Published on Pambazuka News, by David Ntseng with Mark Butler, March 3, 2011.
David Ntseng reflects on his visit to villages in KwaZulu Natal at the invitation of a Rural Network militant, to see how the communities lived and ‘connect their struggles to their daily experiences’. Unless there is ‘commitment to organising and mobilising in numbers’, efforts to dismantle the forces that condemn people to poverty ‘will be in vain’, notes Ntseng.
Over a number of years, Thulani Ndlazi has been Church Land Programme’s primary link with the emergence, growth and struggles of the Rural Network. During 2010, while Thulani took some sabbatical leave, colleague, David Ntseng, took on temporary responsibility for sustaining those links. Up until then, David’s contact with militants of the Rural Network in Northern Zululand had mostly been enabled through participating in solidarity actions – especially at the eShowe Magistrates Court where a case of murder of two scholars is being tried against two security guards:
I have participated in protest marches, picketing outside court and sitting inside the court room listening to the trial. But I had no idea where these villages are that the people come from, nor what their life is like. I have always enjoyed hearing the testimonies by these militants describing their experiences on the farms and their revolutionary attempts to resist brutalities on the farms. One of the militants invited me to come with him to see where people live and how they live, so I can connect their struggles to their daily experiences. In this short article I present my reflection of what I was invited to see, hear, taste, smell and feel … //
As a way of drawing lessons and making connections from this trip, I read again Hope and Timmel’s book titled ‘Community Worker’s Handbook 1’ (1984). As an activist and as someone who believes in the role of faith in people’s struggles for freedom, it was useful for me to dig from the wells of my tradition.
It is for that reason I think it is important to quote Albert Nolan when he writes,
‘to believe in Jesus is to believe that goodness can and will triumph over evil. Despite the system, despite the magnitude, complexity and apparent insolubility of our problem today, humankind can be, and in the end will be, liberated. Every form of evil- sin and all the consequences of sin: sickness, suffering, misery, frustration, fear, oppression and injustice – can be overcome. And the only power that can achieve this is the power of a faith that believes this. For faith is, as we have seen, the power of goodness and truth, the power of God’ (in Hope and Timmel, 1984: 31).
For me this is what I can offer to militants from these villages, a reminder that they are the powerful force that can change the course of history. To change the course of history is a daunting task. It requires a sense of communion and commitment to each other. As a proverb from Madagascar has it: ‘Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you’.
Unless there is commitment to organising and mobilising in numbers, efforts to dismantle the economic and political forces that condemn people to poverty, humiliation and degradation will be in vain. At a given time and a decisive point in history, people decide to act against these conditions which restrict their freedom as people. The struggles that villagers I met are waging attest to this. Most importantly, this is a hard struggle in which militants have demonstrated their strong, firm and steadfast commitment to freedom for all. Amandla!
POSTSCRIPT: NGO PRAXIS AND CELEBRATING MILITANCY: … (full long text).