Wednesday, 2 May 2012

RIP Sicelo Shiceka: On death and memory

This morning, in hopes of cramming in as much work as I can (life of a postgrad student) I awoke and positioned myself at my desk, ready to steadily chomp away at a mountain of work. Just as I was beginining to get into the flow of things, my serenity was shattered by the riotous firing of a canon. I rushed to the window and the cloud of pigeons circling the sky alerted me to what was happening. The canon in front of the Union Buildings is fired numerous times when a states (wo) man dies. "Is this really necessary?" I asked myself, that question propelled many others.

The firing of canons and such reminds us that we are mortal but patriarchy isn't, it lives through the cycle of life and death, through naming and proclaiming, but in shaming it cowers. Former cabinet minister Shiceka was fired from cabinet after the Public Protector published a report confirming his violation of the Constitution and Executive Ethich Act (long boring corruption story). Despite the controversy sorrounding his outsting from parliament and the well known fact that his luxury lifestyle was financed by funds meant to feed, transport and educate a largely under-priviledged majority, the guns went off in his honour. Probably to the chagrin of mothers finally putting babies down to sleep, homeless hobos recovering from debauchery, business people operating from makeshift premises and of course, myself. The taxpayer will also finance an astronomically priced send-off, feeding the worms more than the crumbs the working class can ever dream of receiving, even as hard-earned wages.

In Shona we say, wafa wanaka, literally meaning when you are dead you are good. I acknowledge he must have been a multi-faceted being, and not been defined by those actions, but we will not hear much of his wrongdoings and thus, they will probably be repeated. Shiceka's status as a freedom fighter, a father of the nation and hero trumps his short-lived pariah status. Patriarchy protects its own; his slate has been wiped clean and after the firing of the loudest canons, disgruntled voices are nothing but mangled whispers.


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