Gi­gaba’s pinky ges­ture and what we model to our chil­dren

The Witness - - OPINION - Howard Feld­man

IN the in­ter­ests of full dis­clo­sure, I have to ac­knowl­edge that I have seen the Malusi Gi­gaba sex video. Well, as much of it as I could stom­ach. I also have to ad­mit that I laughed up­roar­i­ously when he wagged his pinky fin­ger in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day in or­der to taunt the EFF about the size of their man­hood. I also picked sides when it came to the par­lia­men­tary brawl and I re­mained glued to the chan­nel.

None of these things made me feel par­tic­u­larly good. It re­minded me how much I en­joyed Ja­cob Zuma’s State of the Na­tion ad­dresses. That is un­til re­al­ity dawned that the man who was pro­vid­ing me with en­ter­tain­ment was the man in charge of the coun­try. He was re­spon­si­ble for the mess in which we found our­selves (and still do). And while we laughed at him with wild aban­don, he was laugh­ing at us, all the way to Dubai.

And then I didn’t feel so good. In fact, I felt ter­ri­ble.

This week, a lis­tener on my morn­ing show sent me a voice note that a 14-yearold boy from a school in KwaZulu-Natal had sent to a Jewish girl writ­ing her ma­tric ex­ams. In the note, the speaker sug­gested that she should have died in the Holo­caust and that he and his friends had de­cided that she was bet­ter off as an ash­tray (al­lud­ing to the fact that Jews had been mur­dered in the mil­lions and then re­duced to ashes).

The voice note con­cluded with a joke: “What do you call a fly­ing Jew?” some­one asked, then an­swered, “Smoke!” And then he and his friends laughed at the sheer bril­liance of the hu­mour.

The voice note was shock­ing in its cal­lous­ness and its de­sign to hurt.

So­cial me­dia very quickly hunted down the name of the child, and in no time at all both he and his school were iden­ti­fied.

He is 14. He is not yet Vicki Momberg and he is not yet Adam Catza­ve­los. He is not yet an adult. And as much as I am hurt and of­fended that any child could be so cruel and vi­cious, I re­main of the be­lief that he can still be ed­u­cated and schooled and change for the bet­ter. He doesn’t need to be­come a racist and a bigot. This in­ci­dent could be the worst and best thing that has ever hap­pened to him. If it is han­dled cor­rectly.

The school prin­ci­pal of Tre­ver­ton, Kean Broom, was made aware of the voice note at much the same time that I was. When I spoke to him on air that morn­ing at 7.40 am, he had al­ready ad­dressed the school, spo­ken to the vic­tim, reached out to the Jewish com­mu­nity and en­gaged the per­pe­tra­tor.

And whereas many of my Jewish lis­ten­ers were not sat­is­fied with the lack of an apol­ogy from him, many ap­pre­ci­ated that he had wasted no time in deal­ing with the mat­ter.

I was one of the lat­ter view. I thought that whereas he might have con­sid­ered be­ing more con­trite, his ac­tions spoke louder than his words.

What con­cerned many lis­ten­ers fur­ther is that less than two weeks ago, a man walked into a sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh in the United States and shot dead 11 Jews, sim­ply be­cause they were Jewish. The 14-year-old boy could not have cho­sen a worse time to show his dis­re­gard for Jews.

What is clear to me is that 14-yearolds don’t record voice notes in a vac­uum. They have adults they lis­ten to, they have friends and they have teach­ers and they have class­mates.

Whereas I have no de­sire to dis­sect his life to find out who the neg­a­tive in­flu­ence might be, I do be­lieve that we all own some of the re­spon­si­bil­ity in his be­hav­iour.

We are deeply naïve if we think that our chil­dren don’t see what is hap­pen­ing in Par­lia­ment, that they don’t know about the Gi­gaba video and that they don’t see us laugh­ing at the pres­i­dent.

The 14-year-old boy needs to un­der­stand that his ac­tions are dan­ger­ous and un­ac­cept­able. His friends, fam­ily and school need to look closely at them­selves to un­der­stand where this prej­u­dice come from.

And we all need to ac­cept that when adults be­have badly, our chil­dren will fol­low.

• Howard Feld­man is the author of Carry

on Bag­gage and Tightrope, and the af­ter­noon drive show pre­sen­ter on Chai FM.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A fish­er­man rows in a boat with birds, known lo­cally as fish hawks, perched on­board on a river in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, China.

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