The hands that spoke a thousand words

A group of informed, successful, high profile and, above all, thinking South Africans met at the GIBS business school in Sandton, at the end of February.

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The platform (the third such get-together since 2012) was created by the In Transformation Initiative to help accelerate land reform and transformation in our country.

The combined intelligence, wisdom, willingness and openness of the men and women in the room was a tangible, and at times incandescent, force. To be able to attend such a gathering and to record and witness events unfolding, at this level, is a privilege.

With privilege comes duty and responsibility, or as Stanley Baldwin, British politician between the wars, put it “power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot – throughout the ages.”

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Baldwin was responding to a press campaign overtly intent on discrediting him and unseating him from his political position. I write this as a response to a photograph and accompanying story splashed over the front page of a daily newspaper the following day.

Towards the end of the lunch break, I saw Japie Grobler, of Asuf, talking to Gwede Mantashe, of the ANC, in an animated and affectionate manner.  As an observer three or four metres from the two men at the time, my eye was arrested and I stopped for a moment, caught by the beauty of the movement in Japie Grobler’s hands on the lapels of Gwede Mantashe’s jacket. The hands had taken on the physical form of grace and warmth.

Moments such as this, are what makes life worth living, they are the small luminosities of our days and without them we are lost. There is probably no doubt that any journalist is capable of scooping sensationalism out of the hollowed out shell of personal ambition and getting away with it. But the destruction of beauty is unforgivable in its cold intent; it shows flawed judgement and an education devoid of real learning.

Gwede Mantashe said "we must have hope or we cannot continue". His hope is founded in our children who have grown up free of the punishing restrictions of apartheid, without the baggage of their parents. My hope lies in in that moment, in the eloquent expression of those hands, as they spoke, so powerfully, of the honest affection of one man for another.