South Africa: open letter to Superintendent Nayager By Jacques Depelchin

Ota Benga, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, showing his sharpened teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Mr Nayager,

Forgive me for taking your time, but I felt that, given what I have heard about you and what is going on there, I had to do everything possible to reach you in a way that, maybe, just maybe, no one has been able to do.
Dear Mr. Nayager, Forgive me for taking your time, but I felt that, given what I have heard about you and what is going on there, I had to do everything possible to reach you in a way that, maybe, just maybe, no one has been able to do. Moreover even if others have tried, and been rebuked and/or not listened to, given the gravity of what I hear, I should nevertheless give a try to reach out to you.

I am doing this because despite all of the suffering you are alleged to have inflicted to the poor, to the Shackdwellers in Durban, I am certain that deep inside you there is a side which does tell you that the beating, the harassment, the insults, the threats of inflicting worse punishment, there is a voice deep from within you which keeps telling you to do otherwise.
Please do take the time to either read this or at least listen to someone reading it to you because you are not the only one in South Africa who is treating the poor, the dispossessed, the weak, with a level of hatred and anger which was unheard of even during the Apartheid days. We, from outside, were all convinced that South Africa was going to be different from the rest of the Continent.
Well, from what I have been reading over the past year or so, in relation to how the poor, the jobless, those looking for decent housing, have been treated, it is as if much has not changed from the days of Apartheid or from the days of Leopold II in the Congo Free State. Sorry, I forgot to mention that I am from the DRC, from the country of Ota Benga, the so-called pygmy in the Zoo (please check it out from our website: www.otabenga.org)
Hearing and reading about what you and some of your law enforcement colleagues are doing makes me wonder whether the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission changed anything. I must say, I was among the skeptics for reasons which are too long to go into here. What you and your colleagues are doing, with impunity, against the poorest of the poor would suggest that the TRC was only the first step in a process of healing.
Healing is both extremely difficult and extremely easy. It is extremely difficult if people think that it has to be done by others, by the state structures, etc. It is extremely easy once ordinary people, people from all walks of life take it upon themselves to heal. For example, imagine yourself getting rid of the habit of thinking that the Shackdwellers are your enemies, that they are the ones you have to beat up in order to make sense of your job. Imagine yourself just sitting down and conversing with the poor and the homeless as people who deserve your respect and, more importantly, whose security you are supposed to ensure. Imagine that your life would change completely if you were willing to sit down with them and look at them as people searching for the same things you are searching for in life: justice, peace, equality, fraternity, respect, love and dignity.
If all of us were to live according to the truths of the above principles, it would be impossible for virtual Robben Islands and islanders to be reproduced anywhere in South Africa. It would be very hard for the mentality of might is right to survive. Indeed, it would become harder to find people like you to carry on with the mentality inherited from Apartheid days and on which, the work of the TRC does not seem to have made a dent.
But then, Mr. Nayager, you could go beyond just imagining and bring about the very thing which was dreamed by all those who did go to the real Robben Island, some of whom seem to have decided that it was a bad dream and that it better be forgotten. You could do something which is very rare these days, something which would help those who would rather forget come back to reality and carry on with what had been dreamed about. You could help them rid themselves of the weight of newly acquired wealth.
You could decide to live according to the principles of the Freedom Charter, you could decide that the Shackdwellers are your brothers and sisters, that your job is to help them realize their dreams for a decent life. You could decide that you are not just a cop paid to enforce laws which are interpreted to make life unlivable for the poorest of the poor as if the objective is to liquidate them physically.
You could decide that your greatest calling as a human being is to be in solidarity on the same side of the struggles of the poor, of the homeless. You could decide that your greatest calling is to call on other law officers to think of the poor as the ones most in need of your collective help . The list of the things you could do is endless, but you would need to free yourself from the paralysis which comes from the mind set inherited from Apartheid days. I know it is very hard because that mentality has gone one to shackle the entire Planet under the name of Globalization.
I do really hope that, sooner or later we shall be able to further communicate in order to heal completely and totally from the mindset which says that might is always right. In solidarity and peace, a descendant of Ota Benga.

Enhanced by Zemanta