For Angelina Zwane, killed at the age of 6-months, and her cousin Francine Dlamini who survived with injury – both shot in Benoni, South Africa on 11 April, 1998.
The white farmer shot
the peasant-baby dead
in the head,
while she was
strapped to the back
of her 11-year-old cousin
After being fed
at her ma’s breast
in the white farmer’s field.
The white farmer chose
the past over the future
The bloody past of
over the raw pink of the future:
South Africa for South Africans
Africa for all Africans
Could it really have been as he said:
That he was unable to see
through the grasses,
That he had thought the children
to be intruders
no taller than grass?
The very ones living
in dilapidated shacks
on land the farmer claims as his own
The mothers of whom work
within the configuration of his homestead
complete with houses
the likes of which these children
have never seen from the inside,
let alone imagined
Had Mr. Farmer-Man
not seen the baby’s peasant-mother
feeding the peasant-baby in his field
a few minutes prior?
Had he forgotten?
Or had he been anxious about
her getting back to work?
What kind of blunder
could all this have been
Or does it all tumble
into the ruthlessness of luxury.
In the England
a law was erected
to protect child-chimney-cleaners
from being sent down chimneys
too narrow for their bodies.
What kind of a law
will protect black babies
from being killed before
they can walk the land pocketed
from their ancestors
Can a law make that land
“Truth and Reconciliation”
can afford the ambiguity of things,
the ambivalence of actors
But murder and dearth are unmistakable.
truth and reconciliation
which one is for now, which one is for later?
Or does it all come back to the past
When we find Violet Dlamini
carrying her dead-bloody-baby
through the hymns of liberation struggle
and white farmer charged
only four days later
And P.W. Botha resisting
Truth and Reconciliation:
the questioning of the new State
on behalf of the old stateless
who cannot eat the truth
while attempting to reconcile
today’s hunger with tomorrow’s workload,
the Boer boss’s pity today with his wrath tomorrow
The past or the far-future/truth and reconciliation:
choices only for an entitled few.
A toast to the black children of South Africa:
May they grow-up to live.
from breathing for breadth (TSAR: 2005, pp. 55-57)
[first published as “A Toast”; in Hera-A Forum for the Binghamton Women’s Community. July-August 1998. Vol. 18, No. 6, p. 6.]
*photo by Salimah Valiani