By Mbangwa Xaba

The national consensus is that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s blabbering on February 9 intended as a reflection of the state of our nation was an absolute annoyance and a waste of time and money.
I tried to be a reasonable guy under unreasonable circumstances. I was more forgiving even though it was in defiance of the wise voice screaming from the depth of my soul of souls. I was more than content to direct my gaze and attention elsewhere. Hard as it was, I pardoned nearly everything; the misdiagnosis, the unrealistic suggestions, even the vulgar extravagance of the red-carpet parade and its luxurious grandeur amidst the sea of poverty and misery of the state-sponsored darkness. Bitter as it was, I grinned and swallowed the sickening pill.

The part that had the Xaba goat prancing around with rage was the gibberish President Cyril Ramaphosa uttered in the opening of his lame SONA. The president had the dumbfounding gumption to describe us as a nation defined by ‘hope and resilience’. To describe us as being a tolerant nation and how we were not defined by the features of our land thoroughly irked me. All the gallant fighters who gave their lives did it for the land, freedom and independence that was taken away from us through the Gatling gun.
The queens and kings who were tortured, murdered and some reduced to nonentities did not resist colonialism to gain hope. It was about the land and its abundant beauty and massive wealth and the restoration of the dignity of the oppressed.
The resilience of freedom fighters was never about restoring hope as an identity; it was to return us to the beauty and splendour of the land that had given life.

I cringed when I heard Ramaphosa say: “For we are a nation defined not by the oceans and rivers that form the boundaries of our land.
“We are not defined by the minerals under our earth or the spectacular landscape above it.
“We are not even defined by the languages we speak or the songs we sing or the work we do.
“We are, at our most essential, a nation defined by hope and resilience.”
Goodness gracious me, just what in the name of freedom was he implying?
What the hack got into the heads of the president’s speech writers?
This land, and everything in and on it, are the very basis of our nationhood. They and nothing else are at the heart of our nation’s identity.
To both the grandchildren of the beneficiaries and victims of land dispossession, the most brazen act of greed and racial oppression as espoused by the Natives Land Act of 1913, the contours and minerals of this land are everything!

The pain of the struggle for freedom was about nothing else but the birthright of the oppressed to defeat the consolidated white settler regime that deprived nearly 90% of blacks of 93% of their land.
For the oppressed, the land speaks to the gamut of historical experiences comprising murder, genocide, destruction of existing knowledge and large-scale dispossession of indigenous occupancy.
That importance of the land even found expression in the national anthem, code of arms and even provision of the constitution because, to this day, not much has changed for the black majority. We are still in the struggle for land ownership.

So, our personhood and “being” revolve around the earth and all that walks on it, the heavens, the waters and all that live in it, the natural landscape, the atmosphere and livestock.
If you are comfortable with it, to the point of acceptance, please exclude us from the colonisers’ insult to commodify our land to be purchased and sold at their will as a mere piece of property. To us, this land is our very being! Having been at the forefront of South Africa’s negotiated breakthrough which sought to redress the imbalances of the past and build a new, united and democratic society, the president should know this.

Being South African is one of the best things in the world to be. And while braai vleis, vuvuzelas and rooibos tea are incredible symbols of our uniqueness, there are very few things that represent our diversity as flawlessly as our national anthem. The president knows the solemness of that goes with each moment we sing the national anthem with our right hands glued to our chests, from a toddler at a daycare centre to the oldest of citizens of a 60 million strong nation. With the greatest passion, one only befitting a cry for nationhood, we pray to the heavens: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo, (Lord bless Africa May her glory be lifted high.)

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, Setjhaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika. (Lord we ask You to protect our nation, Intervene and end all conflicts, Protect it, protect our nation, The nation of South Africa, South Africa.) Declaring that; “Uit die blou van onse hemel, Uit die diepte van ons see, Oor ons ewige gebergtes, Waar die kranse antwoord gee,” (From the blue of our skies, from the depths of our seas, over our everlasting mountains, where the echoing crags resound).

All this can never be meaningless. Least of all, it can never be rendered trivial by our head of state.
It was even stranger to watch the president utter these rather unfortunate words with the country’s code of arms covering his person on the podium and the national flag above him in the parliamentary chamber at the city hall. Surely the president knows about the code of arms that shielded his person on the podium. He knows about the secretary bird displayed and the protea flower with outer petals.
He does have memories about South Africa’s new flag and how it was first hoisted during the elections – on April 27, 1994.

He most certainly appreciates its huge symbolism to our nationhood. What its first official appearance at the presidential inauguration on May 10, 1994, means to this nation. It became the official symbol of the new democracy and was adopted into South Africa’s new constitution in 1996.
Above all this, the president is aware that the design of South Africa’s new flag represented the unification of the diverse nation into one democratic state. The “Y” illustrates the convergence and the path ahead. The black isosceles triangle: the determination of the black race and the blue the Atlantic and Indian Oceans or the wide sky overhead; truth, loyalty. The red bloodshed during the wars; bravery; strength and green the fertility of the land; love, hope, and joy for the land; and that the yellow in the flag represents the mineral wealth that is below the soil; gold and white the white population; honesty; peace.
How on earth do you wish to define us outside our norms, our heritage, the nationhood and its symbols?
With due respect, I think the president without any justification whatsoever, went off tangent to speak nonsense.

Your incoherent apology does not hold with me and many other South Africans; as such I will proudly proclaim what former President Thabo Mbeki said in 1996 : “I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas, and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.”
Don’t ever challenge this assertion…ever again!

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