed. Because the next clip was an extract from a speech made by PW Botha (South Africa) 1988. It doesn’t say from which newspaper it originated. I quote in full:

“Black people can not (sic) rule themselves because they don’t have the brain and mental capacity to govern Society. Give them guns, they would kill themselves. Give them power, they will steal all the Government money. Give them independence and Democracy, they will use it to promote Tribalism, Ethnicity, Bigotry, Hatred, Killings and Wars!”

For those who have forgotten, this was the Groot Krokodil himself, who called Rev Allan Hendrickse from the ocean, saying he was swimming in a white man’s sea.

It took us some time to understand and resist the skewered notions of racism and the even more skewed notions of white superiority. This week’s column causes me to stop, press the pause button and do a double-take.

Fortunately, I have read Frans Fanon, Edward Said, Chinua Achebe, Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison and the host of post-colonial writers who taught me that the original narratives of human relations were one-sided.

Achebe called the white authors such as Conrad, Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling “Jingoists” and “thorough-going racists” who preached the blacks were waiting for God and the white man to release them from their natural state of barbarity.

I paused to remind myself that, if the lion tells the tale, the hunter would die. I learnt that history is an amalgam and narrative of the ruler, not the ruled. I read Njabulo Ndebele and learnt to redefine my relevance.

Change is good, but blind and gratuitous change is fragile. We need to examine the narrative from different angles and see what it was that culminated in action that seemed mindless.

My column is an appeal for calm, for rationale and a willingness to factor in all relevant agencies and balance them out. Then we must weigh them and not find any shortfall. A willingness to talk and listen, and a collective drive for equity and empathy would be the route to follow.

I reserve all judgement. I pray for peace, health and good governance.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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