DURBAN - THE lack of leadership and ways to prevent the spread of hate speech was discussed during a dialogue hosted by the 1860 Heritage Centre in Durban on Sunday confronting race, ethnicity, inequality and fake news.
Widespread looting and torching of businesses and warehouses took place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal two weeks ago. The four-day spree led to 89 malls and shopping centres, one hospital, 45 warehouses, 22 factories, eight bank branches, 88 ATM machines, and 89 liquor outlets being looted, vandalised or set alight. In addition, 37 trucks were set alight and 139 schools were vandalised.
Panellists were asked to share their thoughts on the unrest in relation to confronting racism, ethnicity, inequality and fake news.
Dr Mongane Wally Serote, an acclaimed writer and poet, felt the pandemic stripped the public naked so that they could look at themselves. He said exhibits from the 1860 Heritage Centre in Durban and Freedom Park Heritage Site and Museum in Pretoria should be made accessible to everyone in the country through roadshows. “This would educate people on the values people fought for in the country.”
Serote said the recent violence was counter-revolutionary.
“This is linked to a process that destroyed the state with unimaginable corruption. It created deep-seated factions. It is seen as ANC culture but it is not.
“The ANC culture is non-racism. What do we do to rescue the ANC values and culture? We need to renew our organisation,” he said.
Sbo Vilakazi, author and executive director of the Valley Trust, whose shop was looted, said the violence showed the extent to which the ANC was willing to go to settle factional differences. He said they were literally prepared to burn the country to ashes just to fight factional wars.
“There was this issue that President Cyril Ramaphosa could not release the army early because of echoes of Marikana that would give one party the upper hand over him, but that is his problem.
“We are not concerned about him saving face personally. We are concerned about what he does to save the people of South Africa. For three days he watched helplessly as the country burned. The extent to which our leadership can carelessly set us against each other as well as destroy the country.
“We had these riots within the communities, including xenophobic violence where assets within the community are destroyed but never to this extent. The local economy was decimated by the locals themselves.”
Vilakazi said people could not get electricity vouchers for lights in their homes. They had to travel to other areas.
“I would be highly embarrassed to be in Ramaphosa’s shoes. It happened with no help from him. Inequality is the main issue. We must not dance around inequality. We are doomed to keep coming back to these times of strife,” he said.
Linda Zama, United Democratic Front (UDF) activist and ANC Struggle veteran, said there was a lack of capacity and understanding from leaders to what was playing out when service delivery protests were going on. Zama said it became a clear sign of discontent when people were demanding to meet politicians to inform them of the lack of service delivery and nothing happened.
“People become agitated after handing over memorandums. I cannot understand why my country could not read what people were saying. They were not being listened to. The only way they get a response is when they destroy things. The rumblings have been there. People are associating the Constitution with a certain person. When all is gone where are we going to hide?”
Don Gumede, UDF veteran and son of Struggle stalwart Archie Gumede, said citizens’ hopes as a nation were beginning to be dashed. He believed that more engagement was necessary. He called for social media to be regulated and for ethical and truthful posting of events.
“For every visit to a site where it happened, different observers have different narratives. Social media carries different narratives. To propagate we assume there will be truthfulness and objectivity or honesty whenever reported. What we see now is that there are some people that are transmitting their own agenda,” Gumede said.
Bishop Rubin Phillips, Anglican bishop and chairperson of the Social Cohesion Council, said it all started with leadership. “The country needs leaders who are committed to matters of justice and peace and the citizens of the province.”
Phillips was concerned about the high unemployment rate among the youth. He said the issue of ward councillors taking sides based on race needed to be looked into. He felt the time had come for honest and sober reflections.
“We can point to many instances when we were in a deep hole. We faced major problems. We tend to gloss over it and not deal with some of the root causes.”
Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay said in KZN people needed to adopt a fact-and-fiction-based approach to social media posts. He said the tech companies needed to be approached to track those responsible for disseminating hate speech and provoking violence.