About 21 Poems: Dear South Africa

Dear South Africa,

You are not a child anymore.

We should have thrown you a huge street bash and handed you your key to adulthood. But we couldn’t. There’s not enough to celebrate. You see, we’re not sure you deserve the key or a party. So… here we are.

We’re trawling through poems written in the past 21 years, looking for a change. A milestone, something that we didn’t notice before, that says, you have grown. Grown up and away from your apartheid past. We’re looking for your adult face, the face that has wizened a little. We want to know if you have learnt from burnt tyres and burnt humans how not to be die swart gevaar anymore.

President Zuma said that we had a good story to tell but we’re not so sure that we do. From recalled presidents to red overalls in parly, you have demanded justice. From massacres in Boipatong[1]Boipatong Massacre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boipatong_massacre and Marikana[2]Marikana – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marikana_killings, you’re still demanding justice.  Between pit latrines and undelivered school books we’re left wondering… are we too harsh?

The rainbow has dulled. Madiba[3]Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2014 is no more. You can’t hide behind the rainbow anymore. Kuyanuka[4]It stinks – isizulu there. We have seen what you could do to Tatane[5]Andries Tatane, 22 February 1978 – 13 April 2011 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andries_Tatane and multiplied that with our miners[6]Marikana – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marikana_killings. So we know that we don’t have the pot of gold anymore. Hade [7]SA slang for sorry.

You have survived your teens. We should applaud that. We do. There are many things that you have done well. You are respected all over the world. This is why we want more from you.

We had high expectations and demand more from you because you are us. We are one and the same. So we can’t afford to cut ourselves any slack. We don’t want to regress to the state of emergency, the colour bar or bantustanism. We must judge hard and fight even harder. We’re all that we have.

You haven’t given up on yourself. We haven’t either, that is why we continue to write these poems to question you, challenge you, make you hear us, celebrate and love you hard.

These 21 Poems are (y)ours.

with love,

~ twenty one poets.




about 21 Poems: this project features poems written and published variously in the last 21 years about and for South Africa by South African poets. The participating poets are: Xabiso Vili, Rantoloko Molokoane, Prince Shapiro, David Maahlamela, Simiso Sokhela, Napo Masheane, Fasaha Mshairi, Masingita Masiya, Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Poet Flo’w,
Kabelo Mofokeng, Motho Fela, Icebound, Siza Nkosi, Unathi Slasha, Mandi Poefficient, Makhosazana Xaba, Goodenough Mashego, zamantungwa

All artwork is by fine artist, Wesley Pepper.

The aim of the project is to track, using poetry, the story of South Africa. Some of the questions that prompted this project include, has South Africa changed? Are the poets writing about the same things over the years or do we have different (or no) problems? Is a poem written ten years ago still relevant today? Do we have enough to celebrate to outshine our problems as a country? What do the poets have to say in this twenty first year of Democracy?

As to whether or not these questions are answered, we leave that up to the reader. We express our feelings best in verse and these poems are every emotion charged with revolutionary love. Our hopes, as Poetry Potion, is that these poems will ignite a conversation as well as inspire a passionate love for justice and peace.

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1 Boipatong Massacre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boipatong_massacre
2 Marikana – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marikana_killings
3 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2014
4 It stinks – isizulu
5 Andries Tatane, 22 February 1978 – 13 April 2011 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andries_Tatane
6 Marikana – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marikana_killings
7 SA slang for sorry