Return to South Africa


Last month, Muriel and I travelled in three Southern African countries, Lesotho, South Africa, and Zimbabwe We thought this might be my last time to make such an extensive trip. I wanted to look up friends – former colleagues and students. Sure we saw elephants and giraffes and pony trekking, but. We wanted to see again counties and peoples that taught me so much about the life according to the Good News. It was Spring time with jacaranda and plum blossoms in full bloom.

In Cape Town, a few former students organized a party for us in the home of one of them. Also, we were able to have a cup of tea with the only remaining my former colleague, Desmond Tutu. They did well: Desmond of course, the host, Prof. Njabulo Ndebele, is a South Africa’s famous writer and a public intellectual, a former President of the University of Cape Town. There was another university president. Among the same generation of the student body, we counted two U.N. Ambassadors, Director General of World Food Program, and one Prime Minister, and a few successful business people, and M.P.’s.

We wondered how a small insignificant fledging university of 500 students (now 8000) located in a world’s poorest country managed to produce so many nation builders and successful people. Faculty was not all that spectacular; except Desmond Tutu. We agreed that we were all highly motivated, political refugees, driven by passion to excel for the future of their nations. It’s the students who made an university not money nor famous professors.

Lesotho and South Africa are hauntingly beautiful countries, striving toward democracy. We saw that they were well on their way. Democracy is a messy system so at times it’s chaotic. But it’s now an envy of all African, frocking into South Africa in droves just like Mexicans in the United States. It’s all because of one man’s idea of justice and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela forgave the past and brought in the very old notion of Reconciliation. It spared the country of blood-shed and hostility. I can not think of any other example in history. Forgiveness? Reconciliation between enemies? And it worked. The founder of Lesotho King Moshoeshoe was the same: he advocated and practised accommodation. Thing is it’s working.

Contrast is Zimbabwe, from where some students also came escaping Rhodesian racial policy. But a dictator is hanging onto power discarding democratic principles, thus having created a dysfunctional country. It’s still gorgeous place but things and organizations often don’t work.

Forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation truly work. Besides, people are kind and sing like angels. We loved it. You may leave Africa but Africa never leaves you.

P.S. The Protestant Chapel on the Lesotho University campus was completed after forty years. It was dedicated after we left. When I was there, we always had to borrow Catholic space when it was not in use. It is a beautiful brick building mainly built by volunteers.

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