Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, during a walkabout in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. Picture: Courtney Africa/Pool via AP
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, during a walkabout in Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. Picture: Courtney Africa/Pool via AP

The Duchess of Sussex brings a breath of fresh air to British royal family

By Ryland Fisher Time of article published Oct 6, 2019

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I have never been a royalist. I was taught as a young person entering the Struggle many years ago to question institutions such as royalty: unelected people who are deemed to be superior to others in their society, including the people whose taxes keep them in their homes and keep them fed.

This is one of the reasons why I have struggled to get excited about the visit to South Africa by the couple known as the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife, the former actress Meghan Markle.

But as someone who is involved in the media industry, it is important for me to understand society. So, when South Africans go gaga over a young couple representing an archaic form of rule from a country that used to colonise us, then I have to sit up and take notice.

I must admit that, while I am no fan of royalty, I could become a fan of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, especially of the duchess.

From what I have seen over the past two weeks, Prince Harry is okay, but his wife is probably the best thing to have happened to the British royal family - ever. She appears to have brought a freshness to a dour institution that has always had a stiff and unresponsive reputation.

The duchess has hardly put a foot wrong during her visit to South Africa and demonstrated a willingness to listen and learn. She seems to have said and done the right things at the right time. No doubt, the couple have good advisers and researchers, but even advisers and researchers need to be guided. So, when the duchess arrived at the oldest mosque in South Africa wearing a scarf, appropriately paying respect to the religious sensitivities of the people who pray there, she won many hearts.

When the couple stopped off in Nyanga, probably the most violent township in the world, immediately after they landed in South Africa, it indicated that they were prepared to not only immerse themselves in the abundant natural beauty of Cape Town. And when they went to visit the District Six Museum - their second stop on their tour - it helped to focus on an issue that has been a blight on South African, and especially Cape Town society, for many decades: the reparations due to people who were forcibly removed under apartheid and how to retain the memory of what many people say was a better society.

Of course, most people who follow the royal couple almost slavishly were only interested in seeing their small baby and the couple did not disappoint, revealing baby Archie in a meeting with the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu. The headlines wrote themselves: “Archie meets the Arch.”

But there were two things that made me sit up and take notice. One was the “private” visit by the duchess to the Clareinch post office, where the young UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana was brutally murdered not too long ago, even tying a ribbon in her memory. The other was when she went to pick up a pair of jeans from a small manufacturing shop in Johannesburg. I have also been impressed by the many engagements she has had with South African women and the initiatives she put in place to try and empower them.

What I have learned over the past two weeks is that it does not matter where you find yourself, but how you use your position in life to do good in society. Most of us, irrespective of whether we are royals or plebs like me, or whether we belong to this or that political party, can use our positions to effect positive change in society.

I long ago stopped working with people because of their political affiliation. I now look at what they have to offer in terms of ideas and actions. Clearly, despite their royal baggage, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have a lot to offer, to South Africa and the world.

* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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