A 21 Gun Salute to Dennis Brutus

I used to harbor serious political ambitions, until I saw what politics did to Dennis Brutus. They first identify you as fresh, swallow you like the shark did Biblical Jonah and look for the most fucked up spot on earth to spit you out to. In the case of Brutus he was fresh because he was an activist against apartheid, he looked juicy due to his piercing probing poetry and the shark that swallowed him was named Robben Island.

However when it finally spitted him out he did not find himself in the country of his destination but back at apartheid South Afrika with all its warts. Brutus fought hard for sport isolation of the country and succeeded. He was hurt two years ago when the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nkosazana Zuma said sports and politics don’t mix. Somewhere in his head he had a vision of the society he wanted South Afrika to become when the chickens finally come home to roost and the cattle come home from grazing the veld.

Then 1994 happened and the deal Nelson Mandela signed with the Nationalist Party was the worst ever entered into between two consenting adults. It was the same sham deal similar to the one proposed by the Middle East Quartet for a Two-State solution in Palestine. At least the Palestinians have leaders with backbones.

It was similar to two unequal people fighting, the weak one being assaulted so hard that s/he bleeds through the ears. Then at round 11 the weak takes to his feet and start administering serious punches on the stronger opponent and it looks like s/he is going to knock the opponent down. And then the referee stops the fight and declares a draw. A fucking draw – not even a technical knock out!

A draw means that the title remains with the stronger ‘champion’ and the weaker challenger leaves with nothing but an illusion of a short-lived victory. These are what the sunset clauses proposed by Joe Slovo [RIP] and signed by Mandela at the negotiations achieved. Blacks wanted land, the wealth of the country, economic participation and equality – the wanted everything in the Freedom Charter. They fought for an egalitarian society where people wouldn’t be privileged by virtue of their skin colour.

What Brutus and millions of informed South Afrikans saw with the Mandela-ANC was the perpetuation of the same status quo. The laager was not going to be dismantled but will have new occupiers flying a black green and gold flag. Fifteen years later the richest people are still the same Oppenheimers, the land, which was stolen in 1913 and beyond is still in the hands of the same thieves, the darkies participating in the economy are mere tokens like Patrice Motsepe and others. And the majority is piled up in the tender national, provincial and local municipality system, battling for crumbs. Their biggest picture is not Satrix 40 but Mercedes Benz ML 63.

That is the reason I had a problem with a newspaper that sad it was a tragedy [or travesty] that Brutus refused to embrace the ‘new South Afrika’. He was not alone; some of us have a problem embracing a sham when we know what the ideal looks like. I can’t embrace a whore when I married a virgin. The ideal that Mandela and his party swept aside to short-change so many darkies just for an opportunity to govern is not acceptable.

I met Brutus two times and everytime I spent time with him he had something important and revolutionary to teach me. Not the fake revolutionary rhetoric of the ANC-SACP-COSATU-MKMVA that only suffices at SABC screened press conferences. The real revolution that stretches from Afrika to South Amerika, Middle East, Asia and the last despotic outpost –Swaziland.

I enjoyed my times with Brutus and learnt the importance of sacrifice, altruism and international activism beyond narrow battlefields like who should be the CEO of the SABC, Transnet, Armscor or who should be in cabinet. Something bigger than a tender. Brutus understood that South Afrika will never be free until the last oppressed soul on earth has been granted self-determination.

Brutus was a poet, a soldier and a father. He was a comrade’s comrade and a realist – something many so-called comrades today are not.