Today I met with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, President of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
It's the third time I have had the privilege but the first time he brought me to serious (secret) tears.
I had asked him a question about his memories of lions, and if increasing urbanisation of his people had somehow bought a disconnection from Nature... a kind of spiritual vacuum. But the magnitude of his answer only really hit me when I was back on the very windy 15th floor rooftop parking of the Royal Hotel.
He had explained to me, briefly and gently, that it was very difficult to see lions during the years of apartheid because the game reserves were exclusively for white people. And that the first time he saw a lion was as a trophy in the United States!
I cried into the hot wind and watched the harbor for a while from the rooftop with this sharp pain in my heart.
I wondered if the extremely high levels of violence we experience in South Africa could come from this enforced disconnection from Nature... about the loss of folklore - if the children couldn't even access the areas where the wild animals were, how did they relate to their own mythology and worldview? And then I remembered my good friend and Comrade, Xolanie Khumaloe, saying recently that at thirty-something years old he had just been into a game reserve for the first time in his life and seen rhinos.
Perhaps the people shouting that black Africans don't care for wildlife might stop for a second and consider that for so long indigenous Africans have been deliberately excluded from their wildlands… the sacred spaces that root them in Mother Africa… where they could otherwise find comfort in their ancient songs and rituals in an increasingly fast-paced world. Perhaps the desensitisation to violence that we see increasing could arise from being lost in their own homes?
How can we expect people to save the animals if they don’t even know them?
So I must thank You, once again, Your Excellency, for your unfailing commitment to preservation of our natural heritage, and also for the deep lesson of today. My last thought on the windy rooftop was that You remind me of a lion… blazing brightly, a shining Star to follow, and inspire us. And I remembered too, that Darkness always tries to destroy the Light. They tried to destroy You.. but they never got it right – You’re still burning brightly. I pray, really, really pray, that the Lion too will continue to blaze for future generations, as will Your legacy. A Light to hold onto when it seems as if the World is falling into Darkness.
I will leave it here with a quote from Hon Narend Singh on the CITES Conference currently running in South Africa.
"Why do we continue to choose destruction and indiscriminate killing over conservation…?”
Why indeed Minister Molewa and South African government?