Promised Poverty

“Corruption is a slow evil,”

I read tonight.

Leaders- indeed politicians- in their double speak

will say We have won,

we no longer live in the darkness of oppression:

we are a leading African nation,

a Democracy of prized freedoms

our economy stable, growing…

evidenced by their armored cars,

their private jets and multi-million mansions

on lush Pretoria hillsides.


Mere minions would dispute their claims

ripe with untruth,

stinking of exaggeration and greed

empty in the township daylight

What victory is this

outside my tin shack

with my hands outstreched

or reaching into rubbish heaps

to still my hunger,

find a treasure,


What dignity?

Lies lacerate my future

but line their swelling pockets

like malnourished bellies

bursting with disease

and rotten promises

In response to Three Word Wednesday’s prompts:

ripe, lacerate, dignity




Making my mark…taking on the world

17 Years down the line, is the “New” South Africa already giving up on Democracy?

I remember the exhiliration, the joy, the PRIDE with which South Africans queued to vote in 1994. Many of us do. It was a euphoric, historic day that marked the transformation of South Africa, the liberation of it’s people and the possibility of the celebration of diversity despite the ghastly past. I remember how we boasted about the time spent lining up to make our mark, evidence of our new found national pride. Desmond Tutu writes about that day as being “like falling in love- everything was brighter”.

Barriers were broken as people shared sandwiches, umbrellas and water in those queues. There was not only this new neighbourliness, there was also laughter, excitement, suspense…and there was the promise of a bright and inpiring future.

Not a promise made by government, mind. What lingered in the air, in the smiles, in the hearts of the people was their promise to live into that future fulfilled;  their promise to participate where they were not allowed to participate before; their promise to use their voice.

But a sombre atmosphere pervaded the voting stations today. Aside from the music blaring from party kiosks where sweets and balloons were dispensed, voters themselves were sombre.

I was sombre.

My spirits were dampened by the apathy I’m present to. In the conversations I have had with family and friends over the past few weeks, I have got present to the disempowering impact of resignation and cynicism. It spreads. People share complaints with such generosity, you’d swear it was charity. A group of friends or colleagues start a conversation inspired by newspaper headlines or the daily cartoon. Heads nod, mouths turn down in bitterness, even more heads shake and shoulders stoop. Pretty soon there’s a smell of disgust in the air.  The group disperses heavier than when they met. More committed to their cynicism. Less inclined to effect change.

Party politics aside, I am unhappy with government in South Africa. There are serious issues: corruption, unemployment, service delivery…yes, the list is rather long. But I do not understand the value of a complaint that is not taken to the people who can actually deal with that. How else will I get the complaint resolved? Or is there a greater a commitment to the complaint than to the solution?

I understand that everyone doesn’t want to change the world. That’s what I get a lot: “You can’t change the world, you know!”

But who says? Who says that we can’t change the world?

We do. When we aren’t willing to do what it takes to make the necessary difference. When we accept that we’ll always have complaints cause “that’s life”. When we say it doesn’t matter whether we vote or not. We say, “We can’t change the world.”

I often wonder what made men like Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Salahdin Ayubi, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela- what made them great? Were they really just extraordinary? Some of my students suggest that they lived in “troubled times that required heroes. ” I can’t help believing that they were people like us. What distinguished them was their willingness to put their life on the line, to give up their complaints about how the world wasn’t as it should be and to make the difference themselves!

If not your mark on the ballot, what are YOU willing to put on the line?