On 2 September 2019, we published the first edition of Maverick Citizen, a new section of the Daily Maverick that would focus on news and views about activism, human rights and social justice. We promised a springtime for social justice journalism.
That was a year ago.
‘Nirvana is a sacred space that we have reimagined for every inner-city girl or young woman so that she may achieve anything she sets her mind to. Here, we support and inspire each other. We develop skills. We align to the values of leadership, focus, purpose and passion. We encourage freedom of expression through the arts. We nurture a sense of compassion for humanity by being of service to our young and old. Here is where we grow.’
A 1995 research paper by Maverick Citizen Editor Mark Heywood reveals how a love affair between Sol Plaatje and Shakespeare left a deep impression on the writer’s own literary and intellectual views.
The launch of the ‘People’s Climate Justice Charter’ this week is important. It is the product of an exemplary campaign, five years of consultation and social mobilisation led by the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign. However, the real challenges to ensure it is taken seriously by society are just beginning.
Politics is pivotal to people’s well-being and existence, yet we write about it in a way that is often predictable and dominated by one-dimensional men. One-dimensional writing disconnects politics from our being and makes us numb. These angst-filled times demand that we rediscover and describe the poetry in politics.
After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the move to Lockdown Level 2 in his address to the nation on Saturday night, 15 August, South Africa entered a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. But what will this mean to us in our day-to-day lives?
The Healthcare Workers Heroes Memorial aims to recognise and remember all those “who have fallen in the line of duty”. Yet, unlike soldiers, for whom monuments and memorials were traditionally constructed, the duty of those who fell in the Covid-19 “war” was not to take lives but to save lives. They lost their lives saving others. They could have stayed at home and refused to work. They didn’t. They followed their calling and worked in the line of fire.
How do we pay fitting tribute to Dr Lungile Pepeta and the 181 other healthcare workers who have so far laid down their lives in the struggle against Covid-19?
South Africa is at a crossroads. All of the strengths we have as a society, which could and should have been mobilised against Covid-19 still exist. There is still an enormous reservoir of solidarity, resources and ideas. We can still save lives, rebuild livelihoods, push back Covid-19 and birth a better society. But ‘in the time of contagion the lack of solidarity is first and foremost the lack of imagination’.
These days, civil society often seems to be the last redoubt of dignity and solidarity. It is a place where love and concern for fellow human beings still drives politics. A place where the noble spirit of sacrifice that animated Nelson Mandela and many other freedom fighters has not been snuffed out. But as much as Covid-19 needs action to defend people’s lives and livelihoods, it also now needs the courage to take risks to fight forward for a fair and equal society.