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Darrel Bristow-Bovey: The Heartbreaking Irony of the ANC’s Response and the Beautiful Unity of #FeesMustFall

One Midlife Crisis and a SpeedoDarrel Bristow-Bovey, author of One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, recently wrote two columns about the #FeesMustFall protests in Cape Town.

In the first column, Bristow-Bovey comments on the “heartbreaking irony of watching the ANC forget the lessons that the National Party learnt from them about the radicalising effect of using violence against a peaceful, disciplined citizenry”.

Read the article:

There has for such a long time been such a disjuncture between official government responses and the felt reality of the people they govern that Jacob Zuma’s ANC simply isn’t used to looking at the world and recognising what it sees. They’re too weighed down by arrogance, whiskey and red wine, so smothered by party lines, patronage and self-interest that they can no longer see or speak the truth, possibly not even to themselves. The result is the machinery of state turning into an irony machine.

The ironies flew around like water bottles. There were the visuals on eNCA of minister Nhlanhla Nene sedately telling his good story, allocating fresh millions to the nuclear deal and urging more direct foreign investment while simultaneously on the screen and outside the children of the people inside were singing the songs their parents wrote, being choked and manhandled for demanding equal access to the future.

In a follow-up article, Bristow-Bovey explains how unlikable and silly he ordinarily finds national anthems, and how surprisingly beautiful he found the student protesters’ rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika outside of parliament last month:

But then, last week, in the days following the march to parliament, I saw a clip that had been recorded on a cellphone. The gathered students start singing the national anthem. A little way into the first stanza the first stun grenades go off. There‘s some running and alarm and the camera swings round like it‘s Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, but the kids keep singing. Then the first stanza ends and the next wave of grenades go off, but the kids keep going, they sing the next stanza, Die Stem, and I became quietly emotional.

This is an unfashionable thing to say in today‘s revolutionary moment when the word “white” can only be used as a pejorative adjective — “white supremacy”, “white capital”, “white privilege” — but I watched the crowd of black kids and white kids standing together, singing Nkosi Sikelel‘ iAfrika and Die Stem while stun grenades went off around them, and I know it was just an illusion but it was very beautiful.

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