To my mind

Finweek English Edition - - Front page - BY RIKUS DEL­PORT rikusd@fin­

PRES­I­DENT THABO MBEKI must surely cringe ev­ery time some­one be­comes a vic­tim of crime in the Auck­land Park area. His state­ment that crime is not out of con­trol has come back to haunt him. Ear­lier this year he said in an in­ter­view on SABC TV: “It’s not as if some­one will walk here to the TV stu­dio in Auck­land Park and get shot. That doesn’t hap­pen and it won’t hap­pen.”

He should ask Gen­er­a­tions ac­tress Katlego Danke what she thinks of that (she was at­tacked and knifed out­side the stu­dio).

And yet it’s a great pity that ev­ery time an­other South African be­comes the vic­tim of crime, it’s more am­mu­ni­tion for the anti-Mbeki camp. It’s just as piti­ful that ev­ery time some­one makes a racist re­mark, it adds fuel to the flames of the racist fire that our Pres­i­dent ap­par­ently loves fan­ning so fu­ri­ously. This leads to the im­por­tance of th­ese se­ri­ous is­sues be­ing lost in the mud­sling­ing.

In fact, all that we achieve is em­pha­sis­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween South Africans and open­ing the raw wounds of the past. FF Plus leader Pi­eter Mul­der and out­go­ing Demo­cratic Al­liance leader Tony Leon made rel­e­vant points when they said in Par­lia­ment re­cently that South Africans don’t lis­ten or talk to one an­other enough. Some­one went fur­ther and said we don’t even know one an­other. That’s even closer to the truth.

We don’t need spe­cial in­sight to pre­dict that – as with crime – we’ll al­ways have racism. It won’t dis­ap­pear. But what can change is the way we cope with our dif­fer­ences. If we got to know each other bet­ter, we’d recog­nise sim­i­lar­i­ties and would be­come less ob­sessed with the dif­fer­ences.

And greater un­der­stand­ing of each other would make us less sus­cep­ti­ble to mis­con­cep­tions – and even de­lib­er­ate at­tempts by politi­cians to mis­lead us.

In his book The Other Side of His­tory, Fred­erik van Zyl Slab­bert wrote that myths dis­ap­pear when the weight of his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence makes them ir­rel­e­vant. In­ci­den­tally, he said in the same para­graph that race is one of the most stub­born and en­trenched myths that keeps on sur­viv­ing.

It’s only or­di­nary South Africans who can dis­prove such myths. We can’t rely on politi­cians to do it for us.

South Africans have been suf­fer­ing the scourge of crime for long enough due to a lack of lead­er­ship, and un­der the “lead­er­ship” of politi­cians, we’re in­creas­ingly be­ing driven fur­ther apart be­cause of racism. It will be the silent ma­jor­ity – who have al­ready shown that they want to work and stay to­gether as South Africans – who will de­cide how South Africa is go­ing to over­come those dif­fer­ences.

SIZWEKAZI JEKWA has been cho­sen as the South African win­ner of a jour­nal­is­tic prize in­tro­duced by Cit­i­group and awarded in all the coun­tries in which it op­er­ates. The prize for ex­cel­lence in jour­nal­ism – first awarded in 1982 – is aimed at pro­mot­ing fi­nan­cial and busi­ness jour­nal­ism. As part of her prize, Jekwa will at­tend a two-week course at the renowned Columbia Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism in the United States.

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