25 years ago this year, a group of young white men stood up to a government and told them they would not be conscripted into an army out fighting the big bad black man not only in our own backyards but also in other countries like Namibia and Angola.
I was 14 the year they came about. The 80s was a very violent and anxious time for many young white kids in the suburbs. The government at the time was in the midst of fighting the Swart Gevaar (Black Danger) that existed in the townships and hell bent on dominating the black population permanently. The country was also suffering from sanctions by the rest of the world and there was enormous pressure to release Nelson Mandela and unban the ANC. The white media at the time were full of stories of white people suffering at the hands of black people and perpetuating the myth that the Black Man was out to end the lives of all white people. Many white people were genuinely scared that they were going to be slaughtered in their beds by rampaging masses of black people.
At the time, it was required by law that any eligible white male would serve in the country's defence force for a 2 year period upon leaving school. The ECC opposed this, and as a result was banned and their members harrassed by the government and jailed or exiled. Even so, they helped overturn apartheid rule by denying the government the lives of young men unwilling to fight a war that was wrong on such fundemental levels.
I remember young men in our community at the time going off to fight in a border war they couldn't begin to comprehend. I remember those same boys coming back scarred for life after witnessing some of the most horrific scenes you can imagine in a war that had nothing to do with them, a war perpetuated by a government unwilling to treat all human beings as equal. I remember too the families just in our little community of a few thousand houses mourning the loss of their sons.
The ECC is having a celebration in various locations this month to commemorate the legacy that the ECC gave this country. One of the most exciting items on the agenda will be the performance that the 5 original members of Bright Blue will be doing at Spier this Saturday, the first time in 23 years that they will be performing again.
Their song Weeping was, for me and many others, the ultimate protest song that spurred on the movement to bring down the apartheid system.
This is the original video shot by Bright Blue.
I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face.
He built a wall of steel and flame
and men with guns to keep it tame.
Then standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmrae would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain.
It doesn't matter now
It's over anyhow
He tells the world that it's sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn't roaring it was weeping.
And then one day the neighbours came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all
"My friends" he said, "We've reached our goal
The threat is under firm control.
As long as peace and order reign
I'll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain."
The background song you hear, that is Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, rallying song of the ANC during apartheid and now part of our National Anthem. Weeping spent two weeks at number one on Radio 5's top 40 after the radio djays played it over and over in defiance of the ban the government felt this song warranted.