I saw humility in the face of deep, deep grief.
A wave of palpable forgiveness. People of all colours uniting in a spiritual war against violence. Collectively calling for peace and unity.
#BlackMonday was a stand against violent crime, which has become pandemic in South Africa, and the recent murder of Joubert Conradie was a catalyst to say that enough is enough.
I was invited to attend the #BlackMonday gathering by the co-founders of the newly launched Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice, Advocate Alan Nelson, Oscar Siwali and Paul Dalmeyer.
They told me farm murders should not be approached in isolation, and quoted the following statistics – for the year 2016/17, there have been more than 19 000 murders in our country.
That equates to 52 people killed a day.
The statistic includes 639 gang-related murders on the Cape Flats. There have been 341 farm attacks that led to 70 farmers losing their lives.
I saw Conradie’s bereaved family calling for South Africans to be “warriors of peace and love” – to look inwards and get rid of all evil and darkness within themselves.
To let the darkness in everyone’s life turn to light.
I heard a friend of Conradie’s speak as “a father, a farmer, a cattle man, just a nobody”.
“But,” he said, “I ask you to be still. Observe a minute’s silence and then walk away from this field and leave any anger behind.”
I heard Conradie’s widow, Marlene, speak of peace and forgiveness, and heard a very young boy play the last post bravely through an antelope’s horn.
All this despite the fact that the latest murder statistics released by the SA Police Service do not make public the fact that, in 2016/17, farm murders increased by 27.5% and attacks by 22.9%.
Still, I saw no blame. I saw people who have a far greater capacity for forgiveness than I.
I heard an appeal for President Jacob Zuma to expunge the darkness in himself, but I heard no overt criticism of him.
After all, the appeal was for everyone present and those watching to do so as well.
“If we are to move forward – we must look back”
I heard the organisers of #BlackMonday say that any offensive flags and apartheid memorabilia would not be tolerated.
I listened when Siwali said: “I want to emphasise that the police’s crime stats report is not just statistics. The numbers are people’s lives.
“They are uncles, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Whether they are black, brown, green or yellow, they are people; they are South Africans.”
I heard him call on all present to desist from using militaristic words in responding to this scourge, but to rather ask: “What is the problem? What is the cause of this?
And while I will not do justice in elaborating and mapping out our problem in South Africa, let me at least make a start.
And I want to make a call to all South Africans to do something about the violence.
“We have some major challenges in South Africa, most of which are a residue of our past. And we must remember that – if we are to move forward – we must look back.”
I heard one of the farm workers leading a prayer for peace.
I listened when Nelson said the Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice believes that the emotional outcry by Chris Loubser, and the initiation of the #BlackMonday event, is not just for the murder in Klapmuts in the Cape, but it is a collective shout out against what is happening in this country as it is underlined by the horrific stats.
Nelson said: “Our foundation gives its unreserved support and encourages South Africans to believe that it is the responsibility of every individual to help do something about these heinous crimes that are destroying our country.
“Violence that has invaded every level of our society is committed by a minute fraction of people.”
I heard the words ‘enough is enough’ spoken without malice, blame or quest for retribution.
“As an organisation,” said Nelson, “we wish to emphasise that violent crime is not limited to farms, but is prevalent in all of our communities.
“The recent tragic events must be seen in this light and not be used to polarise our people.
“There are millions and millions of good and peace-loving South Africans of all races, religions and political persuasions – all equally affected and appalled by the new wave of violent crime that threatens us all.”
I saw hope
I saw tears; I saw hope. I saw hands and hearts reaching out to every South African to work together for a better future.
Nelson led the convoy procession in a carriage pulled by his four black Friesian horses, and was followed by a number of people on horseback as well as hundreds of cars, bakkies, trucks and tractors.
A silent memorial convoy of hope, love, forgiveness, reconciliation.
I heard Siwali say: “Let’s recognise each other as people in South Africa. When someone treats the other like an enemy, they kill them. But if we all treat each other as neighbours, we can build relations.
“We must resist responding to violence with violence – an eye for an eye creates a blind nation.”
To remember those who have lost their lives, let’s help communities with economic ideas and economic livelihood.
Let’s help destitute people – make a difference in their lives so their families can see a better tomorrow.
Let’s generate economic development ideas for South Africans throughout the country using media.
Let the ideas be available for any entrepreneur who wants to use them free of charge in memory of those who have died violently.
I heard Siwali say: “I want to suggest a greeting in isiZulu, the word ‘sawubona’, which means ‘I see you’. Let’s start the day – let’s start the hour – by acknowledging each other’s presence in the space.
“Go out and acknowledge the vendor selling fruit, the gogo selling sweets and the man selling vegetables, and support them. Let’s make this a national greeting – sawubona.
“I see you. And I hear you.”