Friends & Friction: Africa is lucky to have you
Every moment you breathe is a special occasion
The principal of St Bernard’s High School in Bloemfontein, Mr Thapelo Pitso, invited me to address his pupils.
Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but I decided to write my speech anyway, because deep down I am a failed teacher, or a mwalimu, as they say in Swahili. The greatest teacher in Africa, Julius Nyerere, went by that title. Please read about him.
My dear boys and girls, you were born at the right time on the best continent. You won’t wake up to the news that an ANC safe house was bombed by the South African security forces in Lesotho, or that PAC leaders killed each other in Tanzania.
Learn history, but don’t make it your burden. Let each generation carry its own to the grave. If there is one thing that you should take away from this speech, it is that you were born at the right time and on the right continent.
Brush your teeth every morning, preferably in front of a mirror, even if you have to hold it with the one hand.
That will give you a chance to see the smile of the most beautiful person in the world. What other people say about you is none of your business.
Don’t waste your time trying to change their thinking. Don’t compare yourself to others because you don’t know where they are going.
Always greet people – that’s the African way.
Listen to old people. They have experience but, like you, they don’t know what the future holds. So go ahead and do your best, and make your own mistakes and gain your own experiences, they are invaluable. Think about things, but remember that doing will always surpasses thinking, and thinking will always surpass talking.
No matter how successful you become, always respect your elders.
Be brave to expose your heart to love. Like your favourite cup, it will break, so treat it with care and when you capture other people’s hearts take as much care.
Soon you will start paying taxes. Pay them on time and pay them in full, the penalty of not doing so is high. Accept that they will always rise, and that the government will waste some.
Fight for your rights and those of others, and remember that since humanity conquered the inhumanity of Nazism and apartheid, nothing is worth dying for, and that Africa is worth living for.
Don’t worship money or fame, they can disappear overnight. But God is there, day and night. Wear your special clothes. There is no point in keeping them for special occasions because every moment you breath is a special occasion.
Never take life for granted. Visit your ancestors in the graveyard. Listen to their silence because you will be as quiet when your turn comes.
So speak your mind but remember that your tongue can be as sharp as a razor or as comforting as a nunu blanket, and that others have a right to their views.
Visit your parents, they too will go someday. Visit your old friends, whether they are successful or not, but remember not too frequently.
Watch soapies but don’t believe them. They will only make you cynical.
Some of you will soon start working. Try to study first, but if you can’t, study while you work, because a person who empties his wallet into his brain is on the path to success.
Mr Pitso, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to my future leaders. My dear boys and girls, Africa is lucky because it has you for as long as you always brush your teeth.