Drawing hope from SA’s hidden heroism – Ed Herbst

The phrase, ‘Lest we forget’, is commonly associated with honouring those fallen in two World Wars, but it’s also in a Rudyard Kipling poem called ‘Recessional,’ popularly believed to be inspired by verses drawn from Deuteronomy in the Bible. All pertain in the ancient debate between protagonists of hope and purveyors of cynicism. Both sides easily trot out innumerable examples to back their world-views. It’s a matter of choice, the lenses we choose to wear (or don’t know we’re wearing). We do not get to choose what happens, but we do get to choose how we respond. We easily forget the separation of humanity from itself that leads to war, or the connection, compassion, empathy and life-changing care we’re capable of. A simple Biznews share of an evoking experience by my colleague Stuart Lowman prompted one ‘Thomas,’ to basically tell him to wake up and smell the (wilting, South African) roses. Here veteran journalist Ed Herbst, deeply familiar with the cruel ways of the world during his career, depicts life-saving and liberty-restoring responses by ordinary South Africans to recent adverse events. Follow the embedded links. Lest we forget. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

I disagree with Lowman’s and BizNews’ naive, sentimental and tendentious narrative, part of its good news feature of articles, that SA shall overcome. Perhaps but likely not soon if ever. The ‘real people’ are either hiding or fleeing. – ‘Thomas’ Biznews  21/9/2019

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. – Max Ehrmann Desiderata 1927

Ed Herbst

I read the article, It’s the small, undocumented things that paint SA’s future bright by Stuart Lowman and the response by ‘Thomas’ which was posted below it with some interest.

Lowman was motivated to write the article when he saw people, clearly not well-off, nevertheless handing out food parcels to men seeking ‘piece work’ and the response by Thomas was one of pragmatic cynicism.

What Lowman calls ‘piecework’ I call ‘Men On the Side of the Road and I must admit that my head drops when I see them – aspirant providers with their cardboard signs seeking work as painters or bricklayers, but psychologically emasculated by two decades of ANC deployed-cadre peculation and incompetence and indolence and one of the worst education systems in the world.

I remarked on this to a friend, an architect involved in town planning and his answer was telling because, in his life, there is no manifestation of affluence. “I do my bit – I have put two interns through varsity at my own expense and both are self-employed architects today.”

And that is my response to Thomas. I believe that the readers of Biznews meet and mingle with ‘real people’ every day. I believe that, when duty calls we, like people all over the world, respond with the heroism of which Max Ehrman speaks.

The ‘Race Merchants’, as Ernst Roets calls them, would have us believe that we are constantly at each other’s throats – but the reality is very different.

The annual survey by the Institute of Race Relations proves that and so did the big march on 7 April 2017 when South Africans of every political persuasion literally joined hands in protest against the state capture corruption which has brought us to the brink of the financial abyss.

 I have no idea why Thomas finds ‘real people’ so elusive because I experience their kindness every day.

We constantly read of kindness to strangers and I don’t think that South Africans are unusual in that regard.

For most of us, kindness and courtesy elicit an equivalent reaction.

I have compiled a short timeline of examples but two stand out and give the lie to those who would have us believe that ethnic chauvinism is ubiquitous and all-pervasive.

The first two articles say it all. People of different ethnic groups showing their innate humanity.

The photograph of Janet Hart – tears streaming down her face – hugging her rescuer, Sibusiso Mbhele in an emotional reunion days after her harrowing experience is an iconic pictorial celebration of ubuntu.

  • 27/7/2016

Durban flood victim calls her teenaged rescuer her ‘guardian angel’

An Umhlanga teenager who rescued a woman from her flooded vehicle in La Lucia says he never thought twice about trying to save her.

17-year-old Cameron White pulled Shakila Singh through the passenger window moments before the car was completely submerged in water during a flash flood.

  • 14/10/2017

WATCH: Emotional reunion for storm survivor, hero

DURBAN – A 60-year-old grandmother of six youngsters, Janet Hart, was overwhelmed with tears as she hugged her ‘storm hero’ Sibusiso Matrick Mbhele, 40.

When torrential rain pelted Durban on Tuesday, Hart had been paralysed with shock as muddy flood water rose around her silver A-Class Mercedez Benz, trapping her inside the vehicle on the N2 highway near the former Durban International Airport site, south of the city.

The Bluff resident was rescued by Mbhele, a then unknown man, who had stripped away his overalls in freezing weather and paddled across the dangerous water to rescue Hart and carry her to safety.

  • 5/4/2018

WATCH: Security guard reunites owner with lost R2,000

Imagine withdrawing R2 000 from an automated teller machine (ATM) in South Africa and forgetting to take the money.

By the time you realise your mistake, your money would probably be long gone, right?

Not if Oscar Gumede, a Fidelity Security officer stationed at the Absa in The Bluff in KwaZulu-Natal, has any say in the matter.

  • 27/4/2018

Mavis to the rescue: ‘SAA air hostess personified Ubuntu when she tied crying baby to her back’

When Kate Whalley-Hands struggled to put baby Imogen to sleep during a 15 hour flight from New York to South Africa, SAA air hostess Mavis Xotongo came to the rescue.

The 20-month-old baby was restless and crying and being rocked to sleep did nothing to stop her bawling.

That was until Xotongo offered to assist and tied the toddler to her back.

  • 22/6/2018

Hero’ MyCiti bus driver returns woman’s lost diamond wedding ring, purse

Cape Town – A MyCiTi bus driver has been hailed as a hero for “going the extra mile” by tracking down and returning valuables accidentally lost by a Cape Town woman.

Siphelo Maqubela came to the City of Cape Town’s attention for his extraordinary actions in finding and returning Sharon Russak’s purse which contained valuables including jewellery, cash, credit cards, her driver’s licence and her identity document.

  • 17/8/2018

Caroline Rupert: Willemse’s Bok selection a dream come true

Cape Town – Caroline Rupert, the person who provided a bursary for Damian Willemse to attend Paul Roos Gymnasium, says she is immensely proud of the young rugby player’s achievements.

The 20-year-old Willemse is set to make his Springbok debut after being included on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby Championship encounter against Argentina in Durban.

30/8/2018 

Kind tow truck driver rewarded with almost R20k for helping mom, daughter

JOHANNESBURG – A Good Samaritan tow truck driver who went beyond the call of duty to help a mother and her daughter has been generously rewarded for his good deed.

Kat Stott and her daughter had broken down on the N1 in the middle lane and as she describes in her Facebook post, trucks and cars were swerving behind her only realising at the last moment that she had broken down.

One man could not just pass the troubled mother and daughter though.

  • 31/5/2019

Petrol attendant lauded for lending woman R100 for petrol

A petrol attendant has received wide praise after he lent a woman, who couldn’t find her bank card, R100 for petrol.

  • 19/9/2019

Kind KZN man holds onto wallet for a month while searching for its owner

An unemployed KwaZulu-Natal father of two went the extra mile after he found a woman’s wallet and held onto it for a month until he was able to return it.

Max Ehrman’s inspirational poem has been translated into every language under the sun, precisely because it sums up in beautiful, simple prose what most of us recognise and acknowledge – there are a lot of ‘Real People’ out there.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

  • Ed Herbst is a veteran journalist who these days writes in his own capacity.