Firstly, it’s only fair that I mention my definition goes beyond that of a tone that creeps out of your vocal chords and out through your mouth. Many do not have the blessing to hear that tone, let alone produce something of that nature. In order to have a voice, you need to not only know who you are but accept and embrace that identity because it is only then that you are able to become “the voice” of those who cannot “speak” or those who do but are not heard because of their voice…who they are.
A couple of years ago, I stepped into a country within a country: Stellenbosch. For many reasons, I left my voice to remain quiet until a time it could truly speak and be heard. I arrived in a world where the dominance of an Afrikaner ideology was still a reality and where you would call in an English accent and get a flat, but lose that flat after the first meeting simply because you were black; a town where most people cannot even speak the universal language of English and one who is trying to save a language and a culture but killing a nation.
I am one of those people who chose to keep quiet but at the beginning of this year, African hawkers, who to me had become Stellenbosch, where shut down by the municipal office from selling their merchandise to the many foreign tourists who invade Stellenbosch. More than that, while many sit watching the sunset on their wine farms, they shut down the livelihood of the people who had chosen peace and hard work rather than the life of crime and violence, those who had thought they had found refuge, hope and a means to survive in a country they thought was their sister. How do we keep quiet as the richer get richer and take away from the poor and the poor get poorer? How less violent and destructive are we when we take the livelihoods of innocent people rather than regulate?
I am a South African, a proud African but I am first and foremost human and for that reason my voice is not mine alone, my voice is our story, that of humanity and what we South Africans would call Ubuntu and somewhere in between the context and the depth of that concept, you will find me comfortably tucked alongside nation. The concept of Ubuntu is that umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. It is the acceptance of the fact that we are all human, equal and most of all interconnected. We are one. However, until we truly grasp that concept, we remain in the constant struggle as a society to create a story, to create a voice we can finally, as a nation, as a continent, as a world and as a people call our story.
by Anelisiwe 21