Last night I found myself wondering the streets and dark corners of Hout Bay, the suburb where I live, in defiance of South Africa’s 10pm curfew, and with an elevated heart rate pumping both fear and pride through my veins.
Two days ago, the call went out on all local social media channels that Anothando, a 3-year old child from the local informal settlement Imizamo Yethu (Mandela Park), had gone missing. This is not an unfamiliar broadcast in our country. As night fell last evening, social media and WhatsApp groups lit up with the fact that a man was seen in the local woods, with the child.
Being a dark and rainy night, moonlight obscured by the clouds, the call went out to bring light, eyes and feet. My 13-year old daughter was first to alert me to the call; she was clear, ‘Dad, you need to go help.’
With some anxiety and heaviness, I set off, not knowing what I might find.
What I found was hope.
Every street and lane in the northern side of our suburb was filled with a traffic jam of cars, as informal taxis to luxury 4×4’s heeded the call to light every metre of street and verge. These headlights, along with phone flashlights and torches lit the way for several hundred, probably thousands of rich and poor, shack-dwellers and mansion-owners, black, coloured and white, young and old, as they walked side-by-side searching under every bridge, in every manhole and behind every dark recess in the bushes of Hout Bay. Standing together, an entire, diverse community searched deep into the night, and still continue in daylight and as I write.
Last night I didn’t need to imagine a unified South Africa, a nation of rich and poor, black, coloured and white standing side-by-side working together towards solutions and justice. It was real, the circumstances that catalyzed this was tragic, but the example was a shining light that lit this ‘dark’ night.
Thousands that represent the full spectrum South Africa’s diversity continue the search today.