MY TURN – SOUTH AFRICA

The Nowhere People

Some stay in the only home they’ve ever known on the soils that crops were planted in long before they were born. Like their patriarchs before them, they raise livestock and plant their country’s food. From sunrise to sunset, they go from one task to the next to keep up with the lands they were raised on. But mostly, while battling droughts and sudden floods, the very lands that they have taken their very first breaths on have made their lives worthless.

Some leave the Indian Ocean beaches that hold dear the memory of our footprints buried deep into the sandy shorelines. We bid farewell to our beautiful winelands and jagged mountain peaks. We know that we may never see another King Protea or an array of fine bush again. At the very point of our beloved South Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, we know that a part of our identity will linger in the crashing of the two seas forever.

The brightly colored houses and cobbled streets of the fairest Cape will come back to haunt us on the days we hear the West Coast winds call our name. The pearly beaches we took for granted, the whales that would pop up on just another day at the beach, and lagoons that once were our playground will trickle from the corner of our eyes when we catch a whiff of a smell we once knew so well. The flowers in winter, the hiking trails in summer, and the rains dripping around the African sun will relentlessly bounce around inside of us. Sometimes, we are so sure we hear a voice in a language we once found a home in, and it brings us to our knees.

The epic view of the Lowveld and the magnificent God’s Window tugs harshly at the heart of the Nowhere People and causes the soul to shudder. The Blyde River Canyon, national parks and nature reserves are home to so many tired souls, often plagued by a love/hate relationship with a country that no longer wants them.

The pastures and the bush, home to the wildlife the Nowhere People have loved and nurtured. Northern Cape sunsets are paintings in the sky that once gave us a reason to stay. The green hills, waterfalls and stretches of sandy beaches along the Wild Coast reminds us that these are visions we may never see again. In all that was built by our ancestors before us, their blood running through our veins, we have become the Nowhere People, identified as land thieves, second-class citizens and invaders.

How do we stay when we are attacked daily, tortured and killed? Our children are violated, strung up, drowned in boiling water and beaten to death? Our grandmothers gang raped until they let out their last breath. Our grandfathers slowly burned with irons or blow torches, and who are sometimes left to suffer for months before they exhale for the last time. Our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons who have holes drilled in their knees or their tendons cut so that they can’t fight back when their wives, sisters, mothers or daughters are being brutally assaulted and killed. How do we stay and fight back when all the rights that allow us to defend ourselves have been stripped from us? How do we stand up when we are merely a drop in an overflowing bucket of hatred? How do we stay when through song, the blatant call to kill us echoes around us? How do we find life when the color of our skin is enough to justify us a target? Just because we aren’t rounded up and shot in masses, does not make it any less critical. How easy, quick and merciful that would be? Instead, we carry the coffins of loved ones who have been sadistically tortured for hours, and by the time death reaches down for them, we welcome it. How can we find life in a country that keeps us prisoners in our homes, even though being behind locked doors, fences and secured windows isn’t enough to stop the slaughter? How do we continue to listen to the screams of our children, mothers and grandmothers as they rip through the silence of the night?

Still, we are the Nowhere People. Nowhere to stay and nowhere to go. The country that raised us is evicting us. Staying only fuels the anger from those that loathe our very existence. So, where do the Nowhere People go? Across the oceans, there’s a nation that would love to have us, provided we are not a day older than 45. Its neighbor gracefully increased that number by 10 years. When was it decided that after 45, man can no longer successfully contribute to society? How is it possible that an economy cannot flourish when the employed are over 45, but more importantly, how does any economy trump a human life? Another country will take us temporarily to farm their lands, but only for a while. Only if our culture isn’t too big on Christianity and we are willing to engage in anything that fuels political ideals that are so far removed from our own. Then, there is another who have fought our forefathers for our lands and our wealth in two recent, dirty wars. Another would love our farmers if they were able to invest millions into their agricultural communities. Most nations around the world are welcoming refugees who engage in unrest, violent crimes, human and drug trafficking, provided they aren’t Boers or Afrikaners – the Nowhere People.