Shashi Naidoo: an ominous silencing of dissent
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” So said Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire in 1906.
As of June 20, in South Africa this sentiment is no more. On that day Shashi Naidoo, a prominent young South African, sat at a press conference apologising for a social media post and expressing her ardent desire to change and learn. Her post was pro-Israel and anti-Hamas, and that in South Africa is an unpopular stance in regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But the content of her post is irrelevant. The issue at stake was not Shashi’s opinion but rather that hallowed value that we as South Africans so cherish — freedom of expression.
Within minutes of Shashi’s post appearing she was denied her right to think freely, to have an opinion of her own and to express that opinion. Death threats ensued, as well as horrific comments and the withdrawal of many of her business sponsors.
This week, caught up in the tentacles of those who abhor freedom of expression unless it agrees with them, she gave all the right answers.
The questions she was asked at the press conference were as disturbing as the fact that she was being curtailed from having an opinion. Not one journalist suggested that her freedom of thought and expression was being infringed upon. Not one journalist found it strange that within 24 hours such an about-turn could occur, and not one journalist saw this as ominous for our future as free-thinking South Africans.
George Orwell said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
When South Africans heard something they did not want to hear they answered loudly and clearly, and with their answer, we all lost our liberty.
Monessa Shapiro, Glenhazel
Note to the EFF: we need unity
Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, when they are given a platform to speak, must remember that we require a united country. Statements that fuel division will take us backwards. We all know now that South Africa belongs to everyone, and no leader can divide us.
Ayanda Njodo, Cape Town
Land reform is everyone’s business
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is mandated to facilitate land acquisition in South Africa, but it is disconcerting to see beneficiaries still trapped in poverty after farms have been handed over to them.
Without post-settlement support, land reform programmes will not yield any sustainable development. Land reform programmes must take into account that new landowners or land reform beneficiaries are not financially stable and lack resources to turn their farms into commercially viable units that will solidify food security, liberalise the markets and improve the quality of life in rural communities.
Adequate post-settlement support including access to training, credit, markets, agricultural subsidies, insurance and extension services are needed for proper economic advancement of previously disadvantaged people.
The announcement by the minister of rural development and land reform during the budget speech that almost R700million will be set aside to beef up postsettlement on restituted farms has brought hope. The private sector must also lend a hand and acknowledge that land reform is everybody’s business.
Mpho M Rammutla, Atteridgeville
Eskom buck stops with Ramaphosa
Regarding your editorial “Plunged into darkness, SA counts rising cost of wasted Zuma years” (June 17): Jacob Zuma and his cronies cannot take the blame for the mismanagement by the new Eskom team.
They have handled the situation with constant lies about coal reserves, conflicting load-shedding announcements, inadequate preparation and treating workers and their unions with disdain. I fear they do not have the ability to extricate Eskom and South Africa from this mess.
Add to that the public sector wage increases, which exceed budgets by R30billion, and the misleading of ratings agencies, together with bankrupt municipalities and state-owned enterprises — the buck for Eskom amateurism and public sector wages stops with President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team.
D Wolpert, Sunninghill
People are dying in hospital queues
In “Bad roads and health workers’ bonuses not the health minister’s responsibility” (June 17), Popo Maja quotes all the benefits National Health Insurance will have for us, but admits that whereas in the past a hospital treated 100, it now has to treat more than 1 000. He makes no mention of negligence on the part of medical and other staff as well as the state.
Minister Motsoaledi, people are dying sitting in queues while civil servants have private medical aid.
Ayesha Ranchod, Lenasia
Right or wrong, ANC gets the votes
In “Politics is a whole different ball game to soccer” (June 17), Sue de Groot writes: “People remain true to a political party only for as long as it reflects their values and delivers what they expect from it.”
This may be true for established democracies; it is not true of South Africa. Voters will continue to vote for the ANC no matter what harm the party does.
Jenny Vago, Honeydew Manor
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