Written by Vusi Mabaso (And if you have to know, he is a black South African man)
400 years ago Africa might as well been another planet in our solar system.
We were living in peace in our thatch huts. The 10 piece of cattle were grazing under the African sky. The head of the family sat in the shade of a tree drinking beer, the wives were working the land and the kids were making clay oxen to play with.
Every man’s dream, even to this day, no matter where on this planet you might come from. It sounds like the African version of the Playboy mansion. You sit in the shade and your multiple wives work for you.
Then the Europeans arrived and laughed at our people who had no education and thought our way of life was savagery. We had to fight them with spears to survive and ultimately lost the battle. They took our land and made us their slaves. They sold us to America and we became a trading commodity.
That is, what it is. We can’t change the past. So now 400 years later, what now?
We had to learn through bloodshed that we were not a planet of another solar system. We are part of this world and in this world there are certain rules that can’t be broken if you want to have food. Whether we like these rules or not, they are a reality. We can fight them like Mugabe does but it would only result in hunger.
Too many Africans are yearning for life as we knew it back then…but they just love the white man’s BMW and Lear Jet. The donkey cart is way too primitive for their liking and the cow hides that once covered our loins are not as “cool” as a Hugo Boss suit. We are a race that conveniently wants to fall back on our traditions when it suits us.
Not everybody has the ability to be as black and white as I am, and I mean that in more than one sense. I accept and acknowledge that. But I had to ask myself where do I fit in? Do I want to go back to my ancestral land in Dundee and demand this land be given back to me so I can acquire a few wives and create my own Playboy Mansion or do I like it here in Sandton with a Blackberry?
You would be horrified if you read all the messages I get on Facebook of people swearing at me, calling me a traitor, a disgrace to all black people in South Africa and that whites are paying me to blog my views.
What they don’t know is that I have been very blessed to come from a long line of fighters that have fought from the days of the spear right up to the AK47. They fought for my freedom and as sure as this sun is going to come up tomorrow, I am not going to mess up all they have fought for.
I have to address this cultural jail that stands between my people and true freedom.
Let us look at the Tokoloshe first.
You slept with your bed raised up on a few bricks so that when the Tokoloshe comes at night, he could move freely around your room without knocking his head against any object. For those that know this superstition will know it is a small mystical hairy thing that looks like a psychotic angry little bear and catches you at night. But if he knocks his head against your bed, you are going to get this menace all over you and he has a temper like no other on earth. Stop laughing, I’m dead serious!
I haven’t seen him yet. I badly wanted to see him when I was small because while others feared him, I thought he sounded cool and wanted to befriend him. My grandmother would look at me in absolute horror when I wanted to see the Tokoloshe. She would tell my mother “Eish this child scares me”.
When my Grandfather returned from exile, he brought me a Teddy Bear from London. I looked at the Teddy and instantly knew this was the Tokoloshe I always wanted to meet. So my bear got named Tokoloshe. I got smacked a few times because I would jump on my Grandmother when she takes her afternoon nap and scare her with Tokoloshe.
But the modern new reborn Tokoloshes sit in Parliament.
Parliament…hmmmm… let us discuss running this country, being an example to the citizens and our traditions.
In a new African landscape how practical is it having multiple wives? Nice idea, being a man. Come on you guys reading this, admit it!
But 20 children? Not so good because if I see what my university education and all the sundry trimmings are costing my father I would hate to think he had to make 20 of us. He would need to join the bank robbers to keep us at university.
My mother didn’t come cheap either, so he would have had to start stealing cattle from the white farmers if he wanted more wives. She cost him 40 head of cattle back in the 80’s. But wow, was she worth every cow! You should see her today in her Chanel dress …but 5 of them?
That is the humorous side of our tradition, but the more serious side is the following reality. There are only two of us and not twenty. So from my first breath my father has been there every step of my way thus far. We are his life and the reason he works this hard. He has spent every moment available guiding me into manhood (without sending me to a bush so some traditional butcher can slaughter my stuff beyond repair) How, as a father will you possibly find the time to devout this kind of attention to 20 kids? I don’t even want to think what life would have been like without my father. Unthinkable.
But what would I have been, if my father happily cavorted around claiming it is his culture and tradition?
I probably would have been marching with Malema on the road to nowhere and my father would have been dead by now. I would be visiting a graveyard and trying to find life’s answers from a stone. Back in the 80’s when he married my mother us blacks haven’t heard of HIV/Aids and those enlightened ones that did know about it, thought it was a homosexual disease.
So unbeknown to us we were killing ourselves. Merrily living out the principles of our tradition, not knowing we are committing suicide and resulting in 2 Million orphans just in South Africa alone, let alone the rest of Africa.
Wouldn’t this be a far more worthy cause to march about than march to get stuff you deliriously think should be given to you for free?
Imagine what must be going through the mind of a 4 year old kid, who is left all alone tonight, with nobody to take care of him or her? None of these orphaned kids asked to be here, so imagine how a child has to try and make sense of all of this?
So why do I still have my parents? Because my father knew he can’t run around making babies that he can’t provide for. He had to think soberly about life with a new millennium looming. He had us because he wanted us. We were to become his legacy. We weren’t conceived in a moment of uncontrolled lust or in the name of an outdated tradition.
We won’t discuss the merits of the social grant for mothers with kids and absent fathers but alarmingly condoms are still very unpopular accessories amongst the population of Africa. Until recently we had that scary old Bat as a minister of health. Tokolosh personified. Beetroot juice and cabbage leaves will cure the disease, while the Chief would shower after a bit of inyama.
What did my father do 7 years ago when I reached puberty? He sat me down and told me the facts and how it all happens. Every time I leave the house he jokingly says he will draw blood when I return and have me tested. He jokes, but it has sunk in so deep now, I think about the consequences every time I see a gorgeous girl.
What do my people do? Until recently it was better swept under the table than discuss the matter. It became unlawful to state a person has died of AIDS on his death certificate. How big is this denial?
Please don’t make a comment after you have read this and tell me this disease was invented by the Apartheid rulers to wipe us out. I’m not even going to discuss that old stale story! And speaking about Apartheid, get over it. It has no relevance in 2011. Dead, gone, born 31-05-1961 and was executed on 27-04-1994. Our ultimate justification for everything that we do wrong can’t come back so we can stone it.
The most bizarre superstition was invented to “cure” the disease. Rape a girl and it goes away. By girl, I mean little ones that had to helpless have their lives taken from them without their consent. Grown men believing in rubbish like this. How in the name of God can you possibly justify this, no matter what your traditions or beliefs are?
We have now for far too long shrugged our shoulders and hid behind our traditions on the one hand and on the other we want to sit at the UN and pretend we have the wisdom to help decide the fate of other countries. In this world we need to merge with, you have:
1. One wife. You sleep around, you die.
2. You have more kids than you can provide for, they starve and when they grow up they will steal to survive because you didn’t have enough money to send them to a decent school. The government schools are a complete waste of time because the teachers are never in class.
3. You can’t sell or trade with your daughters. They are not consumer goods.
4. You study or qualify as an artisan so you can earn your own keep and build your own house. There isn’t enough money going around building 40 Million free houses. You can wait until the sun burns itself out, it is not going to happen. So live with it.
5. Forget the white man’s wealth. It has long gone been transferred to Sydney. There isn’t any left here. Create your own. Forget about redistribution. Use your logic. The wealth of 5 Million whites was never going to send 45 Million blacks into a blissful retirement. The white wealth Malema cries about daily, was only in the hands of a few whites.
So until we move ourselves forward and merge ourselves with the world, we will remain primitive. 17 Years after independence you don’t dance from Beyers Naude to the stock exchange and have foreign journalists film your insanity in the name of freedom. We were freed 17 years ago, embrace it and use your freedom to trade with the world, not crash your own stock market.
We can march up to the Union Buildings until the cows come home. We are not going to move ourselves forward until we free ourselves from ourselves!