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So what lessons are we meant to take on in terms of stamina and sureness of course and purpose from those who came before us? How do we take that which they gave their lives for and seek to realise it?

Zukiswa Pikoli

Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist at Maverick Citizen.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Stamina is vital if one is ever to achieve anything worthwhile. It’s a little word with a big meaning, requiring disciplined and sustained mental and physical effort in order to achieve an objective. This is a term most often used by athletes in describing what it takes to be able to perform over a period of time without getting tired, which is something that is achieved through mental and physical fitness but I think applies in the general South African context as well.

This is the conditioning required of us as Team South Africa if we are to live in the country we want, but we have to be clear about what that country looks like. We cannot have one vision for a certain group of people and another vision for others; we all have to pull in the same direction for the team’s survival.

We once had this vision, a vision that united people. The trouble is that when we grew weary of the struggle we ended up vesting it all in a cult of personality rather than collective purpose, values and principles. We created almost idolatrous relationships between ourselves and those we saw as “the chosen ones” to lead us.

South Africa’s resistance movement started more than 100 years ago and those who started it didn’t live to see its fruition, yet dedicated their lives and those of their families to the idea that freedom was sure to come for all who live in SA if they organised and mobilised behind this struggle for a democratic country.

Remember, this struggle was the result of the collective and collaborative efforts of ordinary men and women who rallied behind one ideal, which was that of a free and fair society. It was not about rallying behind individuals, because that is not how teams work.

It is sometimes easy to forget that we are a burgeoning democracy and that part of what will get us from fledgling status to maturity is a contestation of ideals – something that often proves to be uncomfortable. We are a young democracy punching above its weight because of a set of ideals and values placed before us by the visionary pioneers of our democracy.

Some might say that there is no room for idealism when faced with the hard work of building a country, but the strength of a team comes from recognising the value of its differently abled members. There’s a reason why we need idealists and visionaries – because they set the course. Even when we do not attain the ideal, it brings us closer to where we need to be.

What we are facing in South Africa now is a crisis of leadership that has no vision for the country but instead has a cult of personality, because we have given up our agency. Admittedly it is tough trying to work towards a vision while others loot and pollute this vision to suit their own needs, sullying things for everyone else. But we cannot pick up our ball and go home the moment things get hairy or difficult. If that was people’s attitudes during the struggle for liberation, we would never have achieved our freedom.

If we are to get better as Team South Africa, we need to be able to challenge ourselves to do better and do away with this culture of “toeing the party line” even when we see the party line is wrong. Challenging each other does not mean opposing the team; it means strengthening it and pushing for it to be better. It also means being able to course-correct when we can see that we are headed for dangerous territory.

So what lessons are we meant to take on in terms of stamina and sureness of course and purpose from those who came before us? How do we take that which they gave their lives for and seek to realise it?

A good place to start is to remain focused and not get disheartened by temporary distractions and detractions. This means the stamina to see through cases like just compensation for the deaths of mental healthcare patients at Life Esidimeni, and to ensure that those who were responsible be made to account so that it never happens again.

The stamina to see through the State Capture Commission of Inquiry and commit to following the revealed leads of corruption to their logical legal conclusion. The stamina to make sure the Department of Basic Education achieves safe sanitation and restores the National School Nutrition Programme so that children can receive a quality education in a safe environment.

The stamina for continuing to advocate justice for the families of the Marikana miners and that the state takes responsibility for the actions of the police.

The stamina to continue advocating the strengthening of our public health system so that people do not die because they don’t have access to healthcare services.

The stamina to continue to advocate constitutionalism, social justice and a South Africa from which we can all benefit. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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