A stone’s throw

February 13, 2014 § 3 Comments

On Friday I received an email that no parent ever wants to receive – news that my daughter’s bus, on its way back from a school camp, had been stoned by angry youths. A window had been broken, the bus had reversed out of the situation, and they were coming home via a different route. No-one was hurt; everyone was safe.

I was bathed in a plethora of feelings: relief, separation anxiety, fear, sorrow. I cried for most of the almost two hours between hearing the news and finally hugging my child. But not once was I angry, as many others were.

Because while I don’t condone the rock-throwing, on some level I understand it. Those rocks, hurled through the air at a bunch of 11-year-old girls, are the symbol of people’s intense frustration with a government that is failing its people. And in so many ways, they are the most South African of metaphors.

Because those self-same rocks might be used to weigh down the tin roof of a shack in shantytowns all over South Africa tonight, by people who have nothing, people who have to scavenge signs and sheets of plastic and corrugated iron to fashion themselves a makeshift shelter they call home.

People use rocks as a form of protest because while apartheid might have been dismantled and removed from our legal framework, in a very real sense it still exists. And those rocks are really all people have to protest with. Too many South Africans don’t have economic power, they don’t have social power, they don’t have educational power. All they have, are those rocks. And so, I can understand why they throw them, even if I don’t condone the violence and wish my daughter hadn’t been caught in the crossfire.

No. If I feel any anger at all, it’s towards the cronyism and corruption I see from our ANC-led government. The lies, the empty promises, the self-aggrandisement, the first-class seats on the gravy train for a small handful of people. And then, the blind loyalty of so many to a once-great liberation movement, now a party, that seems to have lost its way entirely.

This is not the freedom so many lost their lives for, surely?


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