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Unsung heroes, salt of the Earth, keep us together


This week I shall speak to the heroes of this sad place we call home

Picture: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

This week I shall not speak about bad governance or flawed morality or poor service or anything like that.

This week I shall speak to the heroes of this sad place we call home.

I salute the mother who gets up to prepare her children for school before going to a poorly-paid job which she hates but cannot abandon, in the hope that her children will have a better life through education.

I salute the bus driver who gets up early to pull his bus into what might be riots and mayhem but still goes anyway, because that way he can feed his children.

He does this in the face of the possibility that other disgruntled folk like him might even torch his bus.

I salute the nurse who rises at 5am for the two taxis that take her to the hospital, where a patient is going to have surgery and needs her care.

I salute the teachers who have been castrated by wayward legislation disguised as rights, and who keep on going back to the school where they claim they are paid monthly – but we know they are paid weekly, very weakly.

I salute the illiterate dad who can do no better than man the rubbish truck that has to go out early, rain or shine, to collect our detritus, only to have to come back days later for the other reckless filth we generate endlessly.

I salute the grandfather, who spends time with his grandchildren, and regales them with tales of his young days. Who tells the children that going barefoot is okay as long as it is a school you are going to unshod. Who dreams his lost chances through the promise of his young progeny.

I salute the factory worker who puts up with the sweatshop salaries to feed the rapacious captains of industry whose only cry is: more profit, more production. She bears the humiliation so that she can put food on the table.

I salute the township teenager who is prematurely mother and father because Aids and drugs have ravaged his family. Even in his teens, struggling to get his matric, he has to rise to feed his younger siblings and see them off to school before he pursues his dream of freedom.

I salute the paramedics and policemen and traffic cops who have to go into war zones to help solve crime, only to come under fire from the very people they chose to serve.

My heart bursts with love and admiration for these unsung heroes. I hope those policymakers who are going to lie their way into lucrative seats of power remember these folk, the salt of the Earth, the very fabric that keeps society together.

The meek shall inherit the Earth.