Liberating the Oppressorsby Andy Davis / 14.10.2009
“We’re the only place I think in the world where people not only forgave their oppressors but also gave them an elevated international social status. We actually freed our oppressors in this country. And it’s never happened in history. You know Spike Lee warned us before we got free and he said, ‘listen the one thing you shouldn’t expect is for the privileged population of South Africa, after you are free, to come back to you and say, listen we’re so sorry that we made so much money off your backs through these centuries here’s 500 trillion dollars to show you how sorry we are. That’s never going to happen, so you better start working hard because there won’t be any goodwill or charity, instead the people who gained all these freedoms through you will be congratulated when they travel all over the world, because they will have the money. And they will be congratulated for freeing you’. And Pik Botha and De Klerk have said it over and over again how they freed us. And then he said, ‘they will be allowed to do business where they weren’t allowed to previously, even in Africa they will be allowed to do business, they’ll be the first South African businesses because they will have the money to do it. And they will still be in the cricket teams and rugby teams that weren’t allowed to play and they will get that glory. And they will be allowed to criticise the government and not go to jail. Unlike the government that gave them the privileges – and you shouldn’t expect any goodwill from them. But what is going to be your duty is to try and make them remember what happened in the past. Don’t let them gloss over the past. You yourself shoudn’t be comfortable and complacent in your own freedom otherwise you’ll lose every little freedom you fought for’.”
Hugh Masekela pauses and looks at me, shaken from the Spike Lee reminisce, not smiling anymore.
“And I can feel that slide happening here, and all those things coming to pass. And it’s necessary that we make people aware of all those things.”
‘Spike Lee was on point.” I say.
“Yeah he was right on there.”
“Do you see a social rejuvenation?” I ask
“No I think it has to be inspired, because even the people who were in our political leadership, you know, those who were the soloists in the chorus of our freedom have been sucked into the privileged establishment without being aware of it and have left their communities to live the comfortable life of the elite. The very people who oppressed them have become their friends. They are not militant anymore and they were our conscience. They have left a void and I think we have to inspire those who want to pursue that loop, that it is OK, that they are not alone. And we also have to fire up the complacency of the youth, not to just be mired in raves and fashion and dance and grooves and wearing the same clothes and being European and American wannabes.
“We have to look inside to see what we have here, and also to realise how much the world envies us. I mean we are the only country in the world that can have an international cultural festival without importing anybody. We’re the most cosmpolitan society in the world but we’re xenophobic about it. Because there’s xenophobia all over the world, but here it certainly doesn’t threaten us. And we should unlock the value of our immigrants. We have to unlock the value out of all those things that Verwoerd and apartheid tried to destroy. Because those were the things that made us, South Africa, unique.
“And we have forgotten them, this is evident because you see them. Those things sparkle a little bit on Heritage Day, on Freedom Day but they’re just for that day, then they go away. But those things should be at least every weekend. And we need to enjoy this country, so we need safety and security. Maybe if the government doesn’t do it for us we have to come out in numbers and enjoy who we are. It’s beginning to happen a lot in the festivals. Almost every weekend we play festivals where 30, 40 thousand people come out and there’s no violence, people are very calm. And I’ve been telling the promoters that there’s still segregation in the festivals. There are white festivals and black festivals and that has to end, there should be cross advertising. People should advertise across all aspects of society. We need to enjoy this country together.”