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Touch my Grave and Go, says Mandela!

Publishing Date : 13 March, 2018

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

This year, the fifth since Nelson Dalibhunga Rolihlahla Mandela’s departure, has been marked by the African National Congress (ANC) as the year of Nelson Mandela and Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu.

I feel obliged to make this, my humble contribution to continuing the legacy of Madiba, the gift that his mother, Nonqaphi Nosekeni, and father, Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, gave to this world in the humble village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, on 18th July 1918. This, I do through Tokyo Sexwale’s poem ‘Touch My Grave and Go!’ which he wrote in honor of Nelson Mandela, and whose words, in my view, will forever echo through the mountains far beyond the borders of South Africa.

“Here I cease, no further can I go; go into the winding hills beyond; here I end where my journey ends; for my strength has reached journey’s end; here I lie gazing into the void; the void of my tired eye-lids; here I call and smile at you, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. When Mandela said “many a battle have we fought; many a battles have we lost and won” he was obviously referring to worthy battles aimed at redressing the injustices suffered by his people.

Have you, like Madiba, fought any worthy battles? Have you made any sacrifice for the good of your people? Have you not turned a blind eye to the subjugation of minority tribes, women and gays, lesbians and bisexuals? Nelson Mandela says “…we have lost and won against foes small and might”. Have you not shied away and abandoned your people for fear of the might of the Oppressor? Have you not betrayed your people for the like of power, privilege and material gain?

Did you know that if you remain true to your course you will, like Madiba, conquer sights and heights; that you will, when you finally depart this world, have death as your one and last fight which you will win and you will, like Madiba, say to your fellow liberators “tis time for you to march on, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end?” Yes, if you fed orphans and destitutes and housed the homeless we will, at the end of your journey, tell you that “yonder lies greater glories to take, yonder waits better victories to make, to scale and triumph over Everets”.

You will, when you cannot see and speak anymore, rest if you never exploited your workers. Nobody can say to you “so I ask: shall you ever rest” for you then shall lie and rest for your day will be done and sunset will have come. But for you to rest you need to have known the poor; you need to have never thrown away food when your neighbor slept hungry; you need to have put your people’s life and happiness ahead of yours; and you need to have been your people’s servant, not master.

If you have really lived a life worth living, a men as great as Mandela can say to you “ just do your last duty for me, for the grave of a fellow warrior is dug in the heat of battle by the wayside, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. This is not an honor you can get if your hands have the blood of innocent men and women. Nor can you get such an honor if your people sleep thirsty and in the dark because you mismanaged their resources.

Who can accord you such an honor if you steal from your people? Such an honor cannot be yours if women and children cry all because of your mercilessness. Madiba says “ take with you my fighting tools; take with you my trowel to build; take with you my book to read; take my pen to write; take this song to heart; take my rifle; take my icon”. This is such an honor that it cannot be asked of you if you defiled innocent children and abused your spouse.

What can you build if you thrive in covering your people’s light so that yours alone shines? Which book can you read if you are drunk with power which you drink from the skulls of the slain?

What can you write if you hate writers whose only sword is the pen while yours is a nuclear bomb? Which song can you take to heart when you hate musicians simply because they are unionized workers? Which rifle can you take when your every rifle is torture, espionage and sabotage?

Can you have an icon when you are the only icon? Can you even listen to Madiba when he says “off to newer battles yet as you do touch stone touch my grave and go in this war without surrender”?

Can you have newer battles when you have never known the old? Can you not surrender when you have retreated from speaking the truth and telling truth to power?   Are your hands clean enough that they can touch a grave as clean as Madiba’s?

You cannot touch Madiba’s grave without leading. And ‘To Lead” is another poem I righteously steal, for I pledge to use it fruitfully. Can you, like Madiba, lead ever from the front, but not too far?

Can you like Sir Seretse Khama lead never from the back no matter what? Can you like Sir Ketumile Masire be ever in sight, not out of sight? Can you like Festus Mogae lead from amongst the people but one step ahead? Can you like Baledzi Gaolatlhe be within hearing distance but not too close?

Can you like Gomolemo Motswaledi sing your people’s chorus but take the solo? Can you like Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete sing like a lark with no discord and change the tune but check with your people?

Can you like Madiba chart new paths but fight for your people? If you listened to Madiba and you are Duma Boko you will remember to lead the opposition and win the opposition. You will remember not to win the enemy, but to win your enemy’s followers. Take with you Madiba’s fighting tools and fight corruption; take with you Madiba’s fighting tools and fight inequality, gender discrimination, and violence against women and children. Take with you Madiba’s fighting tools and fight xenophobia.  

Take with you Dalibhunga’s trowel to build a nation, a nation where poverty and inequality are not the norm but an exception. Take with you Dalibhunga’s trowel to build a nation, a nation where people are not divided by race, tribe, gender and sexual orientation. Take with you Rolihlahla’s book to read, and read from the fountain of knowledge for Utata’s book is a book of life. It is not the Bible, but it is of the Bible. It is not the Quran, but it is about the Quran. It is not the Torah but it is of the Torah.     

Take Utata’s pen and write, and write against corruption and economic crime. Take Utata’s pen and write against nepotism. Write with Utata’s pen for his is truly mightier than the sword, yet less destructive than the sword. Take this song to heart for its hymn swallows the sounds of guns and bombs. Take Mandela’s rifle for its bullets do not miss enemies of the people. Take Madiba’s icon for even if you can only become nearer to his image your image will be bright enough to enlighten the world.

It is only if you have taken Utata’s fighting tools to fight; taken his trowel to build; taken his book to read; taken his pen to write; taken his rifle to shoot; taken his icon to enlighten the world and taken his song to heart that Utata may say to you “Touch my grave and go in this journey without end!



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