‘Born at the right time’

In December, this article by IJR Project Leader Eleanor Swartz was published in the Pretoria News, The Mercury and the Weekend Argus. Eleanor received this thoughtful response from reader Ismail Davids:


Dear Eleanor,

Thank you for your insightful article in the Pretoria News of 20 December. Your opinion piece resonated with me for a number of reasons, foremost of which is your acute awareness of the need for inter-generational dialogue about a past, which your generation have – for better or worse- inherited, and a future, which you now have to shape.

This type of dialogue is critical. I also note that you are leading a project which rightfully honours the memory of someone who has taught me, and many others, to never dishonour the cause of freedom and justice. Your article made me recall a memory of Ashley [Kriel] addressing us early one morning at one of many awareness meetings, reminding us of our latent power to bring the ignoble system of apartheid to an end, reminding us that someday, we shall overcome, and that someday, we shall all be free. Sadly, our curly-haired Che Guevara, who without hesitation heeded the call for justice and freedom from oppression could not live to see or experience the freedom we enjoy today.

I often wonder what he would have said (and done!) about the state of our hometown, the state of our nation, and the great betrayal of our Freedom Charter. He epitomised revolutionary activism, always calling for action! (“Action, comrades, action”, he would say! “Action Commandante!”we would respond in song!) Indeed, the transformative power of youth! You hit the nail on the head with that one!

As staunch Charterists, we believed in, fought for, and sacrificed so much for the realisation of each one of the ten clauses of our Charter. Who sold us out? The wounds of betrayal lies deep in places like Bonteheuwel – the unremembering of Christopher Truter, Anton Fransch, Colleen Williams; the denial by the now ruling party that it recruited young people from Bonteheuwel into its military ranks; the impunity shown to Benzien and his ilk for their abominable rights violations; the Janus-type Partick Mackenzie`s of the world….the wounds run so deep; and I see it being passed down from one generation to the next as I read about the social violence that defines the Bonteheuwel of today. Has the revolution finally eaten its children?

I beg, do not long for yesterday. You were born at the right time. We need your generation to complete the tasks which my generation failed to complete. Your youthful energy, passion, and commitment to positive change (which I sense from your article) is what is required today. Build solidarity with like-minded South Africans. Your generation has the benefit of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms which my generation did not have – use it to speak truth to power and to concretise your agency for a South Africa free from poverty, inequality, injustice, and corruption. You have the benefit of hindsight. Yes, draw inspiration and solace from the past but do not wish for its repeat. Let the hurt of yesterday always be yesterday`s pain. You represent tomorrow, a hope for a new beginning, an opportunity to actualise the important tasks my generation failed to finish.

Your walk to freedom, which started 400 years ago with Doman the Khoi warrior, is not to be interrupted. Please, read about the bravery of Doman, and the sadness of Krotoa, and the prophesy of //Kaboo – draw inspiration from it! I had many wise (and nutty!) professors during my student days at Stellenbosch, one always ended her lectures as follows: nihil actum, si quid agendum (nothing has been accomplished if there is still something to be done). Take forward our struggle for freedom as enshrined in our Freedom Charter; otherwise the lives lost, blood drawn, and tears shed for freedom before your time, would all have served little purpose. Thank you again, thank you for allowing me to hope in the possibility of freedom as defined in the Freedom Charter.

Ismail Davids

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