South Africans, well most of us anyway, say we see former president Nelson Mandela as a symbol of dignity, pride, measure and humility.
Which of course is why when the great statesman was in hospital last week, we were egging on the media vultures who hovered at the hospital hoping to pick up and sensationalise anything that appeared, even remotely, to be news. Never mind that this and the attendant speculation, infringed on the man’s dignity and privacy.
Forget that this meant his family could not go about attending to him in peace and with the privacy we would all like in times of family crisis. We wanted our juicy news, and we wanted it now. Nothing would stop us from gossiping, speculating and fuelling vicious cycles of rumour around Madiba’s health.
Even now Madiba has a contingent of pressmen loitering in his street seeking non-existent clues from the faces of those who visit him. We even took to lambasting his family for not putting our need for information and juicy tidbits before his need to rest and recuperate, and their need to come to terms with the ever increasing frailty of their father figure.
Ditto the Dewani matter. We are all outraged that a person would see our country as a place where spousal disposal could be affected for a mere R15 000. Yet we ignore the fact that he could indeed do such. He could get to SA and, if his fellow accused are to be believed, meet a man and arrange an elaborate murder intrigue in days. The same goes for how we engage in debate with one another.
We like to point at the ultimately relatively peaceful transition we had as showing our capacity to rise above pettiness and self-interest but look at how we go about our discourse. See how the Kenny Kunene matter has gone from a man finding out the ways of throwing his own money away to being about race, the ANC and Julius Malema.
See the headlines every day about spousal abuse, rape, violence, drunken behaviour and fraud — both in the public and private sector, the willing giver-receiver nature of bribery in our country. Media icon Kgomotso Matsunyane once said that there is a large gap between who we say we are as a country, and who we really are.
It is time we owned that we need to move out of the mediocre mess we are muddling in.
This blog first appeared on NewsTime