Two monks are journeying to their monastery and, on their way there, they meet a young and beautiful woman standing on the banks of a fast-flowing river. She asks for help in getting to the other side. The older monk readily agrees and, carrying the woman in his arms, wades through the water. When they reached the safety of the other side he gently places her on the ground and they go their separate ways.
The younger fellow was astounded at this and, after a long, brooding silence, he accused his fellow of having being a bad monk: “How could you do that? We aren’t even supposed to make eye contact with women, let alone pick them up and carry them!” The elder monk smiled at his younger brother and said, “Why are you still carrying her? I put her down when I reached the other side of the river”.
In parliament this week the struggle veteran and seasoned parliamentarian, Mosiuoa Lekota, revisited a moment from the early days of student activism of the 1970s. It was in the days of black consciousness embodied in the sterling leadership of the martyr, Steve Biko. A generation of courageous young women and men had raised the fallen flag of freedom from the ground of defeat. Their selfless acts and sacrifice led to the casting aside of the shroud of political inertia that had shadowed black lives after the banning of the liberation movements.
Lekota directed an accusatory finger at President Cyril Ramaphosa. Referring to their time in detention, accused him of a Judas-like act of betrayal. “You wrote to the Special Branch that we put communist ideas in your head. In doing so, you condemned us to the Special Branch. I say this to you because the Special Branch rewarded you … and they sent you home, and we headed to Robben Island”.
The questions that come to mind is why Lekota, a bit like the young monk in the Zen parable, harboured these thoughts all these long years. What purpose is served by this bitter outpour before the eyes of the nation. Ramaphosa, in refutation of the charge of having been a sell-out, equated Lekota words as that of being “vitriol and pontification”. Lekota was rewarded with a standing ovation by the EFF and some members of the DA.
I wonder what thirty pieces of silver sounded like as it fell to the ground of the temple where Judas had thrown it before he went and hung himself? The suffering majority of the poor and struggling people of our land have crossed many rivers in the quest to survive and to overcome their lot in life. The leadership of all political parties must know that we are not blind to the ways you try to moegoefy us into joining your cause. If you truly love the truth and its varied ways of ensuring justice, then surrender to the will of a long-betrayed people. Embrace a common, patriotic agenda otherwise your party manifestos are just different lyrics sung to the same tired tune of the hymns of self-interests.
As an electorate we are confronted with a certain dilemma: President Cyril Ramaphosa is the best option we have to lead us away from the political and economic precipice of despair that our country is hurtling towards. Yet to vote for him is to vote for the very party, the ANC, that have dragged us into the mud and mire of the present.
As a way forward, consider a Charter of Intent that will commit the majority party, inter alia, to an electoral system where we in the future can vote for a president who, while of the party, would not be bound by its dictates. Otherwise we are decorating Valentine roses on the chains of the present.
Rev Michael Weeder is the current Dean of St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town.