MiWay chose Madiba’s way

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - René Otto

MIWAY and the fake e-mail: Our rea­son for not tak­ing le­gal action: This saga ex­ploded 10 days ago as a story of a fake racist e-mail (that caused un­told hurt and anger among all con­cerned cit­i­zens, but more so among black cit­i­zens) that even­tu­ally de­vel­oped into a story of for­give­ness, hope and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. It also led to mas­sive per­sonal growth for me and many of my col­leagues.

The easy part of the dilemma was to catch the per­pe­tra­tor. The harder part was the de­ci­sion on what steps to take. The eas­i­est op­tion would have been to sim­ply take le­gal action. The more chal­leng­ing op­tion, how­ever, was to con­sider other al­ter­na­tives that take the spe­cific cir­cum­stances of this mat­ter into ac­count and at­tempt to break the cur­rent neg­a­tive spi­ral of racial ha­tred in the coun­try.

Our young democ­racy has had a leg­endary ex­am­ple of for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela. We dare not for­get it. He chose to for­give the racist mur­der­ers of the apartheid regime for the hope and dream of a uni­fied and rec­on­ciled na­tion.

This doesn’t mean we should sweep naked racism un­der the car­pet. It should be ex­posed and re­jected with con­tempt. The les­son we learnt from the TRC is that for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to hap­pen, the truth needs to be ex­posed and sin­cere re­morse needs to be shown.

I con­tacted (Mondli) Mad­lala and asked to meet him to dis­cuss the mess he caused. I wanted to un­der­stand what mo­ti­vated him to act so ir­ra­tionally. I wanted to know if he felt he was treated poorly or in a racist way by any of MiWay’s staff. He agreed to meet. I got the im­pres­sion he was un­der se­vere pres­sure.

Mad­lala is a 32-year-old en­tre­pre­neur who holds down three jobs si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The re­pu­di­a­tion of his claim was a ter­ri­ble fi­nan­cial knock for him. His un­hap­pi­ness was ag­gra­vated by the fact MiWay failed to send him the record­ings of con­ver­sa­tions with the in­surer he re­quested. It was a mis­take. We sent it to the om­buds­man but ne­glected to send it to him. It did not af­fect the mer­its of the case, the om­buds­man still ruled in our favour. How­ever, I can un­der­stand our ser­vice short­com­ing up­set him ter­ri­bly. We will never know whether his be­hav­iour would have been more ra­tio­nal had the record­ings been pro­vided to him. In my opin­ion, it is mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances that should be taken into ac­count.

Mad­lala looked me in the eye and of­fered me a sin­cere apol­ogy. He agreed to make a strong state­ment against racism and the mis­use of so­cial me­dia, and to talk on th­ese top­ics at schools where MiWay runs pro­grammes. I was pleased to hear he was never treated in a racist man­ner by MiWay staff…

He made a ter­ri­ble er­ror in judge­ment that will haunt him for a long time to come.

I de­cided not to in­sti­tute any action for a num­ber of rea­sons:

1. MiWay con­trib­uted to his anger by not send­ing the record­ings as per his re­quest.

2. Mad­lala learnt a hard les­son and will have to live with the con­se­quences. He might lose his job and will forever be as­so­ci­ated with this in­ci­dent.

3. He ac­knowl­edged the wrong­ful­ness of his ac­tions and apol­o­gised to MiWay, the two staff mem­bers and the na­tion.


This saga has chal­lenged all of us to re­flect on the kind of world we want to live in and leave be­hind for our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. “For­give­ness lib­er­ates the soul. It re­moves fear. That is why it is such a pow­er­ful weapon.” – Nel­son Man­dela MiWay chief ex­ec­u­tive

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