For Heritage Day this year, the president asked the nation to join in the global Jerusalema challenge by performing the dance on that day. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
For Heritage Day this year, the president asked the nation to join in the global Jerusalema challenge by performing the dance on that day. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

#changethestory: President Ramaphosa, I refuse to do the Jerusalema dance

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 21, 2020

Share this article:

by Lorenzo A Davids

For Heritage Day this year, the president asked the nation to join in the global Jerusalema challenge by performing the dance on that day.

I expect millions of South Africans, tired of the lockdown, weary of corruption, and starving for joyful release, to take up this challenge. I expect to see social media flooded with hours of video of the joyous state of South Africa on September 24, 2020.

What is it with politicians and dancing? From Helen Zille’s various dance routines on election stages to Jacob Zuma’s Umshini Wam performances, we seem to believe that, by appealing to our rhythmic Africaness, it dulls the pain and fixes the crisis we are facing.

Jerusalema is the catchiest tune I have heard in a very long time. Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s joyful song stays with you for hours on end. And any replay is a welcome invasion at any time.

But I will not be dancing on September 24. I refuse to dance.

I have seen, far too often, how poor people are seduced by the rich dance moves of politicians on election stages, while at the same time are fooled by empty promises in fiery speeches.

I have seen, far too often, how our joyful exuberance has allowed politicians to bury their constitutional obligations to the people of South Africa.

There is nothing about lingering poverty to dance about.

There is nothing about violent crime to dance about.

There is nothing about two violently murdered policemen to dance about.

There is nothing to dance about when a private citizen, Quinton Adams, had to build a house for the parents of the murdered Tazne van Wyk, after the president failed to keep his promises.

We have to intentionally push the South African reconciliation narrative to confront its demons and to talk about our multiple failures on race and equity as a country.

We have to pause the celebrations and do the hard work of thinking, writing, implementing and building this new narrative.

I hope that, amid the dancing, South Africans will not forget that we have a dead airline, a dying rail service, an ailing power supply company, a list of unprosecuted corruption offences, a growing list of millionaire politicians, and ever-increasing numbers of poor people.

I was hoping that the president would build on his Freedom Day message, where he urged us to “build a new society, a new consciousness and a new economy”.

I was hoping the president would advance the reset message that so few still understand.

I was hoping that Heritage Day would be used to discuss how we could advance the building of a safe, just, inclusive, equitable and prosperous South Africa for all.

I was hoping that radio stations would be broadcasting messages from South Africans to one other about what inclusive and diverse culture means to us all. Instead, we will be dancing.

On Friday past, we sat with a young homeless man who started a take-away food service in his tiny homeless-man’s shack next to the Bellville bridge.

He demonstrated his culinary skills by frying a chips and egg omelette for us to share.

None of us had any money on us to pay him for his unexpected generosity. He appeared disappointed at our lack of money to pay him.

On Saturday, I went back to his little take-away store to pay him for his generosity.

He seemed confused. He did not expect me to keep my word that I would come back to pay him.

It’s not the brilliant music and dance routines I’m against. It’s the seduction I’m against. It’s the numbing of the pain I’m against.

We have delayed the inconvenient dialogues and uncomfortable truths about our diversities and damaged past for too long.

It’s time we feel this pain – severely and fiercely. We have an outstanding debt to settle – and it’s time we pay it. Dancing can’t pay this bill.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected]

All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication).

Share this article: