Mar 18

A Spineless Shiver

There are times in your life that you meet inspiring people and other times when you simply meet interesting people. Over the last month I have been lucky enough to do both and in all situations I was left with fresh impressions of people I had formed opinions of without any personal contact.

I was asked by Warwick University, my Alma mater, to represent them at Helen Suzman’s memorial service at Wits. Helen also held a Warwick University degree and I was deeply honoured to be asked. What an incredible occasion, there were some amazing speakers who left me inspired by her achievements but also amazed by the quality of people we still have living in South Africa.
It was so encouraging to see leading figures from across the political spectrum come together to recognize a unique, brave and yet very petite lady.

Thabo Mbeki, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Helen Ziller, Desmond Tutu, Nicky Oppenheimer and more, many speaking of their own experiences and friendship. A few days later I was talking with another man of the moment, Mr Jacob Zuma. We sat together on a flight from Durban and swopped a few ideas and thoughts. I found him to be a decent and interesting man and although two hours is never long enough to get to know anyone properly or form a meaningful opinion it certainly gives you a better impression than the 15 minute loops you receive through TV news.

All of these experiences had at least one common effect, they took my thoughts away from the general economic state of affairs, which in itself was a real blessing.

We are seemingly reaching a point where it is becoming almost impossible to have any conversation, read any paper, or watch any news programme without there being doom and gloom, that in itself may demonstrate something positive, after all very soon it will become boring to be so boring, and we all just decide to lift our chins!

So here I go with one or two thoughts that may cheer you up and or bring a smile to your dial, they come from the life of that pocket dynamo called Mrs Helen Suzman.

You must remember that Helen sat alone in Parliament as the only Progressive Party representative for 13 years! Surrounded by those pleasant, fashion gods and gentleman of the National Party. First chirp, “I recommend that you (the front bench) go down to the townships and see exactly what you have done to people. I do, however, recommend that you go heavily disguised . . . . . as human beings!â

On another occasion she commented to a friend that after giving the Nat front bench a particularly hard time she had sat, “Watching a shiver move along the benches, looking for a spine to go down.

The lady will be missed for her belief in basic human rights and her absolute determination to protect and deliver them.

Perhaps Desmond Tutu summed it all up when he said, Do not raise your voice, simply improve your argument. Perhaps real debate and discussion are still alive and well in this great democracy in which we all live!

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