Once a month, my family and I make a trip to Starke Aires in Rosebank. We stock up on any soil and plant food that we may need and buy a few new plants, or tomato bushes for our vegetable garden.
The girls take their own trolley and traipse around chatting to each other and once in a while the friendly manager, Richard, finds them and gives them each a packet of seeds. Our last trip was one of those times, and they came rushing to find me, excitedly waving their seed packets and all talking at once. Since they are literate, semi-literate and pre-literate in that order, they had worked out amongst themselves the guidelines on the back of the packet and were now all very concerned about the instructions. ‘Mine can only be planted in summer!’ lamented one. ‘Well, it’s the end of summer’ I said, looking up at the cool blue sky. ‘Mine can only be planted in autumn’ said another. ‘It’s the beginning of autumn!’ I offered, hopefully. They all looked at me with raised eyebrows. In the life of a child, everything is black or white. When they learn the seasons, their page is divided into four. The different trees they draw to represent each season clearly divided by the folds of the paper. One night you go to sleep in summer and the next morning you wake up and it’s autumn — like a new calendar month. Life, however, is not all black and white. It’s grey upon grey upon grey. And perhaps my noncommittal, opportunistic choosing of the season is a life-lesson they can absorb and take with them. When my children repeat things they hear from other adults about Jacob Zuma, or the ANC, I remind The only thing life cannot take from you is the ability to choose your own way. But don’t trust our words, trust our actions. MGI Bass Gordon – Since 1935. them that while we may not like his politics, he is still our democratically elected president. Even if we don’t agree with the actions of the individual, or his cabinet, we must still respect the position and the process that put him there, otherwise we are lost. Stephen Grootes, writing for the Daily Maverick in February, said “It is almost instinctive for humans to try to simplify people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Decisions or appointments made by Zuma can be slated even before he has finished announcing what he’s done; a worryingly large proportion of today’s chattering classes will be guided by identity politics, rather than what politicians are actually saying or doing. In democracies, political campaigning makes this worse. It’s effective to cast the other side in a completely negative light, until the good that they might have done is completely obscured. When both sides do it, divisions become so broad that people have difficulty seeing any residual goodness in the other side.” He was writing pre-Zuma’s night of long knives, but I think the concept holds true. We can worry about terms like junk-status, cabinet reshuffle and nuclear deal and we can sit and watch the Rand devalue like a deflating balloon, but once we have done all our worrying, then what? South Africa has an almost poetic ability to find its feet. It swings left and right, it hits potholes and quicksand, but the resilience and steadfast optimism of the people here cannot be underestimated. The course has been set for a new destination, and we can either lament that we are in the wrong season for sowing, or we can move away from Facebook theatrics, lift our spades and get on with the real work.