Letter: Need visionary leaders like Madiba

Racist rhetoric in run-up to elections

THE racist rhetoric has of late become more and more of an issue as an ANC government, bereft of any moral rectitude and totally responsible for the sad mess our country now finds itself in, relies more and more on the hackneyed white/black diatribe in a desperate attempt to justify its corrupt and miserably inept governance since 1994. And here in Port Elizabeth, we see how public debate in the newspapers has degenerated to playing the man and not the ball.

Instead of debating the real issues such as tourism, local governance, education, etc, the letters and articles have deteriorated to whether Athol Trollip’s virtues are better than those of Danny Jordaan or vice versa. “Ensure you vote for a black,” our president, of all people, in a moment of lunacy, recently said at a rally in KwaZulu-Natal.

What would the late Nelson Mandela be saying were he alive?

I had the wonderful privilege of sitting next to Mandela at a dinner just before he became president of South Africa. In conversation he told us how nervous he was when he was informed that an interview with President P W Botha had been arranged prior to his release from jail.

He said Botha, “die groot krokodil”, was known to eat black politicians for supper! The time came for him to get dressed and as it had been many years since he had worn a suit, he had forgotten how to knot his tie.

A white warder obliged and Mandela, after some 28 years in jail, was escorted into the presence of Botha. “And you know,” said Mandela in that distinctive voice of his, “I could never have wished to have been received more graciously than I was!”

I sat, stunned and in awe of this icon. He had all the reasons in the world to express his anger and pent-up feelings against a man who was the very epitome of the evil of apartheid which had incarcerated him for so long.

But no, this great man saw only the good in the moment, and refused to poison his mind with thoughts of revenge and anger. I knew then I was in the presence of a great spirit, and no wonder he was destined to become the greatest world politician and personality of his era.

Mandela and the founding fathers of our constitution were light years ahead of the rest of us. (What happened to Cyril Ramaphosa?)

They only saw a South African, not a black or an Indian or a coloured or a white or a Xhosa or a Zulu or an Afrikaner and so on South African. For them there would be no class, gender, religious or racial distinction, and importantly ensured our constitution did not differentiate in this regard whatsoever!

It is us lesser mortals who can see no further than our internecine little jealousies that have made racism the scourge of our beautiful country, worse now than it ever was in the dark apartheid years. It can be said the Nationalists of old were at least honest about their ideology of oppressing the bulk of our people for the world to see.

We now practice apartheid furtively, justifying our petty policies as some sort of corrective measure for the injustices of the past, etc – bluffing nobody! No matter what, you cannot correct a wrong with another wrong!

The majority of us suffer from an immense inferiority complex while the rest of us suffer from an inflated superiority complex, the one as damaging as the other. In our stunted personalities, we feed our egos on hatred and thoughts of revenge: we blame the whites for “legacies of the past” while we blame the blacks for their inability to manage anything!

We create an unhealthy breeding ground for so much of the racist obscenities currently nauseating us. In the process we spend inordinate amounts of time, energy and money with ineffectual remedies like affirmative action, empowerment policies, quota sports teams and so on.

So much so that we have overlooked what should be our only goal, that of building a nation for all our peoples. No wonder we find ourselves on the brink of an abyss.

German writer Kurt Tucholsky wrote, “A country is not what it does – it is what it tolerates!” I found this quote in the Holocaust Museum (of all places) in Jerusalem, a poignant reminder of what Nazism tolerated.

What do we South Africans tolerate? Crime, corruption, racism, one of the worst school education standards in the world, chaos in our medical service, electricity and water supplies, the list is endless.

We tolerate criminals as our decision makers, we tolerate nothing else but mediocrity or worse. We tolerate politics in all phases of our sport and we will not be satisfied until every sport we participate in falls to the level of our own Bafana Bafana, arguably the weakest soccer side around this continent!

Our president spends his valuable time and energy fighting to keep evidence out of courts. The sheer vehemence of his endeavours not to have “his day in court” convicts him of the crimes he is accused of in the minds of most right-thinking people!

We need visionary leadership, leaders in the mould of Mandela to resurrect our moral and social values, creating the environment for our young people to unleash the enormous potential that exists in this wonderful, beautiful South Africa. Wouldn’t you like to say once more with utter conviction: “Proud to be South African?”

I cannot but end again with the words of Martin Luther King, “We must learn to live together or perish together as fools”.

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