Sauls cared for ‘his people’

PAYING TRIBUTE: A large crowd attended the memorial service for Andrew Sauls held at the Chatty Community Hall
PAYING TRIBUTE: A large crowd attended the memorial service for Andrew Sauls held at the Chatty Community Hall

ANDREW Sauls was a giant among his peers. His departure brings back fond memories of a small giant who walked the earth.

I met Sauls during the mid-1980s at Chatty Senior Secondary School in the northern areas. His militancy as a pupil and later youth activist drew me closer to him.

During those years prophet Sauls, as he later became known, was one of the few young activists who put his life on the line for the new dawn (democratic South Africa). Sauls was always one of the first out of the classroom during school boycotts and always one of the last who would go back to class.

He did so at a time that it was highly risky and unpopular in the northern areas to be associated with the struggle, but that did not deter him. We were ostracised by our community and many portrayed us as “opstokers (agitators)”, but Sauls remained steadfast in his resolve to realise a non-racial and democratic Mzansi.

We lost touch as we took different routes to pursue our dreams that we once stood side by side for. Every time though when we met at some political activity, I would find the same spirited young lion of yesteryear.

About four years ago I met my leader at one such occasion. As usual we dived into what we would call some scientific analysis of the conditions on the ground.

It was during such a debate that he remarked: “Comrade Jerry, do you know I am 45 years old and for my entire life I only worked for two years”. I stood there in shock.

I thought about my own, blessed life I lived. It was not a complaint, just a cold harsh reality check, of the South Africa he gallantly fought for and what it had become.

We continued with the discussion, but I was completely immersed in my own thoughts by such a profound statement.

It was not that he did not want to work, he could not find a job.

The South Africa he so dearly loved punished him for whom and what he was: an organic intellectual, a militant activist, a Rastafarian of note.

The prophet was deeply concerned with the developments in the northern areas. Every time that I will bumped into him, he would without fail express his grave concerns about the state of affairs of his people, as he called them.

He loved the youth. He would nostalgically refer back to our days in the Northern Areas Youth Congress {Nayco). With a deep sense of resignation he would question the current youth and what he called their materialistic (branded clothes, cellphones, etc) world outlook.

He always mentioned that there was a need for a progressive youth formation, dedicated to the plight of young people. During the teacher crisis in 2011-2012 I found my leader in the forefront again.

We debated the question of approach towards resolving the crisis. Sauls believed it required a multi-pronged approach.

He believed in mass action, the legal route or to engage in fierce negotiations with the Department of Education at the right time. Sauls led victoriously the campaign to stabilise our schools in the northern areas.

While many of us after the meetings rushed to our automobiles my leader stood aside, waiting for someone to offer him a lift home. Home to his family in an informal settlement, home to his shack where there is no electricity, no running water, no decent toilet and sometimes no meal to eat.

Sauls did not complain. He had little, but fought for the cause of those who were in much better circumstances (teachers) than what he found himself in.

His riches were not how much money he had in the bank, but how much he could do for his fellow South Africans.

A childhood friend, an outstanding community leader, a giant among men, the spirit of Andrew Sauls will live on.

-Eldridge Jerry, Port Elizabeth

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