A time to reflect on another year gone by

First and foremost let me extend my wholehearted thanks and gratitude to our JCC Family for another year of dedicated commitment to our course. Our raison d’être continues to guide and inspire our work in the inner city and long may it continue.

Appreciating our diversity and our multicultural habits keeps us centred and humane. Celebrating our diversity confirms our commitment to our inalienable rights of equality as articulated in that historical treatise by another people from another land from another time … whence their founders scribed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

One of their greatest sons, Martin Luther King Jr would later proclaim, “Our Declaration of Independence says that each individual has certain basic rights, which are neither conferred by nor derived from the state. To discover where they came from it is necessary to move back behind the mist of eternity, for they are God-given.”

Through the ages, civilisation has held firm on its historical duty to pass on this clear message to secure our civil liberties and restrict governments from affecting these freedoms. From the times of the Magna Carta, which came into being in response to a weak and despotic king bringing to life that most vital jurisprudence concept of habeas corpus, through to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights amidst the building of peace after the most gruelling war known to the human species and residing deep inside our own South African Constitution in response to the most violent form of state-induced racism and bigotry known to human kind, this clarion call can be heard through these instruments and by the voiceless from across the seas and deep inside our neighbourhoods.

We see, hear and feel this “voiceless” every day at Hope Village, only here, they happen to be children. That desire of inclusion is palpable. The smiles are infectious, that laughter can melt the stoniest of hearts and their playful bare feet leaves one weak in one’s conscience.

We know that this is not the “equality” that our civilisation yearns for and at the same time we know that around the corner lurks the unsteady foundation of fear which is ready to spew out xenophobia, homophobia, racism and religious intolerance upon the one seen as the outsider.

It doesn’t help when the so-called free world is ready to walk into the darkness of prejudice to protect its borders against the voiceless millions who have been displaced due to the endemic internecine wars in their neighbouring countries. It is utterly unconscionable knowing that children are the daily victims in this conflict. Has the world not learnt from Bosnia, Darfu, Rwanda? How many more children must be slaughtered before our humanitarian spirit takes over our actions in favour of horse trading geopolitical gains? Should we be reminded by Einstein’s harrowing insight that this “world won’t be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them and do nothing about it”.

This is the sign of our times. Narrow nationalism, religious chauvinism and crass racism have gained political currency in western democracies, especially in their working-class communities where people have to compete for scarce resources and are fed with poisonous prejudice through subtle and direct de-humanisation of the “outsider”.

These socioeconomic conditions are similar in the inner city of Joburg. We will have to display a different type of support, leadership and consciousness to that which is shaping these western democracies today to keep xenophobia and these inhumane human prejudices at arms way. In doing so we can be reminded by one of their great Leaders of his time, FD Roosevelt who displayed great wisdom and discipline in moving his people out of the Great Depression. His words ring true today as they did then, when he prophesised that “the only thing to fear is fear itself”.

We need to be courageous and clear that “these truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” belong to all of us and not just some of us! We need to celebrate the richness of our diversity in our community and inside our Club, as a strength. We must be ready to dialogue with prejudice for hope in the future.

We need to be conscious that our actions will always speak louder than our words!

To all those who lost loved ones in the course of the year our thoughts are with you. To those who have experienced the joy of adding to your clan, we celebrate with you.

John Robbie’s signing off on radio recently was a highly emotional and historic moment that we will all cherish forever and a day and we wish him all the best in his next innings.

Ian Robertson, our founding Board Member and HLVP of the Club, has also called it a day in the civil service. Ian helped set up the Department of Community and Safety prior to 1994 and subsequently served as a Director in the Department from its inception to date. His loyal and dedicated service to our freedom struggle and public life spans four decades. We wish him well in his next spell.

2016 also saw the world say goodbye to some iconic figures of our time.

Johann Cruyff the father of Barcelona FC whose philosophy of life and football is deeply embedded in their Football Academy called the La Masia, which our Club has chosen as a beacon for our efforts.

David Bowie, whose musical innovation catapulted him into a true cult hero of his time.

Prince will go down as one of the finest pop artists of his generation. Those 1980s activists will never forget his chart topping “Purple Rain” which was sung with great gusto in front of the security forces who were tasked to spray a purple dye into the crowd so as to identify the protesters as they dispersed.

George Martin, affectionately known as the fifth Beatle was widely accredited for expanding the Beatles’ musical artistry.

Ah, and Muhummad Ali … THE GREATEST… in his words: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, and they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

As the year wound down so did the life of a hero for all ages, Fidel Castro.

May these great souls rest in peace

On the sporting front the world witnessed Portugal lift their maiden International trophy at Euro 2016 and the West Indies were crowned World Champions again, albeit, in the T20 format. There is no greater sight than to see the West Indies in full cry. Andy Murray became a two-time Wimbledon Champion, two-time Olympic Champion and became the No.1 ranked Tennis player in the world. Usain Bolt waltzed to his 20th gold medal during the Rio Olympics, completing a third consecutive world record in the 100 and 200m at successive Olympic Games, and Michael Phelps rising to becoming the number one Olympic medallist of all time with 28 medals to his name. Who would not remember the 21st century Roy of the Rovers fabled story of Leicester City winning the English Premier league?

When the 2016 history books are dusted for archiving, it would read that the top sporting achievement for 2016 belongs to a South African young man by the name of Wayde Van Niekerk for winning gold in the 400m Rio Olympics and breaking the iconic Michael Johnson’s long-standing world record.

While on the subject of awards, medals and accolades, Bob Dylan, the consummate nonconformist singer-song writer, poet and soothsayer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In typical Dylan disobedience, he took the money, wrote a polite speech to his strange bedfellows and did not turn up for the prize giving. Touché!

With all that has gone before in a year that has been marred by too much death and destruction, corrupt politicians, increasing natural disasters and the withering of our ice peaks, this time of the year draws a sense of compassion that the rest of the year could always do with … and that’s the way we seem to roll on this Rock! I say, let’s wallow in this compassion for as long as we can muster before the hurly-burly mundane world begins to call again.

Rest well, laugh generously, drive safely and have some fun and say a prayer for those who cannot enjoy this festive season … and let’s try again next year to understand our connection with this Rock!