The Comrades Marathon and the message of Ubuntu – Lynn Hurry


Sunday 2nd June 2013, Comrades Day, saw my wife and I trundling off with our camping chairs to join the others camped along Jesmond  Road  to cheer the passing parade. The day was hot and dusty and we marvelled at the resilience of the men and women who came on past – some with a dogged spring in their step, others jogging with the occasional walk. And quite a few going forward with a shuffle and a limp.

The day was long for us as it was for the runners and at some stage I found myself pondering on the incredulity of the situation – nearly nineteen thousand people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds, from different corners of the globe bonding together on the road with the same determined purpose and, from what I observed, with each and everyone of the runners supportive of all of the rest!
And so when a runner collapsed right in front of us, it wasn’t just the onlookers who rushed to his assistance. Runner after runner stopped to offer advice – “Keep him warm”; Raise his legs”; “Get him to the first-aid station as soon as possible” etc etc. Amazing stuff and just 2 kms from the finish with most runners were close to exhaustion themselves and only too keen to get to the finishing line.

Heart-warming stuff – and surely allegorical of what our new South Africa should be looking like after nearly two decades of equality..
Switch scenes to the Anglican Cathedral in Pietermaritzburg. Just 2 days before the Comrades my wife and I had sat enthralled as we watched and listened to 6o young people of all ages and from all communities dance and sing their way into our hearts  and into the hearts of an appreciative audience of all ages and all backgrounds. The girls (white and black together), dressed in stunning green evening dresses and wearing broad beaded necklaces with Zulu designs joined with their male counterparts, smartly dressed in jackets and ties as they all swayed, stomped, waved and clicked  their way through an unforgettable programme of music.

These two experiences just had to get me thinking about the message of Ubuntu what South Africa needs right now and into the future if we are going in any way get our common destiny vaguely on track to success.

Ubuntu – a spirit of togetherness – will be a term forever associated with the name of Nelson Mandela. It was the spirit which Madiba believed would provide the inspiration for the realisation of his dream for the “New South Africa”.

Just why was so that the Comrades runners and the hundreds of onlookers were all “brothers and sisters” for the day. And just why was it so that the cathedral performers and the huge congregation were as one for the night ? Just why were the players on both stages – separated by time and experience – so ‘together’ that night ?

If only we could find that magic recipe for making a “Ubuntu” medicine so that we could all take it on a daily basis wouldn’t that be something ? A truly united South Africa reallty living Mandela’s Ubuntu dream. For some its a work in progress. For others a book yet to be opened.