Seeing the picture of Rashied Staggie, the (former) leader of the notorious gang “The Hard Livings” from the Cape, reminds me of one of the ferocious killer and criminal we’ve ever had in Pienaar, the township I grew up in.
His name was Skara,
You see, as a kid I was tall and my name????… Let’s just say I was bullied a lot because of my height and name as a kid and so, I tended to be a loner.
Skara on the other hand was one of the most feared criminals in my township, he spent half his life in prison. He was particularly known for his violent temper. You really didn’t want to cross paths with him!
Skara was my neighbour, and the day he was stoned to death by the whole community I was there! Before he died he asked for water from me. And everyone was astonished to hear him mention my name and asked for water because Skara didn’t have any friends and didn’t talk to anyone!
This though was not an accident or came as a surprise to me because I only and only I, was privy to a side of Skara not everyone knew. His softer side.
Skara grew up a tall child like me, and the name “Skara” was a nickname from jail, so he identified with me but didn’t say anything. And me being me as a kid didn’t figure out why the notorious thug liked me so much!
He sure was thinking that I was gonna turn out like him. Full of extreme anger and hate!
Skara didn’t figure out one thing though. That it’s not about how you look or your name, even where you come from or your sexual orientation or what people think of you. It’s about your mindset! It’s all in your brain!
I realised this from an early age!
For some reason some members of our society loose interest when one starts talking about how they were persecuted by the system of shame, I don’t know maybe it’s because their forefathers were directly involved on that system or they simple think you are playing the race card again. Mind you whenever there are commemorations to remember our fallen heroes, they don’t attend such events, in-fact they would even change the TV channel broadcasting such event and simply choose to call the day “braai day” !! anyways let me briefly narrate this story without delving into too much detail.
The Sharpeville Massacre happened 55 years ago today (21 March 1960), at the police station in the township of Sharpeville not far from where I’m sitting writing this blog now. South African police opened fire on the crowd of about 5000 people who were peacefully demonstrating against the carrying of dumbpasses (pass books) killing 69 people. The government relaxed the pass laws after that.
Change of heart
Being influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela thought he could fight the apartheid system through peaceful means, through negotiations, through reasoning with the apartheid principals, but the Sharpeville Massacre was a watershed moment and a turning point in his life. He was forced to go underground, take up arms and fight on.
Last year I was based in an archive institution putting Johannesburg into Wikipedia. Believe it or not I know the history of almost all the buildings of Johannesburg including who commissioned their construction, who designed them, the original plans, maps and I’ve also seen records of how much each labourer was paid.
But I still don’t know on top of which building this picture was taken. I know it’s inside Johannesburg. I understand it was the last day Mandela left the country to exile.
Ruth Mompati, who is a very well respected politician today was Mandela’s secretary at the time. I think she must know where this picture was taken. In-fact I understand she was the only person (besides Tambo) who knew that Mandela was leaving South Africa that evening.
A week after this picture was taken Mandela appeared on a BBC interview declaring war against the apartheid state. He was officially a terrorist to my girlfriends parents and a freedom fighter my parents.
(hash tag the colour of the skin of my girlfriend is an opposite to that of mine)
I love you South Afrika.
Growing up in the villages I knew that my parents loved me dearly, in fact I can bet I was the favorite since I’m the only boy in 4 girls and I received most of the gifts during Christmas, I was taught to drive at an early age, every time I performed well at school I would get a reward more than that of the girls, but I will never forget new year’s eve when my dad gave me a phone call as usual and right at the end of our conversation he told me he loved me.
I was so shocked by these words, I had goose bumps all over my body and to tell the truth I don’t even know what my response was because although I knew he loved me but in my 35 years, he has never actually said it. After that call I couldn’t sleep. I had to make an urgent calls to my mom, sisters and other close relatives to find out if everything was okay with the old man. To my surprise no one heard anything or know anything wrong, everything was fine.
This made me realize how important it is to always tell your kids how much you love them. How much words alone can boost their self confidence, change how they see the world, change how they see you as a parent, strengthen family bonds.
As much as I’m happy with my upbringing and what I’ve turned out to be, I just wonder how my life was gonna turn out to be if I’ve heard those words 20 year ago.
I love you more Mr Shabangu 🙂