by Nomboniso Gasa, Loudrastress, 2008 (There is a review of Gasa's edited book, Women in South African History, by Sokari Ekine, here.)
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable the cries no are no longer heard.
The cries too, too, fall like rain summer – Bertolt Brecht
This is an email I have dreaded writing for days but whose time has come nevertheless. There can be no doubt that the violence that is erupting in our country has reached levels that compel us to respond in ways that are driven by clarity of thought, moral conviction and a clear refusal to allow our hard worn freedom to be taken by criminals- irrespective of the masquerade they use.
I do not have the eloquence nor the skill of the poet to describe the heaviness of my heart and the fear that should I not act in a manner consistent with my own beliefs, I too, will become ‘collateral’ in this battle that is hard to define. I hesitate to use the labels that are floating around, xenophobic attacks, hatred of foreign nationals, poor against the poor because these too are laden with multiple meanings which in this case I fear obscure much more than then they reveal. I ask you, as sisters and comrades to join me in our struggle as we make sense of what is going on us around us. I ask you to think of ways that can assist us to look at the situation beyond ‘body count’ imagery and words that are crowding our televisions today.
I know that my own reaction is informed partly by the time I have spent thinking of meaningful interventions. These days, I sleep in the company of pregnant women, children with ring worms, eyes bulging with untold fear. But then again, the nightmare passes and the wave of anxiety passes over. I am awake and glad that I am in my own bed. After such nightmare tonight – it occurred to me that we can share our fears, weaknesses and form a strong link of humanity against evil-doing. Yes, my comrades, taking a neighbour’s shack is evil-doing. Raping women because they are born elsewhere is evil-doing. It can never be acceptable.
This call to action is not moral outrage. It is a cry out- STOP. I ask you, to assist me and others in thinking of ways to stem this violence in practical ways. For many of us, including those who reside in Alexander and other areas, this is yet another layer in lives of untold misery and multiple trauma. I ask you to join them in solidarity against the dehumanising pain that is born so publicly and without any space for privacy, let alone hope that it will end sometime soon.
I can think of no other intervention but that which places me as an individual and a collective in a space where I too, can come face to face with the danger that is faced by our sisters, brother and comrades on all sides of the conflict. We may have different ways of intervention. And I am sure many of you will have a sensible and effective strategy and intervention. Please enlighten me and share your wisdom.
This urgent call is directed at all those who refused to be paralysed by fear. My proposal is simple; we meet and work out a strategy for direct involvement which involves talking together with our people. There are a number of organisations, including community organisations, migrant networks and many others. Please advise me how we can best organise this so that we can have effective intervention.
I suggest that we find a venue that is safe and neutral where we can exchange ideas, without the labels of the institutions and organisations in which we are located.
If this call to action resonates with you, please respond and ‘yes you want to be a part of the initiative’. We know from the turbulent 1980s that it is only when we respond in an organised fashion to crisis that we do not only begin to understand its complexity but also work together in solidarity. Above all we have to work together now, in common purpose for the restoration of dignity of all persons in our country.
I call you, my comrades, to action to ensure that the cries are heard.