Africans have always held a firm belief that death and birth in our communities have great significance. It’s an incessant umbilical cord linked to nature reminding us that time is but a borrowed currency. That birth remains a symbolic significance of hope and continuity and death is an abrupt yet necessary end to life or a cycle.
Yet the two extremes are interdependent and co- exist, for a balance in the cycle of life; that an end of a season ushers us to the next. That even for re-birth a certain death must happen. Yet death in itself can signify a new dawn, a new beginning – change or even a transition.
However the nature of death seems like an imposition, even expected it can never be accepted. Death is always been described as untimely yet there are deaths as timely as the change of seasons, timely as the shedding of dead skin by a snake, timely as the fall of rose petals and leaves from trees- signifying tentacles of a winter dawning upon us.
On the 22nd of August 2016 Mama Nonhlanhla Mthembu used the last currency of her borrowed time.
Like any of us she woke up with no pre-emption of how the day’s chapter would close and no anticipation of the fate of the ANC in Johannesburg.
She carried the hope that the organization she so loyally served, would still be afforded the currency of time to improve her life and the lives of her community. Anxious as she might have been, naturally given the political events, she still harbored hope as the abrupt alternative might have been unimaginable.
The African National Congress has been going through various transitions that have seen the organization shape and re-shape itself through deaths and new beginnings. Other transitions seemed so fatal that it was close to impossible to imagine survival and yet despite the shedding of leaves, its roots remain entwined with the society it leads.
Many have spoken of the ANC as a mammoth organization with the ability to cleanse itself. The ANC has always been the gargantuan institution of liberation movements even bestowed the status of immortality. It’s always been the phoenix that rises even from particles of burnt ashes.
Yet these local government elections unveiled the abrupt reality of a death which might even severe the roots which sustain the evolution and survival of the ANC.
From the 3rd of August 2016 death seems eminent, yet this might be a death that the ANC might never resurrect from. The scars, pain and ruptures in the ANC have taken their toll on the movement, the price heftier than imagined.
Evidence that even the immortal is not immune to fallacies of mortality. Yet this reality wasn’t abrupt, the loss of power in key areas wasn’t surprising as painful as it seemed at that time.
It was a manifestation of the state of the ANC, a harsh consequence of unfolding travesties that have left the ANC ailing, vulnerable and bleeding. It was a necessary sign that it’s an organization that can no longer be subjected to exploitation and yet continue to upsurge from it. Its screams were heard through the antagonistic sentiments of many South Africans who used the ballot to affirm this.
Whilst we arrogantly dabbed to the notion that the “ANC is big and shall cleanse itself”, we forgot that it’s us mortals who destroy and tamper with laws of nature. That it’s us mortals that tamper with organic processes of life and death and it will subsequently be through our actions that the ANC will lose any chance of revival.
Whilst it’s easy to submit to the comfort of blame and vent towards each other, at some point we need to all leave the temporary comfort zone and take responsibility not only for the state of paralysis of the ANC but more importantly, to safeguard the revolution and protect the future of those that still have vested hopes in the ANC as the true champion of the people.
It becomes tempting to abdicate the responsibility of rebirth and renewal in times of despair and cowardly concede to the shelter of sidewalks.
Yet if this was the attitude of our golden generation, the attitude of Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu, we wouldn’t even have a chance to revive the ANC.
As we battle publicly and privately, vent and antagonize each other lest we forget that the greatest responsibility and task has finally befallen us.
These are extra ordinary times requiring extra ordinary measures. These are times where unfashionable documents of leadership analysis such as ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ become necessarily prominent.
These are times where documents of the movement that gathered dust as they were not favorable rhetoric for parasitic bourgeoisies, must be more powerful than the tender document. These are times where building a branch can no longer be a prerogative of a faction.
This is the time where every ANC member is on the back-foot despite his factional convictions. These are times where renewal means back to basics.
Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu’s heart failed her- the most important organ of the body. The heart of the ANC is barely beating; beating against a tide of recurrent sin. She took her last breath just as it dawned that we are fast losing the currency of borrowed time and reigns borrowed from society.
It took her life and many others as we witnessed in our election campaign bodies of murdered comrades piling up unnecessarily in a democratic dispensation, to see that the ANC is no longer bleeding its members but society as well yet we remain an organization in denial of its state of paralysis.
Extra ordinary reactions to these realities are inevitable. The leadership has dismally failed to contain and more importantly deal with causations. Some will be labeled ill disciplined as they frantically attempt to take action. Yet the time for action has arrived, whatever this action might be.
Unfortunately the ANC and its Leaders have lost the moral high ground to even dictate what action in this trajectory means- the outcomes were evidence of this. A plethora of “introspection” documents in the form of organizational and secretariat reports gather dust in Luthuli House, yet we still seem to have the luxury of time to further introspect what is evidently glaring at us.
Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu’s death is profoundly timely, the ANC lost a woman of the movement on women’s month, lost a mother who invested everything in the organization and clearly vested all her hopes in it.
Her heart stopped when it appeared that the ANC had lost the City of Johannesburg. How many are like her in the organization, which see no hope or alternative in politics and would rather die with the ANC than walk away.
Should we fail to see the significance of her death and many comrades unnecessarily murdered when we celebrate democracy, we would have betrayed her and many others waiting with abated breath for drastic change, a beacon of hope, a gleam of courage, for assurance that the ANC will not die an untimely death in our lifetime.
I dedicate this poem to my generation and for many generations of the ANC to come
Cries from ANC graves
I have fallen once, I have fallen a hundred times
Yet my sturdy will keeps my unstable feet on the ground
I cry for my children, I cry for generations to come
For what will become of them
The day I wither and die
We care for we have no home but the ANC.
CDE GUGU NDIMA IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC