Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So how about it if we get away from money, sex, and religion and have a couple or more uplifting stories instead? They come from South Africa and one actually does involve money but not in the way I’ve previously written about it.
The first story comes from Soweto. Theatre has come a long way in South Africa since I left in 1953, particularly in Cape Town, but Soweto, a township once home to former President Nelson Mandela, has opened its first theatre .The eleven million pound project aims to attract tourists and locals alike. When you think of Soweto’s history it is really quite a remarkable achievement considering South Africans of all colours have never been ardent theatre goers.
The second story is the one concerning  money “She's not a superwoman, she's just an ordinary person doing her job” is one anti-corruption campaigner's blunt assessment of Thuli Madonsela, the woman the press often calls just Thuli. Her investigations have led to the sacking of some of the most senior figures in the state, most recently the country's former police chief, Bheki Cele, who was suspended over a property leasing scandal in 2011. The softly spoken mother of two has become a one-woman corruption crusader. David Lewis, chief executive of the newly launched campaign group ‘Corruption Watch’ has described her as “South Africa's most important bulwark against corruption” who has inspired hope among millions of citizens looking for a better way of life. Mrs. Madonsela has captured the imagination of South Africans and the media for her no-nonsense style and her ability to deliver. As a former lawyer in the trade union movement during the fight against white minority rule and her involvement in the drafting of South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, she has the respect of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and opposition alike. Over the past few months, Thuli Madonsela has overseen some 14,000 investigations. She accepts Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's argument that “300 years of colonial rule and 40 years of apartheid” cannot be corrected overnight and that the seeds of corruption were sown long before the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, “But,” she says, “if visible action is taken against corrupt officials now, then it sends the message to people that ‘if you are thinking about it - then don't.’” South Africa has shown that, with a free press and independent courts, it still has a chance of winning the war on corruption, and in many ways, Mrs. Madonsela embodies that hope.
The third story involves animals and in its way is as remarkable as the previous two. Lawrence Anthony, a legend in South Africa and the author of three books including the bestseller ‘The Elephants Whisperer’ bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US 2003 invasion, died on March 7, this year. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons and numerous elephants.
Two days after his passing the wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs. Separate wild herds arrived to say good-bye to their beloved man friend. A total of twenty elephants had walked over twelve miles to get to his South African house in Natal’s Thula Thula game reserve. Witnessing this spectacle humans were in awe not only because of the supreme intelligence and precise timing these elephants sensed but also because of the profound memory and emotion the animals evoked in such an organized way. They obviously wanted to pay their deep respect honouring their friend who had saved their lives. So much respect that they stayed for two days and two nights. Then one morning they left, making their long journey home.
So when one reads stories like that, why is it so many humans have so little respect for animals? I find it hard to understand, even harder to accept.


Lewis said...

Those "300 years of colonial rule" are what gave her and her people "a free press and independent courts".
What a pity she, of all people, should just mouth a trite and mendacious mantra without thinking of what she's saying.

Ben Herman said...

That story about the elephants is very moving. As you say, people ought to have more respect for animals. But, as I've mentioned before, considering most of us cannot even find it within our abilities to empathize with other human beings, it is not surprising that there is disdain for non-human life. As it is, I have more respect for my two cats than I do for some of my fellow "advanced" humans.