Fish rots from the head down

Colin Jooste, Observatory

Once again we celebrate Human Rights Day today with political personalities addressing the nation around the country to get maximum mileage out of the occasion with the looming general election a few weeks away.

The following poem speaks of a time in our sordid history when a handful of white racist bandits held our parents hostage in the land of their birth for centuries.

Yet when we look at the current state of affairs where we have turned on each other with murderous intent, it sadly does not reflect the vision of those who crafted the blueprint for a free and new South Africa and were prepared to be incarcerated and even die for this cause.

Clearly, we have to stop and think it over. Arguably ours must be the most fraudulent and corrupt democracy in the world with our custodians hell-bent on enriching themselves. This is not the South Africa we envisaged.

It is a scientific fact that the fish rots from the head down. What is happening in Parliament cascades to the ordinary man in the street. Yet we have the power to turn things around or else our children and history will judge us with severity. With hindsight being an exact science, let’s keep this in mind when we cast our vote and as we read this poem:

Human Rights Day

How can we forget! We’ve been programmed to remember a bloody day in March 1960, not September; when security police 69 young people gunned down and Sharpeville became a world-renowned town.

“Never, and a never again”

whoever allows it would be insane;

uncontaminated blood of the brave stained our street

who in their struggle for self-respect and dignity would not retreat

Vociferous protests against the accursed pass laws

erupted in violent full-scale wars,

our ardent prayer, the Gugulethu Seven

be given a place of pride in heaven

In a hail of bullets many died, thus today we in the sun can abide

A peaceful protest in Kwa-Langa

without a knobkierie or a panga,

was met by bullets and police brutality

death being unfortunately the inevitable reality

Twenty-five years down the line much remains to be done

for our children’s children to prosper and have fun,

truth be told, we have a life-long debt

“never, and a never again to forget!”