Thursday, 11 February 2010

Friday 5 February

Masie & Tod return today from their mad whirlwind tour of South Africa. Whilst I have been in Jo' burg this week, they have traveled from here to Durban to interview Sonny to Cape Town to interview Eddie Daniels. Today, they are meeting me at Park Station so that the three of us can go to interview Dr. Saths Cooper. Sonny & Saths are second interviews, Eddie is a first and I am disapointed that I have not been able to meet him.
Years ago, I spoke to Eddie about the 'Bible.' He was the first Signatoree with whom I spoke. He wrote the most elegant of emails in response to my initial questions. Here is a edited version:

There is no connection between the feelings of despair which Macbeth expresses in the soliloquy "Tomorrow and tomorrow..." and our feelings as prisoners.

Where Macbeth expressed despair because his ambitions which came to naught, and which destroyed his self respect, were based on greed and corruption. Speaking for myself, my self-respect remained intact with a quiet sense of pride and dignity in that I was in prison because I was trying to right the wrongs which had, and was still, being perpetrated on the victims of injustice.

Reading, and in my small way, trying to analyse the words uttered by Macbeth and the context in which it was uttered. Shakespeare brought home to me the frailty of the human being (Out, out, brief candle). No matter how great we are (like Mr Mandela) or how unknown we are (like me) fate/time will eventually remove us from the stage of life (That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more). Our bodies will become dust (or ash). Our names and deeds (mine far sooner than Mr Mandela’s) will eventually be erased by the sands of time.

What I found breath taking was the fact that Shakespeare could visualize with such clarity the perpetuality of human existence. I hope that you won't consider the above as a 'tale told by an idiot'.

This email was the first sign of the humble nature of these freedom fighters. I would time & time again, find this same humility in each of the men whom I interviewed.

I make my way to Park Station and meet up with Tod & Masie. They both are exhausted having had little sleep & too much running around in the Cape Town sun. But no down time for them: we are off to Haughton to meet Dr. Cooper. He is a psychologist who was imprisoned in 1976 at the age of 24. He was a member of the Black Consciousness Movement and had this to say at our initial meeting in November 2o08:

When your, ah, youth, your late teens, 20s gets constrained in that terrible fashion and you’re confined physically to a space that is, what, one and half metres by just over two metres or something like that you are going … to... be, a few things can happen. One, is you’re going to resist that physical imposition, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Because physically you may break your head against the wall, but otherwise you have to be there. But intellectually you don’t have to accept that.

You know that this is an imposition and at heart ours was a fight for dignity. Dignity of the mass of people that even today have not received that dignity. The constitution may scream it, but in reality the majority of our people are way beyond even a modicum of participating in an equality that they expected post ’94. And so you see a massive outpouring of self destructive behaviour of us doing things to ourselves, doing things to those who are accessible, ah, because there is no other enemy out there.

When we meet him, he looks even younger than the last time we met. Although 61 years old, he has jet black hair and doesnt look a day over 40.

Like the rest of the men, it truly is a privilege to meet with him for a second time. Although stepping out of politics after the early 1990's, Saths is as firely as ever. He has this to say,

I think that politicians & business men who tell the Youth of today that, 'Because we were in the Struggle, we deserve this high way of living', is a betrayal of everything that has been Noble in our Struggle. It has created that sleaze factor. It has led to the ignoblity of being associated with demolition of the previous system because people gave their lives. There are thousands of heroes that have gone unrecognised in our country. There are thousands who have contributed in different ways and I don't think many of them go around looking for acclimation. They don't go around with these weights on their shoulders.

It is because of that gap between Struggle & Power and how you mediate the gap between those two and you do it with integrity.