My Zimbabwean PhD student won’t go with me to the demonstration outside Parliament tonight because he would have to go back to Bellville on the train and he’s heard stories of someone who’s in hospital now from having been beat up on the train. My Zimbabwean friends who work in town just got warned that maybe “this thing” was going on in Gugulethu, so they are stranded tonight and can’t go home. I wonder if someone is going to bang on my car window and demand to know if I speak Xhosa or Zulu or Afrikaans – this is highly unlikely because class protects better than anything else.
What about my student from Somalia? What about my student from Cameroon?
We held a small demonstration this afternoon at UWC, holding signs that said I CARE and NOT IN MY NAME. We sang Senzeni Na. As I looked around the circle, most people had tears in their eyes.
If I could do anything I would confront Minister Kasrils and say, crap! There’s no Third Force here! We are all to blame — the historians for not teaching history with tolerance, the politicians for thinking more about party than people, those who drive by the people in shacks on the pavement, with their windows rolled up. All of us. Everyone. Yes, we can blame the poor for their violence. Yes, we can blame the mob for its violence. Yes, and then we can blame ourselves for complicity in living heedless to the suffering all around.
My wise son says: Kasrils blaming a Third Force is like Mugabe blaming Tony Blair.
I hear, secondhand, that a Rwandan has said, this is how it started with us: we threw the foreigners out and then we turned on each other.
Fear is such an ugly thing. It was a blight on this sunny day and on our hearts. When it creeps out into the open like this then everyone knows the sensation a woman has walking home after dark.
South Africans can defeat violence if they confront its roots, its causes, its hold on the imagination, its intoxication and cheap thrill entertainment value; the false promise it holds for turning anger into action.