caring spirit undimmed by stench of mean streets

BETWEEN the good wishes that come with Christmas and the near-madness that has since become tradition to some in welcoming New Year's Day, nothing drove home the point that life is indeed a tear and a smile than the three funerals requiring solemn attendance within a week of the festive season.

BETWEEN the good wishes that come with Christmas and the near-madness that has since become tradition to some in welcoming New Year's Day, nothing drove home the point that life is indeed a tear and a smile than the three funerals requiring solemn attendance within a week of the festive season.

The near-madness of bidding farewell to a passing year finds tragic illustration in 11-month-old Sibusiso Moyo fighting for his life at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital after being hit by a brick on New Year's Eve.

The three funerals were not the only ones to illustrate the tears of life, as there were many more bereaved families to whom condolences were extended.

December 24 was the burial of Charles Mabitsela's mother, Nomhlaba Mabitsela, in Zamdela, Sasolburg. Mabitsela and I come from the large family of Black Consciousness (BC), from which we were breast-fed the nation-building philosophy that could serve as the right kind of tonic to the chronic politics that present-day South Africa is mired in.

You do not have to be BC to have the heart to notice that Zamdela, like many other black townships, was never planned with civilisation in mind. That there is still life sleeping, waking and talking in Zamdela is testament to the sheer defiance of the human spirit.

The "new houses" are evidently built not to last, as is the kind of electrification installed in them. There is neither a sense of symmetry nor aesthetic to the "newly built" houses.

The hopelessness that prowls the streets of Zamdela is further bedevilled by the toxicity of its air.

Liberation, dare I say, was not only for land, but was as much for water and the air we breathe.

For President Jacob Zuma, Zamdela may just be the first step to make way for cleaner air to begin blowing in.

Just a day after Christmas, I was at a second funeral in Dube, Soweto, for the burial of Oko Mabasa's mother, Molebatsi Lesolang.

A stone's throw from Lesolang's home is a spruit that divides Dube from neighbouring Mofolo. The smell that this spruit generates from its reeds every summer is no deodorant to nearby households. Ask former Bafana Bafana star Doctor Khumalo - he was born there.

Any corrective action by the City of Johannesburg to expel the smell should not be only for the comfort of 2010 visitors but also for the lifelong wellbeing of Dube and Mofolo residents.

New Year's Eve was my third trip to a cemetery, for the burial of my family's eldest granny, Gogo Anna Lephoi, in Katlehong. Once known for choral music issuing from DH Williams Hall, the roaring cheer of soccer fans at Huntersfield Stadium, and Easy by Night Club serving as an outlet for sleepless teenage energy, Katlehong seems to be languishing in its sunset.

On rainy days, the streets degenerate into swampy ponds. And lunatic drivers take delight in splashing in and out of marshy ponds to further muddy bystanders.

The once stylish, jazzy and swanky township now has more humps - to cope with mad drivers - than stormwater pipes.

By style, I do not mean people spending money they do not have, buying things they do not need, to impress those they do not like.

Style means being proud and comfortable in own skin, in the spirit of Steve Biko.

The time and kindness that sees caring hearts leave homes to give comfort to the bereaved through the tears and smiles, even during the festive season, is life's greatest gift.

X