Citizen-Comrade: An Open Letter to the People

Citizen-Comrade: a term made up, recognizes a dual imperative:

Comrade recalls a shared past, and the brotherhood we formed in defying the oppression of apartheid.

Citizen recognizes the new role we now play, as no longer victims of an external force, but as human beings with certain responsibilities.

The burden of responsibility is simply not only to our fellow citizens, with whom we must co-habit a shared space, equally. It is truly an eternal weight of responsibility, which the names of Nelson Mandela and Chris Hani impinge on us to follow through, as well as the names of those who are yet-to-be-born, who must follow.

James Baldwin, expressed it well when he wrote: “Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.”

We must anticipate the questions our children’s children will ask, and be able to provide answers to them. How will we answer, when they ask, “You said there was corruption, but what did you do about?”; “We understand that democracy was new, and constitutions were yet known, but how did you uphold the integrity thereof?”

If we are find ourselves unable to respond adequately to these questions in our lifetime then we can conclude that we have reached a state of paralysis.

Perhaps the double-barrel of Citizen-Comrade, is an admission of this paralysis and a pursuit of a way out, by defining our a state as in-transition.

An ancient proverb says that, “He who finds a friend finds a good thing, but a brother is born for adversity.” It means that hardship and struggle may reveal the best of us, traits that seem to disappear in times of prosperity. So the struggle against oppression may have revealed the best of us, we could be brothers, but such brotherhood seems fickle in our times of prosperity, where personal motives supersede collective efforts.

“True leadership demands complete subjugation of self, absolute honesty, integrity and uprightness of character, courage and selflessness, above all a consuming love for one’s people.” Robert Sobukwe (1924-1978)