Friday, middle of the month, it has been a frenetically busy day here in White River. I can only think it is the thought that maybe, just maybe, lockdown restrictions are about to be further eased, and people are getting ready to get back to work.
In a province that is heavily reliant on the tourist industry, there is a feeling of desperation at the continued travel restrictions. Lodges and tour operators are crashed and crushed after five months of no business. Those that can have tried to continue paying their staff, but the string is now stretched as far as it will go.
The line outside our local Post Office does not diminish, many people queuing, their shoulders hunched, their faces lined with worry as they wait hours for a pittance, with which they are to feed hungry mouths. The chatter and banter that is part and parcel of queues in Africa is missing.
Those that are fortunate enough to still have an income are nervous. There have been hold ups, robberies, hijackings. Be aware. Be careful. More to fear.
We can expect no less. People are desperate; desperate people are moved to desperate acts.
I have just listened to Kimi Skota sing My African Dream , a recording from when she was with Andre Rieu. She now lives in White River, so we feel proprietorial towards her! It is a song made famous by Vicky Sampson back in 1996, that speaks to the dream of a new tomorrow, an Africa that honours its people, its resources, that moves ahead of its history.
It is one of the go to songs in this part of the world, together with Johnny Clegg’s Great Heart
There is a spirit in African people that will not lie down and die, but right now it’s as close to breaking as I have ever known it to be. It is going to take great courage, and sacrifice, and unplumbed levels of selflessness to come back from this.
I was reading Romans 12, and therein I found what looks to be the perfect recipe to ease our survival, if we can manage to do this, to live this:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another;
Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
I have a dear friend, a busy lady who lives a little in her own world. She enjoys a few glasses of wine after a hard day’s work and, like many, she ran out before the first ban was lifted. Then sales opened. Time and again she would wander off on a Friday or Saturday to buy her wine for the week, totally forgetting she should have done so before Thursday. Poor Su!
When I heard Ramaphosa slam liquor sales closed that Sunday night, my thoughts immediately went to her. Needless to say she didn’t have a single bottle in stock. She has been ribbed mercilessly by all of us these past weeks, and she has dealt with it all very well.
The other afternoon she called to say she was baking bread, was I home so she could deliver a loaf to me. Where else would I be? As I waited for her, I felt a nudge. I had two bottles of wine in my cupboard. ‘Give her one,’ said the nudge. ‘But what if the ban goes on and on?’ ‘Give her one. Open up your mean little heart and give her one bottle’. I lost the argument with my better self I am happy to say, and the look of glazed delight on her face made it worthwhile.
But what of all those who don’t have a friend with two bottles of wine. Or surplus food. Or a few cents to spare. Or a heart hardened with meanness after a life of uncertainty and insecurity.
As I said earlier, if we are to recover from these catastrophic five months, it is going to take a degree of courage and selflessness such as has never been asked of us before. I believe we can do it. I believe in the indomitability of the African spirit.
As Master Kg featuring Nomcebo’s heartrending cry to the heavens in the song Jerusalema, has people dancing across the globe , so, I believe, we will we walk in jubilant freedom in one day.
I want to play my part – do you?