The hosting of the Global Citizen Concert will go down in history as a memorable programme of action in Madiba’s honour. Photo: Bhekikhaya Mabaso African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The hosting of the Global Citizen Concert will go down in history as a memorable programme of action in Madiba’s honour and South Africa stands high in cherishing this. 

On such a grand stage as the Global Citizen Concert the criminality that was displayed to the world and to potential investors was of concern. 

In 1997, the National University of Lesotho undertook a sporting visit to the University of Botswana shortly after the universities split. 

We arrived in Zeerust in the early hours of the morning and suddenly overwhelmed the shopkeeper with our purchases.

A number of the students helped themselves illegally to the merchandise. This became the topic on our way and an unspoken agreement was to do the same on our way back.  

So on our way back the same mischief on a grand scale took place. It was shambolic, as students went out and back into the shop to illegally take chips, drinks and apples. When finally the shopkeeper realised what was happening, he closed the door and a scuffle ensued.  

As this happened the shopkeeper pulled out his gun and chanted that he was going to shoot. Police arrived and surrounded the shop and aggressively asked who was causing trouble. 

Seana Marena Mphutlane, a law student who had just completed his two years in Edinburgh, showed his mantle and negotiated our release from the Afrikaner police.  

The shopkeepers were Greek and this might have tempered the enthusiasm with which the apartheid police had to deal with us.  

As the bus started moving, we were clearing our throats to open this difficult subject of collective punishment, which some of us were not part of.

Talking of this experience reminds me of the Global Citizen Concert where a collective misdeed was agreed upon to steal from the people that attended the concert.  

The FNB Stadium hosts mega football games, involving Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs and the other two, Siyanqoba rallies, (Cassper) Nyovest and other musicians, but these events are never targets for organised cellphone, money and belongings hijacking. It always has to be on the big stage that we display our disrespect for Madiba. South Africa Incorporated was embarrassed by this event.  

The Global Citizen Concert was a moment to reflect on the anniversary of Madiba, but  it was marred with the bad after-taste of criminality organised on a grand scale. 

On our way to the event our guide had raised the issue of cellphone and bag snatchers. I was rather dismissive and said such big events had often occurred at FNB and I did not think such meticulous vigilance was necessary. Little did I realise retrospectively on how I understood South Africa. 

The way the criminality was orchestrated was like the Masai Mara Migration, with crocodiles waiting to feed on the zebras, bucks and buffaloes as they try to cross the river. This happens annually.  

Will we see this now as the norm for behaviour among ourselves and to visitors to South Africa?  

Given that criminality at this scale has never occurred before, how should we interpret it?

As we open the year and go into the serious task of renewing our democratic pledges on a grand scale, we perhaps have to ask what the Struggle means to us.

We should not behave like the NUL Students nor the criminals at the stadium at the Global Citizen Concert.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.