My heart breaks every time I read news about South Africa, Cape Town specifically. I’m saddened by the fact that I understand why one of the things that people think of about my home country is the crime. I hate knowing that they’re right. Living in one of the safest places in the world has made me see that even more clearly. I can do whatever I want whenever I want and how ever I want, and no one would even think of messing with me here. It’s just not part of the way people think and exist here – people take responsibility for themselves and don’t mess with what is not theirs. Every time I think about going home to visit, I’m met with waves of anxiety because I don’t know if I can go back to a space where I’m constantly fearing for my own safety. I don’t know how I did it before – always being on guard. I’m still that way – when you’re taught to be exceptionally vigilant and aware of your surroundings, it is sewn to the way that you move about in this world. It robs people of experiencing so much when all that they can think about or focus on is merely surviving. My people deserve so much more than that – mere existence is not living. Yet people are forced to spend their days focusing on just staying alive. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I could potentially do to instigate and be a part of change in South Africa. I don’t feel like I have what I need within me right now to influence things the way I want to. A part of me doesn’t want to go back until I can fix everything, but then there are my people awaiting change in the most dire of circumstances while I’m safely tucked away with this immense amount of privilege unable to give them any of the joy that I am blessed to experience.
I don’t like to get angry – like that enraged, seeing red kind of anger. Those primal, instinctual emotions and I are not the greatest of friends because of my obsession with rationalism and logic. I don’t like to allow myself to get to a place where I don’t have control. One of my triggers though is people who hurt people and don’t feel any remorse or understanding of what they’ve done. I don’t understand why people cannot care about how they affect others. Recently, as I’ve watched from afar as the situation on the Cape Flats becomes more and more violent and dire, it’s become more than people getting hurt. It’s more than hurt feelings or bruised egos. It’s more than someone doing something that annoys or inconveniences others. I can’t comprehend why people are so flippant about human life. People are dying. That sentence feels so weighted to me, and I can’t understand how others don’t feel it. My people are dying, and I can’t do anything about it. I remember having a conversation with my brother and his girlfriend about why I needed to leave South Africa. There’s so much pain. Everywhere. The air is thick with it. I can see it in the way that people move, I can hear it in their voices even if they don’t recognize it as being in pain. It’s something like a second skin that people wear and because they’ve never experienced anything different, they don’t know of the weight that they carry. I couldn’t bear it anymore – carrying my own pain, and the pain of a country (That sounds dramatic, I know, but I have a lot of feelings). I needed to leave so that I could come back with the emotional resources to actually do something about it.
I want to scream. Every headline I see with a body count makes my blood boil. To make things worse, the people responsible don’t feel an ounce of guilt. They don’t see the people they kill as people – they were just collateral damage, they just got in the way or, my personal favourite, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who would’ve thought that hanging up laundry in your back garden minding your own business would be the wrong place or time? Or being an unborn child on the verge of entering into this magnificent world (because I still believe that it is) only to have that light snuffed out before it even had a chance to burn? I have nightmares about standing in the middle of the street in a gang-affected area – not a person in sight. I never see people in those dreams, and I don’t know if it’s because they’re all locked away in their houses, afraid to leave or if they’ve just killed us all. It’s always just me and the dust being tossed around by the south-easter. I’m haunted by the faces of the people that I love and millions of other innocent people who, at any given point, may be taken from us. My heart sank when I heard that the army was being deployed. The most harrowing part of that reality is that they’re not there to solve the problem and the gangs inflicting this chaos and cruelty aren’t scared or worried about them in the slightest. They know the army’s every move, they know how to get around them because at the end of the day, business is business and there’s still a demand for their drugs and weapons. It’s so much bigger than the Cape Flats yet those are the people who are the most heavily impacted by this. Who do I need to speak to in order to change all of this? Who do I need to convince that these people’s lives are more important than their ridiculous payday? Someone please tell me how I can get them to stop killing my people.
My hope is that I may one day contribute to the healing of my country. I want the world to see that there’s so much more to South Africa than crime, poverty and Kruger National Park. No more hiding behind the guise of ‘The Rainbow Nation’ while people are being denied of life and the opportunity to truly live. I have had the honour and privilege to be raised by a community filled with so much love, talent and radiant culture. Imagine a world where those things could be nurtured and cherished – a world where we were encouraged to create instead of to destroy. We have so much to give yet they insist on killing their givers – like a snake eating its own tail
I want the narrative around South Africa to be what they promised us – freedom.
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for entertaining my naivete and massive messiah complex. I appreciate you.