Tatane the Solomon Mahlangu of today

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OVER many years I have upheld the image of the late Solomon Mahlangu with great admiration. His words, “Mama don’t cry, my blood shall nourish the tree of freedom”, have inspired me over many years to continue the fight for a South Africa free of the death sentence and police brutality.

The death of Andries Tatane made me wonder today whether the deaths of Mahlangu, Steve Biko, George Botha and others were in vain. These men and many, many others died at the hands of the then brutal apartheid police.

During that time activists referred to the apartheid government as a police state. What are we today?

Today I watch in fear how our beautiful rainbow nation is turned into a police state. Slowly but surely the old feeling of fear for the police is creeping in under my skin.

I more and more feel unsafe around the people who are paid to protect us.

During apartheid, I used to have a sense of guilt and wrongdoing every time I bumped into a police person. Surely this cannot be the case in our hard earned democracy?

The South African Human Rights Commission reported on Tatane’s death that “the respondents [the police] neglected provisions of the Gatherings Act by using excessive force, resulting in the injuries and death of the protester [Andries Tatane]”.

However the perpetrators of such a violent deed left the courthouse as free persons. Is this not resonant of our dark past?

Indeed the courts have spoken. But have they won the moral high ground?

On that faithful day Tatane woke up next to his wife, possibly played with his two lovely boys before he set off to the march, just never to return. I can just imagine the excitement and determination that he must have felt as he walked out of his gate, a very rare feeling that only those who fully dedicate their lives to upholding the noble ideals of our democracy can feel.

When I saw the pictures on the news of Tatane in battle with the police, I saw a man, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, someone ready to pay the ultimate price. Indeed he paid the ultimate price.

During the liberation struggle we remembered those who died by the hands of the police as heroes of our struggle.

Surely today Tatane must be remembered as a hero of our democracy.

I salute you great soul.

There is no anger or bitterness against those who killed Tatane. It is the uneasiness of what my country is becoming that is worrying, a slippery slide on a dangerous path and a road that breathes death and turmoil.

We cannot go there! South Africa has too much to offer!

We need a police that’s our friend, our keeper. I want to protest when things go wrong and I want to celebrate when things go right.

Tatane is no more, may his soul rest in peace. Let us spread the word of love and peace even at times when we disagree.

Tatane, son of the soil, your blood shall also nourish the trees of our young and tender democracy. Your ultimate sacrifice has encouraged thousands more to take to the streets.

Let a thousand flowers blossom and a thousand minds contend.

Squatter citizen, Port Elizabeth

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