Sekunjalo—Time to be Frank

I have been in hibernation. Alas, I have not really rested.

A lot has happened and is continuing to happen. It would seem the time to be frank has arrived. There is a need to think and re-think matters if we, Blacks, are still invested in a change that affords us dignity. 

This need to (re)think matters has caused me to meditate deeply about Frank Leepa’s Sekunjalo.

As some have come to know, I am a serious fan of Frank’s work. Frank has entrenched a deep understanding in me that the South African questions are indeed Black/African questions. He gave me a firm understanding of intersectionality–long before I learnt such a term existed.

So, based on the events of this year alone, I am of the opinion that Sekunjalo qualifies as an intersectional #BlackLivesMatters song. It is a protest song, but also a prayer. This comes out very clearly to me when the youth represented in the song declares that his determination to bring about change is, in a sense, a reason for the loved ones to pray.

If we consider how the song begins, these loved ones are the women being left behind; the father, though not explicated, is probably in Marikana.

I know this sounds like a leap. However, if you take Frank as nuanced and intersectional, you know there is a reason the father needs to be informed about the son’s departure. In fact, based on his style of writing, one should intuitively get that the reason has been omitted deliberately. My thinking is: to possibly aid the amplification of the single short line of “pray it”!

In my opinion, this line is loaded with meaning. It is a reminder to think about the women and the struggle. A reminder that many are forced to pray, fend for themselves, and hold on to radical hope that the men and children will return home.

Interesting for me is also how the “pray it” line is preceded by humming and the line: “I want to hear you sing”. This reminds me of the value of song/singing.

When I attended the Highway Africa conference recently, it dawned on me how much song is not understood in the context of a struggle. This is what happened: the Black Student Movement (BSM) entered the conference singing; there was a slight mild panic; and it occurred to me that in the imagination of some, protest singing is strongly linked to violence (despite the body language of those singing speaking a contrary truth). 

This troubled me. I couldn’t really explain to myself, why? My Senkujalo meditations have shed some light. Singing and spirituality are linked in my mind, even in a protest context. For me, singing is a deep spiritual act for expressing unison—or solidarity if you wish. Above and beyond solidarity, I also believe singing serves to soothe; and for this reason, I find it hard to understand the possible associations with violence. I mean…if I am making efforts to soothe my pain, do I really hold the intent to be violent?

This is a very pertinent question for me. It makes me wonder how much we understand Black pain.

Just so we are clear, I do understand how sometimes this pain comes through as anger—anger that seems to stem from nowhere, except this would be a lie. The anger comes from an embodied knowledge that one’s own truth in some spaces can/will easily be denied and delegitimized. This is knowledge of being rendered invisible. (At a very personal level, this knowledge has often caused me to speak in angry tones—because as I have often explained to myself, my body goes into internal convulsion mode to give weight to the spoken word.)

I have digressed. The point really is that Sekunjalo, for whatever reason, paints for me a clear picture of the moment we are in. Basically, the song makes me appreciate that 40 years of the Soweto uprising will be about the youth declaring:

We are the leaders
[Elders, there is] no need to be afraid
Batho bana ba re tlolisa khati!

And, without bothering with the actual translation of the conveniently bolded line, it gets idiomatically understood that it will take a stick to deal with the anti-transformational human beings. For, the carrot has clearly failed.

From the youths vantage point, with this failure, the only prayer left is for the elders to prepare, if needs be,”to put out the fire”. For, “with defensive guts [and] determination”, they shall forge ahead to bring change and reclaim the throne for Black people. Senkujalo, beloved elders…sekunjalo!


I am really trying hard to get ‘clicking’ in order to communicate in isiXhosa. Enunciating X and C words is proving to be somewhat challenging. The Q words on the other hand are easier to deal with. I suppose this could be explained by the fact that we actually have Q in the Sesotho alphabet — C and X do not exist; “nxa!” in all good conscience cannot be used to contradict my assertion.

With the above said, may I quickly point out that we don’t necessarily have a tide of ‘Q words’, though Q exists in the Sesotho alphabet. I know I could be wrong, but being innately in love with knowing (or speaking from a relatively infallible position) I decided to embark on a little pet project to verify my “facts”. In this project of mine, I tried to find Q words that were not associated with mountains, rivers or other types of landmarks e.g. Senqu, Qiloane, Qhobosheane, Qoqolosing, etc. Then moved on to consider words that could possibly be classified as mundane like: moqoqo (conversation), qabola (to incite laughter), qhibiliha (to melt), seqha (bow or sling –if we make technical accuracy expendable), seqhaqhabola (sour soft porridge). I then progressed to those seriously “cool” words that hardly come in everyday conversation.

An example of a “cool” word that came my path is moqasea. Moqasea is a Sesotho synonym for ‘khethollo‘ (discrimination). Observe how I have decided to go the synonym route, so as to avoid nuances that may exist between the words discrimination and prejudice. This, of course, is intentional and self-serving! First, it allows me to retain my “relative infallible” position. Second, and most importantly, it helps me to (hopefully) hype up the word, which I regard as cool –be it only because it got my poetic juices flowing, see below:

Ka terapola, ka lelera ‘na nthoana batho!
Ke ne ke batlana le makhulo a matala,
Ke batlana le liliba tse sa psheng.
Ka teana le moqasea, ka makala:
Mofuta oa feela oa tšoana le qoba la koae!1

‘Nete ea ba sebabetsane ho ‘na.
Pelo ea hlonama, ea hopola lihlaba tsa Thesele.
Ea re e khutla mafisa, bofifi ba apoha.
Ha luma mantsoe a nkhere, Mohlomi: “pelo ke setlhare”!
Ha hlaka hore ho nena moqasea e le kannete ke pheko.

Ka hona, ke etsa thapeli ke re:
“Ha re neneng moqasea, khotso e rene;
Hoba Seokamela ke ‘Mopi oa batho bohle”

A contextualised translation of the above poem is as follows:

I travelled, and wandered with naivety!
I was in search of greener pastures,
And wells that never go dry.
Instead, I met prejudice and got astounded:
My own humanity was precariously in doubt! 2

The truth became bitter.
My heart, depressed, yearned for Moshoeshoe’s land.
But as it lifted, the dark was illuminated.
Words of the great sage, Mohlomi echoed: “The heart is medicinal”!
Sincere hatred for prejudice was and is a cure.

For this reason, I appeal to all:
“Let’s truly despise prejudice, so peace may reign;
For we are all beings of one Creator!”

  1. “Mofuta ha o nkhoe ka nko e se qoba la koae” — is an old adage that suggests you cannot treat a foreigner like a pitch of snuff, which you can sniff to determine its quality
  2. Worded to invoke Judith Butler’s idea of precarity, where some lives may be deemed more precious than others: if, for example, one were to consider the reality where the humanity of foreigners or outsiders can be reduced to a point of it being “ungrievable”. In my mind, this invocation fits well with the Sesotho adage -see above footnote- that was initially used to capture the idea.