Press "Enter" to skip to content

Saffron robes and sackcloth

You have to wonder what liberation really meant for the ANC if the organisation can bar one of the world’s greatest beacons of freedom and enlightenment so as not to offend a repressive but powerful regime. You have to wonder whether it was more about achieving power than attaining freedom.

There are a few rare individuals who transcend the barriers that separate most of us, who tread their way through life on that path reserved for those who see beyond what is in front of them, who inhabit a world worth striving for, rather than the shadow of a world in which we exist.

The Desmond Tutus, Aung San Suu Kyis, Nelson Mandelas, Helen Suzmans, Mahatma Ghandis and Dalai Lamas of the world are nobler than lesser “leaders” who achieve what passes for power but lack the imagination, character and substance even to see a higher plain, let alone walk on it.

President Motlanthe has this week shown himself to walk on that lower plain reserved for those mortals who are given power but who are sadly lacking in the mettle and imagination it takes to achieve true greatness.

The ANC government has become far too accustomed to making sweeping decisions for the flimsiest or most self-serving of reasons rather than from a position of enlightenment and true leadership.

Who are these people who would make such damnable, offensive and indefensible decisions in the name of governing us? Who in the new ANC generation could wear the shoes of a Nelson Mandela, a Helen Suzman, a Desmond Tutu? How dare a lesser individual bar a human being of the calibre of the Dalai Lama? Motlanthe is not fit to lick the Dalai Lama’s sandals or touch his saffron robes. He should wear sackcloth in repentance of his despicable showing this week.

Far from wishing to bar the Dalai Lama, our government ought to be welcoming him proudly while demanding that the Chinese government give Tibet its independence. Now that would be worth applauding and give us something to be proud of. That, let’s be honest, would win the ANC some votes. That is the kind of gutsy government I want, not this namby-pamby embarrassment. It is shameful.

I am ashamed to be South African today. I am ashamed of my government. I am ashamed of my president.

Now will somebody in the ANC please stand up and speak out against this outrage?

I doubt it somehow.


  • Tony Jackman

    Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours when he remembers to, and apart from that he massages words and pushes grammar for a nice little magazine called myweek. Follow me on Twitter