Start connecting, learn an African language
WITH all the negative vibes polluting the national conversation, I was encouraged by the life story of Marietjie Bothma, as told on SAfm Sakina Kamwendo’s Friday feature, which profiles positive and inspiring South Africans.
Bothma is the vivacious blonde woman who appears on the King Pie and Generations soapie relaunch television adverts.
In the ads, she is fluent in Zulu, which she speaks with a perfect accent.
Her life profile is a classic example of how people from greatly disadvantaged backgrounds can overcome their adversity with sheer pluck and forge successful lives for themselves.
Bothma was thrown out of her home by her parents at age 2. She tells of how she endured cruel abuse during her stay in a church-based children’s home.
It was enough to break the spirit of most people for the rest of their lives, but she triumphed over adversity.
She learnt how to speak Zulu primarily to be better able to survive in her challenging childhood environment, but emphasises how beneficial her knowledge has been in helping her bond with fellow South Africans of a different colour.
I have always been ashamed that I was too lazy to learn an indigenous African language, but now my extremely patient domestic helper is valiantly attempting to drum some Zulu into my thick skull.
The benefits of being able to converse in an African language are obviously immense, not just in personal and business interactions – they would serve to greatly unite the fractured South African population.
If you can converse with someone in their home language, it is so much easier to understand their inner psyche, and thereby build inter-racial trust.
If only many more white South Africans would follow the wonderful example of Bothma and also former SABC TV staffer Camilla Walker, who was also thoroughly proficient in Zulu, a bright new era of inter-racial unity could surely be forged.
Much of the extreme negativity and the national sport of whingeing in our country is exacerbated by ignorance of our compatriots across the language barrier.
Most African people are multilingual and if Bothma and Walker can learn an African language, so can we all.
A very wise old man named Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head, but if you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.”
Come on fellow white South Africans. Make that effort to learn another language and it will soon be evident how much more united this troubled country is.
Let’s turn our destructive carping mentality into a winning mindset.
As our national motto says !ke e:/xarra//ke, translated as “Unity in Diversity”.
As another very wise man named Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.”