When you’re lost, make a U-turn

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@ city­press. co. za

My grand­mother and I al­ways fought about one thing. She thought I “loved the road too much”. Even be­fore pri­mary school, I would jump on to some­one’s cart and dis­ap­pear all day, sell­ing coal. I was too weak to carry a bag of coal, and I of­ten found the 5-litre bucket too heavy. So I would sit on that thing as the horses hauled it through­out the town­ship, shout­ing “Yho-ho-ho-yoyo!”

My boy­ish voice was too soft to be heard by any house­wife in the kitchen. The vetkoek and chips that the coal guys served on that cart were al­ways sump­tu­ous.

No one ever cared about wash­ing their hands. Hands with long nails that were closer to black than white were break­ing bread to­gether. Once in a while, some­one would com­plain about a smudge on the white bread.

The itch to leave has never left me. One day, when I had started work­ing, I bought a map, spot­ted the places I wanted to visit, bought an off-roader and hit the un­tarred road. I went south. I was told to al­ways go south – un­til I could go no fur­ther.

I went through Phutha­ditjhaba and dis­ap­peared into the moun­tains be­hind it. My goal was no more im­por­tant than to see the land, speak to the peo­ple, hear their dif­fer­ent ac­cents and try to un­der­stand their views. So I was more than gen­er­ous at of­fer­ing strangers lifts, be­cause I could chat to the lo­cals or fel­low trav­ellers. Some­times, po­lice of­fi­cers stopped me and told me to give some­one a lift. I didn’t ob­ject. I made room.

I trav­elled with a bag full of cam­eras, lenses and rolls of film that could get to the moon and wrap around it many times over. When I found my­self deep in the dig­i­tal age, I had no choice but to cry­op­re­serve my film in the fridge, where it fought for space with let­tuce and broc­coli. My cam­eras – ex­pen­sive pieces for their time – are slowly be­com­ing ob­so­lete as their bat­ter­ies are get­ting harder to find. Thank heav­ens for the cam­era phone – I cap­ture ev­ery­thing.

There is a wor­ry­ing trend that I see on the back roads. Farm­houses are be­com­ing emp­tier. De­serted, even. Town­ships are sprawl­ing and swelling with un­em­ployed and of­ten un­em­ploy­able young­sters. De­spair is grow­ing like weeds. Noth­ing is worse than see­ing an old per­son who has fin­ished ter­tiary education, but who has never had a job.

We started well with our ju­ve­nile democ­racy. There is am­ple ev­i­dence to sup­port that view: schools; clin­ics; RDP houses. But they now look like ev­i­dence of an era gone by, when politi­cians and civil ser­vants were the ser­vants of the peo­ple.

Like the driver who is enchanted by the beau­ti­ful views and for­gets the treach­ery of the cliffs, we got dis­tracted by the prom­ise of cap­i­tal­ism, fol­lowed its mi­rage of end­less riches and we set up our camps on sand.

It is easy to get lost on the roads, even with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, but when you re­alise that you are lost, make a U-turn.

As a coun­try, we need to do the same. We need a vi­sion­ary who loves the peo­ple and who can in­spire them to greater heights. It is when peo­ple are united in a vi­sion that is far up in the sky, seem­ingly unattain­able and yet grounded in hu­man­ity, that so­cial co­he­sion blos­soms and good things flow in our di­rec­tion. We raise crops and our chil­dren, and with that our liv­ing stan­dards – and the pes­simism of the dis­be­liev­ers is blown away.

This is not the time to throw in the towel, be­cause the jour­ney of our na­tion has just be­gun. The story is still to be told.

I know from the bends of Satan’s Nek that the road to the top is never easy. Mist, rain and snow of­ten con­spire against the trav­ellers. It is not the driver’s duty alone to get through to the other side safely, but the duty of the pas­sen­gers as well. We are all in this to­gether. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive,

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