A question of respect

A question of respect

Ever since I can recall, I’ve viewed politics and politicians with a sceptical eye. You get what you give, after all


Much has happened in the world of politics over the last month, particularly surrounding presidents. The most notable event has to be that of former President Nelson Mandela’s hospitalisation. Regarded by all as the father of the nation, Tata Madiba’s illness and hospitalisation has, naturally, attracted worldwide concern. As I write this, he has spent over 20 days in hospital. 

The public has been fed a steady stream of information on his condition mostly by the ANC, his family having kept rather quiet by comparison. This is where my concern, as a South African and as a person, is heightened. 

Let me first start off by saying that no, I don’t know how the family and the ANC decided they would handle feeding the media, and therefore the public, any information. However, having been there with loved family members many times, I do know that a situation like this is an extremely sensitive and personal one.

I do not think that the ANC has treated it as such. One gets the overwhelming impression that, as with all political involvement, the public has been fed information that will keep it happy on a need-to-know basis – and not necessarily the truth. Worse still, is that the ANC has seemingly seized the opportunity for its own benefit – even staging something of a rally outside the hospital, including buses of supporters, ANC-branded trucks, and so on.

Surely this insensitive “profiteering” shows a gross lack of respect for Madiba, his family and the concerned citizens of the country? I personally think its disgusting and even as an ordinary citizen find it all disrespectful and offensive.

South Africans simply want the truth, and no doubt his family would appreciate the respect and space to handle the situation with dignity. I know I would.

In May I attended the 2013 Road Freight Association (RFA) Convention, where Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe addressed the delegates. He was joined by the Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindiswe Chinkunga; the Acting Premier of Limpopo, Ntate Dickson Masemola; and the Mayor of Phalaborwa, Anna Sono.

Mothlanthe also fielded a range of questions from the floor. Coming from those who live and breathe the industry – including operators, organisational heads and the media – the questions hit straight at the heart of what concerns the industry most right now. For the most part, the Deputy President listened attentively, taking notes as the delegates expressed their concerns in the hope that such a high-level public servant might heed their calls.

Disappointingly, his responses were short and nondescript in a typically political way. No promises, no commitments; just “thank you”, “you raise good points” and the like. I wouldn’t say he didn’t care – I doubt any of them would’ve given their time if they didn’t – but the overall noncommittal responses, body language and facial expressions were not confidence inspiring.  

The eternal optimist in me hopes that the political delegation has the respect for the industry that it so deserves, and takes the questions and comments to heart.

The realist in me isn’t quite sure. After all, the ambulance that transported Madiba to hospital suffered engine problems and broke down, delaying his journey to the hospital by a life-threatening 40 minutes. The public only found out about this around two weeks later, the ANC’s secrecy on the matter (perhaps they were embarrassed – and rightly so) causing an expected outburst.

I wonder what Madiba’s reaction would have been if he were still in a position of power and it were someone else in the ambulance.

I imagine one of modesty, urgency and respect. Quite the opposite of what we see in our leaders today …

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