Thursday, March 17, 2005

It Is Not Always About Us

By Albert Gumbo
13 March 2005

Picture this. It is 1940 in apartheid South Africa. You are a young black person whose father has been dead for the past 13 years. Your father’s friend has been paying for your education since then. All you want to do is get a good civil service career going so that you can be a pillar in the community and support your family. Now in your second year of university, you have just been elected to the students’ representative council by a quarter of the students. Three quarters have refused to vote because they have all just come back from a sports event at a neighbouring university and have discovered that the white students are better fed. What do you do about the election result? It looks good on any students CV to have been elected to lead fellow students. What would you do about the low voter turnout?Our young man chose to step down arguing that the vote was not representative enough of the students’ wishes. The principal Dr Kerr, organized a second round of voting with the same results. Our aspiring civil servant responded to his second election in the same way. The principal then threatens expulsion if the student does not change his mind and asks him to sleep on it. The student has a troubled night torn between duty to his sponsor and to his fellow students. The next morning he confirms that he will not serve. He is given a final chance to reflect on his decision and sent back to class. He does not change his mind and is expelled from the school. What would you have done?

Today, Nelson Mandela is the most respected person on the planet. You see, it is not always about us. Mandela made a stand choosing not to flee into a comfort zone, whatever that may be for you. Later on in his life, facing more or less the same threats at different levels and presented with opportunities to get himself out of life-threatening situations, Mandela remained true to his core values. Armed with the degree that never was from Fort Hare, he could have landed a good civil servant’s job. Later on, he could have been a very successful lawyer and still later on, he could have chosen the safety of exile but he argued that “a leader’s place is with his people.” Many of us know the public Mandela: The Mandela of the “Free Mandela” concerts, the Mandela of post apartheid South Africa and some, yes some Mandela the prisoner. Very few know the man and what values made the man an icon. You see, it is not what prison did to Mandela, it is what Mandela did with what prison did to him that made Mandela, Mandela.

What about you? I am not asking you to leave your job. All I am asking is that you stand in a queue and vote because it is your duty to your country. Who you vote for is up to you but it is important that you cast that vote. You see, it is not always about you: it is about accountability, it is about posterity and it is about “lighting a candle, instead of cursing the darkness.” It is about saying I care for my country and I owe it to the thousands who died for our freedom to try and sustain democracy. If you are sitting before a computer, remember that someone died so that you could have access to that computer or that I could email you this message. On the back of my car is a sticker. It reads: Zimbabwe: My Country, My Commitment, My Future. Its not about me, its about my country and I hope you feel the same way and strongly enough to “endure with pleasure” several hours in a queue to elect your next representative in parliament. Someone wrote: “A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.” Sail your ship into that polling booth and take your friends and family with you on 31 March. When you do that you will be “lighting a candle, instead of cursing the darkness.” The time for self-pity is long past. Our destiny is in your hands.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

US Confronts Mugabe

Reuters reports:
The United States on Monday accused Zimbabwe's government of serious human rights abuses and said the country's electoral process was skewed to ensure President Robert Mugabe's ruling party remains in power.
Read the full article here.