Thursday, June 10, 2010

"This time for Africa..."

"...Listen to your God,
this is our motto
Your time to shine,
don't wait in line...
Y vamos por todo.
People are raising their expectations,
go on and feel it.
This is your moment,
no hesitation.

Tsamina mina zangalewa.
Cause this is Africa.
Tsamina mina eh eh,
Waka waka eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa,
This time for Africa
This time for Africa..."

Have you seen this music video yet? 

Shakira's performance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup theme song, "
Waka, Waka...This time for Africa," is amazing.  There is something so "in your face" alive about its message of: we are all here, but not just to root for our favorite teams and countries.  We are here to root for something even more powerful.  We are here to celebrate the power of forgiveness and redemption."

Or at least this is the message that comes through loud and clear to my heart.

Readers of this blog know how deeply the South African sun has seared my soul.  Her winds have burnished my cheeks coloring them with the soft red of a dusty bushveld sunset.  And her Indian Ocean blues wrap themselves around my shoulders like a soft pashmina.

Watching this video today, over,and over again, was wonderful.

I couldn't help but think that 21 years ago, my husband and I walked across the tarmac at Jan Smuts airport with our infant daughter in our arms, and her travel documents...and miraculously (I use this term very thoughtfully) acquired immigration visa and South African passport...tucked carefully under my clothing for safe-keeping.

International sanctions had been imposed on the South African government (and hence, their people) for  Apartheid-era human rights violations.  The city of Johannesburg was under a "state of emergency" and we, an American couple from the heart of the anti-apartheid western alliance, were adopting a white infant, and taking her from their country.  The very fact that we were crossing the tarmac and boarding a plane headed for the United States was...after weeks of navigating red tape, diplomatic brick walls, and outright refusals for assistance from every office of the South African government...shocking.  I held my breath with every step closer to boarding the jet that would take us to airport that still allowed South African flights.

As our flight took off, I turned to my husband and whispered that if we made it out of South African airspace, they...the pre-reconcilation governement...would have broken all of their own laws, since under apartheid, there was no legal basis for granting us the travel documents we were carrying, and letting us the country leave with our daughter.   But they did.

A year later, as our daughter sat eating applesauce from her highchair in our Colorado home,  Mandela would walk out of Robbins Island prison a free to lead a nation out of oppression, free to inspire a tortured people to lay down their right to  retribution, free to seek reconciliation rather than redress...and free to begin the long road towards healing and international recognition as a leader in finding a peaceful resolution to civil schisms so deep that they threatened to swallow up the hopes of a nation once steeped in darkness and hatred.

Watching the "Waka, Waka..." video tonight and realizing how far this country...and her people...have come, I was reminded of Mandela's statement:

"It always seems impossible until its done."

This weekend, as South Africa opens her doors, her heart, and her beauty to the world, she will be hosting the very nations that once refused to trade goods with her, allow the export of their media across her borders, or admit entry into their ports of call by her ships and planes.  She will have done the impossible in the 21 short years (and as a mother, I know how fast those years flew for me) from that day we walked across the Jan Smuts airport tarmac, while South African army gunmen stood watching us with AK47s.  And while rebel militants smuggled the same automatic weapons down back alleys in small towship villages, and government tanks were aimed at rural school children on dusty playgrounds...a silent threat hoping to check potential civil unrest.

And now, the township of Soweto, one of the most devastatingly horrific slums I'd ever seen, in 1989, now holds one of the most beautiful World Cup soccer stadiums ever built. 

Last night, as I was driving home from church, NPR's Tom Ashbrook commented, during an On Point segment discussing Iran's relationship with the rest of the international community (and any hope of improved diplomacy) that it seemed not only counter-factual, but counter intuitive, to hope for a warming of relations with its neighbors.

I couldn't help but remember where our beloved South Africa was a mere 21 years ago...and how one man's example could turn the tide of vengence into a river of reconciliation. Something deeper than anger carved a path of hope through the hardness of hatred and fear.

"With God, all things are possible..."

I am so grateful to have lived to see this extraordinary day, when South Africa is reconciled, not only within her own borders, but with her global neighbors.  I am not a sports fan, but I will be watching the World Cup.  I haved already learned the words to "Waka, Waka..."  I will try to learn the dance...much to my daughters' horror!  And I know that when they play "...the time for Africa" I will feel something break wide-open in my soul as we all join in singing along with her neighbors...and friends, "We are Africa, we are Africa..."

God bless her...

Kate Robertson, CS


  1. Beautiful! Uncharacteristically, i too will be watching because its not just a sporting event. The spirit of unity and its possibilities are profound. much good, peggy

  2. I am deeply touched by your blog today. Thank you for sharing it. I remember well Mandela walking out of prison. SA is a very special place for me too, as you know. I love the people and their country. I have been wearing a beaded bracelet with the colors of that country for a few weeks now, in anticipation of the World Cup!! Count me as a watcher!!!