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Our politicians should avoid guns and do it Makeba's way

By unknown | Nov 14, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

So far, the threatened use of machine guns in the political set-to between the ANC and its newest rivals for power has not materialised.

So far, the threatened use of machine guns in the political set-to between the ANC and its newest rivals for power has not materialised.

Perhaps it's early days yet. The lunatic fringe on both sides might yet amaze us by letting the rivalry degenerate into the skirmishing resorted to by many African politicians when they sense victory slipping through their fingers.

That would really mess up South Africa's image - its ambitions to assert that the country's reputation around the world is squeaky clean as far as democracy or the observance of the rule of law are concerned.

Yes, on both counts, SA is probably ahead of many countries on the continent, including Nigeria. But the country ought to be warned it could be on the brink of a potential catastrophe.

There have been heated exchanges between political leaders on both sides. There has been a challenge to Jacob Zuma for a debate on "policies" from an opposition member.

Zuma has not risen to the bait, naturally enough. Why would he want to argue the legitimacy of ANC policies on which, presumably, the party won the last election?

Some of the language used has been rather extreme. A description of opponents as "dogs" is highly offensive and could heighten tension unnecessarily.

In any case, the verbal scuffling could be suspended for a while, at least, until the nation has fully recovered from the trauma of losing one of the liberation struggle's icons, Miriam Makeba.

There are no records of Mama Africa carrying an AK-47 into battle. But her presence around the world, singing and speaking of the plight of her people, was almost as powerful as the rat-tat-tat of that semi-automatic rifle.

Those who saw her, as I did, before and after she donned the mantle of an unarmed revolutionary against apartheid, remember her sincerity.

I first saw her perform with the Manhattan Brothers in what was then Salisbury when we were both in our 20s.

Many critics compared her to Ella Fitzgerald and one aspect of her repertoire not as constantly commented on as it ought to be was her humour.

One album, with a number of foreign artists, includes The Naughty Little Flea and Darling, Go Home.

The African-American singer-actor Harry Belafonte had a hand in that production and it is a rollicking rendition of Makeba having fun singing "naughty" and having the time of her life.

This was a woman who loved and enjoyed life to the full and who inspired many Africans - and not just South Africans - to be proud of their race and to intensify its struggle for freedom and dignity.

Obituaries of people aged 76 could never sound proper with such phrases as their passing being "untimely", as if they had died at 35 or 40. In Makeba's case, there is good reason to make an exception.

She collapsed on stage in Naples, in far-away Italy, doing what she had been doing since she was 16, singing heartily to express her pleasure at the gift and the magic at being so gloriously alive.

All of Africa would be justified to mark her death with some huge symbol of gratitude. She was feted in life by many heads of state for she represented the resilience of the African spirit.


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