Saturday, May 17, 2014

All you need is Love

Today was graduation at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary where I teach. I was asked to lead the opening devotions, and so I read the following, drawn from 1Corinthians 13:1-13  

If I get a diploma or a degree from SMMS and have not love, I am nothing more than an empty braggart; if I get academic colours and an academic gown and have no love, I gain nothing more than some fancy dress; if I gain all the knowledge in the world – and know how to reference footnotes and bibliographies, and am able to publish clever articles in Journals and Books – and I have no love, I am nothing more than a noisy wordsmith stirring up clever words.
Love is patient and kind towards those who do not know as much as I do; Love drives us to share what we know so that others are empowered with the knowledge; Love desires education for all, a sharing of our knowledge with the weak and marginalised, and the education of women, children and the lowest workers in society.
For a time will come when old age causes all our learning to escape us; and when new knowledge replaces all we have learned; and when younger, brighter minds surge ahead of us;
The fact is that we do not know all there is to know, and we shall never cease learning new things and discover the unimaginable.
While academic knowledge has great value, and life skills are vitally important: when everything that makes sense in our lives is over – one thing of value shall remain:
And that one singular attribute is to Love and be Loved.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Voting for 20 Years

Today I voted for the 5th time as a South African citizen.

I was eligible to vote for five elections before this – but these were elections that excluded black South Africans. I as a white South African believed that participating in the racist structures prevented justice for black people, and therefore I could not in good conscience vote for this system. Instead I committed my energy to changing the system to include all our citizens.

It was therefore with great sense of liberation that I participated in our first democratic elections in 1994. I was a community monitor for the Independent Electoral Commission in the Helderberg Basin. I celebrated the way the whole community pulled together to vote – Strand, Rusthof, Lwandle, Macassar, Somerset West and Sir Lowry’s Pass turned out with joy and enthusiasm. I voted for the first time in my life, and proudly voted for my political heroes in the African National Congress. While I have been exceptionally moved by the leadership of Nelson Mandela, I also acknowledge my deep regard for people such as Steve Biko, Trevor Manuel, Joe Slovo, and Kader Asmal. 

Since then I have watched as the ANC has lost the great leaders of our nation. Some have moved on to retirement, while others have moved on to other roles. Now I watch with great sadness as this once great liberation movement has crumbled into a kleptocracy that closes ranks around thieves and self-serving opportunists.

As I look back over the past 20 years, my confidence in our political leadership has waned. I feel like I have gone back to the politics of my youth, where the political leadership used their office to serve their own narrow interests. I see little difference between the posturing of PW Botha and Jacob Zuma. Both claimed to have done no wrong, and used state security systems to protect themselves. For this reason I no longer vote for the ANC.

Neither do I vote for the Democratic Alliance.  I cannot stomach the thought that it eagerly absorbed the voters and leadership of the National Party. Neither do I like the way Helen Zille tries to project herself as an anti-Apartheid fighter for freedom.  While her work for the Black Sash is admirable, she has not lived and worked amongst the poor in a way that allows her to claim the platform as their spokesperson. This too is political opportunism.

So I voted today. I voted because the right to vote is a precious gift that was won at the cost of the energy and lives of our political heroes of the past. But today I registered my protest at the present political leadership.

I continue to be hopeful for our future. The fact is that we have a young democracy, with regular, peaceful elections and a strong system of civil accountability in the Constitutional Court and the Public Protector.  I await the results of these elections with interest, happy that nothing will stay the same.