When the xenophobic riots of May 2008 rocked South Africa, Thabo Mbeki was roundly criticised for dragging his feet on deploying the army into the townships to resolve widespread violence that the police seemed unable to contain. Not because the army would have been ineffective in quashing the violence, but because he was unwilling to publicly recreate the apartheid-era symbol of soldiers in the townships, recognising the power that the juxtaposition of soldiers and shacks would have in the public imagination.
I’ve spent the twenty-four hours following the release of the Marikana Report sitting and reading it, making reader’s notes as I go, as a service to those who won’t have the time to spend going through the 600-page document. So having taken a massive nap since, I want to just share a couple of thoughts on it
When you travel long enough, and you meet enough people, you’ll eventually come across a properly unrecorded myth. A story that people in an area know and which might have existed for a time in the national historical memory, but has nevertheless since retreated into obscurity. There’s a story about the concrete thrones of Idi Amin that structured the antics below. And it’s a myth of that sort.
Monuments exist, perhaps, to enable modern day pilgrims. Their attempts to live – to make real – the dreams of books and films and images. There’s a power to that. To the smiles and emotional work of a thousand people beneath a giant iron colossus made real. Arrived, in a sense, at the end of journeys planned, saved for, and with varying difficulty realised.
From what remained of the dream in the morning, I can recall only that it was a beetle of some kind. Painlessly living in my finger somewhere, and vibrating a lot. Or shuffling unsettlingly and drawing attention away from more important things, like rest, and calm, and life. Opinion, unsurprisingly, differs on what an insect in a dream means.