The story of Cadre was inspired by my uncle’s life. I was only on a journey of searching for my family tree when I came across his story. When I embarked on a journey of knowing my family to know myself, I never thought I would bump on to this kind of story. Not knowing my family very well made me feel like I was living with a group of strangers at home. Hearing my uncle’s story made me realize that I was lost in my own home. Lost in a sense that I didn’t know my own people and I couldn’t connect with them. It is difficult for one to care if one can’t connect, that was my biggest fear. I began to understand a Siberian proverb I once came across: “If you don’t know the trees, you may get lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may get lost in life.” This is when I began to write Cadre. I felt it was worthy to be told because it was not only my story, but our story.
The story of Cadre bounces back and forth between the present and the past because I believe history is very much a part of our present. History is not only timeless, it is also valuable. It is worthy to be preserved for we are our own history. The universal truth is that we preserve things that we care about, things that we hold dearly in our hearts. If we do not care about our history, then even if we are not aware, part of us does not care about ourselves. Countries are what they are because of their history. People are what they are because of their history. I cannot imagine a country that does not acknowledge its own history. In South Africa we speak of being proudly South African. We are not ashamed, we are proud of our own country. But the question would be; what does it mean to be proudly South African? Does it mean we are proud to be a diverse community? Does it mean we are proud of having a black president? Does it mean we are proud to have fought oppression and racism? What I’m sure of is that we cannot be proud without acknowledging what made us to be proud South Africans, otherwise we are only being half proud. Therefore we would be incomplete as a people. It is the trials, humps and mountains that determine the kind of people we are today. I know for sure that as a nation we do not want to experience those trials, humps and mountains again that we experienced in the past.
The truth of it is that our past is as ugly as a machete cut on a human’s neck. This is a reality we can never erase in our minds. I came across a quote that says “The only thing we ever learn from history is that we never learn anything at all.” It has been a kind of a norm in African countries to have post war conflicts and tensions. Almost every African country has gone into civil war after independence. We still have post-war conflicts and tensions in about fifteen countries in Africa. There are conflicts and tensions in a number of countries in West Africa, East Africa, North Africa including Angola, and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.
South Africa is one of the luckiest countries in Africa that never resolved into a civil war after independence. We have even become idols for other countries experiencing conflicts. But we are now currently experiencing a bumpy ride with a huge number of industrial actions. The bloodiest being the Marikana tragedy, when the police opened fire at the striking miners. We are also experiencing a blue elephant in the room called “corruption.” We do have service delivery in South Africa but what we also have are more service delivery protests, about 372 service delivery protests recorded only last year between January and May. 2012 could be remembered as the year of boiling service delivery protests. The gap between the rich and the poor is Ginormous. One of the most dangerous humps being the ruling party’s factional tensions. Perhaps all these challenges are inevitable in a transforming and growing country. But these could be signs that show that we too, are not learning from history. If one does not learn from history, from past mistakes and experiences, possibilities are that history could repeat itself all over again. It could repeat itself the same way it did, or in a different form. This is why I tell the story of Cadre, to warn us that we should remember that history is there for a reason, to teach us never to go back to where we were before, so we can do all we can to protect what we have so we can have a better future because we know better. Someone wise once said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” But mainly to emphasize, that having a black president was only the beginning. The journey to complete freedom still continues.
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