Opinion / 21 August 2019, 4:30pm / Dr Pali Lehohla
JOHANNESBURG - Dr Vuyo Mahlati #DearDiary is a monumental reflection of the role of art and artists in important ways.
Twenty five years into democracy we have reduced ourselves to a people who are up for sale and divorced from consciousness that drove Madiba’s vision for South Africa.
Mahlati recently wrote that she attended a funeral in KwaThema.
She says: “I always imagined KwaThema as a hive of creativity. It was not my first visit, but I remembered the actors in #GibsonKente plays, who would proudly introduce themselves as coming from KwaThema.
“So would some of the band members of the famous groups (Sakhile, etc). I remember one of those Gibson Kente plays, Taximan and the Schoolgirl, which I watched with my school friend Nolitha Mji (a gynaecologist in the UK) in Mthatha after sneaking out of boarding school.
Being Women’s Month, I appreciated how Bra Gib raised our consciousness with his plays.
“I wondered how we are doing in honouring his legacy. Productions like How Long should not gather dust in archives.
“Mandla Walter Dube Dube, please take note, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema,” Mahlati says.
First, the #DearDiary reminds us of the contribution of Kente, a playwright of note who was able to make the youth and students of the time conscious through his artistic work, second, by awakening our collective memory by transcending our geographies and unifying our experience.
Third, KwaThema, a township south-west of Springs on the East Rand in Gauteng, once rich in culture and activism, has become a shadow of its original self, just as Kente would be towards the end of his life.
Fourth, KwaThema today and the absence of Kente in our conscience is a mirror of our failing, if not failed democracy, where the culture of people, who are money-driven and their ascendency to power plays out in our midst.
South Africa, the brand Madiba was proud of, is a shameful shadow of itself. Madiba captured the hopes of the nation thus.
Former president Nelson Mandela said: “Ordinary South Africans are fêted like kings, because of what we collectively achieved. You just need to say you are South African and the doors open.”
I experienced this awe, respect and admiration over and over, as have many South Africans.
But I have in the later years also experienced the fading miracle and how it is fast disappearing in front of our eyes - a legacy fallen into the hands of prodigals. The play, How Long, which I watched in 1974, was a feat of consciousness that surely added to the events on June 16, 1976.
The question we must ask ourselves today is how long should South Africa wait for the fruits of democracy to touch our economic and developmental lives. This wholesale of a people’s freedom to choose runs disrespectfully in the face of the Freedom Charter, which declared that through the free will of people we would choose our representatives.
Now our free will has a monetary tag on it and has to be mortgaged and prostituted to the highest bidder. Kente must be tossing in his grave. We should rid ourselves of this scourge.
Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics SA.