Helen Joseph leads a march by more than 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest to the then Prime Minister JG Strydom, against the extension of pass laws to black women on August 9, 1956. Picture: Independent Media Archives
Helen Joseph leads a march by more than 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest to the then Prime Minister JG Strydom, against the extension of pass laws to black women on August 9, 1956. Picture: Independent Media Archives

South Africa needs to look to the past if we are to heal

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

Share this article:

Thandisiwe Mgudlwa

During these times of great hardship, you could look around and try to savour the best from the past.

Although it's usually advisable to focus on the journey ahead. The journey ahead is hugely influenced by circumstances beyond our control. Think lockdown. Violent action distractions and whatever else is not working around us.

Rich or not, the challenges are testing. At times, it could feel like the world is coming to an end. But if you are into the world of optimism, then to you, this could be new beginnings.

At other times, popular commentary would suggest that the world is experiencing the “death of the old, and the birth of the new”.

Covid lockdown, violent action and the political mayhem that has accompanied it, can make anyone look to the past for the “great golden old days”, just to feel good about life. For these are trying times.

There are many great leaders from the past, dead or alive, local or foreign, who have touched people in their countries and across the globe.

Nelson Mandela fits the bill. He was one of the great leaders who stood up for a better world and got the world to fight for liberation for all. Mandela might not be everyone's favourite cup of tea. But he managed to spark something in humanity like never before. Perhaps, as a reference for good over evil, the world will continue to look at his life, so that no matter the hardships, the hope for a brighter future can live permanently.

The higher powers are probably calling for us to pause, reflect, even revert back to the past and unpack the giganticness from the past that the world seems to have mostly forgotten. This at a time when our lives are changing, mostly due to the Covid pandemic, its lockdown and all the complications it has brought forth for the whole world. It is during the current challenges that many people could be driven to ask: What have we done wrong as the modern world?

A figure that became a symbol of hope, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and freedom among many ideals he lived and died for, in the 21st century in the form of Mandela, his example should be used to heal our wounds. It is in that spirit that this towering global figure should be in the consciousness of Africa and the world forever.

But the big question which we must continue to is: Are South Africans, and the rest of Africa in particular, valuing Mandela’s values and living them in their everyday lives?

The question can be answered by looking at whether we are making progress insofar as addressing the societal ills and injustices that Mandela committed 67 years of his life to as a freedom fighter. This includes many other years as a student leader and community worker before his Struggle days.

After his passing, on Thursday December 5, 2013, the message of the global icon who best taught the world the greatness and wisdom of forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and Ubuntu (humanity) has, to a great extent, been lost as we can see instabilities around us, with questionable leadership from all sectors in taking care of the troubles facing us.

In drawing inspiration from the meaning of Mandela. We also have an opportunity to correct the wrongs that occurred when he was alive. In advancing the stalwart's legacy, we need to step in where he didn't or couldn't be effective during his time on Earth.

To put things in perspective for the education of all our people about our history and Struggle, we need to know the finer details of our history and Struggle for freedom.

These must include the secret talks to end apartheid between the ANC leaders and the apartheid regime, the jailed Mandela's talks with the government, the role of other liberation movements, the front-line states and the international community's contribution in the Struggle against apartheid, among others.

Mandela was a product of the ANC and his story should not be isolated from the ANC, as much as the freedom of South Africa must never be isolated from the people, organisations, industries, sectors and countries that contributed to the liberation of this country.

As we kick off Women's Month in South Africa, I feel a strong urge to reflect, appreciate and show gratitude to the many women of our land who fought for freedom and justice, who led in various capacities during the times of great injustices and held the torch of hope when despair sought to be the goal of the oppressive regime.

In reaching to the depth of our being, especially during the turbulence we are experiencing, it could also heal the country's wounds as we remember where we come from and possibly learn where we got things wrong.

We as a country, from our schools, to libraries, media and elsewhere, must always remember the stories of our heroines, including those who led the 20 000-strong Women's March to the Union Buildings against the Pass Laws in 1956, people like Lillian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Frances Baard.

Other unsung stalwarts whose contribution towards a just society has been mostly forgotten even by the democratic government include Dulcie September, Ann Silinga, Charlotte Maxeke, Zola Magodla, Mildred Ramakaba-Lesiea, Zora Mehlomakulu, Nandi Ralawe, Nokuthula Simelane, Ruth First and Molly Blackburn, among others. Thank you for your service to and contribution towards human liberation.

There are many injustices like inequality that exist in South Africa even today, beyond forgetting the Icons from the past. And reflecting on the turbulence, whether we are being punished by the Maker for living away from His Will, it will be wise for our nation to reconnect with the higher powers.

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Mgudlwa is an award-winning journalist

Share this article: