Dear Mr. President

I feel deeply compelled to write this to you although it is something you will probably never read. I realize that the work day of someone in your position is filled with a host of public appearances, meetings and the attendance of summits on issues affecting Africa and the global economy and the environment and a million other crises. It boggles the mind that you can still find time to run our country here at the bottom end of Africa! You are without a doubt an extremely busy man. I bet there are polarized windows on the cars that drive you around and on the aircrafts that whisk you hither and yon. I wonder how much of our country and its sadness reaches you. Do you see it sir? Do you feel it? Is Africa speaking to you?

I love this land sir. I am an African and a descendant of a proud and noble tribe, just as you are. My tribe is not from here originally. They wore kilts and carried swords and in a time long ago on battlefields far away, stood up to overwhelming tyranny and they prevailed. You would understand, sir, for you are a Zulu man. I know that you are of a royal line, warriors and men of men, the people of the sky and I salute your proud history and your noble culture. I feel that you and I would understand one another if we could meet and that we would see things the same way.

 

I live in a beautiful part of our brave land, sir. It is majestic beyond the telling of it and every day it fills my heart with great joy. It has wide open vistas and proud sand stone peaks and stark ridges and baobabs stand vigil everywhere, testament to a time before your ancestors or mine were ever here. Then it was only the San, the Basarwa, and the Bushmen, before any of us. I live on the edge of a growing National Park and Trans-frontier Conservation Area that contains a rare and precious World Heritage Site. It is one of only three Cultural Landscapes in all of Africa and it speaks, it expounds of a time when your ancestors first arrived, of the civilization they developed, the trade links they forged and the kingdom they created that we now recognize as Mapungubwe. The very rocks here have voices sir, they whisper to me when all is hushed and they tell of a time before, of an ancient time, a glorious time when Africa was untamed and beautiful and free. I live here sir, my wife and I, raising our four children in this paradise without equal. I revel in this frontier existence, I feed on it, rejoice in it and I have come to love this soil, the plants and animals that thrive here and the open skies that stretch on into forever. My children grow strong and upright in this Eden and I am so proud to raise a family in our beloved country.

I am a patriot for many reasons. One of the foremost is a love and abiding admiration for our people. I have seen them do great things, Mr. President. They are not just an arbitrary population…a statistic or a number…they are a powerful and resourceful nation, sir, with the most incredible capacity for love and forgiveness. I have seen weeping mothers embrace the apartheid era killers who stole from them their sons and daughters. Do you remember the heady days of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? I do, for I wept and I grieved along with my countrymen as we spoke of the things that sought to tear us asunder…and we started to heal and yes, we are healing still. Where is there another country so divided by conflict and revolution, racism and segregation that has risen, as we have, phoenix like and, without a war, has chosen the long road to freedom? Your task is important sir, vital even, for you hold the future of this land and its populace within your grasp. What will you do? Are we to suffer the fate of so much of the rest of Africa? Is corruption, famine and greed, war and genocide, ethnic cleansing and Kalashnikovs to be the order of the day? Or will our country be raped and rendered sterile by first world industrialists and mining magnates who have paid the government their thirty pieces of silver? Can we not do it another way sir?…please.

You are a Zulu man, sir. Your tribe is noble and of a royal line. I know you have within you the ability to stand up and show the world that Africa is great. We can turn to our neighbours and say, “there is another way my brothers” and we can cast off the cloak, the dusty shroud of despair and disparity and show the international community that we are truly great, that we will not be bought or bribed and that our heritage and our wilderness will never be for sale. History will remember you, sir, if you choose to be different and walk a new path. Many good men will follow you if you lead in this way…

…..and so will I.

Andrew Rae.
November 2009.

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