If our politicians will not self-regulate then we will need to do that for them, writes Howard Feldman.
I often think that everything in South Africa is either
black or white. Not in the racial sense, necessarily, and not in the 50 Shades
of Grey sense either. But in the way that we seem to have become a nation that
hovers on the borders of the extreme. And it is there where we have become the most
Put another way, we are very melodramatic. Sometimes even, ridiculously
South Africans either love or hate. We are either packing
our bags to leave the detestable country or we are swearing our undying
devotion to it. Because we are so proud of it (in that moment) and that means
we adore the place. We might be furious with the Proteas today but will defend
any hint of negativity as uttered by an Australian, as though they insulted our
late (and much beloved) grandmother.
We love Cyril Ramaphosa and we hate the ANC. We hate Eskom,
and hate the Guptas and SAA. We love Pravin and we love Tito as much as we hate
Malusi and Ace. We also love to hate Julius Malema and we are really irritated by
Mmusi Maimane because he is so darn sensible, and all we can do is respect him.
Which is so not what we are looking for right now.
Social media is an accurate measure of our psychopathy. The
same Twitter platform that sees Helen Zille at war with Phumzile Van Damme, the
EFF at war with everyone, and Steve Hofmeyr at war with himself, is the
platform on which an Afrikaans sounding woman with 179 followers tweeted that she
is in Mpumalanga and very worried about her mother who has cancer and is at the
Steve Biko hospital waiting to see a doctor.
The same platform that rips us apart leapt to her aid and
South Africans from all demographics, mostly strangers to her, responded by
offering to drive to the hospital to look in on her mother. Because they all
identified the shared feeling of a daughter’s concern for her aging mother and
the helplessness of not being able to be there herself.
This is the same Twitter platform that featured a destitute
woman who asked for a little help to top up her pre-paid electricity meter
because she didn’t even have a few Rand to do so. The overwhelming generosity
of the country left me stunned. And proud.
This is the same Twitter platform that had Zindzi Mandela
dividing the nation from afar.
Here is an observation that I have made:
Often the negativity and division seem to originate from
South African leaders. In contrast to this, the magnificence of care, concern and
love even for strangers seem to originate from regular South Africans.
Time and time again, so-called leadership has sparked the
controversy that has resulted in regular South Africans fighting among themselves. What might have started as a negative and divisive tweet ended with
charges being laid against anyone but the person who triggered it.
A few years ago, when it was clear that government was
unwilling to rein in the Guptas, civil society, led by the banks, made the
decision to not allow them to bank with them. Effectively this created to push
upwards and resulted in the collapse of the family-run business entities in the
I believe that it is time for civil society to do the same
with regard to unity and behaviour. If our politicians will not self-regulate
then we will need to do that for them. It is time to remove the hatred from
social media. And the first place to start is with hateful politicians who seek
to divide rather than unite us.
– Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
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