Shashi Naidoo: an omi­nous si­lenc­ing of dis­sent

Sunday Times - - Opinion -

“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

Write to PO Box 1742, Sax­on­wold 2132; SMS 33662; e-mail: tel­[email protected]­day­times.co.za; Fax: 011 280 5150 All mail should be ac­com­pa­nied by a street ad­dress and day­time tele­phone num­ber. The Ed­i­tor re­serves the right to cut let­ters

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