News / Opinion / Columns

Sydney Majoko
3 minute read
11 Dec 2018
9:35 am

Constructive dialogue is key to SA’s future

Sydney Majoko

Like Johann Rupert, Patrice Motsepe is saying: we have got to where we are by talking, and we can only go forward by having more conversations.

Johann Rupert with Given Mkhari. Picture: Twitter/Power FM

Given Mkhari, founder and chairperson of Power FM, came in for a lot of criticism this past week after his conversation with Richemont chair Johann Rupert rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way.

It is very naive of anyone to think that the outcome of the conversation would have been anything but a trigger for a lot of black people because of the road our country has travelled.

The billionaire entrepreneur has come to be perceived as the face of the “Stellenbosch mafia”, a group of very wealthy Afrikaans business people who made the most of what apartheid had to offer to get as rich as they have. They are now portrayed as the group who are the power behind the throne, politically.

What many people forget is that South Africa as we know it, is a product of conversations, some public and some secret. It is quite a coincidence that Alex Boraine, the former deputy chairperson of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, passed away around the same time that Rupert chose to be in conversation with Mkhari about the country and how he sees it.

Boraine famously led a delegation of mainly Afrikaans business people (together with Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert) to meet with a then banned ANC in exile. Their conversation then is what is believed to have paved the way for South Africa’s negotiated settlement.

Rupert did say a lot of what black South Africans regard as unpalatable during his conversation with Mkhari. He generalised about black people not saving, buying cars and partying their money away.

What happened on that platform is what South Africans seem to have abandoned: sit and discuss how they think our deep-rooted societal problems ought to be resolved.

The quickest way to get South Africans shouting at each other across racial lines is to give them an uncontrolled social media platform and introduce a racially triggering topic like land expropriation, for instance.

But when have ordinary South Africans had an opportunity to have conversations in a controlled environment where positive outcomes can be aimed for? The country has become so used to screaming racial obscenities at each other that we mock efforts by those with the means to facilitate such conversations.

Another businessperson, African Rainbow Minerals executive chair Patrice Motsepe, tried in his own way during last weekend’s Global Citizen Festival to bring together various stakeholders to be part of an initiative that will eventually be needed in conversations about the future of South Africa.

He had AfriForum, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Bishop Lekganyane of the Zion Christian Church on stage delivering what is supposed to be a message to all South Africans that we are bound to a common future.

It doesn’t matter that their message got drowned out by excitement of seeing world superstars on stage in South Africa. The point is that like Rupert, Motsepe is saying and sending a similar message to South Africans: we have got to where we are by talking, and we can only go forward by having more conversations.

More constructive conversations are required to take South Africa to the next level.

Sydney Majoko.

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