A few months before his final detention and death, South Africa’s greatest martyr of hope, Bantu Biko, whose philosophy I embrace and his work I am a firm follower of, once observed that ‘you are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway . . . so if you can overcome the personal fear for death . . . then you’re on the way’.
Biko stated the above without fear or whatsoever during a time when killing blacks was legal. He understood that his life and journey on earth was temporary and it brings with it a responsibility to contribute to the struggle for the emancipation of African natives in a country found on the south of the African continent and beyond.
Those commanding good understanding of our history will remember the words of King Mandume ya Ndemufayo who left us lucid words for guidance; “Efyo noupika ashishe shimwe (slavery and death are one and the same).”
It can be understood that the king had encouraged his people to fight for their freedom, probably with any means necessary.
In a speech given in Ouagadougou and published in Carrefour africain, October 31, 1986, an unmatched African Revolutionary and President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, whose revolutionary content, ethos and character I emulate, speaking on the death of Samora Machel, the then President of Mozambique and leader of Frelimo, on 19 October, 1986; counseled Africans on how to face the death of Samora saying ‘avoid falling into sentimentalism . . . with sentimentalism one cannot understand death. Sentimentalism belongs to the messianic vision of the world, which, since it expects a single man to transform the universe, inspires lamentation, discouragement and despondency as soon as this man disappears. Samora Machel is dead. His death must serve to enlighten and strengthen us as revolutionaries . . . I ask you to name streets, buildings and so on after Samora Machel over the whole expanse of our territories, because he deserves it’.
Those that follow Sankara’s history would know that he ended his speeches with “homeland or death, we will win.”
Biko, King Mandume and Sankara, the great make us understand death. Death is something that many fail to comprehend and are confused as to how to approach it. It is left to the interpretation of a religion of foreign origin that presents serious biological contradictions. It is used to threaten individuals into obedience by those possessing real or imagined power to take away someone’s life.
It thus becomes something many are scared of and would behave in conformity with the suppression and subordination of their vision, hopes and aspirations. Many, as a result, unconsciously view death as an instrument in the hands of anyone that possesses more power than they do.
Personally, personal friends and loved ones have the same fear owing to my political discourses I conduct impenitently. This overriding fear, the fear of death, has now become a sickening instrument used through coercion. It is thus important that we engage this subject matter to emancipate those that are willing to be emancipated.
Death is like change, no matter what you do, it will happen. It is inevitable. Change is inevitable apart from a vending machine as they say. You are born, you will die. That is how it is. A liberated soul understands this very well. Whether you are diplomatic, clever, stupid, a virgin, an alcoholic, a bishop or anything imaginable under the sun – you will die one day. There are no guarantees. There is none. I am yet to see someone with an SMS from the Lord that reads ‘you are going to live for this long’ or ‘best before or on January 30 2060’. Anything about the future is on one foundation; the hope that one is alive the next day. No assurances whatsoever. Why should we fear death if there is no other door than that of death? Even those who threaten to take other people’s life will die one day. Fact!
I, therefore, do not fear death whatsoever. This does not mean that one does not need to avoid open mistakes. No! Yes, we must live and lead responsible lives. Yes! What we must not allow is to be ‘white-mailed’ and coerced into submission on the account of death. Both the oppressed and the oppressor will die one day. That’s a fact. If you disagree, let’s hear your case. This is specifically in the domain and sphere of public life. We must reject the use of death to deter us from attaining collective political ends. I refuse to live in fear. I am a liberated soul. We must not allow death to be used as a threat towards articulating our collective aspirations as a people in general and a generation in particular. We must strive to be liberated souls, souls that reject the use of death for oppression and domination.
Indeed, as Biko said, ‘You are both alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway . . . so if you can overcome the personal fear for death . . . then you’re on the way’.
Its cowardice and scandalous to live in misery and be a slave to poverty in a decolonised Namibia yet fear, on account of death, to candidly articulate and champion your course of action towards your emancipation.
King Mandume had already told and taught us that “Efyo noupika ashishe shimwe (slavery and death are one and the same).” Think about it this way; when you are pronounced dead, at that point, you are dead. You will not be around. You will not see nor feel anything. So why fear death? Be a liberated soul.
Till second half – hear be heard