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The People's Poet evokes emotions

By Sbusiso Shongwe | 2012-03-27 08:36:13.0

WHILE political parties are entangled in feuds over the venue changes and relevance of the Sharpville massacre of March 21 1960 - now known as Human Rights Day - poet Mzwakhe Mbuli seems to be the proverbial voice of reason.

This is particularly most pertinent when one considers the title and refrain of one of his poems, Change is Pain.

With the release of his new album, titled Amandla - isiZulu for power - Mbuli celebrates the legacies of the leaders who fought for the liberation of South Africa.

Track 5, titled Sharpeville Massacre, stands out and challenges the decision of changing Sharpeville Day - in which 69 people were brutally killed by the then a partheid police government - to Human Rights Day .

The "People's Poet" describes the Sharpeville massacre as "an act of cowardic e that tarnished the image of South Africa abroad" and says the ruling party is distorting the history of the country.

"Hundred and eighty people were hurt and of the 69 killed, most were shot in the back. These people were defenceless, they were running for cover," says Mbuli.

He says if the people of Sharpeville were to listen to this album, they would revolt against the name change of the event.

"I tell it like it is. This is the only massacre, its not a hairstyle that changes over time. Can you change the celebration of Esandlwana to another name, to another date or place? The Zulu people will kill you," he says.

He believes that since the history of Sharpeville is being distorted, his album will serve as a case study for the young generation.

"I received a call from a parent asking me where she can find the album because her child wants to use it for her history studies.

"My question is, what history are you teaching our children if you keep changing it?" he asks.

One would have expected Mbuli to shy away from the politics of this country after his imprisonment but perhaps Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa's comments were prophetic when he said his poetry "communicates, chastises, consoles, castigates, comforts and explodes into a tirade of condemnation against injustice and oppression where necessary".