Pali Lehohla
Pali Lehohla

OPINION: We are a nation in deep search of self-respect

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Sep 9, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - Disregard  for human life suggests that our humanity has gone out with the bathwater.  

We tried hard to rid ourselves of the scars of 350 years of having every decision right we had taken away.  As a consequence we had to fight for every decision we needed to make and this could only be through a rebellion. Rebellion and anger has been thus part of our DNA.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was just the first but an important step to peel the infinite onion layers of frustration, resignation, self-hate and demand for respect.  

The manifestation of our profound challenge is not only about people who are from outside, but it is a significant part of ourselves.  

With the unemployment, poverty and inequality problem that blight more than 50 percent of the population, tensions and attacks to foreign nationals need to be understood against the background of such massive numbers.

Congestion in poor neighborhoods with foreigners who are better off is likely to trigger animosity.  

With drug abuse and destruction of life there is bound to be anger.  The twin scourge of unemployment and attack on those who are darker than us is the violence against women and children.  

Here an important statistic to note: 60 percent of fathers say they are married against 30 percent of mothers. In in fact 61 percent of the birth certificates, the name of the father is missing.  

The question is this why would 50 percent of mothers deny being married? Put differently, who are the other half of fathers married to if half the spouses disclaim being married.  
This describes a society that is at war of sexes and at war with claim to parenthood.  It suggests that 50 percent of parents are discordant in severely compromised relationships. This is a potential risk of violence.  

It also suggests that the fathers claiming conjugal rights remain potential killing machines.  

Today it is Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels and Meghan Cremer. Not long ago it was Karabo Mokwena, Courtney Pieters and Sinoxolo Mafevuka.

We are a nation in deep search of self-respect and connecting with a different future from the one we are immersed in today.  

Violence against foreign nationals and against us undermines the hopes and aspirations of every African, Agenda 2063 and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.  

In 1998 late president Nelson Mandela said: “South Africa occupies a special place in the hearts of the international community - what you have done collectively has been hailed as the miracle of the world.  We have brought about this miracle… When you go to the world you need just to say, 'I am a South African' whether you are black or white, and the doors of this world become wide open to you. I want you to keep that in mind, to respond to the call for unity and for reconciliation, and not to behave in a way which let down those who trust us, inside and outside the country.  You have become an example: a shining beacon to the entire world!”

Have we kept the promise?  No!  And the doors of the continent are closing on us.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa.


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